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Published on December 6th, 2013


Actors Anonymous by James Franco

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Blurb: Inspired by Alcoholics Anonymous’s 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, Actors Anonymous is a dark, genre-bending work that mixes memoir and pure invention in an audacious examination of celebrity, acting and the making of fiction. Actors Anonymous is unsettling, funny and personal – a series of stories told in many forms: a McDonald’s drive-thru operator who spends his shift trying on accents; an ex-child star recalling a massive beachside bacchanal; hospital volunteers putting a camera in the hands of a patient obsessed with horror films; a vampire-flick starlet who discovers a cryptic book written by a famous actor, who may have killed his father and gone on the run. (Faber & Faber)

Hannah Britt, The Daily Express

The stories that don’t directly involve Franco fall a little flat and could do with fuller characterisation. He writes beautifully, however, and I can’t help but think that he missed a trick by not developing just one or two of the stories into a novel.

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Archie Bland, The Independent

“In a novel, for the now elderly device of the authorial invasion to be other than sophomoric, it has to do more than remind us that books are not stable things. The Franco we get here is unfortunately irritating, self-indulgent, and pretentious. Maddeningly, he is forever attempting to disable any possible criticism of his approach by pre-empting it. “I know you think it’s innovative to do this split personality thing,” one Franco-analogue writes, “but I think it’s just you covering because you can’t write a straight story. It’s like you can’t tell a story from beginning to end, so you hide behind all this shit.””

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Hermione Hoby, The Guardian  

“Self-consciousness is one step away from self-love, which is another term for onanism, and perhaps the stickiest-paged passage is the one titled “Windsor Girl”. “I’m just a stupid little girl who wants to be an actor,” the narrator begins, before giving an account of how James Franco took her virginity. “Kurt Cobain is my god,” she tells us. “He is the most beautiful man that ever lived. Except maybe James.” Ah, James, there you are, I wasn’t wondering where you’d got to. When Franco is able to forget himself he inhabits a character on the page as convincingly as he does on screen, but these moments are rare.”

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Steve Donoghue, The Washington Post

“In the strongest sections, “McDonald’s I” and “McDonald’s II,” a young father and recovering drug addict works fast food to earn a paycheck and stay clean but also performs quick bathroom sex for extra cash. These parts of the book last just long enough to hook us before they’re abruptly replaced by two pages of Franco regretting, for instance, that he ever agreed to be in the movie Tristan and Isolde (“I should have known. I should have known”). You want to tell the author to butt out of his own book.”

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Heather Havrilesky, The LA Times

“While it’s hard not to admire his openness and enthusiasm for everything under the sun, Franco won’t be a good writer — or a great artist, if that’s his goal — until he learns how to edit, censor, politely decline and bite his tongue.”

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Helen Rumbelow, The Times

“Two themes run through it. First, some predatory and narcissistic interactions with women: if you want insight but no understanding into the world of a famous male heart-throb, read Franco’s fairly revolting story about the movie star James Franco … The next is a tiresome intellectual insecurity that continues despite the multiple degrees: he resents directors because they make him feel an “intellectual baby”, he resents journalists “who present me as dumb”, as all it shows is “how stupid they are”, he’s jealous of Natalie Portman because she went to Harvard University and “that gives her a lot of intellectual capital”.”

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