Naomi Wolf says she has no hard feelings about the BBC interviewer who pointed out errors in her new book, Outrages, which has been delayed for release in the US against her wishes.
“The bottom line is he did me a favor,” she said Thursday night at the Strand Book Store in Manhattan. Asked by an audience member if she felt “humiliated,” Wolf said that “in an ideal world” the errors would not have been in her book and that she felt “accountable” to her readers.
“I’m glad that he brought them up,” she said. Wolf’s book, originally scheduled to come out this week in the US, is an attack on the punitive treatment of gays in Victorian England.
Her promotion for “Outrages” was upended last month, when the BBC’s Matthew Sweet challenged some of her findings, notably on how often the death penalty was applied. Wolf’s US publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, subsequently postponed the book’s publication, along with her US tour, making the event at the Strand somewhat of a rebellion.
Wolf and Strand owner Nancy Bass Wyden are old friends and agreed she should appear as planned. Wolf had previously chastised her publisher for the publication delay, saying she had made the necessary corrections.
“I strongly objected to this decision,” Wolf, who has been criticized frequently over the years for inaccuracies, tweeted June 14. But on Thursday, Wolf acknowledged she had made mistakes and otherwise made no criticisms of her publisher.
In announcing the postponement last week, Houghton Mifflin cited “new questions” that had arisen about the text. Houghton Mifflin declined to be more specific when asked by The Associated Press and declined comment on Wolf’s decision to continue promoting her book.
Wolf, in an email earlier Thursday to the AP, also declined to discuss the additional questions and said she “remained committed” to her book’s US release. She said that she was “in communication” with Houghton Mifflin and had no intentions of finding a new US publisher.
Having returned the US editions to Houghton Mifflin, the Strand was selling copies of “Outrages” already published in the United Kingdom by Virago. Around two dozen people turned out on a muggy, rainy night to see the author, whose previous books include such bestsellers as The Beauty Myth and Misconceptions.
She was interviewed by the author and editor Will Schwalbe, whom she has known since attending Yale University together in the 1980s.
Asked by Schwalbe what she hoped readers would take from Outrages, Wolf said she hoped it would bring new attention to its central figure, the British poet and cultural historian John Addington Symonds, a gay man who spent much of his adult life married to a woman before finding love with another man in his final decade.
“He just didn’t give up on love,” Wolf said. “And I think that’s a universal message.”