Actors Anonymous by James Franco

By James Franco

The actors in James Franco’s tremendous debut novel comprise a McDonald’s drive-thru operator who spends his shift attempting on accents; an ex-child celebrity recalling an immense beachside bacchanal; clinic volunteers and Midwestern transplants; a vampire flick starlet who discovers a cryptic e-book written through a well-known actor long past AWOL; and the ghost of River Phoenix. Then there’s Franco himself, who prowls behind the curtain, peering out among the lines—before taking the degree with attention-grabbing meditations on his paintings, in addition to nightmarish stories of extra. “Hollywood has consistently 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 trip into the darkish center of superstar.

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She wore the anklet of her husband’s titles, which the first wife alone could wear. She walked up to her husband and accepted the horn from him. She then went down on one knee, drank a little and handed back the horn. She rose, called him by his name and went back to her hut. The other wives drank in the same way, in their proper order, and went away. The men then continued their drinking and talking. Ogbuefi Idigo was talking about the palm-wine tapper, Obiako, who suddenly gave up his trade. “There must be something behind it,” he said, wiping the foam of wine from his mustache with the back of his left hand.

Many years ago when she was the village beauty Okonkwo had won her heart by throwing the Cat in the greatest contest within living memory. She did not marry him then because he was too poor to pay her bride-price. But a few years later she ran away from her husband and came to live with Okonkwo. All this happened many years ago. Now Ekwefi was a woman of forty-five who had suffered a great deal in her time. But her love of wrestling contests was still as strong as it was thirty years ago. It was not yet noon on the second day of the New Yam Festival.

Okoye, meanwhile, took the lump of chalk, drew some lines on the floor, and then painted his big toe. As he broke the kola, Unoka prayed to their ancestors for life and health, and for protection against their enemies. When they had eaten they talked about many things: about the heavy rains which were drowning the yams, about the next ancestral feast and about the impending war with the village of Mbaino. Unoka was never happy when it came to wars. He was in fact a coward and could not bear the sight of blood.

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