Depressed Poets Everywhere Turn their Ovens on High Now that Graywolf Press will Publish James Franco’s Poetry Collection.
Dear James Franco,
I just read a torrent of Facebook posts and comments concerning Graywolf Press’s announcement that they’ll be publishing your poetry collection. Congratulations! I’m not saying that condescendingly, James. I do, however, hope you know that poets everywhere are turning their ovens on high. I’ve yapped enough about your short-story collection in the “Are You A Real Writer?” blog posts, and I don’t have the energy to reiterate myself. But here are some thoughts:
1) I’m rooting for you, though many disgruntled poets are (justifiably) not. I enjoy controversy, so let’s imagine this scenario: Graywolf releases the book, poets and fiction writers (and the mass public) buy it, and to everyone’s surprise—or embarrassment—it’s fucking phenomenal poetry. The first thing people will say is, “Certainly, he had Billy Collins or someone line edit the poems.” But without any evidence of another poet’s intervention, we’d soon have to face the harsh reality that James Franco is, um, a better poet than most poets.
2) If we’re going to assume that Graywolf took you on in order to generate publicity and profit, then that’s actually good news. The earnings can be used underwrite future Graywolf books. The fact is I don’t smell conspiracy. Graywolf doesn’t publish bad books. I doubt they’d release sub-par, celebrity poetry in order get rich for a month. Was there nepotism involved? Probably. Do I care? No, unless some brilliant poet had written a masterpiece and her manuscript got tossed aside for yours. My guess is that either your manuscript matched or exceeded the quality of other Graywolf publications (regardless of how it got into the editor’s hands), or the James Franco Literary Empire waved a check in front of Graywolf and essentially used the publisher like a vanity press.
I’m not going to buy it—not now, at least. Unlike you, I have to look at the bank account before I buy a book. At the moment, my prioritized future-purchase is Nothing: A Portrait of Insomnia by Blake Butler. My list is long, and you’re at the bottom. That’s OK, though, because my book isn’t even on your list.
But here’s what I would buy. Graywolf has this kick-ass series of craft books. I’ve read—and bought—The Art of Description by Mark Doty, The Art of Subtext by Charles Baxter, The Art of Syntax by Ellen Bryant Voigt, and The Art of Time in Fiction by Joan Silber. Here’s the web address if you’re interested: http://www.graywolfpress.org/component/option,com_phpshop/page,shop.browse/category_id,bf8108ff1901b3e2f2376627dd7f8c0d/
If you wrote a craft book, I’d swipe my card in a second. I’ve got some suggestions for titles :
The Art of Being James Motherfuckin’ Franco, Yo, by James Franco.
The Art of Becoming a Famous… Everything, by James Franco.
The Art of Using Your Money and Cultural Prominence to Enlarge your Literary Opportunities, by James Franco.
The Art of Using Your Money and Cultural Prominence to Bring Writing Classes and Publishing Opportunities to Low-Income Areas where Aspiring Writers Don’t Have the Resources to See Their Dreams Materialize, by James Franco.
The Art of Teaching One Less Private-School Class, Like, “Master Class: Editing James Franco—With James Franco” (Columbia College, Hollywood), in Favor of Teaching Basic Literacy Skills to Underprivileged Children by James Franco.
The Art of Using My Newly Acquired Status as a Legitimate Poet to Promote Other New Poets, Who Have Been Published by Very Small Presses but Don’t Have National Distribution by James Franco.
The Art of Telling Bitter, Struggling Writers to Shut the Fuck Up; I’ll Do Whatever I Want by James Franco.
The Art of “Dude, Give Me a Chance!” by James Franco.
The Art of Knowing that Your Critics’ Books Will Be Out of Print After One Run, While Yours Will Sell For Decades by James Franco.
And while you’re at it, buy my book please: