Surprise! Next week has come a bit early as I recently discovered that a short story of James Franco’s (Milk, Pineapple Express, Freaks and Geeks) is featured in the April 2010 issue of Esquire, on pages 68-72. Getting published in Esquire, (or any magazine, really) is no small feat. Esquire launched the career of Raymond Carver (R.I.P.,) who many people claim helped revitalize the short story in the eighties. In college, I read two of his short stories: The Bath, written in 1981 and it’s revision, A Small Good Thing from 1983.
Which leads to my critique of Franco’s short story, Just Before The Black. As some of you may know, Franco has studied creative writing, getting his BA from UCLA and his MFA from Columbia. It shows. I felt like I was reading a copy of his assignment for an intermediate level creative writing class. For this assignment, the prompt given would have be something to the effect of “Write about two men on a road trip, one is contemplating suicide and the other is kind of dimwitted, and throw in every road trip cliché–vintage car, having the two passengers argue and have “meaningful” conversations and the driver staring into space and having deep thoughts while he drives.” (The last paragraph talks about kaleidoscopic buildings coming up on the horizon as he drives his grandfather’s DeVille down the freeway, thinking about knights and how they used to feel. I’ll leave it at that.) Just Before The Black is from his short story collection Palo Alto, due out in October
For a first published story, the one that’s supposed to make readers want to buy a larger collection of his work, Just Before The Black is a bit too safe–which is more likely the fault of the publisher, not Franco’s. Perhaps there are better stories, we just have to wait until October to find out. My verdict is, don’t sell Franco short simply because of one clichéd story in a (sophisticated) men’s magazine. I must say, it was refreshing to read a story by a young celebrity that wasn’t about being a young celebrity, and that Esquire picked his short story rather than interviewing him and asking “how he stays in shape” or “how can I be as cool as Daniel Desario?” Again, I’d say wait until October before deciding whether he’s better off as a movie star or if he has the potential to be a true author.
Oh…I was supposed to write about Tori Spelling, wasn’t I? Don’t worry, I am actually working on that (Ms. Spelling has two 300+ page books for me to go through, while Esquire only gave me four pages of Franco’s work, hence the quick reviewing time.) and it will be up Wednesday afternoon. My updates will usually be on Fridays, I will be out-of-town with no access wi-fi this weekend.
Have you read Just Before The Black? What did you think of it? Feel free to discuss in the comments!