Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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)
"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
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.