Not too long ago, in talking about The Sluts, I made the claim, fairly discredited these past couple of weeks that Cooper is oft mentioned as being Leroy. Too bad I had not read this New York article before saying that. Now I am caught up again on my literary gossip. I still think The Sluts, though, mirrors in too many ways the JT Leroy situation, with someone taking on a fake idenity and all the readers of this internet thread liking the gritty aspects of this persona. And why is that, that we, as readers are always ready to privlege something more if we know about the author's background, why we love writers that have struggled and survived. Obviously, Leroy. There is also David Wojnarowicz, whose writing I think would still hold up regardless. Also Melissa P.'s 100 Strokes of the Brush Before Bed, writing which even with the privleging of being a memoir is unable to hold up. Really, countless examples.
The Penthouse letters phenomenon. More than likely these things are fake, exaggerated, fictionalized - but so much of our getting off depends on believing that these things are real, that they happened - and is this because we hold out hope for the possibilty of these things happening to us, that that is where the power of this documentary stuff comes from, in the perhaps one day realization of our dark sexual fantasies.
Dennis Cooper talks about the Leroy thing in his blog:
I can't speak for anyone else who knew JT Leroy -- whoever or what that is -- early on, but for me the progression from knowing and caring about a seemingly real 14 year old kid who claimed to have been horribly abused his whole life and was living on the streets and who claimed he was going to die of AIDS any minute and who could nonetheless and quite remarkably write well and honestly and sometimes beautifully about his life to watching this seemingly same kid transform into a fame and fashionability and money chasing alternative culture mini-Paris Hilton to discovering that the entire thing was probably a heartless and greedy if rather brilliantly carried out scam has not been fun at all, but, speaking for myself, give me some time and maybe the ludicrousness of it all will sink in and I'll join the people who weren't so personally involved in the saga in laughing my head off. I think that's quite possible. Not that I don't laugh about it now, but it's painful laugh. Yeah, 'Sarah' may not be a classic for the ages, but back when I thought it was written by the person I described at the beginning of this paragraph, it seemed like a pretty special achievement.
This analysis of the Leroy situation mirrors the plot of The Sluts so much and I do not think Cooper is aware of that. Also on his blog, is an entry called "Scrapbook Two, p. 8 (10 American Prositutes)," which appears to be images he has gathered from online escort ads (with or without their permission?), and some of these subjects are strikingly beautiful, particulary Matthew (19, Houston) and Lucas (21, San Diego). There was a time when I didn't respect Cooper and I would loudly proclaim so. I remember at one point arguing with Ben about him, who I believe was writing his thesis on him. But now, I revere him so much and think he is an amazing artist, that his writing is something really special and forces me to think about what it is I like to read about and what it is I want to write about and how. This Oe book I am reading right now is pretty amazing and pretty nonlinear, but even it is a little too typical narrativish after reading Cooper.