Aug 15 2011

JT LeRoy & the Absolute Necessity of Persona

""){ ?> By R.U. Sirius


Artist Jasmin Lim has created an installation about the JT Leroy affair at ATA (Artists Television Access).

The right to pseudonymity  — and the right to contain and express a multiplicity of voices — is felt to be very precious within most on the expansive edge of transhumanist thought.

But I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anyone bring home the absolute inner necessity for speaking and writing through another name and persona as succinctly — and in such an emotionally true fashion — as my friend Laura Albert aka JT LeRoy does in this video of her 10 minute performance at “The Moth.”  (Sound quality is a little rough).

Albert — for those of you who ignore everything in literature that isn’t SF — authored a series of brilliant and intense novels, Sarah, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, and Harold’s End under the persona of JT LeRoy, a male teenage prostitute.  LeRoy became a major literary figure among those who lean towards hip, challenging, sexually charged works. Many rock stars — including Billy Corgan, Tom Waits, and Shirley Manson — became fans and advocates.  The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things became a film directed by Asia Argento.  Plans to film Sarah ended badly, when Antidote Films reacted to the revelation that JT Leroy was actually Laura Albert by successfully suing her for fraud.

The building and maintenance of the persona, in itself, became an art form, as Albert — among other maneuvers — incorporated a female friend — Savannah Knoop — to play the boy genius in pubic appearances.  (The story in all its complexity is too much for this post.  Here’s the big NY Times reveal.)

After the real JT Leroy was revealed, she was reviled by many leading figures in avant-garde literature in the US — some who felt personally used by the masquerade.  But as the dust settles — and after being celebrated during a visit to Paris — Albert nee Leroy may be in for a period of reconsideration and acceptance.

Artist Jasmin Lim  has created an installation about the J.T. Leroy affair at ATA (Artists Television Access) in San Francisco.  On Wednesday, August 24, she will be joined by Laura Albert for a  moderated conversation.  Info here.

J.T. Leroy website

Cool Recent Commentary on JT Leroy Affair

Paris Review Interview

R.U. Sirius Interviews Laura Albert

  • By Dennis Crow, August 19, 2011 @ 9:37 pm

    This is almost exactly like William Sharpe who from 1893 wrote also as Fiona MacLeod, a pseudonym kept almost secret during his lifetime. There was a huge shock after his death when it was revealed. Yeats had even proposed marriage to Fiona, he was so taken by her voice.

  • By Barbi, September 21, 2011 @ 7:43 am

    Great article but it didn’t have everything—I didn’t find the kcihetn sink!

  • By Gary, September 27, 2011 @ 11:01 pm

    They should still film Sarah, because the story would be interesting.

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