Wolf book postponed in US as Virago holds firm

Wolf book postponed in US as Virago holds firm

Publication of Naomi Wolf’s latest book has been postponed in the US following “new questions” about its contents but UK publisher Virago is standing by its publication.

Wolf was initially alerted to errors in Outrages: Sex, Censorship and the Criminalisation of Love during an appearance on BBC Radio 3 last month.

Historian Dr Matthew Sweet pointed out she had misunderstood the legal term “death recorded” to mean executions when it actually meant judges abstained from pronouncing a death sentence. Sweet also claimed she was wrong about the reason for the sentences. The error called into question her claim that “several dozen” men had been executed for homosexual sex in the UK.

After initially standing by the book, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt told the New York Times on Thursday (13th June) it was delaying the release. A spokesman told the paper: "As we have been working with Naomi Wolf to make corrections to Outrages, new questions have arisen that require more time to explore. We are postponing publication and requesting that all copies be returned from retail accounts while we work to resolve those questions.”

In a Twitter thread, Wolf said she “strongly objected” to the decision and reiterated she made the necessary changes “immediately” after her BBC interview.

However, she added: “Critics also introduced errors of their own. Dr Matthew Sweet of BBC gave faulty information from secondary sources re sentences, for instance. The heart of my book is not criminology though but censorship;chill felt by pioneers such as J A Symonds who tried to speak about love. I’ll do all I can to bring Outrages to American readers.”

Wolf's UK publisher Virago said "necessary corrections" will be made to future reprints with the current version, that was released on 20th May, remaining on sale. 

A Virago spokeswoman said: “Though the book received excellent reviews it also attracted criticism. As a result, Houghton Mifflin have decided to postpone their June publication ahead of their books going on sale while they explore the questions that have arisen. Virago will be making any necessary corrections to future reprints.”