The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things
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The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things

3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  2,798 ratings  ·  242 reviews
A journey into the dark heart of the American road trip
Paperback, 260 pages
Published January 1st 2001 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published 1999)
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Imogen
Know what? Fuck that. This is better because JT Leroy was a hoax. When you look at the way that honest, caring, media-appropriately-framed stories of trans people look in this society, you throw up.

Uh. *I* throw up. Maybe you are super into it.

I can't think of a trans author (okay, one who's not Jan Morris) who's writing fiction that really pokes me in the eye. Or memoir, actually. (I haven't read T Cooper yet though, so maybe T Cooper.)

I'd much rather read JT Leroy than Jennifer Finney Boyla...more
MJ Nicholls
The Correspondents #2

Dear MJ/Paul,

Hey man, thanks for writing to me. (You can tell I’m an American since I start my letters with hey man which all Americans use in their formal correspondence to denote their Yankeeism ha ha ha pulling yer leg man). I love that you love me! Thank you for reading my little bookies! I wrote them on napkins and on the floor. But look, Paul. I think you’re a mixed-up kid. I think you need guidance. Don’t be writing that metafiction shit man. That stuff was old hat in...more
Greg
It's not the heart that is deceitful above all things, but this author. But she fooled a whole lot of stupid hipsters and assorted douche bag celebrities so that makes her ok by me.
Miriam
(long)

the following biases are worth accounting for before i get into the review proper (which covers my response to both "sarah" and "the heart is deceitful"):

1) i read "sarah" and "the heart is deceitful" well after the whole leroy unveiling (which i followed with intense interest, so i knew a lot of the details beforehand), and in the context of working on a paper that read leroy into a broader history of literary deceptions/hoaxes/imposters, so i definitely approached the books with a certai...more
Christine
I enjoyed it.

I first read this book in eighth grade (age 14 or so), and took it in simply as a work of fiction (as that is how the copy I had rented from the library was marked). I didn't know, nor did/do I care, that JT Leroy was not a real person. I still loved the book in all its scandal and insensitivity. I enjoyed reading about a sad and difficult childhood while I myself was going through difficult times. I found it very enjoyable in general, although I am one who tends to lean towards mor...more
Jack Mason
Beautifully written, tightly structured transgressive picaresque/ road novel that was wrongfully co-opted into a self-helpy child abuse expose/memoir. It's affecting and sad but, let's face it, this has more in common with those Richard Kern-Lydia Lunch shorts of the 80's, "The Right Side of My Brain" and particularly "Fingered," than it does "A Child Called It"--a trashy nihilistic punk quality that Asia Argento capitalized on in her brilliant, woefully underrated movie adaptation of it. Sarah...more
Tosh
The JT LeRoy narrative is a depressing subject. It's one thing to write under another identity, but to actually pull people in via the "victim's mentality" is quite Tom Ripley like. There is no doubt in my mind that the author is disturbed, but what is worst is how she hoodwinked a whole community of people.

And I am not excluding myself from this world. I too am drawn to writers who seem to have interesting lives. So who can say what is real or not real. What is interesting is that as a reader o...more
Darin Ciccotelli
Honestly, I'm still not sure that I "liked" this book. Each story was grueling and horrifying, reminiscent of American Psycho in that it tested the reader's threshold on every page. And I think you could argue that the book is "poverty porn," in that it makes the mother so unlikeable and aggressive, and the narrator so much the victim, that it lets readers situation themselves a bit too comfortably outside of this world. It makes readers into tourists, as they can revel in the dark details so as...more
Jeff
Though the works of J.T. Leroy turned out to be hoax. They weren’t autobiographical or the work of a runaway teenage prostitute. It still doesn’t diminish the powerful writing and stories. I am glad it was a hoax knowing things like the actions on these pages and people like this do exist is horrifying but I’m glad in this instance they all didn’t happen to this one person and that there is no real victim here reaching out and telling there story.

This book is sort of a prequel to SARAH it was wr...more
Caroline Smith

The title comes from a bible passage, actually. It’s from the book of Jeremiah (also the name of the book’s protagonist) and goes: “The heart is deceitful above all things and it is exceedingly corrupt: Who can know it?” I don’t even need to say how effective this is in the book. The book reads in a bit of a choppy sequence, though the small print on the cover which says “stories” is a little bit misleading. All the chapters add up to one big story about a kid, Jeremiah, whose mother broke from...more
Sarah
I didn't really care about the whole drama surrounding JT Leroy when I read this, about whether he really existed or was a made up character (which it now turns out "he" was) in turn writing works of fiction based on a life which is also a work of fiction... I still don't care that JT didn't actually exist - it doesn't take away from the writing or the story in my eyes. Perhaps it displays even more storytelling talent on the author's part?

I found "The Heart..." to be more realistic than "Sarah...more
Lord Beardsley
This is my second time reading this book. The first time I read it was before the whole JT LeRoy hoax was uncovered, and I've since read it again recently.

The thing with this book is, is that the narrator's mother is portrayed to be an absolute monster. The attempts to humanize her aren't convincing because she still seems like a hideous shrew. Sure, not all people are nice, but the characterization of Sarah is so absolutely static and unlikeable that it goes past villianous to unbelievable. It...more
Ashley
A crazy, sad, and twisted story of abuse and mayhem and its affect on a young man.

I read this years ago before the scandal about the author- it's a crazy story! I initially read about this author in the News and Observer and read two of the books, this being one of them. Then, I was on an airplane and happened to read a story in Rolling Stone about how they busted this lady....

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/20... for more info about the case....
Kat
mostly sensationalist blather. years ago, some of my upper middle class pals (who couldn't even stomach dorothy allison) all held this book in such high esteem as some tome of truth. i wasn't surprised as i read it that the grim/allegedly "raw" story-telling felt manufactured- as manufactured and fun as watching the depictions of poor or "trashy" people fighting it out on the stages of maury povich or jerry springer. more often than not leroy/altert employs caricatures to characters. sickened bu...more
L.A.Weekly
LA Weekly's cover story this week is on Laura Albert, the woman behind the author JT Leroy. We hope you enjoy it.

http://www.laweekly.com/art+books/boo...


From Nancy Rommelmann's story:
"JT's stories made no sense. Sometimes he was Thor's father; sometimes Thor belonged to a woman named Emily, who was threatening to take the boy away. I read a Michael Musto column that claimed Speedie was a transsexual; I looked through the e-mailed photos — she did have awfully big feet. I was fairly sure the hone...more
Dean Ismail
"what makes us into who we are".
I think this is the underlying subtext to this book.
I find the two parallel lies interesting:
1. the lies that Sarah told Jeremiah to keep him in check
2. the lies told to Sarah by her father - the concept of right or wrong, and sins and punishment.

Whilst Sarah is about rebellion and frustration, Jeremiah is about obedience and innocence.

The actual incidents, whilst disturbing, I find it (unfortunately) believable, as I have read instances of abuse and violence car...more
A.K.
Well, here is a thing. I have no, no, no, no idea how I feel about this book. Which is a thing! The not-knowing is a thing. I'm kinda into this not-knowing thing and I want to explore it further. Full disclosure: I've had relationships based on a similar this exact premise.
Tancredi
"Resto appeso lì, con le voci che ancora mi sanguinano nelle orecchie, guardo la mia ombra, solida come la silhouette di un corpo assassinato, e prego. Forse un altro taglio, solo un altro ancora, e poi mi si staccherà per sempre."

L'infanzia maledetta del giovane Jeremiah, riprodotta nella sua seconda opera. Più che un romanzo, è una raccolta di racconti, che per buona parte segue una narrazione lineare e continua, come in una successione di capitoli, per poi infrangere, con gli ultimi racconti,...more
Roberta
Crudele.

"Su quella cornice di roccia, guardando dall'alto le case sgangherate e distrutte, capisco che il mondo è improvvisamente diventato spaventoso, violento e falso come i cartoni animati che non avevo il permesso di guardare." [pag. 18]

Comincio con il dire che non sapevo nulla dell'operazione di marketing con cui è stato lanciato questo romanzo (che in teoria doveva essere un'autobiografia e poi si è rivelato scritto da una donna di circa 40 anni madre di famiglia) per cui non mi sento inga...more
Felicity
I think this is a book you're either going to love or hate. It tackles some pretty raw and disturbing issues that are sort of taboo to openly speak about, even in modern day times. I've always been fascinated by the psychology of how people deal with abuse and neglect growing up and I think this gives you a lot of insight. If you're somebody who can't handle reading 'those'(ie: drug abuse, child abuse etc) kind of stories I wouldn't recommend it. It evokes a lot of anger and frustration and the...more
Yamilé
In this book we journey with Jeremiah (5 years old when the book begins) from a fairly normal and happy childhood with foster parents who love him as their own child to a dark, grimy adolescence, when the boy (about 15 years old) has become a tortured, masochistic soul.
The book is divided in 10 chapters, each of them telling us an important part in Jeremiah’s formative years and, I would add, descent into hell.
The first one –“Dissapearences”– introduces us to Jeremiah on the day he is taken from...more
Jesse K
Dec 21, 2007 Jesse K rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: nobody
I actually didn't have any interest in JT Leroy prior to finding out that the whole thing was a fraud. From a surface level skim of his books, I was under the impression that it was relatively lowbrow from a literary standpoint. For something lowbrow to be worth reading for me, it needs to be exciting or interesting. 200 pages of "poor me, I was abused" didn't sound particularly hip. If I wanted to read that, I could go dig up notebooks of stuff that I wrote when I was 16.

Once I heard that it w...more
Craig
I bought this book before all of the controversy of who the author really was came about. It took me a long time to get around to actually reading it.

I find the authorship controversy to be interesting. Is it impossible to let the stories stand alone for their value regardless of who wrote them? The particular edition of the book I have makes no claim that these are "true stories," just "stories." Regardless, I found the writing to be yes, disturbing, yet also human. There are some incredibly p...more
Alan
Non-stop festival of abuse and horror. Lovely writing. The lyricism flies like a bloody crow out of the rape, genital burns, schizophrenia, and meth lab explosions. But the voice of the boy is merely quiet, which only conceals the fact that the mechanics of such a childhood are not understood; they are eclipsed by the endless travesty. Moments revealing greater insight, less dramatized and subtler moments, moments even if entirely fucked, of tenderness that delved into or revealed the internal l...more
ellie
it's not only the author--or authors--who relied on gimmicks to garner attention; the writing, too, is full of cheap tricks and lazy one liners. this book reads like a Mass Market LiveJournal. The author establishes in the early chapters that he (she? it? oh, for Pete's sake) intends to make the reader doubly uncomfortable by invoking a child's voice to narrate explicit stories of every cardinal sin you can name and some you probably couldn't. however, that the main character's voice remains odd...more
David Nichols
This book is pretty painful to read. If you think Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is for pussies then this book is for you. It describes in painful detail the multiple types of abuse heaped on the main character, and the evolution of his own psychosexual identity. All of this takes place in the empty, nihilistic landscape of American Trash. I read this mostly on a plane, and it made me pretty uncomfortable, and suspicious of my neighbors.
That being said, not a whole lot actually happens. B...more
Myles
I feel like a hypocrite for not really caring that J.T. LeRoy was a hoax and the author was some middle-aged woman with some very probable mental health issues since I am so against books like Go Ask Alice and The Amityville Horror that operate on the same premise.

But, I really was compelled by the psychological portrait drawn in these stories, sad and twisted at it might be. I can't remember the woman's name, but she is a decent writer and she has to be given some kudos for pulling off a hoax l...more
Laura Bellini
Disappointed. I was drawn to this book by its comparison with Voltaire, but it has nothing to do with Voltaire: Voltaire presents paradoxical situations to explain quirks in the way we understand the world. This has nothing to do with that. At all. The only thing they have in common is the fact that there are different stories in them.

I felt uneasy with the number of different unpleasant situations, and altogether, this, in my humble opinion, smacked more of an attempt to exploit delicate issue...more
Kelly
Even though its author was exposed as fabricating the "true" story, its a beautiful and tragic peice of fiction none the less.
Reading this when my eldest son was the same age as the boy when he is sent back to live with his unstable mother it broke my heart.
The parrellel story of his mothers own suffering atthe hands of her father and her decent into drugs and prostitution mean you feel as much pity for her as her son.
Not a book to cheer your soul but a future classic IMO.
Asia
This book plus the movie Sin City conspired to ruin my sex life for week.
But that's neither here nor there. The question that this book raises for me is this: Do yu have to hate where you are from in order to change your life? If you are fine with the specific joys and sorrows of being poor and desperate, will you ever change your situation? And should you? And is there a certain amount of shame that is socially beneficial?
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The controversy of "J.T. LeRoy" 6 60 Jun 08, 2014 03:06PM  
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Laura Victoria Albert is the author of writings that include works credited to the fictional teenage persona of JT LeRoy, a long-running literary hoax in which LeRoy was presented to the public and publishers as a gender-variant, sexually questioning, abused, former homeless drug addict and male prostitute. Albert described LeRoy as an “avatar” rather than a “hoax,” and claimed that she was able t...more
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“I remember when I saw Peter Pan when I was little. After all the other kids wanted to reenact the battles of the lost boys, pirates, and Indians, and all I could think about was the part where Peter Pan sits still while Wendy takes a sharp needle and, with concern and maybe love, sews his shadow onto his feet. And I wonder if the pain excited him as much as it excited me to watch. I hang here, the voices still bleeding in my ears. I watch my shadow, solid like a murdered body's outline, and I pray. Maybe one more slice, just one more, will sever it forever.” 42 likes
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