Hollywood polymath James Franco has released yet another new collection of his poetry: Straight James/Gay James. In it he once again attempts to explore the dichotomy of himself, James Franco, as both artist and celebrity. And is it as pretentious, turgid and utterly meritless as his prose? Have a guess…
A couple of years ago, we tried to write a review of James Franco’s first ‘proper’ novel, Actors Anonymous. We had no idea how to frame it until we got about two-thirds of the way through and noticed just how many similarities there were between Franco’s particular prose stylings and a long-forgotten and largely ignored novel by Macaulay Culkin.
Up until that became clear though, we had been assiduously marking out notable and prevalent themes in the margins of our copy of Actors Anonymous. The keywords that cropped up more frequently than most? ‘Sperm’, ‘Bumsex’, ‘Animal Cruelty’, ‘Blowjobs’ and ‘James Franco’.
Would Franco return to any of these well-worn themes for his latest collection of poetry Straight James / Gay James?
Let’s see, shall we?
It takes James Franco a mere 138 words before he uses the phrase “drips with cum”. 138 words. It would be on page one were it not for the breaks between stanzas.
Sperm also makes a notable and plentiful appearance in the poem Goat Boy (in which he repeats a Frank Bidet refrain of “Man’s spunk is the salt of the earth”) – but we’ll revisit that one in just a second…
Though he only uses the word ‘buttfucking’ once (showing a rare and refreshing bit of restraint in his language) this collection is – once again – absolutely soaked in bumsex. It’s so soaked in bumsex, in fact, that the first reference to it happens before the poetry even starts.
The collection’s cover depicts James Franco with a neck tattoo of Lana Del Rey and her name tattooed across his forehead. Perhaps it’s coincidence, but this image sits underneath the words ‘Straight James’.
Underneath the words ‘Gay James’ we see Straight James’s mirror image. And how does the word ‘Lana’ appear in the mirror…?
In the aforementioned Goat Boy, Franco discusses a poem by Frank Bidart: Herbert White. In it, a boy has sex with a goat and accidentally chokes it to death. The boys returns to the goat’s body the next day and tries to rejuvenate it by wanking on it.
Franco (unsurprisingly) likes this poem. He likes it so much he tried to make a film out of it. His poem on the matter, Goat Boy, is a collection of thoughts about how and why they would recreate the wanking-on-a-goat scene.
Cue James talking a lot about the merits of anaethetising livestock and pretending to jizz on their unmoving bodies.
Surprisingly few mentions of blowjob in this collection. He seems to be spearheading something of a handjob revival at the moment – as jerking outnumbers mentions of sucking by 4:3.
So that’s… progress?
James Franco’s all-time favourite topic, James Franco, is really the focus of this collection. Even the poems he writes about Lana Del Rey are more to do with how pleased he is that he is Lana Del Rey’s friend. (Even the poem he writes about serial murderer/rapist Richard Ramirez is more about him.)
But the collection’s centrepiece is the huge interview that James conducts with himself. Straight James interviewed by Gay James.
The interview first appeared in the press last year and it is reprinted in full here. It is so maddeningly awful that any sensible reader is left thinking that it has to be some sort of performance piece. Some meta commentary on the media; a prank to highlight the desperation of an editor who would publish this unremitting guff purely because it is written by James Franco.
The James Franco.
There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that this what Franco is doing, of course. All clues point to this being an earnestly presented piece of ‘art’. And if that’s what it is, it’s a fucking appalling one.
Franco is the kid in class who volunteers to read out his work so that he can say “cunt” in front of teacher and deliberately get detention. Franco is the guy who turns up at open mic nights and sours the mood yet further by doing spoken word readings about dead dogs. Franco is the last user of MySpace, using lines of his own poetry in his profile.
If only that’s where he’d stay.