Houghton Mifflin Harcourt had said it would stand by Outrages after row in UK over its historical accuracy, but has now recalled copies from stores
Naomi Wolfs US publisher has postponed the release of her new book and is recalling copies from booksellers, saying that new questions have arisen over the books content.
Outrages, which argues that the Obscene Publications Act of 1857 led to a turn against consensual sex between men and an increase in executions for sodomy, was published in the UK on 20 May. Wolf has already acknowledged that the book contains two errors, after an on-air challenge on BBC Radio 3 during which the writer and broadcaster Matthew Sweet told her that she had misunderstood the term death recorded in historical records as signifying an execution. In fact it denotes the opposite, Sweet pointed out, highlighting that a teenager she said had been actually executed for sodomy in 1859 was paroled two years after being convicted. Wolf said last month that she had thanked Sweet for highlighting the mistakes, and was correcting future editions.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt initially stood by plans to publish the book on 18 June in the US, describing the mistake over the executions as an unfortunate error, and declaring: We believe the overall thesis of the book Outrages still holds. But the publisher told the New York Times on Thursday that the book will be delayed.
As we have been working with Naomi Wolf to make corrections to Outrages, new questions have arisen that require more time to explore, it said in a statement. We are postponing publication and requesting that all copies be returned from retail accounts while we work to resolve those questions.
Wolf said on Friday morning that she strongly objected to the decision to postpone and recall, and that she would do all I can to bring Outrages to American readers.
She said she had made necessary changes immediately following her BBC interview, adding that critics had also introduced errors of their own. The heart of her book, she said, was not criminology but censorship, and the chill felt by pioneers such as John Addington Symonds who tried to speak out about love.
Wolfs UK publisher Virago confirmed on Friday that their edition would remain on sale. Though the book received excellent reviews it also attracted criticism, it said, adding that any necessary corrections would be made to future reprints.