I’m with Ron Hogan on this one. I find a federal court’s decision to award a film production company a fraud settlement against writer Laura Albert inexplicable and bizarre. So Laura Albert impersonated a man named J. T. Leroy. It was a work of fiction. There is a long, long history of pseudonymous literature. Was nobody on Albert’s defense team aware that some of the greatest novelists of all time were women who impersonated men to increase their chances of commercial success, including Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot), Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte (Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell) and George Sand (Aurore Dupin)?
It’s simply amazing that Laura Albert’s legal team, headed by Eric Weinstein, could not win this case, and since I know a bit about how the law works I can only conclude that this lawyer did not have the skills to meet this challenge. If Doubleday or Random House’s legal teams had defended this case, they would have wiped the floor with the plaintiff’s argument. According to most accounts, the film company’s strongest case for fraud is based on the fact that Albert signed the name “J. T. Leroy” on contracts, and if that’s their best case they should have been laughed out of the courtroom. Did Bob Dylan never sign the name “Bob Dylan”? Did Mark Twain never sign the name “Mark Twain”? Did John Wayne never sign the name “John Wayne”? The law does not require our artists to reveal their identitities to creative partners, especially since doing so would puncture the pretenses the artists want to uphold.
But here’s the key point: regardless of whether Albert signed her name or Leroy’s, she signed the contract in good faith and upheld it in good faith. No financial damages can be traced to her signature on that contract, and this is one of many reasons I feel quite sad at the thought that this writer has actually lost her case, and is now expected to hand over a hundred thousand dollars that she does not have.
Ridiculous. It’s clear that she could not afford the type of professional legal representation she needed, because this case should have been shut down before it even reached a jury.
In the end, here’s the irony: never has Laura Albert resembled the tragic and skeleton-unlucky J. T. Leroy more than she does now, in these Daily News photos, a wan writer, lost, abandoned by the publishing industry, financially destroyed. I hope she writes a book about this, and I hope she publishes it as J. T. Leroy.
And, I pray that she gets herself some better lawyers.
All they had to do was talk about Mary Ann Evans.