Palo Alto by: James Franco

by - Monday, November 12, 2012

Title: Palo Alto 

Author: James Franco

Publisher: Faber & Faber
Format: Paperback
Pages: 214

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.

My thoughts:

I'm sure by now everyone knows that James Franco is a big bookworm. What most people don't know is that he has published a book called Palo Alto. Or, they've just not bothered to pick it up thinking, "I'll get to that later."

Well, I did finally get to it. It's a collection of short stories that are linked to one another one way or the other. They explore the lives of a group of rather depressed teenagers who live in Palo Alto, California.

As I was reading, my mind kept going to Bret Easton Ellis' "Less Than Zero." I think the two books have a lot in common. In both of them, the characters are young, careless and immoral. The one difference was me feeling like Franco tried too hard to create his characters. He overdid some parts, which I guess were done on purpose, but they also just disappear into the rest of the stories.

I didn't hate the book, but I didn't gain anything from reading it either. I feel like he put together what he wrote for his writing classes in college. I wasn't sure whether he revised anything using the notes his professors must have given him.

Lastly, I'd like to point out that one of his professors is Michael Cunningham, and I'm extremely jealous.

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