BOOKS SEPTEMBER 17, 2013
Billed as “an intense, wild ride into the dark heart of celebrity,” James Franco’s novel Actors Anonymous—which comes out next month—is an intense, wild ride into the ego of James Franco. The book’s format ranges from essays to poetry to Wikipedia entries, and jumps between the perspectives of several actors in a fictional support group called “Actors Anonymous.” Somehow Franco managed to wrangle blurbs from Gary Shteyngart, Amy Hempel, and David Shields, adding to the sense of the book as performance art. The novel is part meditation on the nature of fame, part self-back-pat—which is to say, exactly what you’d expect. For example:
1) Sometimes it is painful to be oneself; at other times it seems impossible to escape oneself.
2) I am an actor, so I can play everything. Everyone is in me, and I am a part of everyone.
3) I am Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando and Jimmy Stewart and Jean-Paul Belmondo and Steve McQueen. I am Meryl Streep and Natalie Wood and Cate Blanchett and Marilyn Monroe.
4) I’m here to entertain you, but I don’t really care about entertaining you, know what I mean?
5) I thought about the kiss a lot, and I could feel her soul on my lips.
6) Seeking your place, that is reality. Seek your purpose and how to best fulfill it. And if your place is not amongst the people of your time, then do your work for other times, for the times to come, or do your talking with your heroes of the past.
7) Why not be your own Scorsese?
8) “Oh,” I said, and looked at her white cheek. It made me aware of how we have skin over bones and there are different shapes underneath that are arbitrary.
9) The picture of me sleeping with my mouth open next to a bunch of attentive students says a thousand words. But it says the wrong words, or it says the words that TMZ wants it to say. It doesn’t say: This photo was taken at 10 p.m. during an optional guest lecture by William Kentridge, hosted by the graduate art school. James wasn’t even in the Columbia art department but went to their visiting artist lectures anyway, even though he was in four other graduate programs at the time and working on the film Howl and hosting Saturday Night Live, and a bunch of other things.
Laura Bennett is a staff writer at The New Republic. Follow @lbennett.