Maybe not, but it does give the audience of Author: The JT LeRoy Story a big hint about the long-term unhappiness of Albert, an author who became a 90s lit icon by pretending to be a teenage male prostitute and memoirist. Albert – according to her own testimony – could only find emotional catharsis if she translated her pain into fiction, but this fiction had to be the true-life story of somebody else. Enter JT LeRoy.
‘JT LeRoy’, less of a pen-name than a fleshed-out persona, evolved from ‘Terminator’, a rape-victim Albert pretended to be when calling a psychiatric helpline. Neither Terminator nor JT are to be confused with Speedie, another personality Albert used to extend the JT mythology. Albert also somehow convinced loved ones into portraying other figures in the life of her creation. It should also be added that ‘JT’ ‘wanted’ to ‘become’ a woman – a woman like Albert.
Author embraces the intricacy of its themes of identity, appropriation, and self. Directed with cocky panache, it matches the charming slipperiness of its subject. Director Jeff Feuerzeig knows that any attempt to give the ‘real’ story would be soaked in irony and come apart like a book dropped in the bath.
Instead of answers, questions. If the torchbearer for an alt-culture tradition – Burroughs, Genet, Ginsberg – isn’t in fact a homeless HIV-positive male teenager, does that matter? Wasn’t ‘LeRoy’ just writing fiction like Burroughs and Genet? Would it have mattered to the reading audience if LeRoy’s writing had been labelled as fiction? Or explicitly penned by Laura Albert? When ‘LeRoy’ wrote an ‘actual’ novel, did his pseudonymous identity matter more, or less?
Author is also a
sly exposé of the kind of hysteria that greets the onset of new celebrity. Oh,
that all authors should make an autographed racoon-penis-bone-pendant the must-have
accessory of the literati. Albert deserves kudos for that.
Author is the latest in a series of great recent character-study documentaries in which the film-makers stay off-camera and let their subjects fill the frame. Whereas Almost Holy’s Pastor Gennadiy is opaquely heroic and Weiner’s Anthony Weiner thrashes around like a stoat in a peddle-bin, the Laura Albert of Author is warily confessional, candid if not 100% clear. She’s the least-straightforward of the three, and her story is compelling – however true it may or may not be.
|What||Author: The JT LeRoy Story film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
29 Jul 16 – 29 Sep 16, Event times vary
|Price||£determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here for more details|