Offensive opinions. Bullying. Sexual misconduct. As the literary world is rocked by scandal US publishers are asking authors to sign contracts with âmorality clausesâ. Are they really the answer?
W hen the American Libraries Association awards its Andrew Carnegie medals in New Orleans later this month, there will be no winner for excellence in non-fiction. Sherman Alexie, the poet and novelist who was due to receive it for a memoir, You Donât Have to Say You Love Me, has declined the award following allegations of sexual harassment.
Last month, the novelist Junot DĂaz withdrew from the Sydney writersâ festival and from chairing the Pulitzer prize board after being confronted by his own accusers. As the allegations swept through social media, another writer, Mary Karr, joined the fray, tweeting of her distress that her testimony to DT Max, the biographer of her one-time partner David Foster Wallace, about Foster Wallaceâs abusive behaviour had been marginalised. âDeeply saddened by the allegations against #JunotDiaz & I support every woman brave enough to speak. The violence #DavidFosterWallace inflicted on me as a single mom was ignored by his biographer & @NewYorker as âallegedâ despite my having letters in his hand,â she wrote.
Such high profile cases are far from rare as the #MeToo movement spreads across the creative industries. They come at a time when writers are facing increasingly draconian attempts by publishers to police their behaviour, calling into question centuries old assumptions about the desirability â or even the possibility in todayâs networked world â of separating writersâ lives from their work.