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'Author: The JT LeRoy Story' Review

October 5, 2016, 12:00 am

When a young man penetrates the literary scene in the early years of the century, he’s compared to William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor. He speaks with a lilting Southern accent and what he writes is mind-blowing in its darkness and artistry. It’s disturbing and confusing; it’s fiction and art born from experience. Then the tables turn, and journalists get help from insiders to reveal that hit “it” lit sensation JT LeRoy ain’t who he says he is. But is he a lie and a hoax? Or is the woman holding the pen channeling someone else? Is the avatar she created an ethical breach or the ultimate meaning of fiction?

If this kind of puzzle turns you on, meet Laura Albert. She published two novels, a collection of short stories and a number of screenplays and articles under the name JT LeRoy. But more than that, she carried on hours of phone conversations and exchanged correspondence with writers, actors and musicians as LeRoy while simultaneously presenting a dressed-up relative to the media and some of those same celebrities. All the while, she was nearby posing as his friend and caregiver.

Granted, this topic is a web of misdirection and omission, but the way Albert’s retelling is pieced together leaves the viewer in a dizzy and disjointed frenzy of time, space and characters.

Relying heavily on audio cassette recordings of Albert’s phone calls, the documentary also has plenty of creepy video and fuzzy photos from what she says is her own troubled past.

Our armchair psychology meter goes off when she says things like LeRoy “came through this body.” But Albert swears this isn’t multiple personality disorder. Her avatar emerged in part because writing from a female perspective was traumatizing. Writing as a boy, she says, came effortlessly. “The book,” she says by way of explanation, “says on the jacket ‘fiction.’ The rest is extra.”


Author: The JT LeRoy Story
Jean Cocteau Cinema,
R,
110 min


 

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