Freaks Revisited

Palo Alto Stories

Who is James Franco? In case your comfort zone has led you to ignore mainstream media from your cabin in the woods, the brief synopsis of James Franco’s career is as follows:

Long removed from his first leading role as Daniel Desario in the 1999 sitcom Freaks and Geeks, Franco has established himself as a successful screen actor, performance artist, college professor and as of 2010, a PhD candidate at Yale University.

Can he also add successful author to his repertoire?

Simply put, no.

The inner ramblings of James Franco’s mind paired with his reworked memories of angsty pubescence meddle with the clarity of his storytelling.

His characters are undoubtedly troubled and dabbling in the vices and self destruction of much older individuals.

Franco’s character development falters in the character’s indistinguishable nature.

Each story in the novel has it’s own unique teenage angst, but the character’s often muddle together into indistinguishable story lines of petty crime, misunderstanding, and nihilistic violence.

While the tales are interesting to read, they offer little emotional substance. They feel hollow due to the lack of individuality.

Franco needs to harness what he’s learned as an actor and apply it to his writing. While acting, he’s been able to inhabit each character as it’s own and make the uniquely distinguishable.

The case is not the same in his recountance of the stunned ambivalence of suburban teenage-hood.

Not to say the novel is a throw away. Franco offers hints of psychic openness in the story Jack-O, by a suicide curious stoner: “Things, shapes, folded in on themselves, . . . and if time is variable, then how do I vary it, and why do I want to? Because everything just focuses in on me and I hate it.”

Franco has since written four books, Rebel, A California Childhood, Directing Herbert White, and Hollywood Dreaming.