Saturday, June 23, 2007

imaginary people

The theme for my GA this year has been the multiple personalities we form as a way to navigate through the different relationships we create.

On theme, but outside GA, has been the story in the news this week about the author Laura Albert, who wrote a novel, ˆSarahˆ pretending to be JT LeRoy, a teenage boy with a troubled, and wholly invented, life story. More than a mere psuedonym, JT LeRoy had a separate life, with Ms. Albert and an accomplice playing JT in phone conversations, and occassionally in person. After the deception came out Ms. Albert was sued by a movie production company who had optioned the rights for JT LeRoy's novel, a deal which lost its value when the true author was revealed. Ms. Albert had signed the contract as JT LeRoy, an act which the court found to constitute fraud and they ruled Friday that she owed the production company $116,500 in restitution and damages. She may also be liable for legal fees.

Ms. Albert's situation is not different in kind but only in degree from the kind of fluid identities all of us create and employ. For some the authentic interior self, differs only slightly from the conscious self we project. But mere polite society requires a certain degree of self-adjustment in all of us. Then there are the professions, like ministry, whose public role is somewhat further defined by society, and further distant from the "real" self.

The final irony in Ms. Albert's case is that in order to recoup the judgment against her the movie production company may acquire the rights to her past and future books. In other words, even if she writes in the future under her own name she could be writing for someone else.

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