Remember When Lies Could Be Controversial?

Or when people cared about whether books were true?

If that is your real name

I was in a bar in the early afternoon a few weekends ago and the place was mostly empty so the bartender had some kind of “Law and Order” marathon on the television in the corner. There was an episode playing that had been RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES about the JT LeRoy story, which I guessed meant it was from 1929 but apparently had actually only transpired about ten years ago. It was certainly the first time I’d thought about JT LeRoy in the many years since all that craziness surrounding the character’s true identity. Was that the last time authenticity meant anything, before everyone decided that from now on we weren’t really going to distinguish between fiction or memoir anymore, and we would call it one thing or another based on what the marketing department decided would move more merchandise? Does it even matter? Clearly whatever time we have left here will be spent in the post-factual era, which is nice because everyone can feel better about the stories they tell themselves.

Anyway, when the trailer to this documentary came out yesterday I asked the young people with whom I work if any of them remembered it. A surprising number of them did, poor things. One of them even said, “I’m just happy that JT LeRoy and James Frey killed reading and social media came in to take up the space,” which is terrible because it is true and also because I had mostly forgotten about James Frey too. It’s a good reminder that whenever I despair about the death of literacy I should recall what the fuck literacy was even ten years ago. Everything is lies and bluster. We’re probably better moving on to an all-emoji world.

AUTHOR: THE JT LEROY STORY is in theaters this September. See it instead of reading a book.