Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Cult of J.T. LeRoy

Laura Albert.

It reminded me of something Pauline Kael said about the movie Love Story. In 1970, it had audiences in tears and Kael sneered at the people who thought that the movie must have been terribly well-made since they were so moved by it.

In the case of J.T. LeRoy, people read "his" books because they thought they were at least partially
autobiographical---the authentic voice of a horribly abused HIV positive teenage boy forced into a life of prostitution. When it turned out that "LeRoy" was a repulsive middle-aged female psychopath from a middle-class family, many of his/her fans argued that the books were still brilliantly written since they had been so moved by them---or had at least been morbidly fascinated by them.

The books were published as novels, not autobiographies. Apologists argued that the real author, Laura Albert, had simply used a pen name.

It's like they thought they were reading J.T. LeRoy and found out it was only J.T. LeRoy fanfiction.

I didn't know much about the case of J.T. LeRoy until I saw this movie. I had read something about "him" before it was exposed as a hoax, so I went to the bookstore and looked at one of his books. It was written in the annoying pseudo-poetic style peculiar to literary frauds. I passed on it.
 
I didn't realize how much work Laura Albert put into it, talking for hours on the phone, sadistically manipulating men she thought could help promote her as a writer. She was a phone sex worker by trade. No one she spoke to spotted her phony West Virginia accent.

Since LeRoy was supposedly an HIV positive prostitute disfigured by sado-masochistic abuse and taking female hormones in preparation for a sex change operation, I don't imagine any of the men Albert talked to were interested in him sexually. They spent hours on the phone talking to a disturbed kid who claimed to be suicidal. There was nothing they could do for him but keep talking and talking.

How many literary frauds have there been pretending to be children with AIDS?

The Cult of J.T. LeRoy is available on Fandor.

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