Palo Alto

James Franco, Scribner, $24 (208p) ISBN 978-1-4391-6314-6
Given that Franco could have opted to coast by on movie star mystique, the decision to write about the suburb of his upbringing is intriguing. But the author fails to find anything remotely insightful to say in these 11 amazingly underwhelming stories. The privileged, borderline sociopathic eighth-grade consciousness into which stories like "Killing Animals" and "Tar Baby" consign us is saturated in first-wave Nintendo games and an egregiously gleeful dosage of homophobia and puerile race-baiting that is exhausting, even in a collection where the average story is 10 pages long. Still, tales like "Camp" and the above-average "American History" manage to successfully construe bad-kid amorality as authenticity, which is more than can be said of "I Could Kill Someone," one of several stories that reads like Patrick Bateman from American Psycho fell into a Catcher in the Rye remix, or the colossal misfire that constitutes "Emily," written from the point of view of a teenage girl who performs carnal acts on every page. The overall failure of this collection has nothing to do with its side project status and everything to do with its inability to grasp the same lesson lost on its gallery of high school reprobates: there is more to life than this. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/30/2010
Release date: 10/01/2010
Ebook - 208 pages - 978-1-4391-7572-9
Paperback - 213 pages - 978-0-571-27318-8
Paperback - 213 pages - 978-1-4391-6315-3
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4423-3974-3
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-1-4767-7838-9
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