I just got finished with James Francos first fictional offering “Palo Alto“, this afternoon, and I have some thoughts about it that I’d like to share with you.
It’s set out as a series of short stories, each from different characters who live in and around the Palo Alto area in the mid 90s. Some of the characters know each other, others don’t. Some are male and some are female, they’re mostly around high school age and few seem to have many scruples.
Firstly, at the beginning of the book I was struck by how simple it was to read, considering Franco’s boner for Gus Van Sant and being an “artist” and all I was expecting a pretty verbose affair, but the the prose was super readable and the characters immediately intriguing if not intrinsically likeable.
As I progressed through the book it became apparent how massively in love with Easton Ellis, and indeed the entire blank fiction movement he is. The prose is sparse, the characters are mostly misogynists and the interconnectedness of the characters is less like a hipster Tales of the City and more like The Rules of Attraction picked up and planted right in the middle of mid 90s Palo Alto.
The thing was, I couldn’t figure out if I liked it. It was a pretty engrossing read and he’s obviously crazy talented in a myriad of departments, but I don’t know how interested I am in books about horrible teenage boys anymore (No-one here has even a hint of Holden). I think if I was in my early twenties I’d probably love this. And it’s definitely better than anything that Ethan Hawke has written. It’s pretty hard to read this and not imagine Franco’s Freaks & Geeks character as any one of the male protagonists. Although even he would have difficulty making some of these guys likeable.
It reads quite similarly to Nick McDonnell’s “Twelve” but that might just be the disaffected youth thing. All of this being said, it’s one of the simplest things I’ve read recently and I’m glad I did. I like his style, I’d be interested to see a change in subject matter, but I think that might be because I’m 33.