Cherry Hood

About JT LeRoy

JT LeRoy is the author of the international best selling books SARAH (currently being made into a film by Steven Shainberg) and The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things (which will be debuting at Cannes this spring, directed by and starring Asia Argento). LeRoy's third novel will be published by Viking in 2005. His work appears in the short story collection, "The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2003", edited by Dave Eggers.

LeRoy was an Associate Producer on Gus Van Sant's film Elephant, winner of the Palme d'Or, Cannes. He has begun another collaborative project with Van Sant and is currently writing its original screenplay. LeRoy is also part of the rock band THISTLE, who are recording their debut with producer Jerry Harrison. He is a contributing editor for Index, Flaunt, 7x7 and i-D as well as as a writer for Spin, GQ, Sunday London Times, Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope and many more.

The following excerpt is taken from The New York Times, November 14, 2004

A Literary Life Born of Brutality

JT LeROY remembers well the first time he read about himself in print. It was an article in the British magazine The Face, declaring Mr. LeRoy, just 19 at the time, a literary wunderkind. Mr. LeRoy - who says his mother was a drug addict and prostitute and that he spent his youth as a cross-dressing hooker, turning tricks in truck stop parking lots - was elated.

"I cut the article out and put it on my stomach like it would heal me," Mr. LeRoy said in a twang left over from his West Virginia childhood. "But it didn't heal me. The thing about attention is it's like drinking. One drink is too many, and a million isn't enough."

Now 24, Mr. LeRoy has no shortage of attention. He has written two acclaimed books: "Sarah," an autobiographical tale about life among a group of young truck stop prostitutes who call themselves "lot lizards" and who are distinguished by a curious bit of neckwear: leather lanyards adorned with penis bones of raccoons, said to be talismans for sexual potency; and "The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things," a collection of raw, diaristic tales about his horrific childhood. Mr. LeRoy's books have been translated into 20 languages, and an illustrated hardcover edition of a novella called "Harold's End," about a young male prostitute who adopts a pet snail, is being published this month by Last Gasp.

Mr. LeRoy also wrote the original draft of "Elephant," the Gus Van Sant film that won the Palme D'Or at Cannes in2003, and a film version of "The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things" starring Asia Argento, which made its debut this year at Cannes.

If that is not enough, he is the lyricist for a San Francisco band named Thistle. He has become the de rigueur literary recommendation for a certain set of hipsters - Tom Waits, Bono and Liv Tyler have singled out his writing in interviews - and has been embraced by established writers including Tobias Wolff, Michael Chabon and Mary Gaitskill, and by a cadre of celebrities with, as it happens, their own troubled pasts, like Courtney Love, Winona Rider, Tatum O'Neal and Billy Corgan.

He's even had a song written about him - "Cherry Lips," by Shirley Manson.

In person the 5-foot-5 Mr. LeRoy speaks in a quiet, girlish voice, his conversation punctuated by strange, childlike yelps when something pleases him. Like the lot lizards in "Sarah," he wears a raccoon bone necklace, as do numerous members of his entourage, an oddball assemblage of recovering drug addicts and scenesters whom Mr. LeRoy likens to shards of pottery reassembled into a watertight vessel.

Mr. LeRoy - whose initials stand for Jeremiah, his given name, and Terminator, a nickname given to him on the street as a ironic commentary on his stature and waifish demeanor - said years of intensive therapy and medication had helped him overcome his past, giving him enough confidence to write steadily and occasionally to shed the Warholian wig and sunglasses he often hides behind.


The writer JT LeRoy in TriBeCa, camouflaged in dark glassesand a blond wig. Recently he said he has started to shed the disguise.
Joe Fornabaio for The New York Times

?I write the way a shark swims. It has to keep swimming to live; I have to keep writing about my subject matter, what I know. The trick is to create work that is well crafted, and determinedly honest, so folks who might not relate at all to the details of the story, can connect to the universal sentiments contained inside. Then a connection can be made, not only as readers take in the words, but as they take in a world as well, one they might not otherwise explore if left on their own. The more we can experience, with a connected empathy, other realms of life we might normally shun, the more open we can be as humans to other voices, to other narratives. That to me is the most important aspect of storytelling - voices needing to be heard, felt, and valued and make us all the better for having them become a part of us.? JT LeRoy



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