Diablo, JT and Pinky, oh my
Diablo Cody, who won the Oscar for best original screenplay last night for "Juno," is fast becoming the Dita Von Teese of screenwriters: She’s a sexy, photogenic bad girl (in a smart-hot kind of way). She’s got a knack for fame, and she’s blogging her swift ascent.
One of the coolest things about getting O-nommed is the nominee luncheon, where everyone gets together to schmooze, pose for a "class photo" and receive honorary certificates suitable for framing. (We also got Oscar logo hoodies -- no joke! I'll be sporting that thing unnecessarily for years to come. "Hmm, it's a little crisp outside -- BETTER PUT ON MY OSCAR NOMINEE HOODIE.")
Swaddled inside that hoodie, and inside Diablo Cody, is a woman who was once Brook Busey-Hunt. When she quit her day job –- to become a stripper, then memoirist, now screenwriter –- she shed Brook for Diablo. Her previous blog had a dirty, dirty title, and I guess it’s obvious that Brook doesn’t have Diablo’s sassy flair.
Pen names have a long history, which I don’t know nearly as much about as I should. I do know that George Eliot ("Middlemarch") was actually Mary Ann Evans, publishing under a masculine pseudonym. Mary Ann thought George’s work would be taken more seriously than hers; Brook might not be able to say everything Diablo can. Crafting a writerly persona seems perfectly acceptable.
Unless you take that persona too far, a la Laura Albert. The woman behind JT LeRoy is featured in a long article in the latest LA Weekly. JT LeRoy, an abused teen with drug and gender issues, was a total fabrication. Laura Albert went beyond writing books in his name; she tried to prove he existed, maintaining phone friendships as JT with literary luminaries (Mary Gaitskill) and having a friend pose as JT at public events. Perhaps inevitably, she also blogged as JT, even continuing to post after the story of the hoax broke in New York Magazine. Albert, now 42 and unrepentant, comes across, in Nancy Rommelman’s LA Weekly piece, as a manipulative liar with an unbecoming hunger for fame.
Yet despite all her transgressions, Albert did write the JT LeRoy books. Is it fair to judge the writing differently knowing she was a privileged adult, not a troubled teen? If we can set aside the extraordinary, unwise, perhaps unhealthy lengths to which Albert went to create the character of JT (and I’m not sure we can), is she really doing anything that different from what George Eliot, or Diablo Cody, did? Isn’t inventing characters and inhabiting them what writers do when they write?
Which brings me to me. I have a blog called Pinky’s Paperhaus. But I am Carolyn Kellogg, a name blessed with alliteration, if little else. A few years ago I needed a persona for my Internet radio show about music and books; the show was on a prickly political station about which my then-employer would not have been pleased. Enter Pinky –- and later, exit Internet radio for blogland. Does that make me Pinky? Yes, although I don’t always know what that means. Like anyone else with a persona, sometimes the boundaries of self and construction get a little unclear. I’m Pinky, and I’m also Carolyn. Here, I will do my best to bring the two together. Hello.