It’s been over a decade since The New York Times uncovered that LeRoy did not actually exist, but was instead a persona created by Laura Albert. Even though LeRoy’s first two books, Sarah and The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, weren’t very good, LeRoy became a literary celebrity partly because of his colorful backstory (drug addiction, prostitution, Appalachia). But LeRoy’s story, in large part thanks to Jeff Feuerzeig’s excellent documentary Author: The JT LeRoy Story, which came out on Friday, continues to fascinate and to infuriate many who were tricked by Albert and her comrades.
On Sunday, The New York Times reported that many of LeRoy’s early backers—including the writers Mary Karr and Dennis Cooper (who was LeRoy’s mentor, insofar as a person who isn’t real could have a mentor) and the actress Asia Argento—are upset that Author opened old wounds, and that Albert, unbeknownst to them, recorded their phone calls, which are featured in the film. Cooper described the decision to include the calls as “very problematic”; Karr labeled it a “betrayal”; and Argento described it as “downright evil and disturbing.” Argento (pictured above with LeRoy) also disputed Albert’s claim in the film that Argento “had been sexually intimate” with LeRoy, who was being portrayed by Albert’s boyfriend’s half-sister, in an attempt to secure the film rights to The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things. Feuerzeig, for his part, described the movie as “a subjective telling by [Albert] of her life.”
That description holds—as in The Devil and Daniel Johnston, Feuerzeig is more interested in Albert’s own description of her life and work than in anything else. But it also makes the backlash against Author almost inevitable.