By James Franco
(Scribner, Hardcover, 9781439163146, 208pp.)
Publication Date: October 19, 2010
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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.
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.
James Franco doesn't just spend his time acting in the movies. The star of Milk, Howl and 127 Hours is also an accomplished writer and graduate student. He explains how he juggles his many roles â?? and why he continues to take on new challenges. More at NPR.org
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?eoeJames Franco?e(TM)s California teenagers are too old for camp, but not too young for guns (a boy riding his bike to pick up a gun says, ?e~I rode fast and the air on my face was like riding through cold ghosts?e(TM)).? The casual cruelty of children escalates as kids strike out against everything that is more powerful than they are.? It?e(TM)s the harsh humor that surprises in these stories?e"that and the observations that show James Franco to be an original and simpatico voice finely tuned to the territory.? These quotable, unsettling stories stay with you; they seem to change the ions in a room.?e --Amy Hempel
"James Franco's stories are raw, unsettling and delectable. Each articulates a very American yearning within a dystopic suburban landscape of shifting sexuality, class and race. They are both really scary and fun to read.?e --Darcey Steinke, author of Easter Everywhere
"Franco's talent is unmistakable, his ambition profound. He has taken the twin subjects of suburban Palo Alto and American adolescence and made them as scary and true as they must be. This is a book to be inhaled more than once, with delight and admiration, with unease and pure enjoyment. As a writer, he's here to stay."?e"Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan and Super Sad True Love Story
?eoeJames Franco?e(TM)s chilling stories seem too true for comfort. The characters in Palo Alto navigate off a moral compass so smashed they bruise everything they touch. Franco?e(TM)s intense artistry swarms all over this gripping book. Think Bret Easton Ellis, Dennis Cooper, Kathy Acker.? Or better yet, just think James Franco.?e ?e"Ben Marcus, author of Notable American Women
?eoeJames Franco is a writer of skill and sensitivity whose depiction of cruelty and neglect, of amusement and loneliness, of longing and being lost--of the pains and chaos of adolescence--is original and impressive. He manages to depict the numbingly stupid and dangerous behavior of teenagers and make it amazingly amusing then suddenly deeply sad.?e --Susan Minot, author of Rapture
?eoeThese rough messages torn from the notebook of angry youth just make us want to ask James Franco to say it ain?e(TM)t so. These angular stories read like dispatches from the edge of civilization: all the young people hurting and denying it, denying connection, denying their hope for anything but tonight, the next thing.? James Franco does not blink as he offers us these stories -- and it is hard for us to look away.?e ?e"Ron Carlson, author of The Signal
?eoeThe stories are raw and funny-sad, and they capture with perfect pitch the impossible exhilaration, the inevitable downbeat-ness, and the pure confusion of being an adolescent.?e ?e"Elle
?eoeSpare and riveting?e? Franco?e(TM)s ear for juvenile vernacular is like an Ouija board summoning the lost voices of Generation Z.?e ?e"O, the Oprah Magazine
?eoeFranco?e(TM)s stories are impressive: crisp, spare, depressing?e?. A collection of beautifully written stories.?e ?e"Kirkus, starred review
"[Franco] makes the difficult appear simple, which only a good writer can do.?e ?e"Booklist
"Compelling and gutsy.?e ?e"Meghan O?e(TM)Grady, Vogue
?eoeRigorously unsentimental and fabulously dark.?e ?e"Michael Cunningham
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For its 10th anniversary, the festival celebrates those who have dared to stand ‘on the edge,’ risking their careers, and sometimes their lives, to speak out for their art and beliefs. Join us for a wide range of events, including debates, one-on-one conversations, participatory workshops and performances in venues throughout the city. Use the code PEN14 (use PEN2014 for events at The Public Theater) and receive a 20 percent discount on most events. www.worldvoicesfestival.org