After releasing books examining the lives of spoiled teenagers and struggling actors, James Franco’s newest work of fiction explores the equally universal experience of sleeping with Lindsay Lohan. However, this being James Franco, his short story “Bungalow 89”—penned for Vice’s fiction issue—subverts expectation by being about not sleeping with Lindsay Lohan.
As with everything James Franco writes, “Bungalow 89” blurs the lines between “fiction” and straight recitation of autobiographical fact and names of famous people he knows. (Franco, after all, is always stranger than fiction.) Delivered in a stream-of-consciousness-and-IMDb-credits style, “Bungalow 89” features all of Franco’s established literary leitmotifs—James Franco, references to Rebel Without A Cause and River Phoenix, James Franco, asides about directors he’s worked with, James Franco, asides about revered American authors he’s read, James Franco—and folds them into a lengthy explanation of how he totally could have slept with Lindsay Lohan but didn’t.
It’s a story he told before in an interview with Howard Stern, where Franco refuted the leak of Lohan’s alleged “Sex List” by saying he’d turned her down at the Chateau Marmont, after recognizing that she was “troubled.” But while troubled actresses don’t make for good Franco sexual partners, they make for ideal protagonists in Franco’s short stories—and so Franco wrote a “fictionalized” version of their encounter, giving her the clever roman à clef name of “Lindsay Lohan.”
My phone rang. She let it ring until I answered.
“You’re not going to let me sleep, are you?”
“Do you think this is me? Lindsay Lohan. Say it. Say it, like you have ownership. It’s not my name anymore.”
“I just want to sleep on your couch. I’m lonely.”
“We’re not going to have sex. If you want to come in, I’ll read you a story.”
“A bedtime story?”
“It’s called ‘A Perfect Day for Bananafish.’”
Do you think I’ve created this? This dragon girl, lion girl, Hollywood hellion, terror of Sunset Boulevard, minor in the clubs, Chateau Demon? Do you think this is me?
Answering a question no one was actually asking, as is his wont, Franco then confirms that no one actually thinks he created this Lindsay Lohan by proceeding to spell out that it’s the Lindsay Lohan—the one who “was famous because she was a talented child actress, and now she’s famous because she gets into trouble.” Apart from these redundantly rehashed biographical details, Franco also shares an anecdote she “told” him about the after-party for A Prairie Home Companion, where Lohan “took two Oxycontins” and tried to fuck James Franco in the bathroom. However, “He didn’t fuck me, that shit…,” Franco imagines and/or transcribes Lohan as saying. “I fucked one of the Greeks instead: a big-schnozzed, big-dicked, drunk motherfucker. We did it in the bath. That was the best night of my life.”
But just as his tale risks treading the pedestrian waters of stories about people having sex with Lindsay Lohan, Franco once again demurs, preferring to engage in a far more characteristic dry-humping of academic pretension.
Once upon a time a guy, a Hollywood guy, read some Salinger to a young woman who hadn’t read him before. Let’s call this girl Lindsay. She was a Hollywood girl, but a damaged one. I knew that she would like Salinger, because most young women do. I read her two of the Nine Stories, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” and “For Esmé—with Love and Squalor.” “Bananafish” was great because it has a nagging mother on the other end of the phone line, nothing like Lindsay’s real mother, but still, the mother-daughter thing was good for her to hear. And there’s the little girl in the story, Sibyl, and the pale suicide, Seymour, who kisses her foot and talks about bananafish with her, those fantastic phallic fish who stick their heads in holes and gorge themselves—it should be called “A Perfect Day for Dickfish”—and then, bam, he shoots himself.
Then I read “For Esmé,” which is basically the same story as “A Perfect Day for Dickfish.” A man goes to war. He is traumatized. Then he is saved by the innocence of a young girl. The structure of this story is very nice. Yes, stories, stories, stories, stories. S-t-o-r-i-e-s.
Yes, stories, stories, stories, stories, s-t-o-r-i-e-s about James Franco not having sex with Lindsay Lohan. Stories ending with one final, repeated declaration that, one time when he was staying at the Chateau and Lindsay Lohan snuck into his room at 3 a.m., so “instead of fucking her, I read her a short story about a neglected daughter.” For anyone else, this would be story enough. But for James Franco, Lohan is but the Proustian madeleine that inspires James Franco to ruminate on the nature of celebrity, just like any other object that Franco may or may not have had sex with.