Finding Spiritual Enlightenment with James Franco

Palo Alto James Franco

The majestic beauty that is James Franco’s unscathed scruffy mind, fixated on rape jokes involving Seth Rogen, love triangles involving Seth Rogen and literature that should have involved Seth Rogen, has reared a questionable head. Palo Alto, published in 2010, is a collection of short stories written by an individual who has not yet fully comprehended his potential success as a Tresemme model. This novel, as he calls it, is a sad representation of this squinty eyed starlet, who accurately depicted the tragic happenings of James Dean’s life in the work of cinema “James Dean.” That’s not to say that all the short stories featured in this classy, woven bounded pile of papers are terrible. His wit and humorous anecdotes give the reader a second hand high, thus welcoming you to the Franco nation.

The first short story that helps the audience climb through an ajar window into Franco’s sticky mind is called Halloween. Straight up, this story hit me right in the liver. The first paragraph mentions excessive amounts of drinking, pulling underage readers into the land of the unknown/known depending on how you like your Four Loko. Franco begins with a dramatic opening line, “Ten years ago, my sophomore year of high school I killed a woman on Halloween,” allowing the reader to unwillingly slip into a state of utter seriousness, something that one does not immediately expect from Franco. He then begins to work backwards, digressing from the obscure statement and arriving at a description of a keg party with colorful alcoholic punch, curveball. The character that Franco creates is a stereotypical teenager depicted in every wanna-be-angsty-novel; let’s categorize it as a ‘Holden Caulfield’ type. His parents are well off both economically and intellectually, and the main character’s need to rebel is transcendent. The character moves on from smoking alcohol to drinking weed, a transition which is both figurative and literal as they move outdoors, tobacco pipe in hand. Thus far, this novel seems to depict Franco’s actual life to the last few ounces of “extra Jonah” on Jonah Hill’s stomach (this means it depicts his life with precision, for all of those who do not understand what I don’t understand what I’m saying). There’s one line a few pages into the short story that is really profound and mind flustering. It reads as follows, “Ed was half Korean and half white because his mother was Korean and his dad was white from Gary, Indiana.” His dad was white from Gary, Indiana huh, but what about his mom, where was she from? You can’t leave out important details like this Franco, you just unraveled any plot that you had going. But maybe that’s exactly what Franco is trying to do: create a narrative that stays true to the character depicting the sequence of events- a teenager who has hit the trifecta of sadness (angsty, high and drunk). If that is the case, fedoras off to you, sir. However, any form of analysis can make terrible writing seem exceptional and so deep that one could drown (literary references are fun, let me explain this one though. Drown is a novel by Junot Diaz that Franco said he drew inspiration from for some of his stories. Now we’re all caught up).

Let’s blow the spectrum of literary literature into a few more shattered pieces. Another short story called American History is quite compelling. It attacks racial issues, teenage issues and Franco’s deep seated psychological issues which developed from an overly loving family (if I had to put my Freud glasses on). This story follows the narrator, another teenager, who has been asked to vocalize the opinions of slave state and deliver a well-constructed argument in favor of slavery. The way Franco approaches the subject is a bit touchy, but also amazing. I still cannot tell whether it’s funny because it’s so incredibly terrible or because it has genuine tid bits of “haha’s.” Either way, I’m still thinking about it, which means that it’s captivating and that I should find a hobby not involving James Franco and Google Search. Franco name-drops throughout the book; more than anyone really should. I understand referential humor, but it’s as if he believes that his novel will receive some sort of merit if he shows that he is a learned individual who reads books by Oscar Wilde; “Hey, my book was supposed to do what this author did with his book, sorry I can’t do it but I meant to and that’s what matters, right? There’s no difference. Love you, buy my book, I was the green lanterns son.” This whole story takes on a 1950’s mentality about race but does not manage to tackle any core issue or discuss radical values. “Palo Alto” is to “Catcher in the Rye” as “Da Great Gatsby” is to “The Great Gatsby.”

There are a variety of different stories incorporated in Palo Alto that all follow a central theme of growth, depression, self-discovery and trouble; astounding. This novel is not the worst piece of literature I have ever skimmed through. However it does have moments where the reader falls into a pit of despair over the realization that “JFrancizlle” wrote it. It’s not even that bad. But then again, the world, or rather the few thousand people that actually pay money to buy a copy of this book to review it, have certain expectations of such a talented, pretty boy, actor. His need to understand the youth is a marketing gimmick. He needs to secure his position as a male heartthrob for every teenage boy and girl out there. Or it’s just another thing he can add to his resume under getting rejected by Harvard. I honestly love James Edward Franco, I even took the time to Google his full name. Next, I want him to publish a copy of Dave Franco’s diary and turn it into a motion picture starring Danny McBride’s dreadlocks.

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