Biographer accused of rape gets book deal for memoir billed as warning tale of ‘cancel culture’

Allegations against Blake Bailey surfaced last April, two weeks after his biography on Philip Roth was published

Arpan Rai
Thursday 28 July 2022 15:04 BST
At least three women have accused Blake Bailey of sexual assault
At least three women have accused Blake Bailey of sexual assault (Penguin/David Shankbone)

Biographer Blake Bailey, who faces multiple allegations of sexual harassment and abuse, has now been signed to publish a memoir on the so-called cancel culture by Skyhorse publishing house.

Allegations against Bailey surfaced last April, two weeks after his biography on Philip Roth was published. The allegations were made by former students who had been taught by Bailey when he was a middle-grade teacher in New Orleans in the 1990s.

Students went on the record to allege a pattern of inappropriate behaviour while he was a teacher, and that he later pursued sexual relationships. Two former students and book publishing executive Valentina Rice alleged that he assaulted them.

Bailey, who has also written acclaimed biographies of the authors John Cheever and Richard Yates, has denied any wrongdoing. The American author claimed he had consensual sexual relations with some former students, while his lawyer said the allegations are “false and unsubstantiated”.

His new memoir, Repellent, has been billed as a warning about “cancel culture”.

According to Skyhorse’s publicity, Repellent presents a “provocative account of the private Philip Roth and his biographer, as well as a clear-eyed examination of the perils courted by any writer or artist—fallible human beings, after all—in the era of cancel culture”.

“In the era of cancel culture, get a behind the scenes look at the journey to the critically acclaimed Philip Roth: The Biography and its ‘cancelled’ subject and author,” it further says.

According to the publishing house, “ominous forces were afoot” and “because of revelations in Bailey’s biography, many were calling for Philip Roth and his work to be ‘canceled’, while others seemed to think Bailey had been overly sympathetic and even ‘complicitous’ with his subject’s worst failings”.

Referring to reports of charges of sexual harrasment against the author, the publishers said: “Rumours exploded on the internet about Bailey’s own private life, and within days he himself was roundly canceled.”

Publishing giant Simon & Schuster, which has a deal with Skyhorse to distribute its titles, has said that the memoir will be sold on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bam!, Bookshop and Indie Bound for $26.99 (£22.16).

Last year, Skyhorse Publishing had published Philip Roth: The Biography after its initial publisher WW Norton and Company withdrew it following the allegations against Bailey.

Skyhorse has also published a memoir by Trump lawyer Michael Cohen as well as Woody Allen’s memoir Apropos of Nothing.

The latter book had been dropped by Hachette Book Group after employees staged a walkout in protest at its publication. Allen’s daughter Dylan Farrow has alleged he molested her when she was seven, an allegation Allen has always vehemently denied.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in