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Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

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Thursday, March 6, 2008 4:27 pm
Checking in with Laura Albert (aka JT Leroy)
Posted by: Keir Graff

The Margaret Seltzer story (ably updated at Galleycat) got me to thinking about Laura Albert (aka JT Leroy). Where is she now?

To explain how she’s wound up where she has, Laura first whips out the platitudes, about taking problems of the soul and turning them into art; about following in a distinguished line of writers using pseudonyms; about being not “a poster child for the First Amendment [but a] poster 40-year-old woman!” That she delivers these with brio and the occasional accent does not prevent them from sounding as though they came out of a can. Truer is her contention that our misunderstanding of her motivations has led to her eroding circumstances, a hard thing to deny when you see how she lives: in a cluttered apartment, with her 10-year-old son, a German roommate, Uwe, and a hundred bottles of vitamins and prescription medicines lined up on a cheap wooden bookcase. Laura, to look at, is not a healthy person. She wears a wig, her fingers are gray, and she’s had what some might call excessive elective surgery – on her breasts, her nose, and her lips, which this afternoon show the pricks and puffiness of recent injections.

Oh. Nancy Rommelmann’s loooong, fine profile of Albert in L.A. Weekly (“The Lies and Follies of Laura Albert, a.k.a. JT Leroy“) offers some substantive food for thought about why we want to believe things that we suspect aren’t true.

JT had a similar effect on people. Gus Van Sant, who at one point owned the option to Sarah and who gave JT an associate-producer credit on the 2003 film Elephant, last year told Butt magazine, “JT was a superclose friend. There was one year where I would talk to him three hours a day … He became one of my anchors, and then all of a sudden, the anchor wasn’t there … And then, when I ended up meeting Laura, she was what I imagined Sarah to be like, kind of demonic and odd.” Van Sant still finds the character “enchanting … and I think I could still talk to JT, because I think he still exists.”

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