April 8, 2014

James Franco does not appear to read books by women


James Franco. Photo © Nick Stepowy via Flickr

James Franco. Photo © Nick Stepowy via Flickr

James Franco has been trying for some time now to convince everyone that he’s a novelist of deep and meaningful works. Now in a new interview with Shelf Awareness, he’s continued that endeavour.

In the interview, Franco names many big, contemporary literary writers who have inspired, influenced and played a major part in his personal formation. What books are on his nightstand right now? Cormac McCarthy and Frank Bidart of course.  Which authors does he evangelise about? David Foster Wallace and Denis Johnson, who else? What was his favourite book as a child? Oh only John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row.

While this might read as an impressive Who’s Who of modern American letters, it screams something else. James Franco does not appear to read books by women. Books by women do not seem to be by his bed, or in his head, or in his past. As though to make this point further, when Franco was asked to provide a list of his 5 top authors, he named eleven instead. This guy chose six extra names and still he didn’t have any space for female authors. Instead he went for:

Cormac McCarthy, Frank Bidart, Tony Hoagland, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, Herman Melville, Miguel de Cervantes, Jorge Luis Borges, Vladimir Nabokov, John Cheever and Raymond Carver.

In an effort to break up the bro-fest, Franco did offer up one woman. In answer to the question, “Book you’ve bought for the cover”, Franco gave Sex by Madonna. A post-feminist work of art it may be, but in this company of men a distinction is clearly made between serious works of literature by men and sexy quasi-pornographic books by women.

Franco’s case isn’t helped by an article on Gawker last week, which seemed to show evidence of a shady-looking Franco trying to hit on a seventeen-year old girl via Instagram. While the incident might have been one of Franco’s stunts of playing the character of James Franco in the life of James Franco in order to comment on the cheapness and perversity of the celebrity of James Franco, it may also just have been a real example of the cheapness and perversity of the celebrity that is James Franco.

“When is your bday?” asks Franco of the seventeen year old Scottish girl on holiday in New York with her mum; “Where are you staying”; “What’s the hotel?”; “Should I rent a room?” John Steinbeck this is not, but I guess it could be a pale imitation of Nabokov’s Lolita.

Whatever’s going on, it seems Franco prefers his women in his bed rather than on his night stand, which is his loss. “McCarthy explores the endless drive for destruction in man”, writes Franco, but it sounds like he could do with a little less of that.




Zeljka Marosevic is the managing director of Melville House UK.