Another recent article from The New York Times maintains that James Frey is not the only popular author who faked a hard life. Times writer Warren St. John may have answered a question vexing literary hipsters for years: just who is JT Leroy?
St. John affirms our suspicions when he says the author we know as Leroy may be nothing more than a fictional character. This would explain Leroy’s reluctance to speak to press and give public readings, his affinity for communication via e-mail and fax, the payment of his advances and writer’s fees to a company in Nevada, and the sunglasses-wig-and-hat get-up he sports while making public appearances.
We linked last October to a story written by Stephen Beachy and published in New York Magazine, which theorized that one of the people who was reported to have saved Leroy from a life of homelessness, hustling, and drug addiction, Laura Albert, was also the true writer of books supposedly written by JT Leroy. The article prompted an investigation by the Times into the circumstances surrounding an article Leroy wrote for the paper in its Travel section. Then a photograph of Savannah Knoop, Albert’s half-sister-in-law, surfaced. Writes St. John, “Five intimates of Mr. Leroy’s, including his literary agent, his business manager and the producer of a forthcoming movie based on one of his books, were shown the photograph and identified Ms. Knoop as the person they have known as JT Leroy.”
St. John says that Albert, Knoop, and other orchestrating parties conjured the hoax as a bid for wealth and access to celebrities, but a conflict remains. Central to the popularity of Leroy’s work — and to his mystique — was the view that the things he wrote about were directly inspired by his own life experiences. The news of Leroy’s true identity has, no doubt, left his many supporters — celebrities and readers alike — feeling cheated.
“To present yourself as a person who is dying of AIDS in a culture which has lost so many writers and voices of great meaning, to take advantage of that sympathy and empathy, is the most unfortunate part of all of this,” said Ira Silverberg, Leroy’s agent. “A lot of people believed they were supporting not only a good and innovative and adventurous voice, but that we were supporting a person.”
Click here for the full story from The New York Times
Click here for Beachy’s October article in New York magazine