guantanamo blog

my favorite blog right now is aclu attorney ben wizner discussing the tiki bar and player piano tinkling tunes at guantanamo.



The way I think of myself is often through paralell -- I am in similar standing and position to __blank___. I am the opposite of ___blank____.

But if the blanks are reversed, then suddenly I have created a new person. Or a schism where two of the ideas that I use to organize my persona have switched places.

I have experienced a few major schisms in my life situations. The first leaving the west coast and going to college (the other option being stay, get pregnant again, follow a very worn path.) Perhaps there were more options there, but in my mind there exists a good golly who gave up other ambitions for desperation. She's a very active part of my current life, she acts as a specter who I can tell myself tales about, a ghost motivator. She helps me work long hours and she operates a large portion of my dream life -- nightmares of failure.

I face a smaller schism now, although still in the conversation phase, in terms of my standing in relation to capital. To have access to something I have never imagined for myself. Something that would take me even further away from that other future I maintain through my imagination. To imagine that schism, before it even takes place, has become an operation of fantasy and worry. I would be placed as the opposite, the reverse, of how I currently imgaine myself. It would remove me, in some ways, from my closest friends. Creating a space between our situations that worries me to no end. Of course, turning down such an option would be a false denial, one that would not benefit me nor would it prevent the shift -- since the option of a financial step up is enough to disrupt everything.

That being said, I have not yet won the lottery. That ticket sits on the desk in front of me, taunting me with the fasle hope of being able to lift myself, my family, my favorites to a more solid place. Oh the home I want to buy for my brother, the savings I want to put aside for my aunt so she can quit that telemarketing job before she grows old, gets sick, sinks further into poverty. How I want to wipe away those student loan payments and ease the mind of E.D. and S.T.

What would that mean, to my thinking about myself. Imagine being able to plan what you want, rather than what is necessary. That's the fantasy I engage in once a week, when I purchase a single quick pick ticket. So far beyond golden that I'm dizzy for an hour afterward.

What the JT Leroy Says About You/Us

NYT reported today "The Unmasking of JT Leroay: In Public, He's a She"

This following the long, somewhat repetitive expose in New York Magazine from last October titlted: Who is JT LeRoy? The True Identity of a Great Literary Hustler

I have a number of thoughts on the matter. First, there is little surprise that JT Leroy does not exist. And even less surprise that the people involved in inventing him are not from hyper-dysfunctional homeless West Virginian families -- but from a family so tight that the younger sister is playing the public persona, the mom is heading the front company, the the writer/co-creator continues to give interviews and post information about herself (not the character) at www.jtleroy.com.

I am not necessarily interested in who JT Leroy really is in some senses. The mystery seems like a thin film to deter larger conversation. I don't care who is writing the accounts, it is the work itself that I take so much issue with. But when a person is created -- a "real live person" to vouch for it-- the debate is deadened and lost in the debate about who this person is, what's behind the mystery, etc.

That is the drama that literati and celebrities alike were so quick to embrace, without any regard for the problematic nature of the products this kid (collabrative, co-op, family, what have you) is pitching.

Here's my issue: from the first time I heard about this book, it was from people who were incredulous that this "whole world" of tranny-truck stop hookers existed. Everything was so traaaashy, so surreal. Cross dressers and brutal sexual abuse, doing lines off the floor of bathrooms, kidnappings and underlying it all "isn't it crazy, I mean, how poor people live?"

When I read Sarah I was equal parts interested and offended. It did not read as well as I had assumed it would (given the attention) -- something between an adolescents first novel and something from francesca lia block. it had that faeries and LA vibe to it. Something very Hollywood, west coast and slick.

Then I read up on JT and I was even more offended. The account of this truck stop boy, who floats to SF only to be rescued -- whose sheer talent (which I don't have that much regard for) lifts him up, betters him, separates him from his past, his family, his people (read: poor, from West Virginia, red state, not NY or SF) was too much to swallow. Then you add the whole AIDS thing, the won't be seen in public, hangs out only with celebrities, wears a weird wig. . .

Mary Gaitskill has said the most interesting thing so far on the matter.

“It’s occurred to me that the whole thing with Jeremy is a hoax, but I felt that even if it turned out to be a hoax, it’s a very enjoyable one. And a hoax that exposes things about people, the confusion between love and art and publicity. A hoax that would be delightful and if people are made fools of, it would be okay—in fact, it would be useful.”

The fact that it has so clearly been a hoax for going on five years is remarkable. And that these writers -- Sharon Olds, Dennis Cooper, etc -- were so taken by this story, by this account of poverty and prostitution that was so romanticized on the one hand and so demonizing and explotative on the other is clearly indicative to me of how cartoonish the expectations of poor people continue to be. How much people delight in the confirmation of their ideas, how they will fight tooth and nail to prove that their prejudices and their inventions are real -- how far they will look to find the example, even if it is wigged and their accent is off -- of what they know to be true of the world.

What would be interesting for me is if part of the creators intent, rather than simply fame or money (the major motion picture release of The Heart is Deceitful Above All Else is due out soon) was to demonstrate some of the fallacy of that celebrity. To demonstrate how much Winona Ryder and Sharon Olds alike are smitten with the idea of a strung out prostitute who reads a little Keats on the side -- as opposed to engaging with the everday realities that are not quite so surprising, not quite so romantic, and involve people who wouldn't be invited to the party. I don't mean to say that I believe a truck stop tranny prostitute isn't capable of loving some dense modern poetry -- as the story of JT goes -- but rather, it's not likely. Not because of their capacities, but the ways in which poverty operates, the voices literature imploys, the audience it seeks, and the stark and awful truth that a kid who never attended school probably isn't the best of readers. But of course, part of the disgusti I have for JT Leroy is the pull yourself up by your bootstraps nature of the story. Well -- he's not your average uneducated bloke. He's better than all of them. He's deserving. The implication? They are not.

In the meantime, I do think that nonfiction is critical, that lives are things that can speak and tell us things. There are plenty of kids, free of celebrity and without big advances, who are making art that is worthwhile and monumental.

Ashley Nelson is an 18 year old New Orleans resident who wrote a book called "The Combination" about one of N.O. oldest public housing complexes, the Lafitte.
"Ms. Nelson's interviews let the reader hear from voices rarely engaged, from the owner of the corner store, to the Residents' Council, to the members of the community more often profiled than listened to. She writes about and photographs much of Lafitte, from second lines to ward signs, from the Wild Side to the Real Side, from Dooky Chase to Southern Scrap, it's all here."
You can find out more at http://www.neighborhoodstoryproject.org.