James Franco’s story collection traces the lives of a 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 with a realistic portrayal of a slave owner during a classroom skit—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 “spare and riveting” (O, The Oprah Magazine) stories are a compelling portrait of lives on the rough fringes of youth. Palo Alto is, “a collection of beautifully written stories” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) that “capture with perfect pitch the impossible exhilaration, the inevitable downbeatness, and the pure confusion of being an adolescent” (Elle).
Features a bonus essay by James Franco on Gia Coppola's film adaptation.
I'm a nocturnal creature,
And I'm here to cheat time.
You can see time and exhaustion
Taking pay from my face—
In fifty years
My sleep will be death,
I'll go like the rest,
But I'll have played
All the games and all the roles.
"There's never been a book quite like this. Hollywood—fame, celebrity, the promise of becoming an artist—is the beast at its center. Franco knows it like Melville knows whaling. Hollywood in this book devours its young. Obsessed with myths about its own past, it can be survived only by finding a vantage point that is not Hollywood. Bold yet subtle, fearless yet disarming, Franco has made a book you will never forget." —Frank Bidart
"A star-studded cast moves like ghosts across the screen of James Franco's poetic consciousness, imbuing the writing with scenes of icons who are also humans replete with sorrow and presence in our own psyches. James Dean, Monica Vitti, Catherine Deneuve, Sal Mineo, Heath Ledger, pass and fade. The author has a wonderful, self-reflexive insouciance about his own fame and roles inhabited, from Hart Crane to Allen Ginsberg to Harvey Milk's lover. Franco is a gifted contemporary Renaissance kind of guy, surveying the waterfront of illusion, suffering, and impermanance. We leave the movie theater a little wiser." —Anne Waldman