I'm one who took the supposed 'hoax' in stride - while reading, I noticed the characters dressed up in drag and costumes and changed their names often, but were still very consistently authentic and human no matter what name/age/gender they'd assumed at any moment. So to me the details of the author and characters' physical identities came not to matter as much as their humanity, their constant sweetness and hope and desire to help each other and fit in somewhere. So I feel I can enjoy the books and the heartfelt, clever, funny writing just as much when it comes from Ms. Albert as from Mr. LeRoy :)
My family and I just watched Miracle on 34th Street and I thought of J.T. when Kris Kringle explained that he'd become much more than just a story - he was a very real symbol of people's ability to get beyond their selfishness and help each other. J.T. LeRoy has become very real to me, a real symbol about how people can transcend pain and loneliness through art and imagination and friendship. I've known people who lived through events such as those described in the books who are still very touched and inspired and still consider him (her) one of their favorite authors.
Letter I wrote him right after people found out:
(Elena Romanescu is a pen name I use on Amazon.com and for my writing.)
I don't know if this email will reach you or not. Maybe you're busy up there in literary heaven, carrying on with lots of great luminaries like Harry Potter and Mr. Heathcliff and Oliver Twist and don't have time to read the words of mere mortal readers down here anymore.
Or maybe you don't want to talk to me since one of my best friends had some stern words for your creator in her literary blog? If that's the case then that's ok too, I just wanted to say hello.
Anyway, some of the things you wrote really resonated with me, and I thought you should know that.
I'm part of a large family, a "family-by-choice" of various non-blood relatives and friends who have chosen to come together out of love and respect. And many of us have faced lots of obstacles - abuse, poverty, sex work, etc - and in order to take care of the most vulnerable among us I have had to resort to things I wouldn't ordinarily do, either. It's a matter of survival but I try to find beauty and humor in it, and I have a feeling you would understand that. I spent years hating myself and thinking I was trash, but in the end I realized I couldn't do that, I had to love myself, as Toni Morrison said in Beloved: "Look at your flesh. The world don't love that flesh, it makes you a slave. But you got to look at it, and you got to love it." Or something like that, not exact quote, but I remember reading that in one of the grandma's speeches. So that's what was awesome about you - you loved yourself no matter what people said and you made your life become something interesting and beautiful, and maybe other people like us could, too.
I remember reading Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate - and Tita and Sister Gertrudis' famous quotes: Decency? Decency? What is decency, to deny yourself everything that you are, everything you have wanted in life? And: The truth! The truth is - there is no truth here! Your truth could be that your love is one of the most beautiful, truest things in life. Well, my love for my family is one of the strongest truths of my life, even though sometimes I have had to do deceitful, low-down things to provide for them.
You remind me of the play The Music Man, which I saw with my mom years ago. There's this person who goes around in costume pretending to be a fancy music teacher, who gets all these people together under the promise that he'll work with them to make them into a real band that sounds great on stage. People eventually find out his true identity and the fact that he never went to music school and doesn't know how to play anything, much less conduct, that he's been feeding them a fiction for months. Everyone's furious for awhile, but soon they realize that they got their wish: they, together with the fake music teacher, were all so inspired and motivated by the idea of becoming a real band that they'd worked hard and practiced for months, and believed in themselves and started coming up with real, quality creative ideas. So the teacher realizes he doesn't need the sham he created, and builds a new, true identity together with the inspired townspeople, and after a lot of work they become a real band that does something kind of nifty in the town square one afternoon. The strength, the creativity, the love and the music and beauty were all there all along, waiting for them to come together and realize it. "Who's the Real Music Man?" they asked? Well, it was them, all of them, believing in themselves.
So maybe, hopefully, the street kids and struggling people you inspired who are upset with you now can go on to realize that about themselves, that they can write, can make their lives beautiful too.
Certainly that would bring them a lot more hope and truth than all those fancy imaginative words in that conservative business newspaper my brother lets stack up by his place at the table, all about how the economy's supposedly great now and only stupid lazy people can't find jobs. If you ask me, I'd call THAT contemporary fiction :)
You know, I've gone on too long already, but I think somehow you and your Mom and friends and my family and I will all find each other on the pages of that great endless novel in the sky and enjoy a game of Wiffleball with strawberry lemonade. If you see this, tell Heathcliff and Cathy and Anne of Green Gables I say hello, and let everyone know my characters will be joining you all soon, once I finish editing my family saga novel and hopefully find an agent and publisher :)
P.S. I want a huge maraschino cherry on top my lemonade, pretty please? And an Irish coffee to finish it off, that would be nice :)
I'm aware that J.T. LeRoy and Laura Albert are recognized as Saints in the P.O.E.E. branch of the Discordian philosophical think tank (which I was part of in college.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discordian
I love this - a video of scenes from The Heart is Deceitful set to Emmy Rossum's Learn to be Lonely (which should never have been cut from Phantom of the Opera!)
Goes very well with the character, simply beautiful. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBz7