Sarah: A Novel

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Midweek Links: New Yorker, Google, Leroy, Quills, Cuba

Emdashes notes that the New Yorker is issuing an update disk for its Complete New Yorker DVD-ROM set. She also spotted the Complete New Yorker being sold on a portable hard drive.At the Washington Post, an academic writes in defense of the Google Book Search Library Project: “Only a small fraction of the huge number of books published today are printed in editions of more than a few thousand copies. And the great works of even the recent past are quickly passing into obscurity. Google has joined with major libraries to make it possible for all titles to remain accessible to users.”At the SF Chronicle, a report that somebody is finally holding the folks behind the JT Leroy hoax responsible: “Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Mary Jane Skalski of Antidote Films, an independent film company that bought the rights to JT LeRoy’s novel, Sarah, have sued LeRoy and/or Laura Albert (who was LeRoy) and Judi Farkas, Hollywood manager of the writer. The New York Times reports that in the suit, filed in New York, the filmmakers want $45,000 they paid in options and $60,000 in costs they paid in developing the project.” You’ll recall that back in January I asked What about JT Leroy? (via Ed)The corporate-sponsored literary popularity contest The Quills is back. Here are the many, many nominees. I don’t have much to add to what I wrote about The Quills last year: “If we are dissatisfied with the Booker Prize or the National Book Award or the Pulitzer, the Quills, which casts the net very wide and relies on voting from the reading public, have been presented as a populist alternative. The results are less than satisfying. It is not news to anyone that the reading public likes Harry Potter and books by Sue Monk Kidd and Janet Evanovich. I hold nothing against those bestsellers, but naming them the best books of the year does little to satisfy one’s yearning to be introduced to the best, to have an encounter with a classic in our own time. We like those bestsellers because they entertain us, but while monetary success is the reward for those entertaining authors, awards have typically honored books with qualities that are more difficult to quantify.”Another book banning attempt: The Miami-Dade School Board has sided with a parent who wishes to remove Vamos a Cuba (A Visit to Cuba) and 23 other books from school libraries. The pro-book banning contingent contends that the books fail to give an accurate picture of life in Cuba under Castro. The Miami Herald has the latest.

My brief encounter with J.T. Leroy

I saw this post at Galleycat about the mysterious transvestite cult author J.T. Leroy (Sarah, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things). As the Galleycat post suggests, there has been much speculation over the years about whether or not Leroy is a real person or perhaps simply the pseudonym and persona of another author, and the evidence remains inconclusive. Having never read any of Leroy’s books, I don’t have much to say about Leroy as writer, but, as a bookstore clerk in Los Angeles, I did see him (or someone pretending to be him) in the flesh, so I may have something to add on the subject of whether or not he exists.I’m probably a little off on some of the specifics, but here’s what I remember. On a weekday sometime during 2002 or 2003 (see, I told you I’m a little foggy here), the manager told us that she’d gotten a call from Leroy’s representative and that he would be stopping by to sign some books. We bookstore clerks, aware of Leroy’s reclusiveness, mysteriousness, and even the possibility that he didn’t exist, awaited his arrival with much curiosity. Many speculated that it was a hoax and he wouldn’t show. But then he did. He wore very baggy clothes including a much too large gray hooded sweatshirt. The hood was pulled low over his face, which was further obscured by a disheveled blonde wig. In photos, you almost never see Leroy’s face, and even though we were in close proximity to him as he signed books, none of us got a very good look at him. Nor did he talk much, mumbling one word answers or giggling nervously in response to our questions. The strange thing was, even though my coworkers and I had all seen him in the flesh, after he was gone none of us were any more or less sure that he was actually real.

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