Now in paperback, a "compelling and gutsy" (Vogue) collection of stories about troubled California teenagers and misfits - violent and harrowing, from the astonishingly talented actor and artist James Franco. "The stories ... capture with perfect pitch the impossible exhilaration, the inevitable downbeat-ness, and the pure confusion of being an adolescent." (Elle)
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.
"Startling and original."- The Economist
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 some friends over to Ed's and we all got drunk.
His father was a mathematics professor at Stanford and his mother was a nurse, and neither of them came home until at least six but usually seven. His professor father had a great liquor cabinet. I had my first drink there when I was thirteen, and in the three years since then we had been taking from his cupboard and putting water back into the bottles. We could never get much from any one bottle because it would be too obvious; so we would take a little from all the bottles and mix everything into a punch like the bums did in Cannery Row. I like that we did that, I liked thinking that we were like Mack and the boys, even though the punch tasted horrible. We'd usually mix it with grape juice, but it wouldn't help much.
We were all sitting in the backyard on a little picnic table that you might find at a park. His dad probably took it from the dump. He was always doing weird stuff like that to save money. Ed did it too, like scraping the mold off old bread and then eating it. His dad was a mathematics professor who smoked a pipe, every night. His teeth were yellow and crooked and horrible. Ed had a little pipe and he smoked tobacco with his dad at night. Ed was half Korean and half white because his mother was Korean and his dad was white from Gary, Indiana.
Outside, we were smoking weed in Ed's little tobacco pipe. We were all planning on going to Alice Wolfe's house later for the Halloween party, and we were getting ourselves revved up. I picked a fight with Nick Dobbs. I had seen him hanging around my girlfriend, Susan, and I didn't like it. I spotted them a couple times laughing in the corner of the library at school. I probably wouldn't have cared if he had been just one of those theater dorks that she was always planning events with, but he wasn't. He was a handsome skateboarder, and I had enough of the alcohol punch in me to start something.
"I heard you and Susan did acid. Why did you give my girlfriend acid?"
"She wanted it."
His eyes actually looked worried. It was not the reaction I was expecting. I suddenly felt powerful and a little bad for him at the same time. I probably couldn't have asked for a better reaction because I really wasn't a fighter, and this way, because he looked scared, I had beat him without having to fight him. I didn't like to see people intimidated, but this guilt made me turn meaner because I told him to apologize, and when he did, I demanded that he say it louder so that everyone could hear. I was pushing it a little and I could see him consider just taking a swing at me, but he apologized again slightly louder. Jack spoke up.
"What the fuck do you care, Ryan? She does acid and other drugs all the time, with all of us."
Well, I didn't like that. Funny how new facts pop up and make you doubt that there's any goodness in life. Everyone pretends to be normal and be your friend, but underneath, everyone is living some other life you don't know about, and if only we had a camera on us at all times, we could go and watch each other's tapes and find out what each of us was really like. But then you'd have to watch girls go poo and boys trying to go down on themselves.
Then Ed's Korean mom came home. She was