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Friday, September 29, 2006 10:21 am
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.



3 Responses to “The Literary Equivalent of the Sports World’s Ongoing Doping Scandals”
  1. Keir Says:

    Bill Ott suggested this great-sounding novel about the perils of author impersonation: Write to Kill, by Daniel Pennac.

  2. Likely Stories » Blog Archive » You use Billy Corgan as an emotional sounding board, too? Says:

    [...] Galleycat’s Ron Hogan gets some face time with Laura Albert, the writer formerly known as JT Leroy. She’s not repentant about the hoax, which at least makes for more interesting reading than if she was contrite. “People always talked about the authenticity of the work,” Laura Albert tells me as a makeup artist fixes her eyes during a photo shoot to create promotional materials for a European TV dcoumentary. “They saw that there was obviously great pain behind it. I was doing it the only way I could. My childhood was hell. I went through a minefield, and I put on camoflauge in order to tell the truth. Billy Corgan got it like that,” she says, snapping her fingers. “He understood it immediately. He didn’t feel duped.” [...]

  3. Book Blog - Likely Stories, by Keir Graff - Booklist Online » Blog Archive » A New Twist on the Fictionalized Memoir Says:

    [...] At least he’s not pretending to be someone else. [...]

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