by Matty Lee
Suspect Thoughts Press. 205 pages, $16.95
IN THE WAKE of the recent scandal surrounding the popular yet fraudulent gay author JT LeRoy—not to mention the Oprah Winfrey-fueled outrage over James Frey’s fabricated tale of drug addiction, A Million Little Pieces (2005)—the question of truth and authenticity in a nonfiction literary work has acquired a new urgency. Given the current climate, first-time writer Matty Lee’s no-nonsense, hyper-real memoir 35 Cents, which chronicles Lee’s days as a straight boy who was rapidly inducted into the world of gay hustling in southern Florida at the tender age of thirteen, arrives at an opportune time, prompting some intriguing questions of its own. What exactly makes a “true story” real or authentic? Should a text’s sensationalism or immediacy always be approached with a degree of skepticism? What responsibility does an author of nonfiction have, morally or otherwise, to portray supposedly real events authentically? Allowing for some inevitable embellishment, what should be the limits of artistic license?