Gay Talese is now disavowing his disavowal.
The legendary journalist, known for his 14 books of nonfiction in addition to classic profiles of Joe DiMaggio and Frank Sinatra for Esquire in the ’60s, has come under intense scrutiny for his latest book. The Voyeur’s Motel purports to be the story of Gerald Foos, a former Colorado motel owner who allegedly spied on his guests for decades, but The Washington Post found that several of the things Foos told Talese were directly contradicted by property records. For instance, Foos told Talese about watching his guests throughout the ’80s and early ’90s, but the Post found that Foos did not actually own the motel from 1980 to 1988 (he sold it and then reacquired it).
In response to these revelations, Talese told the Post that he was disavowing the book and would not promote it. “How dare I promote it when its credibility is down the toilet?” Talese said.
One day later, though, Talese has walked back his comments. His publisher, Grove Atlantic, said in a statement that Talese would still be involved in promotion for the book. CEO Morgan Entrekin noted that most of the book focuses on events from 1969 – 1980 and are therefore not contradicted by the Post‘s investigation. Talese also confirmed that he had not disowned the book.
“When I spoke to the Washington Post reporter, I am sure I was surprised and upset about this business of the later ownership of the motel, in the ’80s,” Talese said in a statement. “That occurred after the bulk of the events covered in my book, but I was upset and probably said some things I didn’t, and don’t, mean. Let me be clear: I am not disavowing the book and neither is my publisher. If, down the line, there are details to correct in later editions, we’ll do that.”
The story behind The Voyeur’s Motel is now almost as strange as the book itself. It could indeed make for an interesting movie one day, Adaptation-style, and Steven Spielberg has in fact already purchased the book’s movie rights.