Gay Talese Now Says He Is Not Disavowing His New Book, 'The Voyeur's Motel'

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Gay Talese

Despite factual challenges, Grove Press says it will move forward with the July 12 publication of the book, which is to be adapted as a movie by DreamWorks.

Although some of the facts in Gay Talese’s new non-fiction book The Voyeur’s Motel. have been called into question, Grove Press said today that it is moving forward with the book’s July 12 publication and Talese said, contrary to earlier statements, he is not disavowing the book.

The Voyeur's Motel tells the story of Gerald Foos, a self-confessed voyeur who claims to have spied on guests at a Colorado motel he owned from the late 1960s to the mid-1990s. An excerpt from the book caused a sensation when it was published by The New Yorker in April, and DreamWorks snapped up the property and is planning a film version to be directed by Sam Mendes and produced by Mendes and Steven Spielberg.

But a Washington Post investigation into Foos' claims, published June 30, unearthed discrepancies in Foos' story. It reported that Foos actually sold the motel in 1980 and did not reacquire it until 1988. In response to the Post's questions, Talese appeared to disavow the book, saying he would not promote it. When questioned about the facts the newspaper uncovered, Talese told the Post, "I should not have believed a word [Foos] said. I'm not going to promote this book. How dare I promote it when its credibility is down the toilet." He added, "The source of my book, Gerald Foos, is certifiably unreliable."

Today, however, Talese struck a different tone, explaining in a statement provided by Grove Press, "Gerald Foos, as no one calls into question, was an epic voyeur, and, as I say very clearly in the text, he could also at times be an unreliable teller of his own peculiar story. 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 eighties. 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."

Morgan Entrekin, CEO and publisher of Grove Atlantic, said the book will be published July  12 as planned, and the publisher also said that Talese will participate in its promotion during the coming weeks. Entrekin commented, "The vast majority of the book focuses on Foos' early life and the years from 1969 to 1980, which is not at issue in the Washington Post story. Grove takes the Post story seriously and will work with Talese to address any questions in future printings."

One of the fathers of the new journalism during the 1960s, Talese has prided himself on his heavily researched non-fiction that often reads like a novel, and his based his account of Foos' elaborate voyeurism on interviews with Foos, now 82, as well as journals that Foos kept as he managed a hotel with a hidden walkway that allowed him to spy on guests. While the Post noted that most of the events described in the book occurred in the 1970s, it questioned aspects of the story that took place in the 1980s, since it said at that point Foos no longer owned the motel.

The New Yorker editor David Remnick said that the central fact of the excerpt of the book that ran in the magazine was not in dispute. In an email to the New York Times, which a rep for the magazine provided, Remnick wrote, "The central fact of the piece, that Gerald Foos was, in the late '60s and '70s, a voyeur, spying on the guests in his motel, is not in doubt in the article. The fact the he could sometimes prove an unreliable and inaccurate narrator is also something that Gay Talese makes clear to the reader, repeatedly, and is part of the way Foos is characterized throughout the article."

DreamWorks declined to comment on the latest developments, so it is unclear if the current developments could affect the proposed movie version. Reps for Mendes have not responded to requests to comment.

The Grove Press statement follows. 

In response to the Washington Post story regarding Gay Talese and his new book THE VOYEUR’S MOTEL, which tells the story of Gerald Foos who purchased a motel in Aurora, the Denver suburb, for the express purpose of fulfilling his voyeuristic desires.  Morgan Entrekin, CEO and Publisher of Grove Atlantic says the company will move forward with the publication of the book on July 12, 2016. 

Gay Talese has not disavowed the book and will participate in the promotions in the coming weeks.  As Talese states this morning “Gerald Foos, as no one calls into question, was an epic voyeur, and, as I say very clearly in the text, he could also at times be an unreliable teller of his own peculiar story. 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 eighties. 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."

As Entrekin says “The vast majority of the book focuses on Foos early life and the years from 1969 to1980, which is not at issue in the Washington Post story.  Grove takes the Post story seriously and will work with Talese to address any questions in future printings."

1:55 p.m. Updated to include statement from New Yorker editor David Remnick.

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