James Franco - Palo Alto
Violence, inappropriate sexual behaviour and a death leave reader despairingly apathetic
Currently starring in Danny Boyle’s new movie and set to co-host next month’s Oscars ceremony with the no-doubt delightful Anne Hathaway, James Franco is hot stuff right now. Without those two filmy gigs, though, it’s unlikely that his literary career alone would be bringing him quite the same number of column inches. He may have surrounded himself with credible authorly pals (Michael Cunningham says he taught Franco everything he knew while a comedy trailer for Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story featured Franco merrily spoofing it up) but the end result of his debut is as bland as it gets.
In the titular Californian city, a bunch of teens (both male and female) play out their adolescent traumas, doubts and fears to an early-90s backdrop. There’s a lot of violence, inappropriate sexual behaviour and, ultimately, a death or two which leave the reader despairingly apathetic. A prevailing uncertainty about everything his characters do is reflected in the hesitant and flat prose on the page.