Book Review: Straight James/Gay James by James Franco

 Straight James/Gay James. – James Franco
James Franco is many things. He is mostly known for his acting but he is also a writer, filmmaker and a teacher. He has multiple masters degrees. He has a well developed public persona that many have speculated about the reality of…and if this book is to be taken seriously both sides of the speculation are fairly accurate. 
The poems and prose in this book are well crafted and interesting to read. They present many facets of a multi-layered personality. Subtle is not a word I would use to describe them but there isn’t anything wrong with being direct. 
Not that Franco is exactly direct here either. He manages to be both open and vague all at once. He essentially uses honestly as a tool in his desire to stay fluid with his public image. He presents himself as an artist who wants to be known as an artist. He wants his public image to be confusing and contradictory. 
Which is perfectly fine and his public image should be his to manipulate as he sees fit. 
All of that in mind this book is fairly brilliant in it’s execution. It has moments of delving closely to pretension but you get the feeling that this even is intentional on Franco’s part. It is all a piece of the image he wants to present. Intellectual, artist, actor, writer, poet, teacher…pretension is bound to read it’s head in there somewhere. 
The forays the book takes into his personal life are small and touch on other labels that could be applied – lover, brother, son, friend. He remarks that his personal life becomes public as soon as he writes about it and I imagine that is why he only dips his toe in that pond. Focusing more on his public image and his art is Franco’s way of keeping playing with us and playing with the labels people put on him. 
It is definitely worth a read for anyone wanting to attempt to see past the public image Franco presents. Even though it is still a part of that same presentation it is the closest thing anymore is likely to get to seeing past that mask he wears. 
As poetry itself the book is also worth a read. The writing is well crafted as would be expected from a writer with multiple MFAs from highly esteemed schools but it is also engaging and entertaining. Which isn’t always the case with highly accredited writers. Degrees don’t make an artist or an writer. Talent can’t be taught. 
Franco definitely has both the talent and the learned skill to craft amazing art. He has mastered using the written word to convey a message and entertain and engage a reader. You would be doing yourself a favor by reading this book. 

*This book was obtained for free via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I received no compensation beyond a copy protected digital e-book of this book in exchange for this review.*

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