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 Just Before the Black

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TheHedonist
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PostSubject: Just Before the Black   Sat Jul 13, 2013 12:59 am

To start with, I didn't particularly mind James Franco before I read this story.  He's one of those actors that seems to rise to the level of their director, though no higher, and he picks his roles well.  For the most part.  And he's cute!  That never hurts.

One thing his fans like to shove down the throats of nay-sayers is that he's an intellectual: he has his MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia!  And he's working on his doctorate at Yale!  What they don't mention is that the Ivy League has a higher rate of acceptance from donations or legacy than from affirmative action (kind of puts all of those kids whining about how they didn't get in to Harvard because of affirmative action in perspective, eh?).  Franco did not begin to attend Columbia until he was famous, which begs the question: did he buy his way in?  Or is he another Natalie Portman, another Emma Watson, whose beauty and talent mask a very real and powerful intellect?

Well, the jury's still out, I guess, but one of his stories got published in Esquire and let me tell you: he wasn't admitted on the strength of his portfolio.

Welcome to [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.].

James Franco wrote:
I sit in the driver's seat of my grandfather's old DeVille. It is night out and cool. Me and Joe, we just sit.

We're out in front of the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course pro shop. It's a tan building with white trim. It's where Joe and I work during the day.
We're two paragraphs in and literally half of the sentences begin with 'it's'.  This does not bode well.

James Franco wrote:
We sit here because it's dark here, and there are no lights outside this building.
This sentence is so redundant it's redundant.

Jamie F. wrote:
I often think about driving off the side of freeway overpasses, just plunge Grandpa's old blue boat through the cement guardrail:
how do i tenses

Okay not to nitpick the grammar (just kidding, I'll spend quite a bit of time doing that) but how does Columbia justify admitting someone into their creative writing program who can't even use a progressive tense properly without slipping into the simple form?  It shows a lack of control, if anything, and out-of-control is something a writer can only afford to be once they are completely in control.

Jam-Jam wrote:
I often think about driving off the side of freeway overpasses, just plunge Grandpa's old blue boat through the cement guardrail: The sculpted barrier crumbling about me and Grandpa's blue machine; a great moment of metallic explosion and heavy ripping and jerking and then release; a soft, slow dive of arcing color through the windshield, into a hard second of impact, just before the black.
OMG GUYS THAT'S WHERE HE GOT THE NAME OF THE STORY FROM!!!!!!

Seriously though buddy, slow down with the run ons and the semicolons.  Virginia Woolf you ain't.  This one sentence could easily be three or four, and probably should be.  To be fair I tend to lean a bit heavily on semicolons and run-ons in my own writing, but then again, I don't do this, either:

Franky J wrote:
What an adventure lies behind one quick turn of the steering wheel.  A great screaming, and then, slip away.
First of all that first sentence needs to be a question or an exclamation point.  I'm not sure it's grammatically wrong as-is but it rubs me the wrong way.  Second of all I know for a fact that the second sentence is wrong: 'screaming' is a substantiated participle and as a result 'slip' should be too.  For this sentence to be grammatically correct it would need to be 'A great screaming, and then, a slipping away' or at the very least 'a slip away'.  I mean seriously James why the fuck are you using 'screaming' when the simple noun, 'scream' is three letters shorter, the root of the complex grammatical structure you chose to use for no reason at all, and an entire universe less awkward?  The point is, this sentence is fucking broken.

Remember that he submitted this to a graduate-level creative writing class at Columbia and that this story was published in Esquire.  Then weep.

Jimmy-Jimmy Eff-Eff wrote:
Joe and I sit and stare at the wall of the building. The building is beige, but the shadows make it shadow-color.
Hahaha holy shit fuck you too kid

James Franco wrote:
Joe smokes.
Possibly the one competent sentence in this mess.

JF wrote:
His window is all the way down, and he breathes his smoke out the black gaping gap.
Bless him, he's trying.

Joms Fronko wrote:
There is not much to talk about with Joe because he's such a moron. I don't know what he thinks he is, or why he thinks he exists. I guess in some lives lived, no one tells you what to be, and so you be nothing.
Unlike James Franco, who is brilliant and beautiful exactly who his director tells him to be and writes awful prose in his spare time as a vr srs academic pursuit.

Also 'lived' is redundant as fuck and he didn't bother to conjugate 'be' at the end.  Which is a shame because he almost had some pathos going for him there.

ocnarf semaj wrote:
In the olden days you were born into it, all decisions made, and you farmed until you died, or cleaned the royal toilets.

I guess they didn't have toilets. Just stuck their asses out and shat in the moat. But someone had to wash out the hole.
As happy as I am that you know the past participle of 'to shit', James, what the fuck.

JF wrote:
He is large, and his weight spreads from his belly across the seat, like it was a plastic sack full of liquid, rolling in layers upon itself.
The simile was sloppy, like many written by actors in a halfhearted attempt to seem d33p.  Also, bolding mine.  Apparently we're in the past now.

In any case, our plucky hero and his sidekick Joe (who continues to suffer a bunch of narrative abuse from the 'protagonist' for no apparent reason) begin to discuss what they would have been, occupationally, 'in olden times'.  Joe seems to think he'd be the king.  The main character (who doesn't have a name, I don't think, and if he does I don't care enough to look it up) disagrees, which leads to this heartwarming exchange:

JF wrote:
"Fuck you, Joe, you're an idiot."

"You're an idiot."

"I know," I say. And I am. I am friends with a slug, and my other friends are pigs and wolves. I never make friends with nice things, just the shit.

"If you were king, I'd kill myself," I say.
The longer their conversation drags on (and lord, does it) the more it resembles the kind of notes I would pass to my friend Liz and I would pass in freshman algebra, but infinitely less clever in its cruelty.  Joe tells him he might as well die, then, because he'd be king, and Liz rolls her eyes even though she's probably never read this story.

JF wrote:
And before I even know it, or can enjoy the new look on Joe's face, like a blubbery peekaboo face, so surprised, because I'm driving us right toward the vague beige shadow-filled wall,
Tell me, James, how is a wall vague?  Few things are less vague than a wall.  Even if you can't decide if it's beige or shadow-color or shadow-filled or some other shit you've shat (see?  I can do it too) onto paper and called literature.

Quote :
and I can only see and hear Joe for a second, a high-pitched thing that cracks for just a second, and for that second
There are times when repetition in literature can be a great boon.

This is not one of them.

Quote :
"Why the fuck did you do that, Manuel?"
Oh, he has a name.  Thanks for waiting until we're a third of the way in to tell us what it is.  I don't like it.  I'm going to call him Me, after what James Franco would say when asked what inspires him.

Quote :
I laugh like crazy, a laughter that bubbles out like popcorn, because he looks so fucking silly, and because my name isn't even close to Manuel, that's his brother's name, his equally stupid older brother.
What why I don't even

I mean fuck, what was the point of that?  On the bright side, Me's nickname is now not only appropriate but completely necessary.

Quote :
Joe just looks at me with that stupid look, covered in flowing blood, going onto his shirt like ketchup randomness, so much messier and more random than I could ever plan.
lol sew randumb XD

Anyway Me drives around with his fucked up car for a while without getting it fixed and he runs into Joe at work and Joe didn't get his tooth fixed, either, because

Quote :
he stopped being mad at me after he figured out he wanted the gap,
Sort of like how she stopped resisting because she wanted it, yeah?  Color me creeped.

Anyway the whole thing has become a funny story the two of them use to pick up chicks or something, and there's a little lamentation about the fact that the car crash didn't 'toss them into a new reality' or something else that makes no sense, and suddenly we're driving down the 280, which I know is a freeway because he tells me so and then things stop making sense for a paragraph:

Quote :
I think about that missing tooth, and that gap, and how there was never a gap in that place before, and about three dimensions, and how the gap was on the inside of his mouth unless he opened his mouth and how things, shapes, folded in on themselves, and four dimensions, and if time is variable, then how do I vary it, and why do I want to? Because everything just focuses in on me and I hate it.
God, it's always me, me, me with you, isn't it Me?  Does your mother know you speak in the third person?

Seriously though 1.) where the fuck did that come from 2.) how is it at all relevant to the story at hand 3.) how do I know your blue is my blue and 4.) is it just me or is Me a complete narcissist?  Seriously, in capable hands this might approach self-honesty or self-reflection or whatever but as we've established, these are not capable hands.  tl;dr Me was toying with unlikability and now it's actually impossible to like the guy.  For me, anyway.

Thank god we capitalize proper nouns, can I just say?

Quote :
"If you were an Egyptian, what would you do?" I ask Joe.

"Don't start this shit again, Michael."

"Remember when you called me Manuel?"

"I never called you Manuel, idiot. I would be pharaoh."

"No, you're too fat. Pharaohs are skinny," I say.
Oh, Me has a name now.

Also I don't know if I've accurately represented this in this snark thus far, but Me really harps on Joe for his weight.  Like, a lot.  Like, I-don't-think-a-paragraph-of-more-than-five-sentences-has-gone-by-without-mention-of-it a lot.  Honestly, I'm not big into the Fat Acceptance Movement or whatever but this pattern has gone from kind of funny to aggravating to offensive to yet another black mark on Franco's writing in less than a page.  Bravo.

Quote :
Joe is Mexican. His skin is an ashy light brown and his lashes are heavier than mine, and he has short fat eyebrows and shit-brown eyes, and thick hair that flops about his fat pumpkin head.

I wish I was Mexican, or Hebrew, I mean Jewish, I mean Israeli, or Mexican Jewish, or Mexican Jewish gay, because it can be so boring being you sometimes, and if you were the most special thing like that, it could be really great, but maybe some people say the same thing about you, and you want to tell those people: "No, you're stupid, it's no fun being me."
The Whitest Whine What Ever Whined

Seriously dude (and I'm not sure, now, if I'm talking to Franco, Me, or both) the fact that you think being in a marginalized group is interesting and special and anything but a sliding scale between a nuisance to an actual danger to your life has everything to do with your own unhappiness.  You're a white straight thin likely-Christian male in America with a full head of hair and straight teeth.  The world is your oyster.

Anyway Joe says that he doesn't like Egyptians because they cut out people's hearts or something and Me seems weirdly into it and now that Joe's Mexican he says 'Homes' a lot.  Then they're waiting for a drug dealer and Me suggests that they sacrifice his heart and then he pulls a foot-long kitchen knife out from under his seat (!) and pushes it up to Joe's stomach but he's wearing one of those puffy jackets so it doesn't stab him or whatever, and Joe, understandably, is freaking the fuck out because he only signed on to buy some weed and not have his life threatened.  And why does Me pull this shit, you ask?  After a long paragraph of pseudo-intellectual drivel about the nature of time (holy shit do I wish I were kidding), Franco offers us this:

Quote :
...or maybe just have a little poking knife game because you want to know if the other person is really there.
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Suddenly we're smoking weed with Hector The Drug Dealer and I'm reminded of every single straight white dude in every creative writing workshop I've ever taken, writing stories about the abuse of mild euphorics and how miserable their life is.  All that's missing is Her.

Quote :
We smoke more and we cough every time.
Noobs.

Quote :
I think about the little dragon that the bong is and I so wish that dragons were real, because it would mean that none of this shit was the end of everything, because even if you were high, this world only let you escape a little bit, it let you escape enough that you knew that there could be something better, but it wouldn't let you into that place; like standing on the cloudy threshold of heaven and seeing something so bright and tantalizing and warmy-womby-feeling but not being able to enter, just feeling the heat a little on your face, and you want to cry and smile, but instead you just stare and you can't do anything.
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Anyway Me says something to Hector about how Joe wanted to kill him with the knife which he has on his person for some reason, and somehow Hector and Me are on the same side now and start laughing at Joe who insists he did no such thing.  Life is great when you're a piece of shit, I guess.

Quote :
"Would you rather be gay or be a girl?"
Oh, no.

Quote :
He chuckles a little. Hector can be cool sometimes. Sometimes he is wise.

"Neither," he says.
Ladies and gentlemen and all those in-between, Me's idea of wisdom.

Quote :
Joe, still looking at the dark dirt, says, "Both of 'em still have to suck dick."

"Exactly," says Hector. And Joe laughs a little, a chuckling pile of trash below me.

"Would that be so bad?" I say. "Don't you ever get jealous of those girls in pornos that get to be on their knees in the middle of all those dicks?"
Okay where the fuck is he going with this

Quote :
"I like to have a girl suck my dick, but I don't want to do it," says Hector.

"Me neither," says Joe, but he is mumbling.

"Why not?" I say. "What's the difference?"

"What's the difference?" says Hector. "Because I am going in, and she is being got inside of."

"And why is one better? Why does going inside make you better? Aren't you like on her turf inside her, isn't she in control of you? Like a mommy with her little baby making him feel good?"

"Because," says Hector. But he doesn't say anything else.
To give credit where it is due, there is a point buried in there, somewhere.  It's just not nearly as profound as he thinks it is.  Actually the fact that he thinks that this is some sort of life-altering realization (that maybe getting fucked doesn't have to be a demeaning thing) says more than the realization itself.

Anyway on the way home me is all 'Let's drive on the wrong side of the road!' because he's high and a crazy, narcissistic motherfucker and this is his story, remember?  Joe mumbles something half-awake in assent and he takes that as the green light.

Quote :
And I think of the olden times, when knights would aim huge lances at each other and you would feel that when it hit you, feel that force of the momentum of the horses' pumping channeled into the lance, and for a second you might know that you were really alive. And a little ways down the freeway there is a gap in the center barrier, and I calmly turn the wheel and cross over.
Well, there you have it.  An amalgam of tired freshman-year-writing-seminar whiny-white-boy cliches compiled into one handy 'what not to do' when writing a short story, sparing only Her, that feckless little lady at the back of every man's mind, and thank god, because we all know what happens when a twentysomething with misplaced sexual rage sets his pen on a female character.

And remember: a MFA student at Columbia wrote this.  He is currently continuing his studies at Yale.

Thank you, James Franco, for proving that money really can't buy everything.
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Mr.Doobie
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PostSubject: Re: Just Before the Black   Sat Jul 13, 2013 2:20 am

Hey, this shit's normal for a college writing class.
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TheHedonist
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PostSubject: Re: Just Before the Black   Sat Jul 13, 2013 2:30 am

Mr.Doobie wrote:
Hey, this shit's normal for a college writing class.
On the graduate level? At Columbia?
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PostSubject: Re: Just Before the Black   Sat Jul 13, 2013 2:41 am

I wouldn't doubt it for a second, honestly.
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TheHedonist
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PostSubject: Re: Just Before the Black   Sat Jul 13, 2013 9:37 am

Mr.Doobie wrote:
I wouldn't doubt it for a second, honestly.
Honestly, I'm not so sure. Most undergraduate writing programs are purposely structured to weed people out as they go. I've seen it happen, at least on the undergraduate level: the weak links drop off slowly until you're left with the cream of the crop, and then only the cream of that crop moves on to grad school.

What I'm saying is, he may have bought his way into a top program but money can't buy talent.
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PostSubject: Re: Just Before the Black   Wed Mar 05, 2014 4:40 pm

Jimmy-Jimmy Eff-Eff wrote:
Joe and I sit and stare at the wall of the building. The building is beige, but the shadows make it shadow-color.

  

My fanfiction slash porn is deeper than this. Could I submit THAT to Columbia?
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