He may be great at writing, but he sucks as a human. Allegedly.
Blake Bailey is a award-winning author. His biography "Cheever: A Life", about the American novelist and short-story writer John Cheever, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Literature. In addition to writing wonderful biographies of fellow authors, he also freelanced, and taught gifted eighth-graders at Lusher Middle School in New Orleans in the 1990's. He and his family lost their home and almost all of their belongings to Hurricane Katrina. He also enjoys the occasional tennis match.
In 2015, publishing executive Valentina Rice and Bailey were both houseguests of a mutual friend, and she says that he raped her. When the #metoo movement was gaining steam in 2018, she sent an email to the president of his publisher, detailing the incident. The publisher, W. W. Morton, didn't respond. But Bailey did.
Is it just me, or is it incredibly shitty for the publisher to ignore her email, while sending one to the alleged perp, obviously telling him to handle her? Norton says that they took the allegations seriously and asked Bailey about them. Yeah. That's really taking shit seriously.
The Los Angeles Times reports that, previously, several women who were students of Bailey’s when he taught eighth grade English honors at the Lusher Charter School in New Orleans accused him of “grooming” them before making sexual advances on some of them once they were of age. This week, several other women came forward with new allegations of misconduct going back to his days as a teacher.
He, of course, called the charges "categorically false and libelous". In the meantime, his agency has dropped him, and the publisher, now that the shit is hitting the fan, decided to take a big-boy step and pause the promotion and distribution of his latest book, a biography on author Philip Roth.
in 2017, W. W. Norton named its first female corporate president. I hope that she does the right thing and looks at her readers, customers, and women everywhere who continue to be afraid to come forward with sexual allegations because they know they will be funneled off to the sides, forwarded to an assistant to pacify, and just in general marginalized and ignored. Now is the time to post something on your website, send a press release, and make new corporate policies that call for zero tolerance for anyone who takes advantage of, overpowers, and silences those who trust and look up to them.
If these allegations prove true, Bailey is added to a long line of scumbags and W. W. Norton will be added to my "Do Not Read" list.