Palo Alto

Palo Alto

Stories

A fiercely vivid collection of stories about troubled California teenagers and misfits--violent and harrowing, from the astonishingly talented actor and artist James Franco.

Palo Alto is the debut of a surprising and powerful new literary voice. Written with an immediate sense of place--claustrophobic and ominous--James Franco's collection traces the lives of an extended group of teenagers as they experiment with vices of all kinds, struggle with their families and one another, and succumb to self-destructive, often heartless nihilism. In "Lockheed" a young woman's summer--spent working a dull internship--is suddenly upended by a spectacular incident of violence at a house party. In "American History" a high school freshman attempts to impress a girl during a classroom skit with a realistic portrayal of a slave owner—only to have his feigned bigotry avenged. In "I Could Kill Someone," a lonely teenager buys a gun with the aim of killing his high school tormentor, but begins to wonder about his bully's own inner life.
These linked stories, stark, vivid, and disturbing, are a compelling portrait of lives on the rough fringes of youth.
  • Scribner | 
  • 224 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439163153 | 
  • June 2011
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Video

James Franco & Michael Cunningham on Youth

Watch the two writers discuss youth, how to inhabit characters, and the worst question to ask an author.

Read an Excerpt

Palo Alto Halloween
Ten years ago, my sophomore year in high school, I killed a woman on Halloween.

I had been drinking at Ed Sales’s house all afternoon, which I wasn’t supposed to be doing because I was on probation. The probation rules said I was only allowed to drive to school and then right back home after school was out. But it was six months since I’d been arrested for being a minor under the influence, and my parents had become lax about the driving rules. On that Halloween Tuesday, instead of going home, I took... see more

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About the Author

James Franco
© Mark Abrahams

James Franco

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.

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