February 01, 2006
The Writer, The Conversation and The Hoax
"The only thing that could spoil a day was people. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself." Ernest Hemingway said that and I quite agree. This week I was talking with a person when I referenced myself as a writer in the conversation. You’re not a writer, said this person - you’re a journalist. Never in the history of this business has a journo been so offended as I was to be called a journalist. I doubt the title rarely upsets the likes of John Waters or Paul Howard. It upset me mainly because I like to think of myself as a writer. A writer first. Then a journalist.
Then again, who could blame this person for their remark when my fiction is largely kept in an old green binder hidden beneath a pile of comics at the end of my bed. I guess I keep it hidden because it feels more personal than anything I’ve ever written for a newspaper or a magazine. Even though what you’re reading now is fact, somehow the lives of the characters in my short-stories appear more real to me. Strange that. Of course, I’ll be honest too. Apart from the pure satisfaction of writing itself, I’m somewhat taken with the outlandish romantic notions of what being a writer is. These notions see me huddled up over a typewriter banging out pages. Reading them. Scrunching them up into paper balls and throwing them at the wall. Then writing a masterpiece of a sentence and smoking like Michelle Pieffer in The Fabulous Baker Boys. God, they smoked a lot in that film. Then I’d have to exile myself from Ireland, as all the great writers do. I’d move to Paris. Find myself a little apartment. Drink whiskey. Write. Drink a little more. Write a little more. I’d probably befriend a prostitute. Yes. That’s exactly what I’d do. Befriend a prostitute.
Of course, there are others out there who would do much more in order to climb the literary ladder. Take for example a one JT Leroy who took centre stage in one of the most intriguing literary mysteries in recent times. JT was a young rent-boy who made a break from a terrible life in West Virginia and ended up in San Francisco where he became a drug addict. Yet JT was saved from all this by a couple named Laura Albert and Geoffrey Knoop. After seeing a shrink, JT managed to turn his horrendous youth into a thriving career as a writer. He published three critically acclaimed works of fiction noted for their stark portrayal of child prostitution and drug use. All this time JT won over friendships and trust with celebrities and well-known authors like Dave Eggers who offered him financial assistance when he announced that he had been infected with HIV. Who could blame the now 25yr old JT for being a tad reclusive? Whenever he appeared in public he was always wearing a wig and sunglasses. But as it turns out this young man wearing a wig and sunglasses is not a man at all.
In fact JT Leroy didn’t even exist in the first place. Laura Albert and Geoffrey Knoop, the couple who had apparently rescued JT from his terrible life, were behind his creation. Knoop had his half-sister take on the role of JT whenever he needed JT to appear in public (with the wig and sunglasses of course) and quite amazingly almost all of San Francisco had been duped. That is until someone recognised her. Accounts vary to why the couple would do such a thing. One source I’ve read suggests that the couple we’re unfulfilled rock musicians who concocted the character of JT Leroy to gain access first to literary circles and, later, to celebrities. I’m fascinated that people would go to such lengths. As you can imagine there were a lot of angry people in the aftermath of that hoax.
It reminds me of a "picture-novella" I once read called "It’s A Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken" by Seth. The blurb on the book suggested it was an auto-biographically piece and Seth was given much acclaim and praise having put his story down so wonderfully. Only trouble was that, again, it wasn’t auto-biographical at all. Several years later Seth just announced it was entirely fiction and he just fancied calling it auto-biographical much to his original adoring critics scorn. I guess for me, I’ll keep my fiction to myself for a little while longer.
Of course, it all comes back to what Hemmingway said really. "The only thing that could spoil a day was people. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself." Much later that day after that horrid conversation where I had been called a journalist and not a writer, I received two messages from people who may be as good as spring itself in cheering me up. One was from Kerrie who texted me saying "I got caught reading you’re article in work. Damn you Geraghty! I shake my fists at you!" The other text pleased me the most though. It was sent to my phone by a one "Daffy" at 2.30am and read "I have just been in Tesco, reading you’re column for free. I was ejected before I could finish it. How does it end, for the love of Sonic, TELL ME!" Yes. I do believe I’ll be content with the column. For now anyway.
Downhill from here by Liam Geraghty appears every week in the Kildare Nationalist (pg.6)
Posted by LiamG at February 1, 2006 09:21 PM