Book review: Actors Anonymous

Actors Anonymous book cover

Actors Anonymous by James Franco

At first glance Actors Anonymous looks like your average novel. Then you notice that it is written by James Franco.

Not content with being an Oscar nominated actor and respected director Franco is also an author. Actors Anonymous  is his second book. His first was greeted with glowing critical acclaim.

The front cover tells us that Actors Anonymous  is a novel. It's not. It's a collection of short stories inspired by Alcoholics Anonymous' 12 Steps. Split into sections each details one of the darker aspects of Hollywood. As such the composition is bizarre.

While the crux of the AA steps is to reach continued sobriety Franco's book has no such purpose. It lurches between characters and styles. Some of the short stories work well and Franco is especially good when writing about himself.

He details the highs and lows of fame with aplomb and leaves the reader to decipher whether the narrative is in fact about him.

Chapter five sees a teacher attempt to convince an actor to accept a film role. Against his better judgement the actor takes it.

As the story progresses there are parallels between Franco's own experience of taking a part in Tristan And Isolde, a film in which he appeared before he made it big.

It flopped and it becomes clear that taking the part is something Franco regrets. It is a fascinating insight. 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.

Actors Anonymous  is a book for anyone who enjoys delving under the surface of Hollywood.

As an examination of celebrity it's a fresh look into a world rarely seen by us mere mortals. "Hollywood has always been a private club," writes Franco. "I open the gates. I say welcome. I say look inside."

This unique voice may be flawed but it's an engaging exploration of the weird and wonderful and a fascinating piece of escapism.


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