January 10, 2006

Another “Alleged” Fraud in the Literary Community: JT Leroy

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Ignorance,Scams — Tom @ 6:28 pm

James Frey (third item at this post) was exposed by The Smoking Gun.

Unbeknownst to me, just before Frey’s Lies became common currency, “HIV-infected man” and hard-luck storyteller JT Leroy was almost definitively identified as a woman:

It has been one of the most bizarre literary mysteries in recent memory: Who, exactly, is the novelist JT Leroy? An answer, at long last, is taking shape.

Mr. Leroy’s tale was harrowing in its details and uplifting in its arc. He was a young truck-stop prostitute who had escaped rural West Virginia for the dismal life of a homeless San Francisco drug addict. Rescued as a young teenager by a couple named Laura Albert and Geoffrey Knoop and treated by a psychologist, he was able to turn his terrible youth into a thriving career as a writer. JT Leroy has published three critically acclaimed works of fiction noted for their stark portrayal of child prostitution and drug use.

Along the way Mr. Leroy gained the friendship and trust of celebrities and noted writers, who supported his career financially and offered him emotional support when he declared that he was infected with H.I.V. Sales were good, and his books were published around the world. Shy and reclusive, Mr. Leroy, now 25, appeared in public often disguised beneath a wig and sunglasses.

But the young man in the wig and sunglasses, it turns out, is not a man at all. The public role of JT Leroy is played by Savannah Knoop, Geoffrey Knoop’s half sister, who is in her mid-20′s.

A photograph of Ms. Knoop at a 2003 opening for a clothing store in San Francisco was discovered online. Five intimates of Mr. Leroy’s, including his literary agent, his business manager and the producer of a forthcoming movie based on one of his books, were shown the photograph and identified Ms. Knoop as the person they have known as JT Leroy.

….. But the discovery of the public face of JT Leroy is only part of the mystery. Still unsettled is the question of who writes under that name.

….. The unmasking of Ms. Knoop adds to a mounting circumstantial case that Laura Albert is the person who writes as JT Leroy. Pressure to admit the ruse has been building on Ms. Albert since October, when New York magazine published an article that advanced a theory that she was the author of JT Leroy’s books.

….. Ms. Albert did not respond to numerous voice mail messages requesting comment. Reached by telephone, Mr. Knoop declined to comment.

Ouch.
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UPDATE: Blogosphere reax (some doubling up on James Frey) –

  • Miz Almond: “In the aftermath of “Fake Writer Day,” I have to say I’m at a loss ….. I personally don’t believe that a body (Leroy) can learn to write that well and not figure out how to remove double negatives from their sentences when requesting review copies. ….. Dude (Frey) knows how to sell books, that’s for sure. But when you play in the cult of personality, your word(s) cease to be enough. It’s a dark and lonely crossroads, Big Jim.”
  • Not Keeping Score (just read the whole thing)
  • PhillyWriters.net: “So, it seems from all these juicy revelations that the wilder and more implausible your author bio is, the more attractive you are to potential publishers.”
  • It’s My Dog’s World: “But just like our metabolisms, used to starve and binge in the wild, perhaps this is one adapative behavior (lying) that no longer works as well in our current info-overloaded environment, and this era, to quote Stephen Colbert, of Truthiness.”
  • Conblogeration: “….. editing is different from inventing”
  • American Caesar Salad: “I don’t think we have a satisfactory organ in society to shame people like this. What’s worse, they’ve already made trillions of dollars off of us – so it seems the jackasses win.”
  • Sfist: ” The creative team behind J.T. Leroy should send James Frey flowers, since his little revelations have given the J. T. Leroy hoax story a sort of also-ran quality.”
  • Tiny Mammoth: “I can’t think of any such fakery in the past, am I missing someone? There’s so little real suffering in modern life that the perfectly normal human act of enduring it has become exotic.”
  • Under the News: “In America today, we live with too much fiction posing as fact. It’s not art to swear you’re telling the truth and then fib. That’s just common lying.”
  • Loins: “January 9 Shall Forever Be Known as Fake Writer Day”
  • The Quintonian: “Ah, it has been a good week for fraudulence about crapulence.”

UPDATE 2: The betrayed-by-Leroy Susie Bright weighs in at HuffPost (HT Michael Canfield).

UPDATE 3: Duped (but at least not dumped) Cherry Blossom Special“I want to make note that I am ashamed to have ever been duped by this hoax, that the numerous secretive moves and inconsistent public appearances of JT Leroy should have tipped me off.”

I Guess Someone Had to Prove That This Won’t Work

Filed under: General — Tom @ 1:24 pm

No comment necessary:

Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Odell Owens says that 61 year old Johnnas Pope of Madionsville died 2 and 1/2 years ago and her family left her in her room in her home sitting in her chair since she died.

Family members would check on her once a day and make sure the television set was still on.

Owens says that Pope expressed her desire to her caregivers not to bury her because she would come back to life. He said that it was not part of any organized religion but the personal beliefs of Pope.

No foul play is suspected in her death.

The coroner’s office says that 3 or 4 family members knew the body was in the home. Two adults and a child lived in the home.

Early reports suggested the body had been there for six months but an investigation by the Coroner’s office was able to determine Pope died in August of 2003.

And while the case is strange it doesn’t appear that the family members broke any laws.

So now you know — unless you believe that she wasn’t given enough time to come back.

Why Gas Prices May Go Up, and Who Deserves the Blame

Filed under: Consumer Outrage,Economy,Environment,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:51 am

Ben Lieberman at TCS Daily has the news:

2005 was a very expensive year for gasoline. And thanks to Washington, 2006 could be even worse.

The feds did not waste any time, with two costly gasoline requirements having taken effect on January 1st. That’s right. The year has already begun with two new regulations that will raise the price at the pump.

The first is the new ethanol mandate — part of the massive energy bill passed last August. Under the new law, 4 billion gallons of this corn-derived fuel additive will have to be included in the nation’s gasoline supply throughout 2006.

Ethanol costs more than gasoline (if it didn’t, its producers would not need federal help) — and its use reduces fuel economy. The new mandate is great news for some well-connected special interests, namely Midwestern corn farmers and big ethanol producers like Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). But those who are stuck paying the tab — you — will be far less thrilled.

The second regulatory price boost will come as a result of the latest round of sulfur reductions from gasoline, pursuant to a costly Clinton-era regulation. Similar low-sulfur rules applicable to diesel fuel also take effect in 2006 and will have an even bigger impact on diesel costs.

While Washington is doing things that will hurt consumers, it isn’t doing much to help them. These new gasoline regulations would not be so hard to take if EPA regulators or Congress used the occasion to clear away several of the old ones that also add to fuel prices. The energy bill does contain some modest streamlining measures, but overall, 2006 will bring more regulatory additions than subtractions.

Over the past ten years, the EPA has imposed a bewildering variety of fuel requirements, with as many as 18 so-called boutique fuels in use at any given time. The cost and complexity of this scheme goes well beyond any rational clean air justification. Granted, air quality has been improving, but it was doing so just as quickly before these newfangled fuel requirements were imposed.

The new ethanol and sulfur rules may each add several cents to the price per gallon — bad enough, but it’s the cumulative burden of all these federal regulations that is even more substantial.

The fuel regulations will continue to grow after 2006. For example, EPA is required, pursuant to a settlement of a lawsuit brought by an environmental group, to propose another round of regulations limiting the amount of benzene and similar trace components from gasoline. The regulation must be proposed by February 2006 and take effect by 2007.

If prices go back into climb mode because of regulations, will there be Senate hearings with the heads of The Sierra Club and Greenpeace as witnesses? Doubtful–It will be the oil companies’ fault. Isn’t that obvious?
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Previous Post: Memo to Jean Schmidt and the Rest of Congress: On Economics, Ethanol Is a Loser

Retraction — WaPo Sago Saga Post, Part 2

Filed under: General — Tom @ 9:15 am

This post will stay at the top throughout the day on January 10.

Due to a failure on my part to verify the identity of the subject of this post, Ken Ward Jr. at the Charleston (WV) Gazette, I have retracted its content.

I intensely regret the error, apologize to Mr. Ward and Mr. Kurtz of The Washington Post for having committed it, and have sent an e-mail to him detailing all steps made to fully retract the post and its content, both here and at NewsBusters.org.

Three Monumental Hoaxes, One Common Thread

Three recent stories — one scientific, one political, and one literary — have been exposed as scams or hoaxes of epic proportions:

  1. North Korean Researcher DisgracedWhatever “cloning pioneer” Hwang Woo-suk had been clinging to is gone (HT Drudge):

    Korean University Says Cloning Claim Faked
    The now-disgraced South Korean researcher who stunned the scientific community with his claim to have cloned human embryonic stem cells faked his results, relying on “fabricated data,” his university said Tuesday.
    The latest revelation doomed Hwang Woo-suk’s reputation as a cloning pioneer, already damaged by the finding that the veterinarian’s claim in 2005 to have developed 11 patient-specific stem cell lines was false.
    Hwang “did not have any proof to show that cloned embryonic stem cells were ever created,” an investigating panel at Seoul National University said in a report Tuesday, disputing claims in Hwang’s 2004 paper in the journal Science purporting that he cloned a human embryo and extracted stem cells from it.

  2. Student Admits Lying about Visits by Federal AgentsJust before Christmas, the hoaxster who made this claim retracted it (excerpt is of paragraphs 1, 2, and 5 of the linked Harvard Crimson story):

    UMass Student Admits Inventing ‘Little Red’ Tale
    The University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth student who said he was visited by federal agents after attempting to borrow Mao Tse-Tung’s “Little Red Book” through an interlibrary loan has admitted that his story was a fraud.
    ….. The UMass-Dartmouth student originally said two officials from the Department of Homeland Security had shown up at his home to question him about his interest in the “Little Red Book,” the Chinese Communist leader’s seminal text. But in a meeting on Dec. 22 with two faculty members, a school official, and a reporter for The Standard-Times, the student’s story began to evaporate.
    Pressed for details of the incident, the student described yet another encounter with federal agents at his family’s home, according to Brian G. Williams, an associate professor of history at UMass-Dartmouth, who attended the meeting. But Williams said that when he visited the student’s house, his family knew nothing about the supposed agents or their visits. Confronted by Williams, the student broke down and admitted that he had made up the entire story.

  3. Best-Selling Nonfiction Book Is Mostly FictionJames Frey’s autobiography about his life of crime and subsequent rehabilitation has been shown to be riddled with “fabrications, falsehoods, other fakery” in a devastating expose at The Smoking Gun (HT Lucianne):

    A Million Little Lies
    Police reports, court records, interviews with law enforcement personnel, and other sources have put the lie to many key sections of Frey’s book. The 36-year-old author, these documents and interviews show, wholly fabricated or wildly embellished details of his purported criminal career, jail terms, and status as an outlaw “wanted in three states.”
    In additon to these rap sheet creations, Frey also invented a role for himself in a deadly train accident that cost the lives of two female high school students. In what may be his book’s most crass flight from reality, Frey remarkably appropriates and manipulates details of the incident so he can falsely portray himself as the tragedy’s third victim.
    ….. Frey appears to have fictionalized his past to propel and sweeten the book’s already melodramatic narrative and help convince readers of his malevolence.
    ….. But he has demonstrably fabricated key parts of the book, which could–and probably should–cause a discerning reader to wonder what is true in “A Million Little Pieces” and its sequel, “My Friend Leonard.”

Here’s what they all have in common–a characteristic of their victims (and check out who a couple of the gullible ones were):

(more…)

Positivity: Author Earns Long-Overdue Recognition of Her Work a Year Before Her Death

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:11 am

Sanora Babb died on Dec. 31. This is a Positivity post because of what she lived to see roughly a year before that — Her 1938 novel finally got the recognition it obviously had deserved for so long:

Acclaimed writer Sanora Babb dead at 98

HOLLYWOOD – If there were lessons to be learned from Sanora Babb’s hardscrabble years as a child on the Colorado frontier, one of them must have been perseverance.

Babb waited 65 years in the shadow of a literary giant for her first completed novel to be published. Upstaged in 1938 by John Steinbeck’s bestselling “The Grapes of Wrath,” Babb’s tale about the travails of a Depression-era farm family was shelved by the venerable Random House, which feared that the market would not support two novels on the same theme.

Bitterly disappointed, Babb stuck her manuscript in a drawer in 1939, and there it remained until 2004, when it was rescued by the University of Oklahoma Press.

At 97, Babb earned long-overdue praise for the novel, “Whose Names Are Unknown,” an acutely observed chronicle of one family’s flight from the drought and dust storms of the high plains to the migrant camps of California during the 1930s.

Reviewers called it a “long-forgotten masterpiece” and “an American classic both literary and historical,” as compelling as Steinbeck’s epic work and in some ways more authentic.

in the 1940s in defiance of California’s anti-miscegenation laws, Babb died of natural causes on Dec. 31 at her Hollywood Hills home, said Joanne Dearcopp, her longtime agent and literary executor. She was 98.

“She was a wonderful poet, a good short-story writer and a fine novelist,” said author Ray Bradbury, who knew Babb for more than 60 years.