JC's Reviews > Palo Alto

Palo Alto by James Franco
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Sep 19, 12

bookshelves: adolescence, american-literature, friendship, nostalgia, short-stories, united-states
Read from September 18 to 19, 2012

I think I liked the idea of James Franco writing a book more than I like it in practice. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of promise in his writing and a couple of these stories are really quite wonderful, but so many of them were more of the same. On the one hand, we could say that this is the point: that these teenagers are circling around their neighbourhoods, drinking and smoking, because it is always just more of the same for them, and they are seeking something new...but I'm disinclined to rescue those stories in that way.

The first half of the short story cycle, "Palo Alto I", is the stronger section. The stories, while still interlinked, felt more discrete and complete. The second half, "Palo Alto II", feels like Franco wanted to write a novella about Teddy, the hapless character who seems to reappear and dominate most frequently, but didn't know how. In terms of characters, they are fairly uniformly awful, which is to be expected in a book about teenagers; I have a healthy fear of teenagers, which I think stems from the traumatic experience of having been one. (One little kick I did get out of it, however, was nostalgic, remembering what it was like to grow up in the 90s, albeit in Australian suburbia rather than a university town in California.)

There is not a lot of evidence in here for the James Franco Is A Feminist case file that I know many a thinking woman tries to build on bored Friday nights with a bottle of wine (bitch, please: scribbling all over the The Dangerous Book for Boys does not a feminist artist make), even if there is a small conversation toward the end of the final story that tries to interrogate the perceived power relations of a blowjob.

To conclude, it's just a bit hit and miss, but I would be really interested to see what Franco would do with a novel. And I'm still really pissed at him as an actor for being in that god-awful Eat, Pray, Love movie. (As Judith Lucy says, I'd rather smoke, drink, pass out - conveniently the title of her next book.)
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