Lana Del Ray, the ghost of James Dean, Gucci, and Los Angeles. These are the things that James Franco’s latest book of poetry, “Straight James/Gay James” is about. The book will be released in January 2016, and the book description says,
James Franco’s chapbook of poems Straight James/Gay James explores the different personas he uses in his writing, art, acting, and filmmaking. The poetry varies from the imagistic to the prosaic. The chapbook also contains an interview of “Gay James” conducted by “Straight James.” Yes, Straight James asks the question: “Let’s get substantial: are you f*****g gay or what?”
This collection of poems is more than an exploration of the different personas that Franco has. He explores the impact of fame, writes love letters to Los Angeles, and explores what happens when your alter ego starts to replace your actual personality. Having just recently been to Los Angeles, the tone of the poems really resonated with me. James Franco writes like a cross between Francesca Lia Block and Joan Didion. By this I mean the language is fragrant, lush, and intensely saturated like Block (he even has a poem titled “Goat Boy”), but very insightful and self-aware in a way that reminded me of Didion. He picks himself apart and examines all of the aspects of his public and private personas, but in the eponymous interview piece, “Straight James/Gay James” he teases us and says:
Gay James: Well, why don’t you stop playing games and give us a little of your private self?
Straight James: Kind of impossible, don’t you think? As soon as I share it, it becomes public.
My favorite poem was one of the earlier ones, “Custom Hotel”. I don’t think I am supposed to type out the entire poem for you, but surely I can type out a snippet below.
It looks to the airport and beyond to the water. Before dusk, the view burns into desaturated Fuchsia, with the grain of old eight millimeter, – A nineteen seventies home movie sunset. The white sun drops below The West Side horizon Like a baby in a chrisom, Baptized in a sky of blood,
At night: a centipede of lights.
I would recommend this little book to people who watch the special features on DVDs including director commentary, to people who think about things like the lives we present on social media compared to the lives we actually lead, and to hard core fans of James Franco’s art house films (and not just his blockbusters).
- I’d like to thank Netgalley for providing me a copy of this book in return for an honest review.
- If you like the interview snippet of James interviewing James, you’ll love his movie column at Indiewire. Check out his conversation with his other self (Semaj) on Hitchcock/Truffaut here.
- The book will be published by Hansen Publishing Group. I don’t see a link to pre-order this book, but I’m sure it’ll be available soon.