UPDATE: After days of mounting controversy following its acquisition of Woody Allen's memoir, Hachette will no longer publish the book. Earlier this week, when Hachette announced its acquisition of the memoir, Hachette author Ronan Farrow spoke out, threatening to sever ties while urging the company to fact-check allegations of sexual abuse leveraged against Allen by Farrow's sister, Dylan Farrow. On Thursday, over 75 Hachette employees staged a protest, walking out of Hachette's New York offices to stand in solidarity with the Farrows, as well as with survivors of sexual assault.
75 plus employees of Hachette are standing in solidarity with @ronanfarrow, @realdylanfarrow and survivors of sexual assault and walked out of the Hachette offices today in protest of Woody Allen’s memoir. #HachetteWalkout #LittleBrownWalkout pic.twitter.com/wTNi3c7gy8— Kendra Barkoff Lamy (@kabarkoff) March 5, 2020
In the wake of the walkout on Thursday, Sophie Cottrell, SVP of Communications at Hachette Book Group, shared this statement from CEO Michael Pietsch: "We respect and understand the perspective of our employees who have decided to express their concern over the publication of this book. We will engage our staff in a fuller discussion about this at the earliest opportunity."
On Friday, Hachette announced its decision to part ways with Allen in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, saying:
"Hachette Book Group has decided that it will not publish Woody Allen’s memoir A Propos of Nothing, originally scheduled for sale in April 2020, and will return all rights to the author. The decision to cancel Mr. Allen’s book was a difficult one. At HBG we take our relationships with authors very seriously, and do not cancel books lightly. We have published and will continue to publish many challenging books. As publishers, we make sure every day in our work that different voices and conflicting points of views can be heard. Also, as a company, we are committed to offering a stimulating, supportive and open work environment for all our staff. Over the past few days, HBG leadership had extensive conversations with our staff and others. After listening, we came to the conclusion that moving forward with publication would not be feasible for HBG."
Read our original story below.
Ronan Farrow, whose reporting on Harvey Weinstein helped launch the #MeToo movement and netted him the Pulitzer Prize, has threatened to leave his publisher over its acquisition of a memoir by his estranged father, Woody Allen.
On Monday, Hachette announced that Grand Central Publishing, an imprint of the company, will publish Apropos of Nothing, Allen’s memoir, on April 7. “The book is a comprehensive account of his life, both personal and professional, and describes his work in films, theatre, television, nightclubs and print,” Grand Central wrote. “Allen also writes of his relationships with family, friends and the loves of his life.”
It remains to be seen if the memoir will address longstanding allegations by Dylan Farrow, Allen’s daughter, that he molested her in 1992 when she was seven years old. Allen has long denied the allegations, though as the #MeToo movement has gained steam and lent new visibility to Farrow’s account of the abuse, Allen's career in the United States has effectively bottomed out. Allen sued Amazon Studios for $68 million over Amazon’s cancellation of a multi-year production and distribution deal, while Allen’s latest film, A Rainy Day in New York, was distributed only in Europe, not in the United States.
Ronan Farrow responded to news of the book acquisition on Twitter, where he blasted Hachette for concealing the decision from him during the production process of Catch and Kill. He also says that Hachette never contacted his sister to verify her account of events. Farrow stated that he could no longer work with Hachette “in good conscience,” saying that Hachette’s conduct “shows a lack of ethics and compassion for victims of sexual abuse.”
Hey, just wanted to share my thoughts on some recent news: pic.twitter.com/ovPczgx8pB— Ronan Farrow (@RonanFarrow) March 4, 2020
Dylan Farrow joined her brother in responding on Twitter, where she described news of the acquisition as “disappointing and frankly shocking.” She stated, “For the record, I was never contacted by any fact checkers to verify the information in this ‘memoir,’” and went on to connect Allen’s exemption from the fact-checking process as “another example of the profound privilege that money, power, and notoriety affords.”
In calling on Hachette to fact check the memoir, the Farrows highlight the dirty little secret of nonfiction publishing: that books are rarely fact-checked, and when they are, it’s often at the author’s expense. Accuracy scandals have plagued the publishing industry for decades, with some of the more memorable dust-ups surrounding authors including James Frey, Jill Abramson, and Naomi Wolf. Unlike legacy media publications, publishing houses lack institutional fact-checking resources, and they regularly decline not only to invest in hiring fact checkers, but to build time for a thorough fact check into the production process for a book. Authors are now taking matters into their own hands, fronting thousands of dollars out of their own pockets to engage fact checking services.
Apropos of Nothing is long in the making. In 2003, Allen reportedly reached a multimillion dollar deal with Penguin to publish a memoir, but had a change of heart. In 2018 and 2019, several publishers reportedly declined to consider a memoir shopped around by an Allen representative—until Grand Central Publishing quietly acquired the book in 2019. Allen will reportedly be available for multiple interviews as he promotes the book.
Later this year, Macmillan will publish Dylan Farrow’s debut novel, Hush, which they’ve billed as “a powerful feminist fantasy full of surprising insights.”
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