Palo Alto: Stories by James Franco

Despite having recently lost my ability to read anything with a discernible plot (or written by a man, for that matter), I read and enjoyed James Franco’s first selection of shorts stories, entitled, Palo Alto: Stories. And, it was good. I mean, everyone’s reading it and wondering if they’re just reading it because he’s famous, and while that might be the case, the writing holds its own. He tips his hat to his teachers, and I so hope that he workshopped this stuff like the rest of us.

While it’s got a major publisher, it feels independent. Ideally, this is the sort of text that could help bridge the gap between big conglomerate publishers and small independent presses. I don’t really think capitalism or consumerism work that way, but as a reader, I cannot tell you how badly I want to read more of this kind of work.

Anyway, these are small, plot-driven stories. They are careful and conceptually rich. While I’ll admit I wasn’t too eager to spend a lot of time with teenaged-boys or high school, I think some of the territory Franco covers is important, even necessary. The first story, “Halloween,” is really so good. It’s one that has stuck with me for the past few days. It’s one I’ll remember.

I’ve been a fan of Franco’s since his Freaks and Geeks years (or rather, when I watched it on DVD several years after the fact), but even still, I’ve been a fan, and I’m glad to see his genuine success in writing.

As you know, I read George Saunders this summer, and I actually thought Franco’s work could be categorized with Saunders. Franco’s work is much more accessible, mind you, but it is somewhat indicative of the real made strangely dystopic that is happening in contemporary male writing these days, and it’s satisfying to see that aesthetic emerge culturally.

Also, and more importantly, is it just me, or do the pages smell vaguely of cologne?

palo alto

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