Sometimes James Franco gets sad. It happens most often when his dog, Bark Crane, falls asleep, and the stars both human and celestial are shining out of sight. James Franco shuffles to his Art Deco bathroom and looks at his face in the mirror, that face like Willem Dafoe’s face but less broken, that face which gets 124K likes on Instagram just for being James Franco’s beautiful face, and he whispers “Spring break…Spring break forever.” He says it with a tongue like sweet tea but he doesn’t believe it. Spring break, like fame and stars and life itself, ends. James Franco knows someday he will die.
Sometimes James Franco gets sad because he peruses Goodreads.
“When life on Earth as we know it is over and aliens come to the planet to do archaeological research, one of them might find a copy of this book and then they will know where exactly humanity went wrong.” – Kelsey
“Sadly garbage.” – Ash Ponders
“Wow. This book is really bad. 0.5 stars for me.” – Maryamk
James Franco doesn’t believe he is writing half-star garbage. Frank Bidart, National Book Critics Circle Award winning poet, called James Franco’s poetry “fearless yet disarming.” Does that sound half-star? No, James Franco knows that sounds rock star. Plus, he attended grad schools. Plural. The photo of him asleep in class wasn’t representative of how James Franco was in class. He was awake, astute. James Franco collects MFAs the way average people collect seashells or inspirational quotes to pin up in their cubicle.
“i don’t know why, but i really want to shove this book down my pants…” – Karen
This definitely made James Franco sad. Karen never even rated his book. Like the worst after-party, there were no stars whatsoever.
Once, a now-defunct online journal (managed by editors who didn’t have nearly as many MFAs as James Franco) played the game “Franco or FrancNO!” as part of a fundraising campaign. The editors wrote horrible lines of poetry then paired them with quotes from James Franco’s debut book of poems. The audience had to guess who wrote what. Would people be fooled by a wax figure of James Franco if I, James Franco, stood near it, James Franco thought before quickly writing down the line in his poetry journal.
But people were fooled, and it disappointed James Franco, so much so he called Leonardo DiCaprio. Leo let him in on a little known fact: Leo never cried about not winning an Oscar. “Not once,” he told James Franco, “Not one tear until I win an Oscar. Then I will let myself feel it all.” James Franco thought about that phone call a lot. When Leo called him years later, sobbing, saying between hiccups, “I did it, James Franco, I finally did it,” he knew, no matter how sad he was, he wasn’t going to cry about Goodreads, or cruel book critics, or any book award he wasn’t nominated for. Not until he won the Pulitzer. Then he’ll cry. On that day James Franco knows every reader will weep.
Michael Schmeltzer is the author of “Elegy/Elk River,” winner of the Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Award, and “Blood Song,” his debut full-length published by Two Sylvias Press. He earned an MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop but just barely. He has been published or has work forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, Meridian, PANK, Rattle, and Mid-American Review,among others. He lives in Seattle but can be found tweeting ridiculous things @mschmeltzer01.