|photo: Anna Kooris
James Franco is an actor, director, writer and visual artist. He is the author of two works of fiction, Palo Alto and Actors Anonymous, and one work of nonfiction, A California Childhood. His debut poetry collection is Directing Herbert White (just published by Graywolf Press). Franco is currently appearing on Broadway in a production of Of Mice and Men with Chris O'Dowd. He lives in New York City and Los Angeles.
On your nightstand now:
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy and Metaphysical Dog by Frank Bidart--both books of ruthless searching inside the human heart, albeit through very different approaches. McCarthy explores the endless drive for destruction in man, while Bidart explores the noble side of love through poetry on the edge.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. I love community, and this idealized portrait of Northern California, near where I grew up, has lived inside me ever since. I think my American Dream is to have friends like Doc and Mack and the boys and live by the seaside.
Your top five 11 authors:
Cormac McCarthy, Frank Bidart, Tony Hoagland, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, Herman Melville, Miguel de Cervantes, Jorge Luis Borges, Vladimir Nabokov, John Cheever and Raymond Carver.
Book you've faked reading:
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.
Books you're an evangelist for:
A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace: I love Wallace's essays more than his fiction. His obsessiveness funneled into research can make any subject a deep religion: a carnival, a cruise, even tennis. Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson: the pithy, drug-inflected pride is hypnotic. Johnson describes a horrible world of addiction and death that I strangely want to inhabit because his renderings are so magical.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Sex by Madonna.
Books that changed your life:
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, Reality Hunger by David Shields and In the Western Night by Frank Bidart.
Favorite line from a book:
"--Hell came when I saw/ MYSELF.../ and couldn't stand/ what I see..." --from "Herbert White" by Frank Bidart
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov: with this book, Nabokov opened the world of interactive fiction that has influenced video games, movies, Internet videos, etc.--the whole postmodern universe.
Books that have influenced your writing:
Golden State by Frank Bidart, Metaphysical Dog by Frank Bidart, Tar by C.K. Williams, Black Dog, Red Dog by Stephen Dobyns, The Clerk's Tale by Spencer Reece, Donkey Gospel by Tony Hoagland, Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty by Tony Hoagland, Hollywood & God by Robert Polito and Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman.