During the whole kerfluffle over James Frey and his pants-on-fire book A Million Little Pieces a new debate began over the publisher’s role in validating autobiographical material in memoirs. Today I happened upon this article in the New York Times which tells of a lawsuit against a woman named Laura Albert who wrote a book called Sarah under the pseudonym J.T. Leroy. I need a map to follow this one….
Laura Albert is a woman who wrote as a man writing a novel (not a memoir) about a boy who has taken on a woman’s name (his mother’s name) growing up poor and sexually abused in and around West Virginia truck stops. 1+1=96.
The article gives the whole background but at the crux is a series of embarrassed film production studios who feel defrauded by the fact that J.T. Leroy did not have a childhood at all like the boy Sarah. Apparently, I am finding out with Google’s help, J.T. Leroy claimed to have AIDS but Laura Albert does not have AIDS.
It’s funny that even though this story first broke years ago it seems that the James Frey debacle created a longer and more global stir. Could it be because Oprah didn’t publicly back this book? Laura Albert, to my mind, is far more messed up than James Frey. She’s just better at marketing her insanity and has managed to stay something of celebrity rather than a public menace. She’s also a pro at masking her identity since she/he was interviewed on Fresh Air as J.T.Leroy.
As a footnote: Random House, it was announced in May, will be forking over $2.35 million to people who feel defrauded by James Frey’s fairy tale of drug addiction and recovery.