Actors Anonymous by James Franco

By James Franco

The actors in James Franco’s impressive debut novel comprise a McDonald’s drive-thru operator who spends his shift attempting on accents; an ex-child famous person recalling an important beachside bacchanal; health center volunteers and Midwestern transplants; a vampire flick starlet who discovers a cryptic booklet written through a recognized actor long gone AWOL; and the ghost of River Phoenix. Then there’s Franco himself, who prowls behind the scenes, peering out among the lines—before taking the degree with attention-grabbing meditations on his artwork, in addition to nightmarish stories of extra. “Hollywood has consistently been a personal club,” he writes. “I open the gates. I say welcome. I say, Look inside.”
 
Told in a dizzying array of styles—from lyric essays and disarming testimonials to hilariously rambling textual content messages and ghostly footnotes—and loosely modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, Actors Anonymous is an extreme, wild journey into the darkish center of famous person.

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I’ve heard all about it, you know,” he says. “And not just from Keisha. ” “Well, good for you,” I say, not bothering to clarify that it was Jules who kissed Derek’s neck at the Frog. “You actually know people. ” “Funny, Brianna,” Robby laughs, but it sounds like he’s been sucking on lemons. “You’re funny. ” Somehow it’s not as charming coming from him as it was coming from Derek on Friday night. “But here’s the thing. There are words for girls like you—underage girls who sleep with grown men. ” “As usual, you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about,” I say.

It was because ever since I could remember, riding around in a car and looking up as trees and telephone cables floated past the window had soothed me when I felt anxious or restless. And there had been something restless growing inside me that night, something prickly bouncing around between my hips and my heart ever since I’d (a) watched Derek kiss the back of Jules’s neck, and (b) felt him kiss the back of mine. Maybe the restlessness also had to do with the fake identity I’d created for myself as Derek and I sat at the table and talked.

And now, when I think back to that month, most of it is just like gray smoke in my head, like maybe it didn’t really happen at all. Keisha was the one who started teaching me how to keep life from eating me alive once we were out of the dorm and back with Jolene. Keisha was big into tough love, and she was big into making me tough, too, so I wouldn’t be “steamrollered by life,” as she put it. Still, I get why Keisha and I are a little messed up. And I 40 thank God or Allah or Buddha or whoever’s in charge up there in the sky that I never became a Worst-Case Scenario—so screwed up by a lousy parent that I can barely get through the day.

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