Paris Review editor resigns amid inquiry into his conduct with women

Lorin Stein admitted dating interns and writers and after-hours sex in office

 Lorin Stein and Rita Konig attend a Paris Review board of directors revel in 2010 at Cipriani in New York City. Photograph: Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Lorin Stein and Rita Konig attend a Paris Review board of directors revel in 2010 at Cipriani in New York City. Photograph: Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

 

Lorin Stein, the editor of The Paris Review, the prestigious magazine that for more than 60 years has acted as an international literary tastemaker, resigned Wednesday, amid an internal investigation into his behaviour toward female employees and writers.

Stein sent a letter of resignation to the Paris Review board in which he apologized for his behaviour and said he had decided he could not continue in the role. “At times in the past, I blurred the personal and the professional in ways that were, I now recognize, disrespectful of my colleagues and our contributors, and that made them feel uncomfortable or demeaned,” he wrote. “I am very sorry for any hurt I caused them.”

The board of the magazine was set to meet today to discuss its internal investigation, which began in October and was conducted by a subcommittee formed by the board, according to a person familiar with the internal investigation. Members of the subcommittee, as well as lawyers from Debevoise & Plimpton, the publication’s longtime counsel, spoke to current and former employees, and also received complaints from at least two female writers who said they had negative encounters with Stein, 44. The board had yet to decide what action to take in the matter.

Earlier yesterday, Stein had sent an email to the board expressing his remorse and suggesting any missteps would not happen again. He acknowledged dating and expressing interest in women with whom he had professional connections, including interns and writers for the magazine, conduct that he acknowledged was “an abuse of my position.” He told the board that he had occasionally engaged in sexual behaviour in the office after hours, but said that in all instances, the sexual contact was consensual and had happened when he was single. Stein married in 2015.

Still, he said he knew some of his behaviour had made his colleagues feel uncomfortable. “The way I behaved was hurtful, degrading and infuriating to a degree that I have only begun to understand this past month,” he wrote. Stein’s resignation will likely roil the literary world, where he is a widely respected figure, regarded by many as a champion of new talent, including some women writers, and celebrated as an editor whose critical eye has helped define and shape the landscape of contemporary American fiction.

Despite The Paris Review’s relatively small circulation, it has an outsized influence in publishing. Founded in Paris in 1953 by George Plimpton, Peter Matthiessen and Harold L Humes, the publication has catapulted the careers of writers like Rick Moody, Jack Kerouac, Philip Roth and Adrienne Rich.

The board’s decision to review Stein’s behaviour came after he informed board members that his name had appeared on a list created after the Harvey Weinstein scandal to anonymously crowdsource allegations of harassment and misconduct by men in publishing and media. The magazine had been largely run day-to-day by Stein but is also overseen by a board of literary and publishing elites, including its president, Terry McDonell, a former top magazine editor; novelist Jeffrey Eugenides; and Mona Simpson, an author.

Asked to comment on his decision, Stein said that his letter of resignation, which he provided, spoke for itself. The magazine’s board released a statement yesterday that said it “is committed to whatever is necessary to ensure that The Paris Review is free from harassment and discrimination of any kind.” It promised a more comprehensive statement after it meets Thursday.

Stein also resigned Wednesday from his position at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, where he was an editor-at-large, according to Jeff Seroy, a senior vice-president for the publisher. Stein became The Paris Review’s editor in 2010, following Philip Gourevitch, and Plimpton, who had led the magazine until his death in 2003. Many said Stein breathed new, edgy life into the journal, increasing its print circulation dramatically and amplifying its online presence. Viewed by some as a throwback to the literary world’s glamorous past of boozy lunches and charismatic editors, Stein, dapper and charming, projected an aura that made literature seem sexy and fun again.

For all its intellectual rigor, The Paris Review has been known to stage raucous parties and some women who worked there said it had a sexually charged office culture that Stein helped to cultivate. Several people who worked at the magazine said he often complimented young women on their appearance and suggested they invite their attractive friends to the parties.

“He wanted us to be pretty, he wanted us to act that role, and if we didn’t, we weren’t in the light of favour,” said Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn, a former senior editor at the journal who left in 2012 and recently shared her impression with the internal investigators. “It was clear to me that a lot of the decisions being made were not about the work, and I could work as hard as I wanted and not be rewarded for it.” (Foley-Mendelssohn spoke to the Times before Stein resigned).

In literary circles, whispers about Stein’s relationships with women circulated for years and the Times described him in a 2011 profile as a “serial dater”. While some women interviewed by the Times in recent weeks said they regarded Stein as a harmless, if aggressive, flirt, others said he made unwelcome advances and that they felt he took advantage of his role as a gatekeeper to one of the world’s most important literary outlets. For an aspiring writer, a poem or story in magazine could launch a career, often leading to interest from editors and publishers and possibly a book deal.

One of the women who complained to the Paris Review lawyers, a writer whose work Stein published in the review, told the Times that he had initiated a sexual relationship with her a few years ago, and had sex with her in the magazine’s office, while he was her editor. While she said the relationship was consensual, she said that it had ended badly, and afterward, when the magazine rejected three submissions she made, she thought the outcome was tied to the souring of their romance.

The woman requested anonymity because she said she feared professional repercussions. Her literary agent confirmed that the writer had told her of the relationship with Stein in 2013. Another woman in publishing who said she had an uncomfortable encounter with Stein told the New York Times that Stein had touched her inappropriately at a work dinner about a decade ago when she was employed by a literary scouting agency and he was an editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux. She requested anonymity because of concerns about hurting her career.

According to her account, the dinner, in a private dining room at a restaurant near Union Square, was organized to introduce foreign publishers to American editors and publishers. Stein sat next to her and grew flirtatious, she said, talking about a recent breakup and about how much he missed sleeping next to a woman. He repeatedly touched her knee, and at one point, she said, slid his hand up her skirt and touched her underwear. She immediately stood up and excused herself, she said, and asked a male colleague to switch seats with her.

After the dinner, she told several friends and her boyfriend at the time, who is now her husband, about the encounter. Her husband and one of the friends said in interviews that they recalled her telling them at the time. Stein did not respond to a request to provide his perspective on the accounts given by the women. – The New York Times News Service

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