On Angelina Jolie, bizarre short stories, and a ZINE PARTY
Is Angelina Jolie the hottest woman to ever grace this earth? That’s one question on my mind, after watching Gia (1998) for the first time last night.
Other questions include: Why had I never heard of Gia Carangi, the world’s first supermodel, who was also a lesbian? And why had no one ever recommended that I watch HBO’s biopic about her life?
It’s an extremely sad movie, which I don’t think is a spoiler since the opening scene shows an undertaker preparing for Gia’s funeral. But the next time you’re in the mood for something devastating, I’d recommend you give it a shot.
It’s two weeks from today, on November 18. Mark your calendar. I’d love to see you there!
Now, onto a book.
Sarahland by Sam Cohen
A collection of short stories, Sarahland gives glimpses into the lives of ten different Sarahs, from biblical times through long after the world has ceased to become a habitable place for humans.
Each story’s Sarah exists independent of the others, but similarities abound: most are queer, Jewish femmes with thick thighs and curly hair. Several of the Sarahs have a tendency towards neediness and/or obsessiveness, and almost all of them wrestle with questions of identity.
The collection kicks off with the titular short story, Sarahland, which ended up being my favorite of the bunch. Set sometime in the early 2000s, it follows a collegiate Sarah who became part of a tight-knit group of Sarahs in her Jewish dorm simply by default, and can’t seem to break free:
I chose this college because of a barista during my campus visit, I think. The barista’s head was shaved on one side and she had piercings all the way up her ear. She seemed angry in general but she liked me and I thought I would come to know girls like her here. But since Sarah A. created the Excel schedule chart, I only ever went anywhere in a pack. If it was blizzarding excessively, Sarah A. demanded we take a cab. The cab would go on streets we didn’t normally take. I’d see a group of kids with Kool-Aid hair and fingerless gloves standing around outside a coffee shop smoking, probably talking about deep things. But I was destined, it seemed, only to ever get glimpses outside the Jew groove from a cab window.
While this first story is fully grounded in reality, many of the others blur the line between fantasy and reality to different degrees. Some are playful with that line, like Exorcism, or Eating My Twin, which tells the story of a Sarah so deeply obsessed with her ex that she has to “exorcise” her memory by writing increasingly unhinged Buffy fanfiction.
Others are simply bizarre. Dream Palace, for example, I can only describe as a psychosexual acid trip through a warehouse-slash-womb in the desert. To be honest with you, I did not understand it at all.
The other common thread through each of these stories is sex—and in many cases, it’s kind of uncomfy to read. In Naked Furniture, sex worker Sarah finds that she’s pretty good at playing dead for a necrophiliac client. Later, in Gossip, an intense sexual encounter is the catalyst for a messy breakup.
The writing is sharp in each of these stories, intertwining pop culture references with smart observations about gender, sexuality, and the search for a sense of self. And while the Sarahs have varying degrees of success in figuring out who they are (or who they want to be), watching them try is a fun, weird little ride.
+4 for references to Sarah Paulson, Sarah Schulman, Sarah of Tegan & Sarah, and Sarah Michelle Gellar
+9 for referencing Gia, which sparked the movie-watching experience I wrote about in the intro to this newsletter
Buy it on Bookshop