The extraordinary stories that brought the author a cult following at the age of sixteen.
Circulated copies of LeRoy's handwritten notebook pages brought early attention to the then unpublished author. In print for the first time, these loosely connected autobiographical stories describe the harrowing experiences of a young boy's life on the run. From the heartbreaking "Meteor," where he struggles for the attention of his wandering mother, to the paranoia of "Coal"-'Whenever things feel out of control I know the black coal is doing it, and I know what to do, my mom taught me'-to living on the streets of San Francisco in "Natoma Street," JT LeRoy's voice is as lyrical and nuanced as the readers of his acclaimed debut novel Sarah have come to expect. Fresh, raw, and absolutely unforgettable, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things is sure to establish LeRoy as one of the most compelling voices in contemporary fiction.
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JT LeRoy was born in 1980. First published at the age of sixteen, he has since published articles and stories in Spin, Nerve, NY Press, and several anthologies, under the pseudonym Terminator. He lives in San Francisco.
LeRoy rose to considerable notoriety as the teenaged author of last year's Sarah, a novel about a gender-confused kid whose mother is a truckers' prostitute. In his latest work, a rawly written, riveting series of 10 interlocked stories that read fluidly as a novel, LeRoy returns to the themes of guilt and sin in the first-person voice of a boy so viciously abused by his caretakers that he is left with barely a sense of his own identity. Jeremiah is a child nobody wants, and he passes swiftly from foster parents to his angry and vindictive teenaged mother, Sarah, to his fanatically Evangelical grandparents. Sarah, herself badly wounded by her punishing, Bible-obsessed parents, gave birth to the boy when she was only 14; she returns at 18 to claim him. "Nobody takes what's mine," spouts the foul-mouthed, pill-popping, paranoid young woman. It's soon clear that Sarah cares nothing for her son, who becomes an unwelcome tagalong on her transient cross-country misadventures in hooking louche sugar daddies, stripping, turning tricks for truckers and cooking up explosive "crystal" in one boyfriend's cellar. The boy, who begins to crave Sarah's punishment as a way of keeping his life in balance, is frequently whipped for bed-wetting and is raped by her unsavory boyfriends; his denial of his sexuality becomes a pathetic attempt to identify with his tormentor. LeRoy depicts his ill-begotten characters as tenderly as Jean Genet, and delineates their acts of sadism and self-mutilation as unsparingly as A.M. Homes. Yet the stories resist spiraling into mere sensationalism. While Sarah becomes almost cartoonish in her savagery, the characters of the trucker child prostitute Milkshake and the lumbering biker Buddy are poignantly understated. Jeremiah, conflicted, emotionally bled but never self-pitying or defeated, elicits a gratifying sympathy. LeRoy's work is a startling achievement in his accelerating mastery of the literary form. (June)
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