by James Franco
Little A / New Harvest, Oct 2013
304 pages / $26 Buy from Amazon
James Franco seems to want to be anything he can think of. He is an actor-writer-director-producer-musician-artist, as well as a PHD candidate. This novel, Actors Anonymous, suffers from the same desires that the author does; it wants to be every kind of novel it can think of. The novel-group of stories-abstract meta sentences is arranged in a sort of alcoholics anonymous style, with twelve chapters apparently representing the twelve steps.
“I am an actor, so I can play everything. Everyone is in me, and I am a part of everyone.”
I think the main problem with this novel is trying to separate Franco from Fiction. When I read this book, all I could do is picture James Franco. So my reading of the book was colored with thoughts of ‘what an ego’, and ‘ugh’. Another problem was what I have already mentioned; trying to be many things at once.
“Sometimes actors hate acting because it comes so easily to them. They want to break out of it because it makes them feel silly, especially when they are adults (dressing up, putting on makeup, playacting), but they are scared to leave it because it’s all they have. It’s hard to put work into something else and start over.”
There is nothing wrong with breaking the ‘rules’ of ‘literature’. Breaking these rules is what has created some of the greatest works ever. But this book just tries so hard to break rules, which were already mostly broken. Its ‘edgy’, ‘weird’, and ‘meta’, but it just reads like a list of tropes. The plot, at least I think there is a plot, is thrown about all over the place, and the excuse used to justify its lack of clarity is ‘experimental’.
“I had Campbell’s soup for lunch with toast and butter and a glass of water. There was still nocall from the agent, so in the early evening I walked over to the library again and got Lust for Life, a movie about Van Gogh. As I walked back to the apartment, the sun was sinking into the smog. Back in the apartment, the light was a tattered gold-brown. I watched the film about crazy Van Gogh.”
Which is, again, another point that I found myself getting upset at, which is James can take as many risks as he wants, write whatever he feels like, and then go home to his million dollar mansion without a care. This book is just an exercise in his many PHDs. There is nothing for him to worry about. He can write whatever he wants, and he can market it with his film career money, and sit back and think of something else to do. There isn’t any real ‘experimentation’ here; it’s just a bored white dude with a lot of money and time.
“I’m here to entertain you, but I don’t really care about entertaining you, know what I mean?”
The Novel speaks for itself.
Rhys Nixon is a writer who lives in Australia. He has been published in electric cereal, Gesture magazine, and posts occasionally on his blog, rhysrhys.tumblr.com. He also has a book of poetry, It’s No Big Deal, I Don’t Mind, through Poetry will be made by all! 89plus and LUMA Foundation. http://