Just for claiming Mahatma Gandhi dared lust after another man, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Joseph Lelyveld is seeing his scheduled appearances get canceled. Lelyveld, the author of the new book Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle, has already seen his work banned by Indian states, and threatened to keep out of others. Now Americans are getting in on the act, nixing speaking arrangements with Lelyveld, a former New York Times executive editor, because his book dared address Gandhi’s sexual interests. Or rather, they’re just scared of all the headlines about it.
The chairman of the Indian Americans of Lexington, which was co-sponsoring a planned April 29 visit by Lelyveld to the Lexington Historical Society, said he hasn’t read the book and “the author may be 100 percent correct.” But Puran Dang said his group wanted to avoid any controversy for the historical society and decided to cancel the event in a decision relayed Thursday to Lelyveld’s publisher, Alfred A. Knopf. “To avoid any controversy, with all respect to the author … it was a decision which was jointly taken in the interest of everything being in a peaceful status,” Dang said.
[...] Dang said his group met recently amid the tumult caused by the reviews and made the decision to call off Lelyveld’s appearance. The email from the historical society to Knopf cited the Indian Americans of Lexington’s concerns about “the content of the Gandhi biography” in its decision to withdraw sponsorship. But Dang said it was all about avoiding any problems, though he said there had been no indication of any trouble at the Lexington event. “We just took this innocent decision to make it smooth,” he said. “Nothing more.”
[...] In a statement, Knopf said the decision to cancel the event was “based on misinformation, not facts.” “Mr. Lelyveld is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and it is their organization’s great loss that their members will be denied an opportunity to hear him,” the statement read.
That marks at least the second U.S. appearance that Lelyveld has been disinvited from. Already this month Foundation for Excellence, an educational organization in Santa Clara, Calif, canceled on the author … to avoid controversy, or something. Because the last thing we want books to do is challenge the commonly accepted group think!
And yet Lelyveld maintains his book never claimed Gandhi was gay, or even bisexual.
[...] Lelyveld said the controversy centers around three paragraphs out of about a dozen pages about the relationship that also describe both men’s commitments to celibacy, which Lelyveld believes the men kept.
Hmmm. That sounds like a nonsensical conclusion, because as we (and Exodus International) knows, it’s very possible to be gay and bi without having relations with the same-sex. But hey, it’s Lelyveld’s book, and I’ll let him interpret his own writing any way he wants. But at least he’s being a good sport about the cancellations (which far outnumbers the number of engagements that remain on the books). Getting canceled on is “not a universal reaction,” he says. “I just think it created a small tempest and those who want to stay away can stay away.” And it’s definitely going to drive book sales and free publicity.