I’d enjoyed Alan Feuer‘s coverage of the “JT Leroy” lawsuit for the NY Times, so it was a fun surprise at first to see his interview with Laura Albert in this morning’s arts section (the first, I believe, in which she speaks to the paper as herself). “You can learn a lot about a person on an eight-hour road trip* down California’s blue roads,” Feuer writes (especially, he hints, after she’s spent the previous seven hours packing), but what we learn, at first, unfortunately feels a lot like wheel spinning: Albert likes to mess with people’s heads, she doesn’t like the air conditioning turned up too high, she’s on the phone a lot with everybody she knows. It’s well polished, but still a touch ho-hum… until Albert’s entourage arrives at David Milch‘s office in Los Angeles, for what Feuer was clearly expecting to be an interview, only to have the Deadwood creator go tough love:
“Shut your mouth, he told Ms. Albert. Quit this sick behavior. Disengage. Forget the press. Go home. Be still. Get healthy. Raise your child. And pray that you can write.”
Well, not entirely tough love—he did loan the author $500. Still, it’s a shockingly abrupt, emotionally raw ending, and if it doesn’t quite save the article, not entirely, it at least makes you realize what the article could have been. I mean, that scene is the sort of thing a reporter is, or should be, willing to endure fifteen hours in the company of his subject to witness. And it makes you wish Feuer had, I dunno, maybe 3,000 more words and a slot in the Sunday magazine to work with, where he could have fleshed out his sketch of Albert into a more richly layered portrait.
*Eight hours? They must have taken the scenic route; I used to be able to get from SF to LA in five hours, six if I stopped for lunch along the way. Oh, and photo for the Times by Marissa Roth.