Read: James Franco, ‘Just Before The Black’


James Francofilm star, soap opera actor, Gucci spokesmodel and more — has published a short story titled Just Before the Black in the new issue of Esquire magazine — described as a “story about how it’s only right before you die that you know you’re living” … which you can read online in FULL. Here is part 1 of Franco’s tale for your reading pleasure:

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 sit here because it’s dark here, and there are no lights outside this building. We’re stopped for no reason except that the night is still going and we’re drunk, and who wants to go home, ever, and this spot is as good as any to just sit in the shadows and let life slow.

My window is cracked, just a bit, and the air plays on my forehead like a cold whisper.

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. What an adventure lies behind one quick turn of the steering wheel. A great screaming, and then, slip away.

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

Joe smokes. His window is all the way down, and he breathes his smoke out the black gaping gap.

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. 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.

“If you lived in the olden times, what would you do?” I ask Joe.

Joe has to think about it. 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.

“Which olden times?” he asks, and it’s like a boar’s grunt, a deep thing, from the thick part of his throat.

“Like, King Arthur, with knights and horses.”

Fatass thinks. I can hear it, rust-worn gears flaking and groaning slowly into motion, even smell it, yellow smoke emanating from his skull.

“I’d be the king,” he says.

“You can’t be the king,” I say. “No one is king. That’s like winning the lottery.”

“If I went back, I’d be king. And I’d fuck every virgin in the kingdom.”

“You can’t be king, asshole. You can’t even be duke. The fact that you even said that shows you’re not royalty. You’re a peasant.”

“Whenever people time-travel, they go back and they are friends with the king, or they are the king.”

“Because those are stories. When people tell stories, they’re always about the king, it’s Aristotle crap. But it’s not real.”

“Neither is time travel.”

The story continues HERE at Esquire’s site where you can read the entire tale in full. It turns out that Franco is planning the release of his first collection of short stories this October. The collection will be titled Palo Alto and will be published by Scribner (you can preorder the book HERE). It would seem that James Franco has many talents … but do you think writing is one of them? Read the story (or just this excerpt) and let me know what you think. Does Franco have a future in publishing?


  • Actually, I kind of liked it so far. I can picture James Franco saying those things and thinking about Joe’s fat bell and calling him a fatass in his head haha. I can’t wait to get time to read the rest.

  • All right, so I actually just said screw it and read the whole thing. It sort of reminded me of Nick McDonell’s “Twelve.” Not exactly the story itself, but the way he was writing and phrasing things. I guess that’s to be expected, James Franco and Nick McDonell are around the same age. I liked it, it really got into Michael’s head and let you know what he was thinking. I also liked the little question games he played through out it. That’s something I do a lot with my friends. Though, I don’t think I’m unstable.

  • krissy

    I think this is really well written. Very descriptive, I could totally see his visuals in my head. He really sets a mood.

  • Robin

    Eh, I think it’s ok. Pretty decent even. I do not think we have the next Hemenway. Is it significantly worse than other stuff that’s being published? No. Do I think it helped that he was famous to find a publisher? Yes.

    At least, as far as celebrity writers go, this is a hellova lot better than that crap Ryan Reynolds was writing for the Huffington Post.

  • Shawn

    loved it…haunting

  • thisgirl

    Actually, I don’t know that being famous has all that much to do with it. He is currently attending (very short residency requirements) one of the most prestigious writing programs in the country and you don’t just get in there because you’re “somebody”. I think his writing shows promise and I’m interested in seeing more.

  • Tiffany Jones

    Not bad, I actually read the it top to bottom and am quite impressed because I didn’t think I would like it.

  • krissy

    ..and goodness he looks hot in that photo!

  • virtualdespot

    LOL @ “I do not think we have the next Hemenway”. Yogi Berra could not have said it better.

  • Stephanie

    Kiddo’s enamoured of Holden Caulfield.

  • jay

    it was okay… i think he tried too hard though.
    he uses “and” too much.
    “gaping gap.” and “shadow colour”? he’s gorgeous though.

  • Just…really not good. “ketchup randomness”? For the sake of the literature industry, I pray he was writing in some some sort of character. And there were just too many gratuitous commas. :(

  • tess

    I think that the flaws that others have pointed out, while still very valid opinions, are what makes his writing unique. Many can write in the style that is most common with modern writing, but it’s much less common to find less embellished styles such as Franco’s. I find it raw and descriptive. Everyone’s opinion will differ but mine is that it’s a refreshing style and an enjoyable read :)