Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Daniel Desario is a brain

I have a soft spot for any Freaks and Geeks alum, so I was excited when James Franco wrote a short story for Esquire.

If you didn’t watch Freaks and Geeks (shame on you), you might know Franco as Willem Dafoe’s son in Spider-Man or the guy who common-law married his pillow on 30 Rock.

He won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Emmy for his portrayal of James Dean.

I love Franco — not in the same way legions of indie-film-watchin’, peasant-skirt-wearin’, living-with-my-parents-and-thinking-of-getting-a-doctorate twentysomething women do. I just think he’s talented and picks strong material. Y’know, not counting Pineapple Express.

But Franco’s short story has garnered mostly negative attention. Salon even declared its crush on Franco finished.

I think Entertainment Weekly, of all outlets, assesses Franco the most fairly. His story “Before the Black” is, in a word, unspectacular. It’s also overly familiar. If I had a dollar for every short story that ended with an ambiguous maybe suicide, I could afford to put a basketball court in my backyard. (OK, that’s an exaggeration; but I could at least buy a pair of new basketball shoes. Nice ones. The kind you got jumped for in middle school.)

Yes, Franco will get published more easily because he’s famous. (He has a book deal with Scribner.) Yes, there are unpublished, unknown writers who deserve it more. But Franco’s young and still searching for his voice. Maybe he’ll get there. Maybe he’ll spend the rest of his career writing unspectacular, overly familiar stories.

But can we blame a man for getting published just because he could?

At least he isn’t writing a memoir or a thinly veiled memoir under the guise of fiction.

So, no, Franco hasn’t eclipsed Steve Martin as my favorite actor/writer. (Does Vonnegut count?) But my (man-)crush is still going strong.

On a completely unrelated note, one of my favorite bloggers measures the merits of blogging as opposed to Tweeting or posting on Facebook.

-Jason Lea, JLea@News-Herald.com

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