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JT Nicole?
October 10, 2005 2:35 PM   Subscribe

Who is the Real JT LeRoy? A search for the true identity of a great literary hustler.
posted by mr.marx (28 comments total)

 
I went to see a reading (well, more or less) of his once. I'd say 60% hustler, but there seems to be more than a bit of fuckedupness to him that doesn't look fake
posted by matteo at 2:59 PM on October 10, 2005


I knew it!
posted by billysumday at 3:01 PM on October 10, 2005


The only question that any of this controversy raises in my mind is, does anyone's life matter to their audience? The answer is no.
posted by clockzero at 3:04 PM on October 10, 2005


clockzero: Are you saying it shouldn't or it doesn't? Because if you're saying it doesn't, then I'd beg - nay, I'd plead - to differ.
posted by billysumday at 3:07 PM on October 10, 2005


Man, I was justing reading this article...I've seen this sort of thing happen so many times, it's nice to see it happen more in the real world this time rather than exclusively on the internet. Mad props for the nod to Kaycee Nicole, btw.
posted by Hildegarde at 3:28 PM on October 10, 2005


This explains why those books are terrible.

The only reason people had a fascination with the books was because they wanted to know what it was like. For the reality behind the story. Otherwise the writing was weak. The stories were boring. I imagine that they won't sell once people know about the hoax.
posted by destro at 3:54 PM on October 10, 2005


Great article. I read Sarah when it came out, and hadn't given JT much thought since then.

Who doesn't like a good hoax/mystery/identity/celebrity story these days?
posted by nobody at 3:54 PM on October 10, 2005


It's surely easy to say now, but I kinda always figured as much.

"in interviews goes to some pains to explain, for instance, how he picked up his literary tastes from his Polk Street johns"

That is what I mostly didn't buy. Sex and literature can mix, but I'd think rarely with prostitutes (again, just a guess).

Since the first book, some of JT’s checks have been sent to a business in Carson City, Nevada, Underdog Inc. The president of this company is Carolyn Albert, also of Brooklyn, Laura’s mother. She’s a theater critic, and her online bio brags about her daughters, one of them “a writer in California.”

OOPS!

The only question that any of this controversy raises in my mind is, does anyone's life matter to their audience? The answer is no.

I'll agree with that. If I were a JT Leroy fan, this wouldn't unsettle me. (I wouldn't be as joyous about it as his/her agent, however. It's not like the scheme/misrepresentation was never exposed.)

If it's not true, then Jeremy could certainly set it straight if he wanted to, though I can see why he wouldn't.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:56 PM on October 10, 2005


The only question that any of this controversy raises in my mind is, does anyone's life matter to their audience? The answer is no.

I'll agree with that. If I were a JT Leroy fan, this wouldn't unsettle me.


I just can't say how greatly I disagree with this sentiment. Wanting to divorce the writer from the words - or the musician from the music, and so on - especially when the artist works so hard to cultivate a particular and unique identiy - is an ideal but hardly a reality.
posted by billysumday at 4:02 PM on October 10, 2005


Fascinating story. Nice reporting by Beachy.
posted by digaman at 4:28 PM on October 10, 2005


Wild. I kept thinking of a kid's book version while I was reading the story: Horton Hears a Ho...

Also, reminds me a bit of the Kodee/Kaycee thread from a while back.
posted by maryh at 5:15 PM on October 10, 2005


What IS a "JT Leroy" anyway? Is that another sockpuppet for Quonsar?
posted by davy at 6:56 PM on October 10, 2005


I just can't say how greatly I disagree with this sentiment. Wanting to divorce the writer from the words - or the musician from the music, and so on - especially when the artist works so hard to cultivate a particular and unique identiy - is an ideal but hardly a reality.

It's not a question of divorcing the writer from the words. I wouldn't know how to go about doing that.
posted by clockzero at 8:07 PM on October 10, 2005


Interesting. Thanks. I read the book after reading an interview he did with Tom Waits and didn't like it that much. If I had known that it was pure fiction, I don't think I would have bothered to pick it up at all.
posted by jrossi4r at 9:41 PM on October 10, 2005


Jesus, great article, except for making you wait til page 6 to cough up the goods. Could've at least told us at the start there was a there there, up ahead. Anyway, as someone who was suckered, I have to say I'm impressed at the skill involved in the deception and only slightly annoyed. The eroticism, identity play, and exploration of the horrible, abusive depths and bizarre renewals humans are capable of were the, er, thrust of JT's story for me, and I recall The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things delivering on all those scores.

But then again, I'm not a seriously abused kid who might have gotten real hope and strength from JT's story. If I was, I'd probably feel a lot differently about this mess. Cool post, thanks.
posted by mediareport at 9:55 PM on October 10, 2005


This is one instance where Mefi's instinctive skepticism of things really shines.
posted by vacapinta at 10:17 PM on October 10, 2005


Thistle's site.
posted by mwhybark at 10:57 PM on October 10, 2005


I've always sort of considered JT Leroy both a real person and a literary construct at once, and still do, so this comes as no real surprise - to be honest, it strikes me as needlessly combative to think of this in terms of being 'suckered', as if it's the author versus the reader. Both books flaunt their fictional and embellished elements anyway - Sarah and The Heart is Deceitful... are both so obviously magical-realist that -to me at least- the presence or lack of a core of truth becomes irrelevant. If you're willing to believe in the story for a while, surely believing in the author on the same terms isn't too hard.

Speaking as someone to whom both books mean a lot, and who's had similar experiences, I can't imagine how this 'revelation' is supposed to shatter any illusions. I think readers looking for a hero to lift them out of their own troubles or a truthful window into a very different life were looking in the wrong place from the start, and projecting their own expectations onto books that never promised those things. To me, they're fairytales about a life I can relate to and a testament to how anything can be made magical, and knowing the author's a fairytale too doesn't alter that, or make it a hoax.
posted by terpsichoria at 2:09 AM on October 11, 2005


Here's a very recent Houston Press article that calls into question an essay written by Leroy for the Oxford American. The fact that the essay is called out over a reference to a Publix store is hilarious.

The article is, admittedly, poorly-written--more of a blog post than an expose--but it's interesting for the response from Leroy's assistant, who echoes the "but, really, what is 'truth'?" horseshit that always follows the combustion of one's pants due to dishonesty.

(That assistant, Nancy Murdock, is for me the most fascinating character in this whole saga. Not even the author of the New York piece believes she has anything to do with this, but is instead a self-deluded fan: "JT has a deeply devoted assistant, Nancy Murdock, who lives in Boston [...]. When she first met Laura, she recalls, 'it was so funny, she was saying a lot of the same phrases as JT! It’s because they're together all the time. One completes the other.'")

But the really interesting part of the Houston Press article I linked to is the Oxford American editor's belligerent response to the journalist's queries. It's too long to quote here, but definitely check it out...it's the second to last paragraph in the link.
posted by Ian A.T. at 2:44 AM on October 11, 2005


On some strange level, this hip interest in a seemingly fictitious Southern Gothic creature reminds me of those East German Westerns, the Indianerfilme. It's escape into this whole other world, albeit run through a few times through the imagination, and in the case of J. T. LeRoy, passed off as fact.

Not that this really interferes with the enjoyment of his/her/it/their work, although for me the freaky-deakiness of it always felt a little forced anyhow.

(And the Indianerfilme connection is weak, but nonetheless it hit me. Just picturing all those celebrities reading The Heart Is Deceitful etc., and wondering if they think this is what life can be really like...)
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:01 AM on October 11, 2005


whoever he is, this was a very well written article
posted by jmccw at 5:28 AM on October 11, 2005


“We are a Von Trapp kind of family. We create together in many, many ways, and that is our right.”

I wish the piece had started out with that quote. The JT Leroy collective are a closed (but possibly fluid) group of pseudo-Neoists who restrict their work to a fairly specific set of themes, and happily say so. This makes me like 'him' and 'his' work a little bit more than I did when I thought 'he' was a nom de plume for one or more established authors.
posted by jack_mo at 5:58 AM on October 11, 2005


(jmccw: If you're talking to me, I guess I wasn't clear. The Houston Press piece was the one I was referring to as "poorly written.")
posted by Ian A.T. at 6:43 AM on October 11, 2005


I couldn't finish The Heart is Deceitful... -- the constant child abuse was depressing me way too much.

On the other hand, I've really enjoyed the (much more light-hearted Terminator articles in The New York Press and Index.
posted by armacy at 7:54 AM on October 11, 2005


That assistant, Nancy Murdock, is for me the most fascinating character in this whole saga.

That reminds me of Two Girls, Fat and Thin by Mary Gaitskill, but I've never read it. Anybody know if it's any good? I've tried to start it 2-3 times and gotten bored within 20 pages. I'm bad at reading women authors , so if somebody says it's really good ...

The JT Leroy collective are a closed (but possibly fluid) group of pseudo-Neoists who restrict their work to a fairly specific set of themes, and happily say so. This makes me like 'him' and 'his' work a little bit more than I did when I thought 'he' was a nom de plume for one or more established authors.

Yeah, that's kinda what I meant. It's as if Thomas Pynchon was really that lady from Northern California. I wouldn't appreciate the work any less. There's no necessary "separation" between author and work, but while the identity of the author might change the personal interpretation, it doesn't change the words.

To call the book The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things is more fantastic the more I think about it.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:01 AM on October 11, 2005


When I looked at those photos (in which LeRoy has total soccer mom hair) I was thinking how bummed celebrities must have been when they were planning to hang with this hot young prostitute writer and he showed up with his posse looking like nerds at a Gene Loves Jezebel reunion.

(Here's another picture of JT Leroy and his entourage.)

Also, I like how celebrities, upon being duped, like to pretend that the scammer deserves nothing but kudos, like "If this is a hoax, then it's a fantastic hoax, and hats off to him for that! ha ha!" All the while gritting their teeth and thinking, "My assistant is SO fired!"
posted by Ian A.T. at 2:15 PM on October 11, 2005


um, isn't that Lemony Snicket?
posted by mr.marx at 10:18 AM on October 12, 2005


I'm sorry folks, but having lived a teenage wasteland quite similar to what they say JT Leroy did it's hard for me to "ooh" and "aah" about how "exotic" it all is. To me s/he's just another drama queen.

Rothko, on the other hand, is just another Mefite. Absorb the difference.
posted by davy at 6:35 PM on October 13, 2005


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