The Literary Equivalent of the Sports World’s Ongoing Doping Scandals
Posted by: Keir Graff
So, officially, JT Leroy isn’t JT Leroy. JT Leroy is actually a pseudonym for James Frey. Just kidding. JT Leroy is one Laura Albert, 40, a native New Yorker. As reported by the Associated Press, she came out in a story in the fall issue of the Paris Review.
That JT Leroy is a made-up person isn’t exactly news–New York magazine did some reporting on that last fall–so this isn’t the kind of announcement that prompts a gasp.
Albert invented the character in therapy and wrote as part of the therapeutic process, and she sees her work as therapeutic for readers, too:
“I’m proud of the work. JT saved my life and JT saved many other lives,” she said. “People talk about the authenticity of the books. Those are my experiences.”
And as for readers who might be upset at the hoax, well:
When asked if she felt any shame about misleading people, she replied: “I bleed, but it’s a different kind of shame… If knowing that I’m 15 years older than (LeRoy) devalues the work, then I’m sorry they feel that way.”
In my mind, there are all sorts of valid reasons for a writer to use a pseudonym, and there’s a rich literary tradition of doing just that. But when a writer creates a fake writer, going so far as to employ disguises, stand-ins, and lies about why the author can’t read his own work in public, that’s not writing, that’s theater.