When I started working at the library, I would sometimes find myself shelving books in the fiction section, recognizing a name on a spine and thinking ‘wait a second, they write fiction too?’ Of course, we all know that many actors love to write memoirs and talk about themselves and their lives ad nauseam for upwards of 300 pages. But there are quite a few talented actors who’ve tried their hand at writing fiction as well, some to great success and critical acclaim, and others less so. Keep reading for a look at these varied attempts and be sure to check out the books to make your own judgement.
While I knew that BJ Novak (writer, producer, actor, etc. etc. of The Office fame) had found some success with his children’s book The Book With No Pictures, I was surprised to see that he’s also written a collection of short stories for adults, called One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories. Parts of this book were work shopped during Novak’s comedy tours and book readings, which gives an almost stand-up vibe to the way these stories read. It may be hard to call some of them short stories, considering a few are no more than two or three lines long, and many of them are posed like imaginative “What If?” questions. But all are clever and funny, with an underlying poignancy that ensures this is a book you won’t soon forget. If you like short, quippy prose that will hold your attention and make you laugh out loud, or if you’re just a big fan of The Office, One More Thing is definitely for you.
James Franco is an undeniably talented actor, who has shown his worth in both comedies and dramas, and has gained some notoriety in the art world as well. But, does he know how to write fiction? According to some… not so much. His collection of linked short stories, Palo Alto, tells the stories of various teenagers growing up in Palto Alto, California in the 1990’s (just like Franco himself). A lot of the characters are pretty dysfunctional, and get up to some pretty shocking things. Some criticisms of this book have been that there’s no development of character, Franco uses the same plot devices over and over, there’s no real action to the stories, and that they’re just plain boring. What did I think? Well, they weren’t the best stories of debaucherous youth that I’ve read, but they certainly weren’t the worst. While I don’t think I would call Franco a visionary when it comes to writing, I certainly found the book compelling and gritty. I think it’s definitely worth a read if you’re a Franco fan and generally enjoy this kind of subject matter.
Funny man Steve Martin’s An Object of Beauty, tells the story of Lacey Yeager, who is “young, captivating, and ambitious enough to take the NYC art world by storm. Groomed at Sotheby’s and hungry to keep climbing the social and career ladders put before her, Lacey charms men and women, old and young, rich and even richer with her magnetic charisma and liveliness. Her ascension to the highest tiers of the city parallel the soaring heights–and, at times, the dark lows–of the art world and the country from the late 1990s through today.” – publisher. This satirical, character-driven novel is incredibly witty and engaging. If you find the art world particularly boring or look for a book with strictly likable characters, it may not be for you. Otherwise, I highly recommend it. As I was reading I kept thinking “this was really written by THAT Steve Martin?” and it certainly was!
Is it fact or is it fiction? Child star Macauley Culkin’s novel Junior blurs the line between the two. “In a dizzying kaleidoscope of words and images, Macaulay Culkin takes readers on a twisted tour to the darkest corners of his fertile imagination.” – publisher. This book reads like a journal written by someone named Junior, and that’s kind of what it is. It’s made up of drawings, quizzes, poems, lists, and more conventional journal entries. It’s been called self-indulgent and creepy, and I would sadly have to agree. But, that being said, it is an interesting look into the mind of a grown up child actor, and at times it can feel pretty intimate. It’s almost like Culkin wrote this book for himself and it just happened to get published and end up on shelves everywhere. Is it a literary masterpiece? No, but it’s definitely worth a read.. Part memoir, part rant, part comedic tour de force, Junior is full of the hard-won wisdom of Culkin’s quest to come to terms with the awesome pressures of childhood mega-stardom and family dysfunction. Searingly honest, brain-teasingly inventive, Junior is breathtaking proof that Culkin has found his own utterly original voice