James Franco, an actor, director, producer, teacher and author, can add another occupation to his life’s work: novelist. Actor’s Anonymous, Franco’s debut novel (following a successful short story collection), proves that his ambtion reaches beyond the big screen to the literary circuit.
Using an assortment of writing styles, ranging from dark poetry to disjointed confessionals and screen plays, Franco gives the reader a voyeuristic look into the “soul-crushing” experience of the Los Angeles actor. These raucous tales include that of a child actor who engages in anonymous orgies at the beach; a recovering addict who works the night shift at McDonald’s, using the time to practice foreign accents on his customers; and a poetic chapter involving the ghost of River Phoenix.
Actors Anonymous is divided into chapters that seem to be a parody of the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. For example, step one is “we admitted that life is a performance—and that our ‘performance’ has left our control.” The first chapter appears to be a memoir of sorts, causing the reader to wonder if the whole book is autobiographical. Although Actors Anonymous is said to be a fictionalized account of his acting career, perhaps Franco is really giving us a window into his soul?
Regardless of how much fact is involved, Franco’s debut novel is just as much of a roller coaster ride as his personal and professional life. His use of a variety of literary techniques isn't an unqualified success; a few chapters feature heavily stylized prose that is at times difficult to follow. However, fans of Franco will want to follow his journey every step of the way.