The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things.
I Really wish that I had read this book before all of the media furor.
Much like Sarah,The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things is short-lived but impacts with it's shocking content. It gains its own integrity as an actual novel as opposed to just being 240 pages of fuel for the controversial public perception of Leroy's upbringing. The language is simple, that of a youthful and innocent narrator, but often its starkness and its naive approach to themes of transgender identity confusion, prostitution (his mother as an 18 year old lot lizard), sodomy, the inadequacy of social services, crystal meth and heroin, and the dosage of uppers and downers that he is fed by his mother.
Using a youthful innocence juxtaposed with the dark, sordid and abject side of humanity is an old trick (see below), but Leroy pulls it off exceedingly well.
But most, through midnight streets I hearWe see the darkness seep into the youth as he becomes more and more blase when he references any of the above themes. His dreams of crows tearing him apart evoke a visceral and stomach-churning response from the reader, especially when it becomes confused and muddled with the language as he is sodomised by one of his mother's exploitees. We find ourselves constantly wincing at what Leroy describes, fearing what will come next. When he meets Milkshake (a 12-year old lizard who charges men $25 to have her sit on their faces) we first imagine her as at least being of legal age, but soon we see her as a channel for Jeremy to enter the world of prostitution. Soon he acting as his mother's little sister, joining in on her acts of prostitution. For me, the defining image of this innocence meeting the depravity of humankind is when Jeremy takes it upon himself to clean his mother who is semi-conscious after shooting up. Using his finger he wipes the blood of her arm and licks it off, having seen it in the animal world as a tender act of love. What we see as a sure-route to HIV is an act of love towards his mother. A love that remains unquestioned despite all of the beatings he endures and the corruptive lies that she feeds him along with his daily pills, telling him that the foster parents she took him from are dead and that he must be cautious of the police because they are looking to arrest him for all of his wrongdoings.
How the youthful harlot's curse
Blasts the new-born infant's tear,
And blights with plagues the marriage-hearse.
William Blake, London, Songs of Experience.
To be perfectly honest, having approached this book after having read all of the controversy concerning Leroy's true identity it does somehwat detract from the power of the novel. It could be seen as a Palahniuk-style series of popular hot-topics of controversy designed to fuel a media-frenzy.
The BBC challenges JT Leroys identity.
I sure do love the Bible".
Peter Murphy on Leroy's defence, The New York Journal.
"But nothing has been taken from us. The books remain: as startling and disturbingly beautiful as they ever were.There is nothing that has sullied the New York Times's assertion that "his language is always fresh, his soul never corrupt". And what strikes me more than anything is that in this age of overblown celebrity, where people such as Paris Hilton can be famous purely for being Paris Hilton, mightn't JT LeRoy represent the precise inversion of this? The work is all. The identity is irrelevant."
From the London Guardian, Jan 4, 2006