Palo Alto: Stories

Palo Alto: Stories

by James Franco

Paperback(Media Tie-In)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781476778389
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 05/06/2014
Edition description: Media Tie-In
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 309,847
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

James Franco is an acclaimed actor, director, artist, and writer. His film appearances include 127 Hours, Milk, Pineapple Express, Oz the Great and Powerful, Spring Breakers, and the Spider-Man trilogy. Franco has written and directed several films, and his visual art has been featured in solo shows in Los Angeles and New York. His writing has appeared in Esquire, The Wall Street Journal, McSweeney’s, and other publications. Franco has an MFA in creative writing from Brooklyn College.

Read an Excerpt

When I got to high school I didn’t have friends. My best friend moved away, and I wasn’t popular. I didn’t go to parties. I got drunk only once, at a wedding. I puked behind a gazebo. I

was with my cousin Jamie, who is gay. He goes to high school in Menlo Park, which is a five-minute drive. He is my only friend. He smokes menthol cigarettes.

After school I would go home. Me and Mom and Tim would watch Roseanne at the dinner table because Dad wasn’t there to say no.

Then Dad would come home and we would study. A lot of times my math tests were on Thursdays, so my dad and I would study extra long on Wednesdays, and I would miss Beverly Hills 90210. I never taped it.

I did so well in math class that I got this internship for the summer at Lockheed Martin. They make missiles and satellites. I was the only girl out of ten students who got selected.

My dad was very excited.

He said, “Marissa, one day you and I will work together.”

That summer, between my freshman and sophomore years, I worked for a Swedish guy named Jan, pronounced Yan. My job was to watch old film reels of the moon. There were hundreds. I worked in a cold, windowless basement. The reels would run from one spool to another on this old machine that looked like a tank. I was supposed to record blemishes and splices in the film. Sometimes the moon was full; sometimes it would get a little more full as I watched. Sometimes the film was scratched so badly it skipped, or it broke. I was in the basement forty hours a week. I watched so many moons.

It got so boring, I stopped looking for splices. Instead, I drew pictures on computer paper that I pulled from the recycling bin. Jan was never around, so I drew a lot. I drew rainbows, and people, and cities, and guns, and people getting shot and bleeding, and people having sex. When I got tired I just drew doodles. I tried to draw portraits of people I knew. My family always looked ridiculous, but funny because the pictures resembled them, but not enough. Then I drew all these things from my childhood, like Hello Kitty and Rainbow Brite and My Little Pony. I drew my brother’s G.I. Joes. I made the My Little Ponys kill the G.I. Joes.

I drew hundreds of pictures and they were all bad. I wasn’t good at drawing. It was also a little sad to draw so much because I could see everything that was inside me. I had drawn everything I could think of. All that was inside me was a bunch of toys, and TV shows, and my family. My life was boring. I only had one kiss, and it was with my gay cousin, Jamie.

One day, Jan came down to the basement. He saw all my little drawings. He didn’t say much. He picked them up and looked at them. He looked at every picture that was there. When he finished with each, he put it onto a neat pile.

He was tall and restrained, with clean, fading blond hair, combed back, with a slight wave in the front. He had a plain gold wedding band. As he looked at the pictures, I tried to

imagine what he did for fun, but I couldn’t. He put the last picture down on the neat stack and looked at me.

“How is Mr. Moon?” he asked. In his accent his words came out short and clean. There was a hint of warmth, but it was contained.

“I found a few scratches today,” I said.

“Good,” he said, and left. I didn’t draw any more that day. I looked at the moon.

The next day I was back in the basement. It was almost lunchtime, and Jan came in.

“Come here,” he said, and turned and walked out. I followed him down the hall and outside. We crossed the parking lot, me following him. The surface of the blacktop was melting where they had put tar to fill in the cracks. There were no trees in the parking lot and the sun was pushing hard. I followed the back of Jan’s light yellow shirt and tan slacks over to his truck. It was an old, faded mustard-colored pickup that said toyota in white on the back.

When I got to the truck, he was messing around with something in the stake bed. He put the back part that said toyota down. On top of this, he laid out a big, black portfolio.

He opened it and there were drawings inside.

“Look,” he said. He stepped back, and I looked. He said, “These are mine.”

They were good. They were mostly portraits. There were a bunch of portraits of a pretty woman’s face, all the same woman. He was a lot better than I was.

“That’s Greta, my wife,” he said. “She was not my wife then, when I made them. She became my wife.”

“She’s very beautiful,” I said. She was. Prettier than me.

“I did these when I was at school,” he said. “I wanted to be artist. But it was no good. It is no good to be artist. I practiced every day, eight hours a day. Then I could draw like Michelangelo. Then what? There is already Michelangelo. I realized there was nothing more to do. In science, there is always more to learn. Always more.”

I didn’t look at him; I looked at his pictures. I felt very lonely. I pictured him and his wife, alone at a long table, eating some bland Swedish food, not talking. The only sounds were

from the utensils hitting the plates, and the squish of their gentle chewing.

“So,” he said. “You see.” He reached over me and shut the portfolio to punctuate the “You see,” but I didn’t know what to see. Then I looked at him. He stood there and looked at

me. We were so awkward.

“Okay,” he said finally. “See you.”

“See you,” I said.

© 2010 WHOSE DOG R U Productions, Inc.

Customer Reviews

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Palo Alto 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 59 reviews.
AvinaJohn More than 1 year ago
great book! james franco does a great job showing how harmful peer presure can be.
GoldenSpring More than 1 year ago
Such an amazing book! I liked the cliff hangers and sadness and descriptions and everything! This book could make a great T.V show. It would be done kind of like cold case and how each episode was about a different murder case or something. This could be just the stories of this town. Maybe some stories can be more then one episode but I have a feeling a lot of people would watch it because it is unexpected but exciting.
jasonpettus on LibraryThing 7 months ago
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)When I heard that dreamy actor and Renaissance man James Franco had published a story collection, I knew that I would eventually be reading it; and that's because I have a perverse fascination for celebrities with literary aspirations, and so try never to miss it when someone like Ethan Hawke or Jewel releases not a cookbook or kid's tale but an honest-to-God attempt at the fine arts. And the good news here is that Franco is actually not that bad a writer, with this interrelated "story cycle" regarding trashy '90s teenagers in southern California going down quite smoothly; but unfortunately, it also highlights the main reason I'm not much of a fan of the short-story format in general, in that these quick character studies all tend to be done and over long before we're able to make an emotional connection to any of them, stories designed more for atmosphere and mood than for telling an interesting narrative tale. For this alone, we can at least thank Franco for not foisting yet another unreadable book upon a helpless audience; but given that it's no different than a million character-heavy story collections put together as final projects by a million mediocre creative-writing undergraduates, Palo Alto is unfortunately not much of a reason to celebrate either.Out of 10: 7.5
goodinthestacks on LibraryThing 7 months ago
I like James Franco. He's acted in many of my favorite TV shows and movies and he's done a good job in them. I knew that he was a smart guy from hearing him in interviews and from those interviews I had learned that he was more than an actor, but also an artist and a writer, and he seems to do well there too, which is not always the case for famous celebrities.I enjoyed this collection of intertwined short stories but I think it may have been more so because I feel like I could have written it myself. I'm not saying Franco's prose is bad (I'm also not saying that mine is great), but rather it is similar to things that I have written in the past. This is especially true when the characters are angsty teens. Franco does well with this voice, but the problem is that it is the same disillusioned voice for all characters, both male and female. Again, for me, this is not bad, but if Franco continues with his writing career, he should explore other characters besides angry, smart, and mostly privileged teens because he knows this person too well. But that is really my only problem with the book. I recommend this if you are interested in interconnected short stories, angst-ridden teens, and/or James Franco.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loves these stories! Killing Animals Is my favorite.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Short stories anre about middle and high school kids. No my type of book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ive heard this book has its bad and good stories... so which ones are the good ones? please respond
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow, I can't believe anyone would consider this good writing. It's racist and exploits young women. Plus it's just bad writing. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldnt make it past page 58, just horrible.my 5 year old could write better.im not trying to be mean, it was just that bad. There was no depth, to much jumping around and i never felt invested in any characters. I love james and that is why i bought the book, even though other reviews warned me not to. Please dont make the same mistake. If he was not famous,this never would have made it past the publishers garbadge can.
lovejames-franco More than 1 year ago
james franco is amazing! I like how he formed this book into a few short stories about youth and growing up. it was a book about happy and sad time. normal life issues. it interest me to wondering what was go to happen next. james is an talented and amazing man
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm not sure what I was expecting out of this book, but I must have been a fool to believe it would actually be readable. It's all over the place, choppy sentences, random crap. One story inparticular just really lost me. If you can make it through 'Camp' without a single 'wait, what?' Then kudos to you. May I have my $2 back?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
read this book on the beach in maine, though it seemed unrealistic and far fetched, i loved the novel. it was a very quick read and i appreciated the brutal honesty in franco's words. my personal favorite part was the epilogue in which franco wrote his personal thoughts on the book being turned into a movie. now I want to see the movie... i would recommend this book to a friend :) 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
although the story kept me reading it was all over the place..i felt confused a lot
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very light, entertaining read!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is all over the place. Poorly written and a waste of 149 pages
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well I did not hate it but it was not a book that I would read again for the fun of it. I am glad I read it and I will watch the movie because I love james franco on screen. The stories remind me of teens from my youth maybe not specific ones but little pieces of many. Some of the stories sound like the narrator is trying to use big words and pretty descriptions to narrate their life.. maybe to make it seem more poetic or grand. I'm not sure if that was to show how that teen saw his world personally or what. Some of the stories did suck me in in a good way while others I just read with passing amusement. The charactors and stories may not be pretty or even decent but they could be real.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very well put togther, much of this is a very accurate description on teens all over the world trying to become themselves.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome. Writing style is simple but it was fun to read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There is defiantly a Catcher in the Rye feel to this book, if you like that then you'll enjoy this very much. I was never a big fan but I would say Palo Alto does have some good qualities. Not my favorite.