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Directing Herbert White: Poems Paperback – March 18, 2014

4 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Franco’s commitment to poetry has heretofore been expressed in films. He played Allen Ginsberg in Howl; created and starred in The Broken Tower, a film about Hart Crane; and made a short film based on Frank Bidart’s searing poem about a necrophiliac child-murderer, “Herbert White.” This volume’s title poem is an homage to Bidart, who, like Franco, grew up in California, albeit when, as Franco imagines, being gay was a “secret so dark that he could tell no one.” As in his novel, Actors Anonymous (2013), Franco—protean, determined, sly, and armed with five MFAs, including one in poetry—writes audaciously about the perversities of Hollywood and how it decimates the vulnerable. He portrays such movie-industry casualties as Lindsay Lohan, River Phoenix, and Sal Mineo, and reveals his own grappling with the largesse and absurdities of celebrity and, ultimately, a confusion of selves: “This fake me is louder / Than the real me, and he / Is the one everyone knows.” Franco’s bold and magnetic examination of life in the mirrored hall of make-believe and fame taps deeply into our collective mythology. --Donna Seaman

Review

“Franco's bold and magnetic examination of life in the mirrored hall of make-believe and fame taps deeply into our collective mythology.” ―Booklist

“The stories in Directing Herbert White disconcert and titillate, they swagger and collapse, andthey explore what it feels like to be a character. How did we get to be this way? is the unspoken question--weird, ugly humans, on and off stage, trying and failing? Franco's poems are brave and whip-like, and in the center of their mirrored labyrinth, they house and refine a vulnerable, curious, and very distinct poetic sentience.” ―Tony Hoagland

“A star-studded cast moves like ghosts across the screen of James Franco's poetic consciousness, imbuing the writing with scenes of icons who are also humans replete with sorrow and presence in our own psyches. James Dean, Monica Vitti, Catherine Deneuve, Sal Mineo, Heath Ledger pass and fade. The author has a wonderful self-reflexive insouciance about his own fame and roles inhabited, from Hart Crane to Allen Ginsberg to Harvey Milk's lover. Franco is a gifted contemporary Renaissance kind of guy, surveying the waterfront of illusion, suffering, and impermanence. We leave the movie theater a little wiser.” ―Anne Waldman

“There's never been a book quite like this. Hollywood--fame, celebrity, the promise of becoming an artist--is the beast at its center. Franco knows it like Melville knows whaling. Hollywood in this book devours its young. Obsessed with myths about its own past, it can be survived only by finding a vantage point that is not Hollywood. Bold yet subtle, fearless yet disarming, Franco has made a book you will never forget.” ―Frank Bidart

“Individually and collectively, the poems in James Franco's Directing Herbert White dramatize the fever dream of American celebrity culture while coolly taking that fever's pulse. In a style both direct and elusive, as anguished as it is ironic, Franco shows us what it feels like to be, at one and the same time, looked at and invisible, acting and acted upon. But what makes this book so distinctive and powerful is the disturbing image of ourselves we see reflected back at us from the funhouse mirror of our public fantasies.” ―Alan Shapiro

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press (April 15, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555976735
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555976736
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #289,186 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James Franco is an actor, director, screenwriter, and artist. His film appearances include "Milk," "Pineapple Express," the "Spider-Man" trilogy, and upcoming appearances in "Eat, Pray, Love," and "Howl," in which he portrays beat poet Allen Ginsberg. On television, he starred in the critically acclaimed series "Freaks and Geeks." Franco has also written, directed and starred in several short plays, two of which -- "Fool's Gold" and "The Ape" -- he adapted into feature-length films. He also wrote and directed the film "Good Time Max." Franco will be participating in an upcoming gallery show at Deitch Projects in New York, and his writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, McSweeney's, and other publications

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
If the objective of poetry is to produce emotion in the reader, can becoming angry when reading poetry mean the poetry is successful? In the context of this volume, no. This is a great volume for Franco fans to get a better understanding of Franco but let’s not call it what it clearly isn't. This is poetry in the loosest of words. It is as if Franco wrote what I have just done so and printed it as follows:

If the objective
of poetry is to
produce emotion in the reader,
can becoming angry
when reading poetry mean
the poetry is successful?
In the context of this volume,
no.
This
Is
poetry
in the loosest
of words.

It is not poetry. He has taken bad stories and formatted them into worse poems. The issue I feel that hinders this volume is determining the point where Franco the actor becomes Franco the poet. The two roles seem to be synonymous with each other and this may be a factor that interferes with the volume’s success (from a literary standpoint). This will be my reasoning for referencing various points of cinematic culture in the process of this review to align this review with the tone of the volume.

There are few redeeming qualities in this volume, but 'My Place', 'Utah' and 'Hart Crane’s Tomb' are passable. Not since 'Top Gun' has there been so many homo-erotic undertones to a work, this in itself is no issue but it is delivered in such a way as to force the reader to re-read, not in shock, but simple bewilderment as to Franco’s reasoning for selecting these words other than for shock value; this spills over into homophobic remarks at various points in the volume.
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1 Comment 13 of 18 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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I thoroughly enjoyed these poems. Actor James Franco give insight into his life and the life of Hollywood! Must read!
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By ruby on October 23, 2014
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No matter how much hate James Franco gets, I love the artist he is. I love his writing and his movies. This poetry book was a great quick read for me. If you love free verse this is a must read.
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By HethG on December 27, 2015
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Really liked this - I wanted to see what James Franco's writing was like. Didn't realize that it would be so insightful and thoughtful, as the only movies I have seen him in he has played comedic roles. I will purchase more by him now.
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Of course I think of James Franco in Spider -Man, Oz the Great and Powerful and SNL and part of me was reluctant to give him any credit as a poet and a writer. I bought his book out of curiosity and found myself reading poem after poem until I had digested them all. I like his free form modernistic style, his honesty and blunt wording. He reveals himself without inhibition and leaves the reader with his essence. I sincerely enjoyed it.
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I really like Ur film sonnets & Ledger & Love poems the most. Your words give a wave of splash.
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By Samantha on November 29, 2015
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James Franco is an amazing writer! I think that everyone should read this book of poetry!
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By reader on August 4, 2014
Format: Paperback
Ha-Ha-Ha! It's total trash!
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