• James Franco And The Green-Eyed Monster

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in Rants & Raves     Comments 12 comments

    By Brent Canle

    Graywolf PressIn the spring of 2014 Graywolf Press will publish James Franco’s first collection of poetry, Directing Herbert White. This isn’t Franco’s first publication: He did a chapbook in 2010 and a collection of short stories the same year. With this I have an inordinate assortment of feeling, as I do anytime someone succeeds where I fail.

    The Humility: Good for him. He deserves it. Balancing a career in Hollywood with a literary side. Lord knows he has a handful of degrees in Literature. I’m impressed with his work ethic and determination.

    The Hater: Fuck this guy. I’ve been writing poetry well-nigh thanklessly for ten years. I built a dirty little house in a dirty little alley out of debased poetics. I can’t sit down properly because I use rejection letters as toilet paper and not a single publication has ever sent back anything close to Angel Soft in my SASEs. You’re telling me all I’ve ever had to do to get published is be famous? That’s way easier than lacerating myself every day to pursue a career in poetry rather than doing something useful with my life like environmental science, communications, or mass murdering. I’d much rather get fake high and laugh funny while someone videotapes it.

    The worst part, the part that really hurts, is the notion that James Franco might have more to say, and a better way to say it, than I do. What kept me somewhat complacent all these years about the famous and affluent was the idea that I was better in some contrived way. While they had all the money, I had the understanding. While they had the notoriety, I had the art.

    But the more conscious I become the more I realize that the privileged aren’t just a bunch of unintelligent pleasure-bots–they are artists, philanthropists, and scholars. (A handful of them, at least.) We all harbor inside ourselves an interest in what they have to say from atop their pedestal.

    In the end, I only have love for James Franco (not that he would care either way). I’ve been a fan for as long as I’ve known he was collecting college degrees like Pez dispensers. But his literary success does spark something so ugly in me. Do I think his poems are going to make it to the history books? No. Do I think he’ll reach an audience not otherwise exposed to poetry and maybe give some little kid salvation through the written word? Maybe. And that’s all I’ve ever wanted to accomplish. Jealously is the louse I scratch myself raw to rid.

    And while we’re attempting humbleness–good for Graywolf. I’m sure they’ll make a good buck or two to fund what they do best.

    Instead of wasting my energies on what a bunch of lit-pricks are doing, I should keep my green eyes on my own business. Maybe I should write and edit my own harlequin poems and let go the idea that no one besides my wife will ever want to read them. I mean, we write because we have to write, regardless of readership, right?



    headshotBrent Michael Canle is a poet and writer from Long Island, N.Y. His work has appeared in Poesy, Sweet: A Literary Confection, Best Poem, and many Inboxes.

    0 0 votes
    Article Rating
    Notify of

    Newest Most Voted
    Inline Feedbacks
    View all comments

    Fretting over celebrity book deals is a quick path to insanity. Someone else will always be better connected, more talented, more marketable. I say focus on what’s within your control — the quality of your writing, constantly developing your skills, connecting with other writers — and try not to let the green-eyed monster overtake you. Besides, maybe Franco’s book will get more people reading poetry, which will lead to more books being sold, which will lead to more interest in your work, too. You never know. And if his book is terrible and it has his face on it, at… Read more »

    J. Sommers

    Good point. If you plotz every time some dumbass celeb publishes a book, you’ll never stop plotzing.

    J. Sommers

    I don’t know. I wonder what defines “the privileged”? Making it as an actor isn’t a cakewalk, and neither is making it as a writer. I’m sure the guy has struggled plenty. And if his success in one arena allows him to force success in another, then hey, more power to him. If you don’t want to read the book, don’t read the book.

    On the other hand, I’m ready for James Franco to go away.

    David Duhr

    Some commentary from Twitter & Facebook: “Takes nothing away from me. I might as well be jealous of Obama or Kurosawa or Lena Dunham.” “i’m so sick of james franco. have been for a long time. quantity over quality.” “Depends on if the writing is any good. I doubt it is, though.” “Of course, the real question is: did they sign him just because he was James Franco, or because he went and did that BS creative writing MFA?” “I hate trashing fellow poets, I really do. I’m one of those writers who wants to help the pool of poets… Read more »


    I’m willing to forgive James Franco for a lot based solely on “Freaks and Geeks.” Add “Pineapple Express” to that, and he can basically destroy half my library and I’d be all, “It’s cool, man. Just say that line about a unicorn and a bomb again.”

    David Duhr

    Let’s be honest–not even James Franco could mar one of your books without incurring wrath.



    Love this post. Great writing in itself.

    That is all!

    Justine Tal Goldberg

    This isn’t the first time we’ve tackled the James Franco issue. (Yes, it’s an issue.) http://professionalwritersofaustin.com/2011/12/15/pwa-picks-websites-for-writers/

    As for the green-eyed monster, I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. The general wisdom is that professional jealousy is bad, a useless energy suck, but might those feelings serve us in some way?

    Carrie Winters

    For motivation, sure. “I must write this book to prove that I belong in James Franco’s company.” But if that’s your goal, rather than just writing the best book you can write, the results will be underwhelming. And you’ll prove that you probably don’t belong in James Franco’s company.

    Justine Tal Goldberg

    Well, for motivation and aspiration. It’s not a problem to have a goal. The problem is when that goal interferes with the process, the actual writing which is of course the most important thing. Since feelings of jealousy are so natural, maybe rather than denying them and beating ourselves up for having them, it’s in our best interest to acknowledge and accept them … then buckle down and get ‘er done.


    Well said! Along those lines, I think it makes a lot of sense for people whose job it is to explore the inner contents of their own minds and that of others, no matter how repulsive, unattractive, or unsavory. You can’t understand jealousy and hope to write about it unless you acknowledge it in yourself and take some time to explore it…Before moving on.

    J. Sommers

    It’s easy to be sick of the guy, though, just based on all of his dabbling in writing, combined with all these film projects about writers. (The Broken Tower, Howl … now As I Lay Dying, etc.) We get it–you’re into literature. Enough already.

    It’s like Kevin Costner with baseball. Field of Dreams, Bull Durham, For Love of the Game. You like baseball. We acknowledge that. Now go away, please.

    Would love your thoughts, please comment.x