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JT Leroy De-Masked
January 8, 2006 2:21 PM   Subscribe

Will the real JT Leroy please stand up? (ny times link) The public face of JT Leroy is confirmed as Savannah Knoop, the half-sister of the man who claimed to be JT Leroy's caretaker. The authenticity of JT Leroy was previously discussed on Metafilter here, in which a New York magazine article portrayed Ms. Albert, 40, and Mr. Knoop, 39, as unfulfilled rock musicians who concocted the character of JT Leroy to gain access first to literary circles and, later, to celebrities. Have JT Leroy fans now officially been punk'd?
posted by billysumday (47 comments total)

 
From the New York Times article:

But perhaps those most affected by the revelation that Ms. Knoop has been playing the public role of JT Leroy are those who went out of their way to help someone they thought was a troubled young man.

"To present yourself as a person who is dying of AIDS in a culture which has lost so many writers and voices of great meaning, to take advantage of that sympathy and empathy, is the most unfortunate part of all of this," Mr. Silverberg said. "A lot of people believed they were supporting not only a good and innovative and adventurous voice, but that we were supporting a person."

posted by billysumday at 2:23 PM on January 8, 2006


Excuse me, I'm having a Kaycee Nicole moment.
posted by Hildegarde at 2:27 PM on January 8, 2006


And ...
posted by carter at 2:28 PM on January 8, 2006


The irony is, she probably does have aides now.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 2:33 PM on January 8, 2006


Well, success. Now everyone's talkin'.

I read a JT Leroy short story in McSweeney's a while back (2001-ish) and wasn't super-impressed. Very fuzzy writing, only kind of compelling at the time because of the purported age of the writer.

But, anyway, now many people will find the writing compelling because of the new purported background of the writer(s).

And thus the world of entertainment keeps spinning.
posted by chasing at 2:37 PM on January 8, 2006


Leroy Jenkins!!
posted by Balisong at 2:49 PM on January 8, 2006


My god, what a harrowing tale. I hope Mr. Leroy can live a healthy, happy life now that it's over.
posted by dhartung at 2:55 PM on January 8, 2006


Hehe.
posted by delmoi at 2:57 PM on January 8, 2006




Balisong beat me to it.
posted by rxrfrx at 3:09 PM on January 8, 2006


srboisvert: Interesting link. Frey went to my college, though not at the same time as I did. From friends that were in his same class, he was known as being little more than a spoiled punk rich kid more than anything else, with a penchant for telling tall tales about himself.

Why are such privileged people (Oprah, Winona Ryder, all the other celebrities fascinated by Leroy, etc.) so easily duped and so wondrously intrigued by invented desparity, and not the real thing? Being poor and unlucky is dull and pitiful and horribly undramatic, I suppose.

I keep waiting to find out that the guy who made Tarnation is a total fraud.
posted by billysumday at 3:21 PM on January 8, 2006


srboisvert, WOW! There was just an AskMe thread about that very topic, too...
posted by scody at 3:29 PM on January 8, 2006


There's a link in the aforementioned metafilter thread to the an earlier metafilter thread from June 2002, and there were Kaycee Nicole comparisons then too. For some reason I'm glad I was underwhelmed by Sarah.
posted by bobo123 at 3:33 PM on January 8, 2006


whoops, here's the proper AskMe link.
posted by scody at 3:35 PM on January 8, 2006


This is interesting because so much of the attention/acclaim/press received by "J.T. Leroy" had to do with the sob-story instead of the quality of the writing or the storytelling. Read as fiction written by a team of 40-year-old "unfullfilled rockers" (as described by the Times) instead of the autobiographical work of a teenaged transgendered prosititute "miraculously" rescued from the streets, it's manipulative, poorly-written pulp.
posted by availablelight at 3:57 PM on January 8, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'm not Enclyclopedia Brown or Harriet The Spy, but I read Sarah when it came out, and it seemed inauthentic and not very compelling to me. I was surprised when "JT Leroy" became a cause celebre.
posted by pinky at 3:58 PM on January 8, 2006


I really liked terpsichoria's comment from the October thread:

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 mediareport at 3:58 PM on January 8, 2006


On preview: Hell of a good find, srboisvert, and worth it's own FPP?
posted by availablelight at 4:05 PM on January 8, 2006


Leroy Jenkins!!

At least he's not chicken...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:36 PM on January 8, 2006


It's actually more interesting to me if the whole J.T. Leroy phenomenon was the product of a (semi-)complicated conspiracy. Not in terms of "his" writing, which has always been contrived, but in the way "he" suckered in so many celebrities and celebrity writers. The whole unmasking is a nice big fat fuck you to everyone involved.

Writers like Dennis Cooper, Mary Gaitskill and Mary Karr were among those who offered support to Mr. Leroy's literary career, as did several prominent editors at Manhattan publishing houses, and numerous film and pop music celebrities offered him emotional support, including Courtney Love, Tatum O'Neal, Billy Corgan, Shirley Manson and Carrie Fisher.

Congratulations Dennis! You're now forever linked to Tatum O'Neal and Billy Corgan. Kudos.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 4:46 PM on January 8, 2006


A good rule of thumb is to ignore anyone Mary Gaitskill likes.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:46 PM on January 8, 2006


_sirmissalot_: You'd actually have to throw Tobias Wolff in with that crowd, too.

Some of these people were actually trying to help out a kid in need who had a shit life and showed a great deal of talent for his age (his first published stories were supposedly written when he was 14 or something) and his upbringing (no formal education). But there is definitely something perverted in just believing everything that JT Leroy was saying with no skepticism at all. Part of it comes from over-sensitivity ("he said he has AIDS - nobody would make that up!") to celebrities living in an unreal environment not understanding the boundaries of reality. I mean - they made a fucking movie based on one of his books!! Asia Argento "collaborated" with JT Leroy!! I'm more intrigued by the inability of some of these celebrities to detect the difference between an honest person and a pile of bullshit. People believe what they want to believe, not what's obvious.
posted by billysumday at 5:02 PM on January 8, 2006


And if you haven't read srboisvert's link yet, do it now. Fascinating and expected.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:08 PM on January 8, 2006


"numerous film and pop music celebrities offered him emotional support, including Courtney Love"
posted by fire&wings at 5:17 PM on January 8, 2006


Hey, Leroy! Are you done, man?.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:18 PM on January 8, 2006


I'm more intrigued by the inability of some of these celebrities to detect the difference between an honest person and a pile of bullshit.

Well, that's what gets me riled up about Dennis Johnson and some of the other writers. I want them to be smarter than this. More skeptical. Less swayed by buzzworthiness. I'm not surprised a celebrity could get tricked, but Tobias Wolff?

Of course they're just human. If anything, I suppose I should feel sorry for them. Actually, I do. But I don't want to feel sorry for Dennis Johnson. I want to respect the hell out of him, because I respect the hell out of his writing.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 5:31 PM on January 8, 2006


The more I think about it, the more I feel bad for the writers and editors who were manipulated by this nasty little team. I mean, Tobias Wolff? Really? That's terrible. If anyone has a decent bullshit detector, you'd think it would be him.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 5:42 PM on January 8, 2006


srboisvert, to the front page with that link, old boy!
posted by Hat Maui at 5:44 PM on January 8, 2006


When recalling criminal activities, looming prison sentences, and jailhouse rituals, Frey writes with a swaggering machismo and bravado that absolutely crackles. Which is truly impressive considering that, as TSG discovered, he made much of it up. The closest Frey has ever come to a jail cell was the few unshackled hours he once spent in a small Ohio police headquarters waiting for a buddy to post $733 cash bond.

srboisvert, if you don't post that link, I will. I'm eligible in about three hours, so get to it. :)
posted by mediareport at 5:57 PM on January 8, 2006


And someone else who fooled Oprah (and many others).
posted by amro at 6:41 PM on January 8, 2006


Fuck James Frey and fuck JT Leroy. Although it was always kinda clear Leroy was a hoax, and an interesting one.

Coming from one of the many who loved Million Little Pieces, let me reiterate, fuck James Frey.
posted by xmutex at 7:07 PM on January 8, 2006


Am I the only one who at least takes pleasure in the fact the Oprah was made to look like a fool? What's she going to promote next? The Education of Little Tree? The Protocols of the Elders of Zion?
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:19 PM on January 8, 2006


Well quite.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 7:20 PM on January 8, 2006


I wonder if the Frey story will make it anywhere, or if it will just be an internet story. I hope it makes it far. Very far. What an astronomical dick.
posted by xmutex at 7:21 PM on January 8, 2006


the Frey story made it to Fark
posted by pruner at 7:27 PM on January 8, 2006


Have JT Leroy fans now officially been punk'd?

Not me, man: I was a JT Leroy fan before he got big.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:48 PM on January 8, 2006




I'm more intrigued by the inability of some of these celebrities to detect the difference between an honest person and a pile of bullshit

Eh, billisumday, perhaps that's cos you're assuming that those celebrities aren't used to making up a pile of bullshit themselves.
posted by funambulist at 2:22 AM on January 9, 2006


And, speaking of Asia Argento, see how her movie was promoted under the "identifying with the JT Leroy story of troubled childhood" angle - case in point, this article, with this brief moment of epiphany from the writer: It would be easy to paint 29-year-old Argento as a privileged dilettante who's manipulated her own life story with an unhealthy degree of fascination - except it wouldn't be "easy", it would only be fair.

I think that New York Metro article uncovering the hoax had a very interesting point here:

And perhaps no other culture has valued the contrived happy ending as much as ours. For all its abuse and kinky sex, the JT story is really just another heartwarming rags-to-riches tale for the punk generation. But what if America isn’t really the sort of place where a street urchin can charm his way to the top, through diligence and talent; what if instead it’s the sort of place where heartwarming stories of abused children who triumph through adversity are made up and marketed?
posted by funambulist at 2:50 AM on January 9, 2006


So, let me get this straight - J.T. Leroy is Luther Blisset?
posted by jack_mo at 6:04 AM on January 9, 2006


I'm waiting to read Oprah's apology for making Frey (not only a liar but, apparently, a plagiarist if you read the John Dolan eXile article linked above) a millionaire. Ought to be interesting.
posted by jenii at 9:04 AM on January 9, 2006


I thought this article in the Houston Press was pretty convincing that something was afoot...
posted by unknowncommand at 9:48 AM on January 9, 2006


Why does Oprah need to apologize for anything? Do all the history professors who had students buy books by Goodwin or Ambrose need to issue an apology as well? The responsibility lies with the fabricator/plagiarizer, and possibly his/her editors.
posted by transona5 at 10:37 AM on January 9, 2006


Yeah, I likes me a good Oprah joke as much as the next person, and she isn't really my cuppa, but why the sneers?
Since when is encouraging literacy a sin?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:13 AM on January 9, 2006


I wonder if the Frey story will make it anywhere, or if it will just be an internet story. I hope it makes it far. Very far. What an astronomical dick.

There's an Associated Press article posted on the front page of MSNBC.com today. Current Google News count is 185 articles elsewhere about the Smoking Gun report on Frey.
posted by ericb at 9:32 AM on January 10, 2006


Do all the history professors who had students buy books by Goodwin or Ambrose need to issue an apology as well?

They use Goodwin and Ambrose in college courses?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:40 AM on January 10, 2006




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