Over at the Times’ Paper Cuts blog the spectre of JT LeRoy is once again raised. You’ve got to hand it to Laura Albert, her machinations have ensured that this whole succès de scandale will not die, even though the thing is well past its sell-by date. Still. The entry is ostensibly about the news that Savannah Knoop, Albert’s sister-in-law and the public face of LeRoy, is publishing her memoir Girl Boy Girl in October. It is the hoax that keeps on giving! Soon everyone even tangentally related to the thing will have a book deal. Emailed LeRoy and bought a racoon penis bone? Here’s a book contract. Answered the phone at “his” psychiatrist’s office? Dish, girl!
Anyway. Cowles then gets to the ongoing crux of the thing:
Maybe if I had read LeRoy’s novels, I would have been as outraged as others were at the deception. Instead, I was baffled and maybe a little amused — the whole thing struck me as a creepy kind of performance piece.
But it does raise vexing questions about authenticity and art. If somebody loves a novel, does it really matter whether the author has an interesting life story? A memoir is one thing — as nonfiction, even “creative” nonfiction, it’s that much closer to journalism and the resulting assumption of truth — but really, a novel?
Ugh. I feel like I’ve already gnashed my teeth to nubs arguing this, so lucky me, one of the commenters echoes my feelings. Kick it, James:
To me it all boils down to the prose. I read “The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things” and felt like I was reading a freshman level writing piece. I think people gave JT the benefit of the doubt because the work was supposed to have been written by a 15-yr old. Bottomline, bad prose is bad prose. Too many similes, bad characterization. I completely gave up on JT/Laura Albert as a person when I read that she sought out the help of Mary Gaitskill, who told Leroy that she/he had some nascent talent but needed to write more and take his/her time. Albert’s response? That “JT” had AIDS and couldn’t wait. She clearly was using the tool of JT to push forth her own agenda.
Seriously, do not fuck with Mary Gaitskill. And also: maybe Cowles could’ve dipped into the LeRoy books a bit for some perspective? But really, at this point, does it matter? James Frey just published his “first” work of fiction, any publicity is good publicity, and Savannah Knoop can now appear at book signings not pretending to be a transgendered former teen hustler dying of AIDS. Everybody wins! Right?