Actors Anonymous by James Franco

By James Franco

The actors in James Franco’s superb debut novel contain a McDonald’s drive-thru operator who spends his shift making an attempt on accents; an ex-child superstar recalling a big beachside bacchanal; medical institution volunteers and Midwestern transplants; a vampire flick starlet who discovers a cryptic e-book written via a well-known 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 level with interesting meditations on his artwork, besides nightmarish stories of extra. “Hollywood has constantly 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 excessive, wild journey into the darkish middle of famous person.

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Example text

Usually I would brush the question off and retreat to my room, but once I made the mistake of answering. “I’m not as pretty as Jenna,” I said, as though it needed saying. ” She put a hand on my arm. ” There was: Michael, a popular boy with creamy skin, roses in his cheeks, and dark brown eyes, a basketball player. I’d liked him since fourth grade. Unlike the other popular boys, he wasn’t unkind to girls like me. Once in junior high when the bell rang, I left my pencil case on my desk, and he ran after me, shouting my name.

Maddy called me on the intercom, and I got a little lost and…” My voice trailed off. ” Lucia asked, hands on her hips. ” “It was pretty loud. ” “Must have been Brenda,” Lucia said briskly. ” A few times since my arrival at Thornfield Park I had passed a broad-shouldered, mannish woman, older than the rest of the housekeeping staff. That must have been Brenda. But hadn’t I been told the third floor was unsafe and off-limits? Anticipating my question, Lucia said, “I know, I said it wasn’t safe up there.

Then, hurrying home, I’d catch my reflection in a shopwindow and be brought abruptly back to reality. The train chugged to a start, daylight mercifully erasing my image. The morning had turned out crisp and nearly cloudless, a good day for a fresh start. I tried to settle back in my seat, to relax and collect myself. Calm, cool, capable, I silently repeated to myself. That’s what I’m going to be. Calm, cool, capable. The ride passed too quickly. Before I felt remotely ready, the train was pulling into Old Saybrook station.

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