James Franco’s collection of stories about teenagers, Palo Alto, resonated with me the first time I read it. I felt that even though the stories take place in Palo Alto, they were describing universal experiences and emotions. I have spent a lot of time with these stories. I know them well. I have read and dissected them repeatedly. My own copy of the book is covered in highlighter, its margins scribbled with notes.
When I was adapting these stories into a script, I knew I wanted “Jack-O’ ” to frame the movie. It’s dark and humorous. Its witty but crude back-and-forth of “would you rather” is exactly the sort of conversation I remember hearing in high school. The whole philosophy of would-you-rather captures, I think, the teenage consciousness—the confusion and recklessness, the frustration and relief that adult life is still only hypothetical. Danger suddenly veers into reality at the end of story, with the narrator’s final act.
To read “Jack-O’ ” and other stories from the Fall 2013 issue, please purchase a copy from our online store.