A Summer of Palo Alto by James Franco

Last summer I drove out to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, California to see an on-location taping of ABC’s General Hospital. As a fan of the soap opera for nearly a decade, I was beyond thrilled to be so close to what in-part inspired me to major in Film & Television Studies at the University of Arizona, so meeting the Oscar nominated actor guest starring on the serial seemed like the icing on top. I was hardly expecting to fall for the gorgeously stunning and multi-faceted actor – James Franco. After asking him to sign my resume rather than taking it, a wry smile came over his face and he had me at “okay”. I returned to T-Town a fan for life.

Since my encounter, I’ve kept up with Franco’s career via Twitter and IMDB, and decided when I was completely and utterly free I would read his first book. I start my summer vacation with Palo Alto, a compilation of short stories surrounding the troubled adolescents in Palo Alto, California. Although I’m only halfway into it, I can definitely say there is nothing James Franco can’t do. The newly released paperback, is everything critics are saying about it:

“James Franco’s stories are raw, unsettling and delectable. Each articulates a very American yearning within a dystopic suburban landscape of shifting sexuality, class and race. They are both really scary and fun to read.”–Darcey Steinke, author of Easter Everywhere

“Franco’s talent is unmistakable, his ambition profound. He has taken the twin subjects of suburban Palo Alto and American adolescence and made them as scary and true as they must be. This is a book to be inhaled more than once, with delight and admiration, with unease and pure enjoyment. As a writer, he’s here to stay. —Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan and Super Sad True Love Story

“Spare and riveting — Franco’s ear for juvenile vernacular is like an Ouija board summoning the lost voices of Generation Z. —O, the Oprah Magazine

With an MFA from Columbia University and currently working to complete his PHD at Yale, Franco is much more than a Hollywood actor, host, and director, he is a writer that makes writing look easy and as a creative writing minor myself, writing is hard to make it look easy. James Franco is one of those rare personalities in our entertainment world that decided to apply himself rather than living off his next big film.

Palo Alto is a breath of fresh air into the genre of teenage narratives. It is the world in which one small and trivial action of our age of innocence comes to define the very rest of our life. Each story provides such an original account into the lives of these characters that you find yourself startled by the reality of their existence. You may not have known these types of people that Franco describes, but you know the emotions felt in their peril. If you remember what it was like to be a teenager and that of a young adult, these humorous, but violent and sad works will resonate deep within you as they have within me.

I think on my trip to San Francisco in July, I’ll stop by Palo Alto and get a taste of James Franco’s inspiration.