Connor Franta's "A Work in Progress: A Memoir", book review

Connor Franta's 'A Work in Progress' is now a book trilogy (how does it compare to mine?) So, the work is himself, like Richard Strauss's tone poem 'A Hero's Life', which ends quietly.

West Hollywood, May 2012

I decided to read Connor Franta's A Work in Progress: A Memoir (2015) because it is an autobiographical memoir - and that's it. He has two successor books, 'Note to Self' (April, 2017) and an announcement book 'House Fires' for September 2021. It is a New York Times bestseller from Keywords Press/Atria (Simon and Schuster).

Franta is known as a successful YouTuber, now 28, with over 5 million subscribers. Yes, he can make a living at this and live well in West Hollywood. Yes, he is advertiser friendly and what corporate advertisers of Smart America (Ok, the corporatist, capitalist, elitist but talkative, pseudo-progressive, Wall Street Left likes, that's mainstream culture now, but not woke unless forced to be.)

He started on YouTube in 2012, at the age of 20, then moved to California from his midwestern upbringing in Minnesota (birth in Wisconsin) with a channel called 'Our 2nd Life'. He did not come out publicly as gay until December 2014. His reputation as a financially successful YouTuber today generally is that of a gay YouTuber, but that is not how it started.

The paperback is printed on thick paper, and the book, with (as I count) 51 short chapters, is heavily illustrated with interesting photographs of self, people, scenery, art work.

An early chapter portrays Franta as introducing himself to a stranger as a Vlogger, written in screenplay format, as if the explanation of the business should be a short film. Later he (p. 78) he characterizes himself as introverted because he can reach out to people in public from the privacy of his own home. I certainly know the feeling.

In his upbringing in Minnesota, he was the third of four children, but one brother is older, which, now science says, may be biologically significant. He says he was chubby as a child, but took up swimming to overcome that, and even competed competitively as a teen. He never mentions peaking or shaving (as is common in swimming as a sport). He worked as a lifeguard and on one occasion saved a boy's life when the boy couldn't swim. As an adult, he seems to have been lean and in perfect physical shape wth running. Like many younger gay men living alone or in small households, he seems to have been able to avoid Covid entirely (and that notes a historical irony).

The talks a lot about getting in touch with the creative self, with various monologues. There is a certain similarity between the tone of some of the later chapters of the book, on writing and creating content, to the style of Tyler Mowery's Writer's Mind YouTube series. In a late chapter, he writes the text (including a poem) of one YouTube video in cursive handwritten. He talks about a creative process but it is not that interpersonal (as it is supposed to be with the polarity theory of Paul Rosenfels, as covered elsewhere in my books and blogs).

Now his style and experience are very different from the material in my three 'Do Ask Do Tell' books, to say the least, and he is obviously a lot more popular than I am. I came from a world where, in many circles, homosexuality was a forbidden topic because it was perceived as threatening the ability of heterosexual men to reproduce [especially relevant to my family because I was an only child] and then a world with a military draft, student deferments, and war. I lived much of my adult life before there was an Internet that offers 'freedom of reach'

Since Connor is a half-century younger than I am, his generation will face unprecedented challenges that will probably follow me, like climate change, and future issues with infrastructure (we have a real exposure to solar storms that we don't take seriously) and pandemics. Maybe he could consider doing something about it by running for office in his new home state.

Author: Connor Franta

Title, Subtitle: 'A Work in Progress: A Memoir'

publication date 2015

ISBN 978-1-4767-9161-6 paper (+ ebook)

Publication: Keywords Press/Atria, 51 chapters, 212 pages, paper (strongly recommended for art work and illustrations)

(Posted: Wednesday, June 23, 2021 at 2 PM EDT)