The fact that James Franco has written a second book may be hard to stomach for some, but let’s be serious: even if you hate James Franco, this is probably the sexiest literary event to happen in Montreal anytime recently or anytime soon.
Franco’s new book, Actors Anonymous, is based on the premise of a 12-step program for actors who “don’t want to lose themselves” in “the sound and fury of life.” What follows is basically a semi-autobiographical reflection on what it’s like to be an actor, broken up into short fictional tales. The preface includes an earnest letter from Franco on the problem of self-hatred among those who practise his craft. The ensuing 12 steps seem to have something to do with overcoming that self-hatred.
Critics can’t decide whether to gag over or make love to this book. One Hermione Hoby, from the Guardian, described Franco’s latest effort as “excremental,” even going so far as to find the word “shit” on 66 of the 304 pages. And while Hoby finds Franco’s “metafictionality too wearisome to plot,” another reviewer thinks Actors Anonymous offers “fascinating insight” into the world of Hollywood, and is “beautifully written.”
The widely conflicting responses to Actors Anonymous, so often emotionally charged with love or anger or disgust, only reflect our confused feelings towards Franco himself, as a celebrity who incessantly prompts our most polar emotions. We either hate him for his ambition — i.e. not being “content” to simply act in Oscar-nominated films, but to infiltrate those other, arty career paths where us regular people might actually have a chance as well — or adore him for his portrayal of 90s heartthrob Daniel Desario on Freaks and Geeks.
Whether we love him or hate him, James Franco is in our brains. And now he’s in Montreal.
Indigo is reportedly handing out wristbands to the event to the first 500 people to purchase Franco’s book (at $20.69 hard cover) in store starting at 9 a.m. the day of the signing. The actor/director/producer/writer/PhD student/painter/handsome man will only be signing copies of his books (bad news for the more spontaneous fans among us) and will not be posing for photos (better news for the stealthy Instagrammers among us). ■
James Franco will be signing books at Indigo (1500 McGill College) on Thursday, Feb. 6, 7 p.m.
Shannon Tien is a writer and reader based in Montreal. You can follow her on twitter @tienburger.