Grey Owl was a renowned naturalist and conservationist of wilderness in Canada. However, his real name was Archie Belaney and he was born in England. His personal life was quite scandalous. As soon as Belaney breathed his last, his hidden identity started surfacing in public. The North Bay Nugget published the full revelation about Archie Belaney (Bethune, 2017). Archie was raised up by his single mother who was deserted by his father immediately after the marriage. In his spare time, he started developing his own world of fantasy where he grew acute compassion for the animals and the Red Indian natives. All of his writings were in concern of the wildlife and wilderness. In the case of Grey Owl, Archie, the real person, led a reprehensible and objectionable life. He abandoned wives and children. Nevertheless, he remained true to his writing. He lived as Grey Owl but there was only him behind his works.
JT LeRoy, unlike Grey Owl, was completely a superficial identity. It was accused that there were two women behind that identity: one used to appear publicly and one used to author the stories. The public self of JT LeRoy was donned by Savannah Knoop and the writer self by Laura Albert (“JT Leroy and Other Literary Phantoms”, 2017). Laura was further alleged for using her experience as a seductress via phone to fabricate stories and gain sympathy from some persons such as Dennis Cooper to make an entry into the literary world (“JT Leroy and Other Literary Phantoms”, 2017). A literary critic name Stephan Beachy disclosed this hoax in the New York Times, who investigated this matter deeply before coming to the conclusion. Therefore, this discussion implies that JT LeRoy case should be considered as a “more serious hoax”.
The Forgivable Hoax between Grey Owl and JT LeRoy
In the JT LeRoy case, the author-self seemed to be more concerned about fame and business whereas Grey Owl, despite trying to get rid of his real identity, provided genuine pieces of literature. In his personal life, Grey Owl/Archie Belaney was unforgivable. However, as an author, he can be forgiven for his truthfulness to his literary creations. On the other hand, the people behind JT LeRoy used unethical ways for getting famous and rich. Thus, they should not be spared.
This essay critiqued literary hoax in the context of two cases of hoaxing, Grey Owl and JT LeRoy. Both figures belong to different timelines and used the tool of hoaxing differently. The essay concludes JT LeRoy as an unforgivable forger in the world of literature.