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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

After establishing his literary cred with his story collection, Palo Alto (2010), actor and director Franco ups the ante in this canny first novel. It purports to be an assemblage of confessional tales told by members of Actors Anonymous, a 12-step support group relying on a higher power, the Great Director. Each mordantly funny and unnerving actor-wannabe struggles to cope with the abyss between dream and reality and the peculiar identity crises intrinsic to performing. Jerry is fiasco-prone. Corey’s ambitious mother colluded in his sexual exploitation as a child actor. Sean speaks in fake accents when working at McDonald’s, hoping to seem exotic. The ringleader is James Franco, or the Actor, a notorious deflowerer of virgins and a metaconstruct that allows author Franco to gleefully, bawdily, and scathingly dissect the cult of celebrity and the paradoxes of acting, blur the line between autobiography and fiction, and dispense genuinely resonant artistic advice. Though the pastiche of clever narrative modes doesn’t always click, Franco is provocatively revelatory in this mask-on, mask-off inquiry into delusion and illusion, hubris and art. —Donna Seaman


“Actors Anonymous is a book for anyone who enjoys delving under the surface of Hollywood…An engaging exploration of the weird and wonderful and a fascinating piece of escapism.” –The Daily Express

“In Actors Anonymous, Franco performs an auto-celebrity roast that is at once mordantly funny, maddening and provocative...a kind of intellectual companion piece to his role in This is the End.” –Claudia Puig, USA Today

“Franco deftly switches between these different characters’ voices and fearlessly experiments with form throughout the book: one section is a screenplay, while another is made up entirely of footnotes. But what makes this book so powerful is Franco’s own confessional voice. Perhaps this is finally a personal introduction to a man ready to be unmasked himself.” —Columbia Magazine

“Hilarious, shameless, and effective…Franco’s democratic marvel of feel-good prose employs a stable of likable narrators—and diverse styles, such as letters, poetry, text messages, journal entries, pure dialogue, and footnotes—from various walks of life, and the beyond….Their meditations on existence as performance art are funny, subversive, enlightening, and philosophical.” -Lisa Shea, Elle

“Compelling…entertaining and insightful…genuinely funny.” –Thomas Flynn, The Daily Beast

"Part aphorism, part instruction manual, part reflection, part short story and, seemingly, part memoir, the narrative is a pastiche of forms and moods. Franco (or his alter ego) presents his ideas through anecdotes and semiplausible fictional incidents, with plenty of inside references to Hollywood actors." —Kirkus Reviews

“Franco writes with real authority about a certain kind of workaday desperation amid the promise of glamor…Engaging.” - Slate

"Subversively funny and provocatively honest, is ostensibly about acting but it's really about a society where everyone's reduced to Actors Anonymous the roles they play. The novel's many narrators fight back against these roles in truly original, often hilarious, and deeply affecting ways. So should we all." Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story

"A remarkable, visceral display of the projected voice. Blake’s assertion 'The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom' is used, brilliantly, as justification for Franco's life and also its misunderstood public/private undoing. The work gleams with aphoristic truths—'Maybe the search for the real is about playing the most roles and having the most sex.' 'It’s the snarky little fuckers that write for South Park or Family Guy and hide behind cartoons that get revered. They are honest, but honest about everyone else, not about themselves.' Franco, by contrast, uses his own body as the staging area for a quite ambitious and seriously self-deconstructive fiction. Real art, as here, is always a performative seduction."—David Shields, author of Reality Hunger: A Manifesto

"Electrifying to see a writer hold nothing back!  This shape-shifting narrative extends a reader's sense of what a novel can be, can do.  Franco plays with persona in ways that implicate a reader. The defiant humor is hard-won (including the best worst job interview ever), his take on irresponsible people is both eloquent and suitably scorching, the language is enviable: the seduction of a virgin is 'like a bullet through a birthday cake.' Franco's novel lures you in with indelible images, provocative mind games, and characters laid bare, then successfully strands you in a frightening place."—Amy Hempel

"James Franco puts on a James Franco mask and borrows formats from AA to create a fiction about the fiction of identity—especially as it pertains to actors and, by logical extension, writers. Is fame (the longing for it, the actuality of it) as entangled in the creative act as alcohol? Is acting (writing) an escape from reality or the only thing that’s real for an actor (writer)? The illusion of reality and the reality of fiction hold hands in this novel in much the way that actors (and writers) steal from their lives to enliven their characters. The novel does not merely explore acting, it enacts it. This is a lively, strange, engaging, often funny, sometimes brilliant, and utterly fearless novel."—Robert Boswell, author of Tumbledown, The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards, & The Half-Known World

“James Franco's addictive voice swings between the irreverently playful and the bracingly gritty in these whimsical yet haunted riffs on celebrity, the drive to work, and the surreal tangle of competing desires that make the creative life so unpredictably intense.” –Dean Bakopoulos, author of My American Unhappiness

"Franco doesn't just don and discard the actor's mask: he peeks out from the edges and winks through the eyeholes, rips it away to expose all the other masks below. And always with a shock of recognition: both his and ours." –Robert Cohen, author of Inspired Sleep

“As a work of experimental fiction, Franco’s book is one of the most interesting things I’ve read in a long time, and lot more compelling than many celebrated writers who don’t also happen to be actors.” -ARTINFO

“He gets you to see that life is messy, unrefined, a blending of countless media all working in a void….What [Actors Anonymous] portrays even more accurately than a troubled postmodern America is a consciousness warped and shaped by the lights of a savage Hollywood.” –The Daily Californian

“James Franco’s ‘Actor’s Anonymous’ is a fascinating, messy creation” —The Buffalo News
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Little A / New Harvest; First Edition edition (October 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0544114531
  • ISBN-13: 978-0544114531
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (147 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

James Franco is an actor, director, screenwriter, and artist. His film appearances include "Milk," "Pineapple Express," the "Spider-Man" trilogy, and upcoming appearances in "Eat, Pray, Love," and "Howl," in which he portrays beat poet Allen Ginsberg. On television, he starred in the critically acclaimed series "Freaks and Geeks." Franco has also written, directed and starred in several short plays, two of which -- "Fool's Gold" and "The Ape" -- he adapted into feature-length films. He also wrote and directed the film "Good Time Max." Franco will be participating in an upcoming gallery show at Deitch Projects in New York, and his writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, McSweeney's, and other publications

Customer Reviews

2.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

115 of 128 people found the following review helpful By Gabriella West on October 19, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
First off, I should say I've been a fan of James Franco's film work. I shied away from reading Palo Alto, his not-very-well-received collection of short stories, and I think I did so because I was afraid I would be disappointed. The thing about writing is (unlike acting), you can't hide. The psyche of the writer comes through. And in this book, which is misleadingly termed a novel, James Franco does reveal himself in the guise of multiple "fictional" characters.

So this is categorized by Kindle in the memoir section, and in my view it's creative nonfiction. The point being, Franco isn't a good enough writer yet to craft a novel. And this would be OK if the vignettes in Actors Anonymous really added up to something. Franco takes a hard line when it comes to acting teachers, acting classes, and other actors. But some of his insights are valuable. Here's one: "To have an inside, there always needs to be an outside. The more elite the inside, the more people are on the outside. Get in there, but don't live in there. Be on both sides."

This is the Franco I've liked--the benign, seemingly self-confident, subversive, funny guy. But that guy is pretty much a mask, Franco reveals in this book. After one description of a character who resembles himself called "the Actor," he concludes, "In actuality, he probably wasn't charming at all."

At some level I think Franco wants to be *known* rather than loved. (He's had the love and adulation for years, and it doesn't seem to have helped him much.) And I think Franco hates his persona, too, and this book is an attempt to lift the lid.

The book AA most reminded me of was Last Exit to Brooklyn, oddly enough.
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49 of 57 people found the following review helpful By alexandra on October 24, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Borrowed this book using my Prime account out of nothing but rabid curiosity--I've always considered Franco one of the more intelligent and less vapid actors constantly in the limelight. Turns out, though he very well may be intelligent, he can't write worth a damn. This is nothing but a book full of two sentence paragraphs of rambling, disorganized thoughts. It appears he kept a diary when angry about his career and then published it. To call it a novel is absurd. There are bits and pieces of stories, maybe, but every time you get a little excited that something with a character may occur, he delves back into the fragmented raving.

I'm essentially filing this under the Paris Hilton singing of the publishing industry. If an average Joe gave this "book" to an agent they would be laughed out of the office and possibly institutionalized.
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49 of 61 people found the following review helpful By CCB on October 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Repetitious. Dull. Self-involved. There seems to be no point to this book other than Franco's tedious analysis of his own brain and its contents. I like Franco as an actor. As an author? No.
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39 of 50 people found the following review helpful By ARS on October 19, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The writing itself is as clear and referential as would be expected from James Franco, but this level of pointless navel-gazing is ridiculous. It sounds like it was written by someone with plenty of education, but nothing really to say. There's no story. There's no character development; in fact, it's sometimes difficult to follow who's voicing each chapter--James, a James alter-ego, a completely different character? It's not funny, it's not enriching, it's just dull. Wish I could say it was worth the six bucks.
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Brian on November 17, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
This was a free rental ebook for Amazon Prime members, so I figured, why not?

Actors Anonymous is not terrible. I read the whole thing and felt engaged for most of it. The writing is decent--even gripping in some parts (Franco can really build up suspense when he has to) and I feel like I gained a lot of insight into the world of actors, whether they be aspiring, failed, and successful--something I never really knew or thought much about before. Franco made Hollywood--a distant world of fantasy--seem like a real place populated by real people.

Be advised that, despite what the subtitle tells you, Actors Anonymous is not a novel. It's a book of short stories. A lot of it reads like non-fiction--especially a long bit at the beginning where Franco (or, the "narrator") talks about the personalities and motivations of the actors and directors who are his role models. I suppose Franco wants it to be a novel because that sounds weightier and more significant--so it's funny that the way he "novelizes" it is by tying some of the stories together with a common narrative thread, and characters who appear in several seemingly separate stories, and you only realize that they're connected after you've read most of them. This is funny to me because this metafictional trick that was hot in highbrow literary fiction maybe fifty years ago is now mostly used by big-budget movies that want to appear thoughtful and serious and edgy. James Franco is aware of this irony, because another old metafictional trick he uses is inserting his self-doubt and awareness of his gimmicky approach to writing in a section of footnote-commentary near the end. Sorry James but I don't think that's enough to make you a great novelist.

So the book's not terrible but not that good either.
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