December 13, 2017

The Paris Review speaks out regarding Lorin Stein’s resignation

by

Lorin Stein. Via WikiMedia Commons.

Last week, Lorin Stein resigned from his editorial posts at FSG and the Paris Review. His departure was announced just before the board of the Review gathered to discuss the results of their months-long investigation into allegations of sexual harrassment and misconduct against him — allegations that had finally gained traction after the circulation of the much-discussed SHITTY MEDIA MEN doc in October.

As Alexandra Alter and Sydney Ember reported at the New York Times, the board affirmed that they remained “committed to whatever is necessary to ensure that The Paris Review is free from harassment and discrimination of any kind,” and promised to follow up with a statement detailing their decisions regarding the investigation and Stein’s resignation.

That statment was eventually posted to the Paris Review website, under the title “A Statement From The Board of Directors of The Paris Review Foundation.” In that document, the members of the board acknowledge Stein’s resignation and provide the following, preliminary steps addressing Stein’s departure, as well as the cultural and institutional problems that may have enabled his behavior:

• A Search Committee has been formed by the board of directors to select the next Editor of The Paris Review. The committee is co-chaired by the Review’s publisher, Susannah Hunnewell, and Mona Simpson and includes Jeffrey Eugenides, Jeanne McCulloch, and Akash Shah. Interested candidates should visit www.theparisreview.org/editorsearch or contact Akash Shah at [email protected]

• Our Managing Editor, Nicole Rudick, will serve as acting Editor during the search. Nicole has been an instrumental member of the editorial team over the past seven years and has been a key contributor to the success of The Paris Review.

• Going forward, the past editors of the Review will be recognized on the masthead.

• With assistance from outside counsel at Debevoise & Plimpton, The Paris Review conducted an internal investigation into Mr. Stein’s conduct with colleagues and contributors and has, over the course of three months, revised its code of conduct and anti-harassment policies, which will be vigorously reinforced at all levels of the organization, from the Board to the Review’s leadership and staff. We have also clarified our conflict-of-interest policies with respect to our contributors. The Paris Review has zero tolerance for harassment of any kind.

Around the time this statement was posted, another announcement went up on the Paris Review blog, titled, “A Message from The Paris Review Staff.” In this missive, the staff—without naming Stein—neither address the specific greivances at hand, nor commit themselves to creating a culture that prioritizes women’s safety in the workplace, but simply affirm “the power of literature to connect us, change us, and heal us,” and remind everyone that “The Paris Review has, as you know, a rich and storied history” as well as “a bright future.”

“We recognize our role as leaders in the literary community,” the staff writes. “We see this as an opportunity for growth and positive change, both for The Paris Review and in the publishing world at large.” It’s a nice sentiment, but the language is perturbingly light on details. The problem here is that, for years, an influential, powerful editor at the Paris Review somewhat regularly sexualized, assaulted, and manipulated female employees and contributors, and the institution did not prevent him from doing so. This is hardly the shared fault of the entire Review staff, but if we’re going to talk about it—and we do need to talk about it—we sort of need to talk about it, you know?

While the board’s statement is comparatively detailed, it could certainly be more so. You’re revising your code of conduct and anti-harassment policies and clarifying your conflict-of-interest rule? That’s great! What are the revisions? What is the conflict-of-interest rule? If you want to convince the literary community of your new transparency, start by being transparent. If you’re a leader, lead. Be frank with us. Prove that you’re more concerned with safety and equality in the workplace than with your brand. (This would, by the way, be good for your brand.) Prove you’re not as boring as Jessa Crispin says you are. If you want to be better, stop saying, “We’ll be better,” and just be better.

 

 

Simon Reichley is the Director of Operations and Rights Manager at Melville House.

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