Acclaimed biographer Blake Bailey has been hit with sexual assault allegations just as he was "approaching what seemed like the apex of his literary career," reports the New York Times. And as a result, Bailey's publisher now says it will stop shipping and promoting his new book, the highly anticipated biography of novelist Philip Roth, which appeared on the Times' best-seller list despite complaints that it took a dismissive view of Roth's mistreatment of women. Describing the allegations as "serious," publisher WW Norton said it would also cancel a second printing of Philip Roth: The Biography, which would've added 10,000 copies to the 50,000 that were initially printed. Bailey's literary agency dropped him Monday, per the Los Angeles Times, following accusations that the 57-year-old sexually assaulted two women and behaved inappropriately toward eighth-grade students when he taught English in New Orleans in the 1990s.
A former student describes "an environment of dirty jokes and permissiveness," per the NY Times. Others say Bailey seemed to be grooming students for sexual encounters when they became adults. Eve Peyton, a former student who says Bailey gave her special preference, claims he raped her after they went out for drinks when she was 22 in 2003, per the New Orleans Advocate/Times-Picayune. He allegedly pinned her down on a bed while she repeatedly said "no," before telling her that he wanted her since he'd met her at age 12. In a 2020 email to Peyton, viewed by the NY Times, Bailey referred to "the awfulness on that night 17 years ago," claiming he was suffering from mental illness. Another woman, publishing executive Valentina Rice, says Bailey raped her while both were staying at the home of a NY Times book critic in 2015. Bailey calls the allegations "categorically false." His lawyer adds he's "never treated a woman inappropriately." (Read more sexual assault stories.)