Being the proud parents of a baby blog and having absolutely zero pull in the literary world, Mel and I find joy in the little things that book culture has to offer, like passing by a building where some important book event is taking place that we would have liked to attend, and wishing we could be inside instead of standing out in the cold with numb earlobes. We also like it when we find a dollar in place of a bookmark in a book we forgot we were once reading. (This hasn’t happened to me, and I’m not sure it’s happened to Mel either, but at least the thought is a nice one.)
As young people with a somewhat colorful blog, we don’t benefit from advanced reader copies or invites to big bookish galas. From what I’ve learned in the game of Life, you’ve either gotta start a career or take out a loan and enroll in college before you can even begin thinking about what colors your twins will be when you peg them in the back seats.
What I’m getting at here, in case you couldn’t tell, is James Franco’s debut short story collection, Palo Alto. I would have really liked to get my hands on an advanced copy to review this collection myself. I think I would have given him at least a little credit for venturing into the great written unknown. Instead, I’m here reading all these other folks’ reviews. And all of these reviews are excruciating. The only praise Franco gets from any review I read was in the very first sentence — “Give James Franco this: his fiction is better than his non-” — which is then rendered void when the reviewer goes on to say, “The biggest problem with Franco’s fiction is that it’s boring.” Well played.
To help save some face for Franco, who, by the sounds of it, should probably stick to wearing costumes and doing flips while tied to a rope in front of a green screen, I thought I would share with you this one piece of trivia, courtesy of IMDB, before linking you to some really unpleasant reviews of Palo Alto.
Did you know James Franco went by the name of “Ted” at Palo Alto High School and was voted best smile?
Alrighty then. Here’s three painful reviews to get you started.
LA Times: “After finishing Palo Alto, one feels the urge to not so much review it as grade it. And not highly.” (I like this one especially because it’s written by a television critic, not a book critic, and has a handful of typos.) (And now, the more I think about it, the more I realize the biting deceit behind a TV critic reviewing a book written by an actor.)
SFGate: “Perhaps it’s best to think of his debut collection, Palo Alto, as part of some ongoing performance, where he now plays a lazy and insipid writer whose sole focus is exploring youthful anomie.”
Publishers Weekly: “The author fails to find anything remotely insightful to say in these 11 amazingly underwhelming stories.” (This is a short one, for those of you who don’t really have time for this. But seriously, you don’t have time for this?)
Palo Alto will be released to those of us without advanced-copy privileges tomorrow.