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1 Burnside Literature- A to Z

Palo Alto: Stories

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Palo Alto: Stories Cover

ISBN13: 9781439163146
ISBN10: 1439163146
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Review-A-Day

"Franco, of course, is a popular and well-regarded screen actor; the fact of his authorship is nominally irrelevant but nonetheless sits there, mute and surly, daring you to ignore it. There is no rule that says handsome young movie stars cannot also be gifted writers, but Franco's celebrity hangs like an unspoken rebuke over every word of Palo Alto." Michael Lindgren, Washington Post Book World (Read the entire Washington Post review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A fiercely vivid collection of stories about troubled California teenagers and misfits--violent and harrowing, from the astonishingly talented actor and artist James Franco.

Palo Alto is the debut of a surprising and powerful new literary voice. Written with an immediate sense of place--claustrophobic and ominous--James Franco's collection traces the lives of an extended group of teenagers as they experiment with vices of all kinds, struggle with their families and one another, and succumb to self-destructive, often heartless nihilism. In "Lockheed" a young woman's summer--spent working a dull internship--is suddenly upended by a spectacular incident of violence at a house party.  In "American History" a high school freshman attempts to impress a girl during a classroom skit with a realistic portrayal of a slave owner—only to have his feigned bigotry avenged. In "I Could Kill Someone," a lonely teenager buys a gun with the aim of killing his high school tormentor, but begins to wonder about his bully's own inner life.

These linked stories, stark, vivid, and disturbing, are a compelling portrait of lives on the rough fringes of youth.

Review:

"Given that Franco could have opted to coast by on movie star mystique, the decision to write about the suburb of his upbringing is intriguing. But the author fails to find anything remotely insightful to say in these 11 amazingly underwhelming stories. The privileged, borderline sociopathic eighth-grade consciousness into which stories like 'Killing Animals' and 'Tar Baby' consign us is saturated in first-wave Nintendo games and an egregiously gleeful dosage of homophobia and puerile race-baiting that is exhausting, even in a collection where the average story is 10 pages long. Still, tales like 'Camp' and the above-average 'American History' manage to successfully construe bad-kid amorality as authenticity, which is more than can be said of 'I Could Kill Someone,' one of several stories that reads like Patrick Bateman from American Psycho fell into a Catcher in the Rye remix, or the colossal misfire that constitutes 'Emily,' written from the point of view of a teenage girl who performs carnal acts on every page. The overall failure of this collection has nothing to do with its side project status and everything to do with its inability to grasp the same lesson lost on its gallery of high school reprobates: there is more to life than this. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)

Synopsis:

This fiercely vivid collection of stories about troubled California teenagers and misfits--violent and harrowing--is by the astonishingly talented actor and artist Franco ("Pineapple Express, Milk").

About the Author

James Franco is an acclaimed actor, director, artist, and writer. His film appearances include "127 Hours," "Howl," "Milk," "Pineapple Express,"  and the "Spider-Man" trilogy. On television, he starred in the critically acclaimed series "Freaks and Geeks." Franco has written and directed several short films, and his visual art was featured in a solo show at the Clocktower Gallery in New York. His writing has appeared in Esquire, the Wall Street Journal, McSweeney's, and other publications. Franco has an MFA in creative writing from Brooklyn College, and is enrolled in the PhD program in literature at Yale University.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 4 comments:

William Kennedy, October 20, 2010 (view all comments by William Kennedy)
I'm frankly shocked by the positive reviews I've seen for this collection of stories by James Franco. I was hoping to avoid making the obvious statement, but I feel there's no way around it - this book never would have seen the light of day if Franco was not an actor.

I don't know much about acting, but I realize it involves inhabiting the psyche of a single person for the duration of a film. Writing however, involves probing the minds of multiple characters and keeping track of their personalities and the stories in which they are a part of. Franco may be a competent actor, but he is no writer.

These stories, averaging ten pages each, constitute some of the worst writing I've ever had the displeasure to read. Not only are they bad, they are offensive in almost every regard. If you are going to subject your audience to teenagers engaged in horrific and senseless sexual behavior and acts of violence, you better have some damn good prose to make it all seem surreal.

Franco writes in a pseudo-minimalist style that is trying to be some sort of Denis Johnson/Raymond Carver hybrid, but acheives neither. Johnson is incredibly poetic and incisive while creating characters we actually care about. Franco's bunch of denegenerates have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. They are lost and hopeless, but unfortunately they are never tragic. Tragic would imply that these people are aware of how lost they are.

Take any Carver story and look at the emotion evoked by these poor wretched people just barely scraping by. This is because Carver cares about his characters, he wants to see them do what's right even though he knows they won't.

I went into this book with an open mind. I wanted to like it. I was hoping that Franco would impress me. I walked away disgusted and disappointed. If I may be so bold, he seems enamored by the "literary author" image, but lacks the chops to fully inhabit it.

Ammendment:
These quotes from other recognized literary authors sound like they've been paid to drool all over Franco's book. Who gives blurbs like these unless you've gotten money to sound this enraptured?

"Franco's talent is unmistakable, his ambition profound." "This is a book to be inhaled more than once, with delight and admiration."
--Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan and Super Sad True Love Story

"Franco's intense artistry swarms all over this gripping book"
--Ben Marcus, author of Notable American Women

Intense artistry? Profound ambition?

Okay...now everyone bow down to Hollywood...all together now.
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(1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
Sal E, October 19, 2010 (view all comments by Sal E)
Palo Alto is not a Southern California town, nor is Franco a pretty-faced actor. He's closer to a tobacco-stained, prematurely-wrinkled, I-think-I'm-cute-smirking, diminutive actor. Liked him in "Jammies," though.
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(1 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)
kyp, October 6, 2010 (view all comments by kyp)
Sarah, sweetheart, Palo Alto isn't in Southern California. It's a Bay Area city, smack in the middle of Silicon Valley, right next to Stanford University.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781439163146
Subtitle:
Stories
Author:
Franco, James
Publisher:
Scribner
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Short Stories (single author)
Subject:
Coming of age
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
James Franco, Palo Alto, California, teenagers, stories, misfits, Tribeca Films, Emma Roberts, Nat Wolff, Jack Kilmer, Actors Anonymous, The Silver Lining Playbook, Esquire, high school
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Hardback
Publication Date:
20101019
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
208
Dimensions:
8.4375 x 5.5 in

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Related Subjects


Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Coming of Age

Palo Alto: Stories Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$8.95 In Stock
Product details 208 pages Scribner Book Company - English 9781439163146 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Given that Franco could have opted to coast by on movie star mystique, the decision to write about the suburb of his upbringing is intriguing. But the author fails to find anything remotely insightful to say in these 11 amazingly underwhelming stories. The privileged, borderline sociopathic eighth-grade consciousness into which stories like 'Killing Animals' and 'Tar Baby' consign us is saturated in first-wave Nintendo games and an egregiously gleeful dosage of homophobia and puerile race-baiting that is exhausting, even in a collection where the average story is 10 pages long. Still, tales like 'Camp' and the above-average 'American History' manage to successfully construe bad-kid amorality as authenticity, which is more than can be said of 'I Could Kill Someone,' one of several stories that reads like Patrick Bateman from American Psycho fell into a Catcher in the Rye remix, or the colossal misfire that constitutes 'Emily,' written from the point of view of a teenage girl who performs carnal acts on every page. The overall failure of this collection has nothing to do with its side project status and everything to do with its inability to grasp the same lesson lost on its gallery of high school reprobates: there is more to life than this. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Review A Day" by , "Franco, of course, is a popular and well-regarded screen actor; the fact of his authorship is nominally irrelevant but nonetheless sits there, mute and surly, daring you to ignore it. There is no rule that says handsome young movie stars cannot also be gifted writers, but Franco's celebrity hangs like an unspoken rebuke over every word of Palo Alto." (Read the entire Washington Post review)
"Synopsis" by , This fiercely vivid collection of stories about troubled California teenagers and misfits--violent and harrowing--is by the astonishingly talented actor and artist Franco ("Pineapple Express, Milk").
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