Naomi Wolf's formerly forthcoming book, "Outrages", is about the emergence of homosexuality as a concept and its criminalization in 19th-century England. When review copies went out, though, a serious problem emerged for its claim that many gay men were sent to the gallows by Victorian judges: they were alive after their supposed executions. Wolf had misunderstood the legal term "death was recorded" (which actually means they were pardoned), failed to realize that child rape was also charged as "sodomy" (thereby accounting for some actual executions), and the resulting lack of verifiably gay corpses threatened the book's thesis. The book was temporarily withdrawn for revisions. Four months on, however, the publisher is cutting it loose.
In June, days before the book was expected to go on sale in the United States, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt postponed the publication and recalled copies from retailers, an unusual and costly move. The publisher said at the time that “new questions have arisen that require more time to explore.” Now, it has pulled the book altogether.
On Monday, a spokeswoman for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt said in an email that Ms. Wolf and the publisher “mutually and amicably agreed to part company.”
This suggests the book can't be rescued as credible nonfiction, a common outcome for attempts to contemporize historical interactions between sexuality and society. But Wolf's been on thin ice a long time and has few defenders.
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