Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wednesday's Book Report:

Right now, I'm in the middle of 4 books. Just because I'm always a bit scattered like that. It keeps me on my toes. (and just disorganized enough to be interesting) I'm reading Lit by Mary Karr (I read her other two memoirs, Cherry and The Liar's Club and really liked them), The Permanent Pain Cure by Ming Chew (work related reading), The Secrets of Simplicity by Mary Carlomagno (because I still have that "simplify, simplify, simplify" mantra in my head) and Thrive by Brandan Brazier (for overall health and lifestyle)

But I'm not going to talk about any of those today. I can't. I'm still digesting them.

Today, I'm going to talk about one I finished a couple weeks ago: Palo Alto Stories by James Franco:

I got interested in this book when I read an interview with James Franco at the gym. He sort of became my new idol, simply because he appeared to have his hands in even more projects than I do. He's an actor (the Spiderman movies and 127 hours which I totally want to see) and apparently has a recurring role on General Hospital, as well. He also in a ridiculously short time got a BA from UCLA in creative writing, then an MFA in writing from Brooklyn University and attending NYU's film making school. He's presently pursuing a PhD in English at Yale University and is enrolled for next year at RISD for painting. At the same time he's written and produced a couple off Broadway plays and is directing a film version of William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying this year.
See? Crazy busy with projects. Makes me look like a couch potato. So, of course, I needed to get his book.
That being said, I liked Palo Alto Stories, but I didn't love it. It tells a number of loosely related stories centered around a bunch of high school aged kids growing up in Palo Alto. The one thing that these kids have in common is that their collective moral compasses don't quite point north. They may actually point south.
There's a dark, sad tone to all the stories; very Holden Caulfield-ish. However, in The Catcher in the Rye, it's really just Holden who is off. You get the sense that other characters may not be up for person of the year, but then again, maybe that's just Holden's perception of them. There's melancholy and existential angst, but not everyone in the entire world shares in this bleak world view.
(I can't write "bleak world view" without hearing Homer Simpson saying it like in the "Homer-palooza" episode)
In Palo Alto Stories, everyone is off. And while I appreciated it for a few stories, after a while, I was feeling saturated. I reached a point where enough was enough. I felt much the same way I did when watching Pulp Fiction. OK, I appreciated Quintin Tarantino's unique film making quality, but the gratuitous violence just became too much. I mean, really, did ANYONE need to see a gag-balled gimp in leather chaps stuffed into a box after being sodomized?) I sure didn't.
Likewise, do I really wish to believe that an entire generation is simply nonchalant about date rape, overdosing, lying, stealing, cheating, and the occasional vehicular manslaughter while drunk? Especially set in Palo Alto, just minutes from where I used to live in Mountain View, but light years away from where I ever could live on my salary as a health care worker. And, yes, I get the whole juxtaposition of the immoral behavior in a well-to-do suburb. And that maybe there's a message to it. And all the stories combined create a sense of helplessness.
But all I kept thinking was: dude! Couldn't you have written something more like your movie Pineapple Express? 'Cause that was funny!
Then again, maybe I'm just shallow. Or something.
Today's new thing:
THIS! The Wednesday's book reports. More to come!

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