Actors Anonymous

James Franco. New Harvest, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-0-544-11453-1
Franco’s debut novel, following his short story collection Palo Alto, is an assemblage of chapters whose organizing factor is a parody of the Alcoholics Anonymous manual Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. Each chapter is headed by a step or a tradition, such as step three: “Turned our will and our ‘performances’ over to the Great Director.” Some chapters are first-person narratives, ostensibly by different narrators, though it’s hard not to think of the author as the sole narrator, since the tone and voice of each is identical to the others—flat, Bukowskian recitations of acting classes taken, sex had, and drugs done. Elsewhere, readers encounter uninspired maunderings about the nature of acting: “Kazan said actors acquire the look of waxed fruit.” The chapter headed “Step 4: Made a fearless and searching moral inventory of our ‘character’ ” is composed of sophomoric poems about River Phoenix. At one point, a narrator named James receives a note from a professor that says, “Stop writing.” Another chapter includes the pronouncement, “Writing sells mass produced objects.” This mass-produced object will likely appeal only to Franco’s most devoted fans, but you can’t fault a guy for trying. Agent: Richard Abate, 3 Arts Entertainment. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/19/2013
Release date: 10/15/2013
Genre: Fiction
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