• By Erin Chandler, Erinchandlerauthor.com.

What Today Brings

A created thing is never invented and it is never true: it is always and ever itself.” – Frederico Fellini There was a beautiful little book in the window of every bookstore I stepped into in the early 2000s. It had a simple cover with a red flower. The national best seller was called “Sarah” by JT Leroy. I had heard about this gritty little novella and it more than lived up to the hype. The punch in the gut story was mesmerizing, blindingly bright in its darkness. The book is labeled fiction, but everyone knew the nineteen-year-old writer had grown up with Sarah, his prostitute mother who he idolized. The young hustler even dressed as a girl to emulate the beautiful Sarah. Mother and son, two “lot lizards’ as they called themselves, went from town to town, truck stop to truck stop, doing drugs, climbing into semis and turning tricks. Authors, musicians and rock stars were totally smitten by the feral teenager. Mary Karr, Tom Waits, Courtney Love, Matthew Modine and Gus Van Sant had what amounted to emotional love affairs on the phone with the vulnerable boy genius. Little did they know they were spilling their guts to a red-hot mess in her apartment in San Francisco. The real author was Laura Albert, who was not blonde-haired, blue-eyed Jeremiah Terminator, aka JT Leroy, a teenager from the streets, but a boisterous, middle-aged, punk rock phone sex operator. The hippest of the hip fell head over heels for one of the biggest literary scams in history. Laura Albert had spent her life scheming and lying because it seemed the best defense for a face and body she regretted. At thirteen, she was committed to an institution for being what she called “impossible to handle.” More hospitalizations followed before her parents gave up hope and custody, making her a ward of the state. The last of her teenage years were spent in group homes, where she learned the art of deception. The ghost author knew the score after a lifetime of being on the losing team. She was practiced in the art of pretending and became adept at switching things up so she could occasionally win. Laura knew the world would not embrace an overweight, aggressive woman. She was savvy enough to realize that a young boy, a self-described, “patron saint of truckers,” pretending to be a girl, prostituting himself alongside his beautiful mother, whom he idolized, would more likely strike a chord with the masses. Her creation, JT Leroy, the androgynous hustler with a tragic past and a stunningly poetic take on it, would be her ticket to inclusion. With her words and his persona, she played us all very well indeed. We were hungry for something original and pure. Here was someone from a world we knew nothing about, who didn’t want to enter ours, he only wanted to show us his. “Nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.” e.e. cummings. So eager were we to embrace this idea that we lifted the naked Emperor high above our heads and shouted from the mountains that this was the best outfit he had ever worn.

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