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by Nikki Tranter

1 Aug 2007


The Laura Albert / JT Leroy fraud case might be over, but I figure Albert’s arguments as far as Leroy’s “existence” will become an unsolved artistic mystery to be debated for the ages. Albert claims that the abused, tortured young Leroy was an aesthetic tool created to allow her freedom to write down all those things she couldn’t bring herself to face. (The story goes that much of what LeRoy writes, Albert experienced.) The claim isn’t all that incredible considering the same thing apparently happens when writers use the “Anonymous” nom de plume—just ask Nikki Gemmell. Albert, though, might have gotten away with her method had she not signed tax cheques in LeRoy’s name. She also went so far as to have friend Savannah Knoop dress up as LeRoy to attend interviews and parties.

From BBC News:

She denied the character was a hoax, saying she believed LeRoy was inside her. “It was my respirator,” she told the court in New York. “If you take JT, you take my other and I die.”

Then what’s Knoop? Apparently Knoop was as attached to LeRoy—her reasons, though, are yet to be substantially argued. Whatever the case, Albert has lost this round. Antidote Films, which was slated to make a film from LeRoy’s book, Sarah, sued the author for fraud. They called the LeRoy situation “one of the biggest literary hoaxes of all time”. Albert now owes Antidote $350,000. The New York Times has a piece here.

This piece in the The Independent digs right to the bone of the issue and presents several of Albert’s artistic ideals as clearly as to (almost) make them believable. Still, it’s rather coincidental that LeRoy is officially “out” of Albert now that no one is able to witness the character’s “taking over” of the author. Albert sure recovered quickly from her psychological quibbles (so big they required this level of public deception). And is anyone really questioning the author’s right to a pseudonym? Not really. The problem here is the heavily disguised waif-like being who pretended to be LeRoy on the arms of Winona Ryder and Courtney Love.

James Stafford, a friend of Albert’s, reveals in The Independent the lengths to which the Albert group went in perpetuating their hoax. What kind of aesthetic tool needs to be calmed at an interview with “a Bible and a Barbie doll” only to end up jumping on a couch playing with a fairy wand? Again, Albert’s story could have seemed credible if not for some of that other wildness.

What a mess. 

LeRoy might be unpublishable, but he’s apparently still a bankable product. The IMDb lists an Untitled JT LeRoy Project scheduled for 2008.

by Connie Ogle

31 Jul 2007


First Among Sequels: A Thursday Next Novel

First Among Sequels: A Thursday Next Novel
by Jasper Fforde
Viking ($24.95)

There is simply so much you don’t know about fiction: Thomas Hardy’s novels used to be hilarious, but someone made off with the humor. There was once a shocking outbreak of sensible behavior in Othello. Only 15 pianos exist in literature, and so they must be endlessly shuffled from Bleak House to The Mill on the Floss to Heart of Darkness and so on. Mistakes happen; one piano ended up in Miss Bates’ parlor in Emma, and Frank Churchill had to take the rap for dumping it there.

Such unsettling events occur regularly in the Bookworld, born in the furiously agile imagination of Jasper Fforde, creator Thursday Next of Jurisfiction, a literary detective whose adventures stretch uproariously across four novels (The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots and Something Rotten). Fforde has shaken up genres—fantasy, comedy, crime, sci fi, parody, literary criticism—and come up with a superb mishmash with lots of affectionate in-jokes for any book lover.

In the aptly titled First Among Sequels—tough call, but there’s a good chance it’s the best of Fforde’s novels—Thursday is no longer working SpecOps, or at least not to her husband Landen’s knowledge. He thinks she’s laying carpet, but she’s still leaping in and out of assorted prose and contending with non-literary mayhem. The genre wars continue, with Racy Novel’s threats to drop a dirty bomb into “Mrs. Dalloway.” Time may be coming to an end. The ruling Commonsense Party is running up an ominously high Stupidity Surplus (“Instead of drifting from one crisis to the next and appeasing the nation with a steady stream of knee-jerk legislation and headline-grabbing but arguably pointless initiatives, they had been resolutely building a raft of considered long-term plans that concentrated on unity, fairness, and tolerance”).

Worst of all is the introduction of Reality Book Shows, which will rewrite the classics based on audience approval. First up: Pride and Prejudice.

Fforde, also author of the even sillier Nursery Crimes series, is not even close to running out of targets. His satire is relentless and inspired; even his throwaway one-liners hit home: “The MAWk-15H virus has once again resurfaced in Dickens, particularly in the Death of Little Nell, which is now so uncomfortably saccharine that even our own dear, gentle, patient, noble Nell complained.”

Thursday may face a threat against reading in the Bookworld, but in the real world, thanks to the witty Fforde, she can rest assured that the demise of the book has never seemed more unlikely.

Connie Ogle
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

by Chris Barsanti

30 Jul 2007


An old truism goes that when Catholics sin, they go to confession, but when Protestants sin, they go out and buy a book (it didn’t say anything about what Mormons do). If that rule still applies today, then Protestants are doing a whole lot of sinning. Buried in this BBC News story about how Wal-Mart will soon be stocking an entire line of Bible-based action figures like Goliath and Sampson (a simultaneously surprising and yet terrifying prospect), is this little nugget: Sales of religious books in America went up 5.6% in 2006. And apparently Christian book-buyers spend half as much again on books as the average American. So whatever those atheists, and other non-Christian religious types are doing with their time, it doesn’t appear to be reading.

by Michael Merschel

29 Jul 2007


GRAPEVINE, Texas—Publisher Nan A. Talese took up a fresh defense of A Million Little Pieces this weekend, defending the “essential truth” of the discredited memoir—while criticizing Oprah Winfrey and her fans.

Asked about the book during a session at the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Writers Conference of the Southwest on Saturday, Talese said her experience with author James Frey had not changed the way she handled memoirs.

“I’m afraid I’m unapologetic of the whole thing,” she said. “And the only person who should be apologetic is Oprah Winfrey,” who she says exhibited “fiercely bad manners—you don’t stone someone in public, which is just what she did.”

Calling Winfrey’s behavior “mean and self-serving,” Talese said that readers should be able to decide for themselves about whether to believe an author, and that Frey was clear about how believable he was.

by Nikki Tranter

27 Jul 2007


Don’t you just love Kate McCulley?

NPR’s Talk of the Nation introduced me to her last week, and now I’m officially addicted to her blog, The Grammar Vandal. McCulley is a 22-year-old Bostononian who goes around the city correcting grammar mistakes on signs. Her passion is a beautiful thing. She mentions, openly and honestly, during the NPR interview that “bad grammar is a sign of a person who isn’t educated”, and that she considers herself a “vigilante”. Some of her best work includes sticking as apostrophe adhesive on a sign reading “Professors Row”, and raising a local farmer to hero status on her blog for his correctly-worded “Farmers’ Market Today” sign.

Someone needs to employ this woman to travel the world correcting linguistic wrongs. I’d love for her to clean up my town—we’re constantly choking on, among other things, restaurant menus displaying “hamburger’s”, “parmigana/parmagiana/parmagina”, and even, believe it or not, “sapghetti” (it’s written in huge letters on a walkway!). And I thought it was only backwards hick towns like mine that suffered this level of grammar-cancer.

Fight on, Grammar Vandal! We need you.

 

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