IT IS NOT HARD TO FEEL motherly toward James Franco (thirty years ago I might have sung a different tune). He works so hard, as if chased by demons. By all counts, his scramble to practically bathe in art and literature, his mad dash at academia, Hollywood nipping at his heels all have him neck-deep in projects — no wonder he wants to cut loose, stick his tongue out, and live a boy’s dangerous life! This book is based on Franco’s 2010 multimedia art exhibit of the same name at the Clocktower Gallery in New York City. It is a “boyhood narrative through actual documents and objects made by and about [Franco] as a young boy,” including home-movie clips, “collaged film pieces of fictional boyhood scenarios, and flickering montages of television shows” from Franco’s youth. Many of the pages are scribbled over, drawn on, edited.
Franco was born in 1978 and grew up in Palo Alto. After a year studying English at UCLA, he dropped out and took acting classes with Robert Carnegie at Playhouse West. This book, and the exhibit, is full of the effort, the desire to go back to a time before he became famous and “displeased with certain inevitabilities of the world of commercial cinema,” as Beatrice Johnson writes in her essay, “That Anxious Object of Desire.” There is anxiety in every corner of this book — the relentless, pounding, anxiety of an adolescence buried under fame, clawing to have its day.