Friday, December 26, 2008

Books: Girls who are boys who like boys to be girls who . . .

'Tis the season for end of the year lists, which presents an interesting problem for us here at ANTSS.

On one hand, we hate to be followers.

On the other hand, we're way too cowardly and lazy to do something that might push us beyond the pale and get us ostracized by the horror blog community.

What's the solution? Do a list, but do it on trangendered sexual weirdness with everybody's favorite moody daughter of Dario Argento (pictured in the typically reserved and humble portrait above). We get in on the whole traditional listy goodness, but we roll a little weird and try to keep our thin alibi of individuality.

Let's begin.

There comes a time in the life of every Asia Argento fan when you wonder to yourself, "Self, I wonder what it would be like to make love to Asia Argento as a girl who had fooled Asia Argento into thinking she was actually a boy who had extensive sexual reassignment surgery done and was now pretty much a girl."

Well, wonder no longer. Savannah Knoop has lived the dream.

In 1999, Savannah Knoop did a solid for her sister-in-law, Laura Albert.

Since 1996, Albert had been writing short stories, musical reviews, and other bits under the penname Jeremiah "J. T." Leroy. Over the course of those three years, Albert had given Leroy a baroque Southern Gothic backstory involving child prostitution, religious fanaticism, drug abuse, truckers, and a titanic Evil Mother figure identified only as Sarah. In 1999, Albert – as Leroy – had produced two novels. The first, titled Sarah, was a dark magical-realist take on the subculture of "lot lizards," prostitutes that haunt the truck stops of America's highways. The second novel, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, was actually an interlinked series of short stories. The novel tossed out the magical-realist angle and went for a more spare, relentless, and grim approach.

The good news for Albert was that both books had become cult hits.

The bad news was that people wanted to meet J. T. Leroy.

The issue was further complicated by the fact that a considerable amount of the buzz regarding Albert's novels came from the fact that people assumed they were largely autobiographical. Part of the attraction of Leroy and his works was this bizarre and horrifying life story he supposedly had. Albert rightly understood that revealing there was no J. T. Leroy would drive a stake right into the heart of her success. Consequently, when Interview requested a photo of Leroy, Savannah was pressed into service. She was dressed up as a young man, photographed, and thanked for her part in keeping the hoax going.

It was meant to be a one-time deal, but for the next seven years Knoop became the public face of the J. T. Leroy literary conspiracy. She was interviewed, wooed, given awards, praised by everybody from Dennis Cooper to Bono, and even managed to sleep with Asia Argento while still disguised. To figure out how she pulled that off, you'll have to read Knoop's new memoir of the hoax, Girl Boy Girl: How I Became J. T. Leroy.

I can, however, share some of the things readers will learn about the tempestuous Italian actress and director from the not-a-man who knew her so intimately.

Without further ado, ANTSS proudly presents the official "And Now the Screaming Starts List of Nine Things You Would Know About Asia Argento If You Made Love to Asia Argento as a Girl Who Had Fooled Asia Argento into Thinking You Were Actually a Boy Who Had Extensive Sexual Reassignment Surgery":

1. When Asia Argento sees a sheep, she makes a flicking gesture with her fingers. It's a motion like trying to flick something sticky off your fingers. Asia believes that doing this will bring her good fortune.

2. In the sack, Asia Argento is "kind of a toppy-bottom." And, somewhat inexplicably, right before getting down to the nasty, she may announce that she wishes she had a penis.

3. When Asia Argento gives a toast, she stares directly into her dinner companion's eyes. She believes that doing so will allow her to detect betrayal. Of course, Asia seems to have never seen through Knoop's disguise, so you could be forgiven for doubting the efficacy of this lie-detection method.

4. Detecting treachery is apparently a major concern with Asia Argento as she seems to react to stressful situations by throwing paranoid fits. When she was directing The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, Argento repeatedly announced that her crew was purposefully undermining her. She also stated they resented her authority because she was a woman. She also claimed that they made fun of her accent.

5. If Asia Argento spills wine, she dips her finger in it and dabs it behind her ears like perfume. Why? Who knows?

6. Asia Argento smokes like a freakin' chimney. It is alleged that she smoked through her pregnancy. Agrento helped give this allegation legs by allowing her preggers self to be photographed naked in the bathtub with a lit coffin nail in hand.

7. For formal media-event occasions, Asia Argento always wears Fendi. In fact, she's contractually obligated to. Even though she feels that Fendi designs "conventional" and "prissy" clothes, she likes the money that comes from being their red carpet dummy. In less formal contexts, she prefers jeans, which she covers in ballpoint pen doodles.

8. Asia Argento does not like Miles Davis's Sketches of Spain album.

9. Ask Asia Argento and she will tell you that, despite what people think of her, she's actually quite shy.

6 comments:

houseinrlyeh said...

The Chuck Norris meme can pack its bags and go home now. ;)

CRwM said...

House,

Like Chuck Norris, Asia Agento can roundhouse kick time-space in the neck, but she can do in high-heels.

Anonymous said...

And I feared for a moment that that picture was of the Placebo singer.

The Vicar of VHS said...

Being a resident of one of the former Confederate States of 'Murkah, I was deluged with the whole J.T. Leroy thing in both its pre- and post-exposure stages. A generally good but sometimes annoyingly self-serious literary publication down here (to which I subscribe, thus establishing my own self-seriousness), The Oxford American, did pretty much a whole issue on it, and what a scandal it was.

Personally, I don't see the big deal in the whole "literary conspiracy" thing. People get so hung up on whether what an author writes is "true," even when that author states explicitly he (or she, or s/he) is writing fiction--and then they feel betrayed if the fiction is, you know, actually NOT TRUE. It just seems a bit twisted to me. In this case, the backstory was just part of that fiction--and if I read it correctly, Leroy/Knoop never actually claimed the work was from his/her life, right?

I could see a bit of an argument if a male author presented himself as female and wrote about sexual repression from a point of view he hadn't "earned" (or, as I think has happened in the past, a white author took on a minority authorial persona and pretended to experiences of oppression he didn't have)--but at the same time, if the story, if the FICTION was moving and struck readers of whatever persuasion as profound, then how does that change when you find out the "truth" about the author?

Maybe it goes back to Flaubert's famous assertion, "Madame Bovary, c'est moi!"--maybe since then, or even before, readers don't expect the author to be separate from the work. But still, I kind of feel it just shows Knoop told a pretty good story, and one that people wanted to hear.

Plus she (or rather, her emissary) got to bang Asia Argento. So more power to her/him/them, I say. ;)

CRwM said...

Vicar, your holiness,

I must admit that I too felt more amused than betrayed by the whole thing.

I do think that Team Leroy went as far as you could in promoting the novels as autobiographical without actually stating it. When the first Leroy stories rolled of the press, they were submitted as therapy work from Leroy, meant for analysis purposes and not literary appreciation. Still, they "officially" never categorized the novels themselves as any other than fiction.

It's my humble opinion that the fact that people cared more about the fake author behind the books than the fiction itself is more a symptom of our star-f**king literary culture than an indictment of Team Leroy.

sexy said...
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