19 October, 2005

Fact or Fiction?

JT LeRoy, the author of that brilliant piece of fiction "Sarah" as well as his supposed 'factual' memoirs "The Heart is Deceitful above all Things" is being discussed by the New York Magazine quite a bit at the moment... or more specifically, the idea that JT LeRoy is 'just a character himself'.

I read "Sarah" quite some time ago now, and absolutely loved the book. It was a bizarre, fantastic, almost mythical journey with a collection of wonderful and disturbing characters - all which required a decent suspension of disbelief.

Not long after I read LeRoy's "memoirs" ("Heart is Deceitful...") and was intrigued all over. They were brutal, horrific and exhilirating to read. Subsequently I attended a screening of Asia Argento's film adaptation of these memoirs at the NFT which JT LeRoy attended in person; and did a 'speech' before the screening.

He came out holding Asia Argento's hand, his face barely visible behind a long blonde wig and big black hat; the only distinguishing feature was the bright red lips he mumbled from. Upon being handed the microphone he somehow, painstakingly managed to read out an introduction to the film which we had been handed a typed copy of upon entering the cinema regardless in an almost incoherent, childlike voice. It was evident that the cinema crowd were becoming more and more uncomfortable during the reading.

At the time I remember thinking: 'Is this for real?' I had read these stories which were emotional but seemingly strong; I had a sense of this individual having lived through so much torment (much at the hands of his own mother), yet still here to tell the tale in a rich, evocative way. And here was this mumbling, shy, incoherent mess of a creature standing in disguise at the front of the cinema trying to string a couple of sentences together.

Soon after this, I read a host of discussion boards that focussed on the idea that JT LeRoy was actually an 'invented' character, and not real at all. I remember throwing my two bits in at the time by saying 'who cares?'...

What really interested me was some of the *extreme* reactions of people to the idea that his entire character was invented. Here's just one example:

As readers we've been lied to again. He doesn't exist. He never existed. And those of us who believed in him have been betrayed. Thanks a lot, JT, for making us think someone else felt the way I did instead of using my emotions as a means to pad their pocket and exploit their own need for literary/hipster cool "credibility." You'll pay in hell!

hhhhmmmmm. Say no more.

I personally love 'JT LeRoy's' writing and if he is 'invented' then I like the character that has been invented. Much like Andy Warhol who created a persona which he felt more comfortable presenting to the public - this writer (whoever that may be) has created a persona to write through.

So JT LeRoy, please keep on writing - and I will keep on reading.


Nunzia said...

I'll have to check it out.

Anhoni Patel said...

Even if JT is a totally fake character (Derrida would argue that everyone is a charcter and ALL characters are an act), that doesn't take away from the work that was created. And those posers that were "into" his literature just b/c it was cool to do so and b/c he was supposedly this total freak can just move onto something else.

ziggystardust73 said...

Anhoni, I couldn't agree more. And the thing is, they will. I find it fascinating that these people become so obsessed with the person that the literature becomes secondary...

Nunzia, let me know what you think when you've checked it out.

John Russell said...

I think I might be "wigs and sunglasses" for Halloween.