Book Review: Palo Alto by James Franco

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Golden Globe winning, James Franco, has made strong strides to distinguish himself as not only an actor but filmmaker, producer, screenwriter and artist. Upon the mid-October 2010 release of his collection of short stories titled Palo Alto, he added writer to his winding resume. Franco has popped up in the most interesting of scenes and circles within the past few years, strategically differentiating himself from the A-list Hollywood glitterati. His mysterious attempt at multi-faceted artistry put his newly released novel at the top of my Christmas list this year.

Despite poor reviews from literary critics, that lent no leniency for the Spiderman actor, I wanted to make my own assessment. His eleven short stories intertwine characters and plots set in his hometown of Palo Alto, California. The teenage characters have a consistent voice that stay true to their evolving adolescence. His approach to themes of violence and race are gloomy and pessimistic, yet authentic to the suburban teenage psyche. There isn’t a trace of self-imposition into any of his stories yet the development of his wordplay is left to be desired. While, Franco may not possess the expressive capacity of contemporary writers like Mary Karr, Palo Alto is a sufficient first step into the fiery throws of the literary world.

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