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Reality and fantasy collide in this enigmatic little charmer
on 20 November 2000
Despite having just published his first book, JT LeRoy has become one of those new authors who make headlines far beyond the literary ghettoes. The rave reviews of Sarah aren't just limited to his side of the Atlantic, either. Here in England, even the staunchly conservative Telegraph has lauded his first novel as a 'tour de force'. Sarah is a droll stunner of a novel. Set in the Virginian hinterland of wild woods and wild sexual diversity, the novel dreams its way through the life of the eponymous hero Sarah - a male/female prostitute, serving the carnal desires of lonely truck drivers.
The book never strays into the sentimental formula of the usual 'other-than-heterosexual' novel. LeRoy writes without the usual agenda associated with trans-gender/trans-sexual literature. He concentrates on narrative rather than clichéd politics, and weaves an oblique little fantasy that envelopes from the first sentence to the last. His is a world where an ultra modern, ultra savvy Dorothy enters a perverse land of Oz, surviving on guile and - despite the squalor and depravity he/she is forced to endure - a peculiar and endearing sort of innocence.
His ear is acute to the rhythms of the region he describes. Each character breathes a kind of fire from the page. The lonely and the desperate resort to all manner of subterfuge to disguise their predicaments, but their real natures come across in the delicate way LeRoy describes them.
What could be an unremittingly bleak little novel is peppered with great comic moments and a pathos that never strays into the mawkish. LeRoy is a fearsome writer whose reputation will continue to grow far beyond this debut.