Monday, 13 June 2016

Sarah by JT Leroy Review

The strange thing about JT LeRoy’s Sarah is that the story of the author is far more interesting than the story she writes in this novel - it’s almost always the other way around! JT (“Jeremiah Terminator” - I guess the name should’ve been a giveaway) was a transgender woman who grew up as an abused, drug-addicted teenage boy prostitute in the South and Sarah was her heavily autobiographical debut novel.

But after six years of this charade, the hoax that was JT LeRoy was uncovered in a 2005 exposé – the public face of JT was actually a fashion designer called Savannah Knoop while the person behind the books turned out to be a female writer called Laura Albert. “JT LeRoy” was a total fiction. 

Then again it’s easy to see why Laura Albert had to go to the lengths she did to sell her books – Sarah is a very boring book that could’ve only been made interesting if you thought the subject matter had the authenticity of real life. 

Set in West Virginia, Cherry Vanilla is a teen boy who becomes a lot lizard (a truck stop hooker) like his deadbeat mother Sarah, gets passed around from one pimp to another and that’s it. I guess the casual way truckers have sex with an underage trans kid is shocking but the scenes aren’t very graphic and Cherry doesn’t seem to mind, particularly having never known any other existence. I’m not sure what we’re meant to feel but the only effect it had on me was apathy. 

Cherry is such a convincing tranny that one pimp’s group don’t know she isn’t anatomically a girl so when she mentions that she doesn’t bleed, they think she’s a holy saint and start worshipping her. I guess it’s meant to be a funny section? It’s not and the farcical period “joke” goes on and on. 

There isn’t a whole lot else to say about the book. It’s ordinarily written, the story starts off directionless and doesn’t improve; even if you think this weird subculture of lot lizards and truckers has the potential to be an interesting backdrop, you’ll be bored very quickly with the blandly sybaritic existence of these sad people. 

The story of the JT LeRoy hoax was interesting at the time – her writing never was. Sarah is supposed to be edgy and subversive and comes off as fake and dull. A boring, trying-too-hard-to-shock novel about nothing.

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