Straight James/Gay James by James Franco
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Straight James/Gay James is the latest book of poetry by James Franco. In the book, Franco writes a number of poems that center on the idea of identity, sexuality and public persona.
If you can separate the art from the artist to read this (which is often difficult to do) it is an interesting look at identity, how one creates their identities and how the outside world perceives them. Everybody juggles with a few identities in their lives, whether that's labels imposed on them (brother, sister, friend) or ones that they choose (actor, writer, rebel). Franco is no different, except maybe he has to juggle a few more identities than the rest of us because of his work as an actor. He explores a lot through these poems including his work, his family and his friendships. He also uses the title poem to get into a deeper conversation of public vs/ private life and whether what the public thinks of him matters when it comes to how he lives, private or public, and how the public version can be completely manipulated to achieve a specific purpose.
Readers who can't separate the art from the artist, it's going to be a love/hate experience. If you're a fan of Franco's other work, you'll find a way to enjoy it. If you're not, you'll probably find it to be a self-indulgent project that will sell no matter what the contents because of his pop culture status. I came into the experience of reading this being on both sides—I've seen a little of his acting work and I liked it, but I've never read any of his previous writings. Although it may seem like nothing more than an actor trying to make a buck off of his name on the surface, no one makes a killing on poetry anyway, no matter how famous. How many millionaire poets do you know? This book does explore identity on multiple levels and could stand on it own if it was written by anyone else.
*Received a review copy from NetGalley
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