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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Literary Hoax on Display?

For a while I've been reading the blog of crime writer Kenji Jasper. Some days it's poignant, some days it's unintentionally funny, but it's almost always entertaining. Most days he writes about striving to make it as a screenwriter and a novelist and what a bitch of a racket it can be at times. Once he blogged about giving up writing fiction. I met him in New York several months ago and told him I liked his last novel, Snow and that he should keep on keeping on. He blogged about meeting me. Now it seems like Kenji Jasper has been living a double life by writing under the name D and having an actor portray D at readings. "D" even has a myspace page. On it he describes himself as: "a nigga that's been around a whole buncha blocks and been into a whole lot of different things. But now I write. " Under the "Who I'd like to meet" section: "Thugs who know the game ain't hardly ever the way they show it on TV, and any LOVELY LADIES who want to know my story." Weird. From reading his blog, it's clear that college educated Kenji Jasper is not a thugged-out dude.

By way of explanation, Kenji writes on his blog:

At the time I was looking for a way out of the way the business had been treating me. Stuck on a imprint that wasn't able to give me the same support I had gotten when I was under it's mother label and trapped in a power struggle between two editors that resulted in me getting kicked down to a third, I'd felt like I'd spent the last three of my five books constantly getting stomped by the powers that be. I also wanted to see if the problems I was having reaching a wide audience had to with my writing or the machine that I worked for.

Does this not sound a bit like Percival Everett's Erasure?

The whole actor-playing-D-at-readings angle reminds me a little of the J.T. Leroy situation, but it's not nearly as sordid. It's not sordid at all. Just a dude frustrated with his place in the publishing industry and taking desperate measures to prove a point. If anything, it's a sort of cheesy little stunt. Kinda funny, I guess. I haven't read his D novel, Got. I had planned to read it when I still thought it was written by a mysterious writer with a letter for a name, but I wasn't in any hurry. I may go out and get it now. Still, I'm not in any hurry. I planned to read Kenji's novel Dark, as Snow--which I enjoyed--is a sequel of sorts to that. Previously, I had trouble getting into Dark and some of his other books, but I'm never above taking a second, third, fourth and fifth stab at books that didn't catch me the first time around. Some of those books end up being my favorites. If I read Got or the sequel Cake, I'll blog about it maybe.

Strange. What do you fools think?


dh said...

I never understood the fuss about JT LeRoy. It was fiction. I know, I've been guilty of this, but people have a hangup about wanting to find autobiographical bits in fiction. It's wrongheaded. I do find it interesting, as a writer, when Nell Freudenberger writes a travel article and you find she's lifted almost verbatim a real experience to put in a fictional short story, but that's it--it's interesting in terms of technique. Why were people so fixated on JT LeRoy being a transsexual who was abused as a boy? What difference does it make whether an actress was pretending to be LeRoy or whether, like J.D. Salinger, an author hides from public scrutiny and so is essentially a blank? The truth of the story is in the story. Period. But I didn't like JT LeRoy's stories, although they were well written. I didn't like them because they were hopeless, and I didn't feel they added much value to literature. Rather than feel I needed to make a stand for abused children, her stories made me want to hate people. I mean, terrible things happen in Richard Wright's stories, and Cynthia Ozick's, but there remains some fierce hope, somewhere deep in them. And Samuel Beckett was worse than hopeless, but he did something for literature. As for "D," I don't see the problem there, either, although I'm not sure I would want to read any of the books. I'm not going to get on a high horse about the thug thing. Is he doing anyone a disservice? I would have to read a book to say. Langston Hughes suggested to Zora Neale Hurston that she not write in dialect, but he was wrong. Is "D" another Zora Neale Hurston? I have serious doubts, but I'll reserve judgment. That is the better question, though, not, "who is the fiction writer," but "how good is the story?"

Rion Amilcar Scott said...

Wow, that was really, really well said.