James Franco, made his debut as an actor almost fifteen years ago but got famous for his role of Harry Osborn in Spider-Man trilogy. Three years, back, he made his literary debut with a collection of short stories called PALO ALTO, set among the Californian streets where Franco spent his own childhood.
This collection is a fiercely vivid collection of stories about troubled California teenagers and misfits, violent and harrowing. The book is made up of snapshots of life in Palo Alto as experienced and each story is told by a young narrator, felonious teenager who spend most of his/her time drink-driving, taking drugs, obsessing over sex and indulging in random acts of violence.
In this collection, the first two stories Halloween and Lockheed are based have similar themes of hit-and-run accidents as the main drive behind them. But both of the stories are completely different and evoke completely different emotions and that shows Franco has his way around a sentence. One story called Chinatown, about a teenage boy’s relationship with a half Vietnamese girl, who woos the girl, takes her virginity and then somehow ends up pimping her out. This will attract a perpetual doubt about the kind of the work, “Would this have been released if it wasn’t a famous person?” In response to that I would say, yes. Why not? if the writing is good. Why is the person has to be celebrity? Does the fame of a person matters most? How about the quality of reading? When publishing his debut novel, a famous personality is on the same level as the hundreds of other writers and I read this book considering Franco as debut writer, not a famous actor.
His writing is quite fleet and penetrating. I often felt that I am reading Haruki Murakami’s Rat Chronicles first two books, all over again. Surreal but Franco’s stories are a bit more linear, on the same pace and somewhat in the same range. But unlike Murakami, Franco failed to attract my attention for a long time, and while reading the book there came a point where I wanted it to finish as soon as possible because after that point both the stories and the characters become monotonous as there was not much difference between the characters’ voices.
This book is not for everyone but there are a lot of things go through in the reality of teenagers, nowadays and this book prompt those difficult emotions.
3 out of 5!