I didn't make it out to last night's p:ear benefit "Behind the Legend of JT Leroy," which featured local authors reading the work of JT Leroy, aka Laura Albert, followed by a Q&A with literary fraudster Albert herself.
But my counterparts up at the Stranger attended a similar event—Stranger Editor-in-Chief Christopher Frizzelle moderated the show—and Brendan Kiley's take is interesting:
The saddest detail, which was almost a throwaway from Albert: She worked for awhile as a writer for Deadwood and creator David Milch gave her serious and earnest encouragement.
That sounds like a small thing, but she said that growing up as a deeply abused child and young adult, she had a sixth sense for people who want to abuse—and that, pretty much up to that point, she traded being abused for some comfort and encouragement. She said she has a "superpower" that none of us "civilians" who haven't been horribly abused will never share: She can smell the abuse impulse wafting off of people like a stench.
Albert said that Milch didn't have this smell. He simply liked her work. Albert said he was unusual, even unique, in this way. And then she started talking about other stuff.
But that simple, small detail damns almost everyone else Leroy/Albert came across in his/her career—the writers who wanted to sexualize little-boy-lost, the celebrities who wanted to suck some gutter glamor and street cred out of taking her Leroy under their moneyed wings, those who looked at his/her hideous stories with dollar signs in their eyes.
The most important thing about the Leroy/Albert scandal (though it's years old now) isn't whether Albert "hoaxed" anybody. It's how the big reveal about his/her identity actually revealed the ugliness in the rest of us.
Sometimes it takes a lie to reveal a bigger truth.
Yeah... I still don't buy it. Because while maybe Albert had some weird interactions with celebrities, it was after she did everything in her power to create a persona that celebrities would pay attention to. And because the important relationship isn't between JT Leroy and Dave Eggers; it's between JT Leroy and those poor, dumb, credulous readers who actually believed the book they were reading had been written by the famously troubled author whose name was on the cover. Admire the scale of the hoax if you like, or have yourself a nice little intellectual wank-sesh over "authorship and authenticity," but don't ask me to respect it.
If anyone made it to the Portland event, I'd love to hear how it went.
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