Jim Praley is not quite sure what to make of Tulsa, the city where he grew up, and went to high school; the city he was a little too eager to leave behind when he finally left for college. At the start of Benjamin Lytal's soulful debut, A Map of Tulsa
, Jim has finished his first year of college and is back home in Tulsa for the summer. Already the prodigal son act is one marked with defeat Jim only returns home because he didn't get a summer job with the campus newspaper. Never mind, he tells himself, he will set a systematic course of study over the summer, one that will leave him amply prepared to choose a major, come sophomore year. "I came back to Tulsa that summer for different reasons. To prove that it was empty. And in hopes that it was not," Jim says.
As he finds out over the course of that intense summer, "empty" Tulsa is not. It still isn't...
Beyond the Book
In A Map of Tulsa
, the protagonist Jim Praley, can't ignore the city's relationship with oil. His girlfriend, Adrienne Booker, is born into a wealthy oil family and Jim remembers "an issue of National Geographic my dad kept, from the '78 oil crisis. Tulsa was on the cover, an aerial photograph of the refineries, lit up like a metropolis at night," he says. Tulsa has boasted of the moniker "oil capital of the world" although whether it still qualifies, is a point that is open for debate.
It was towards the end of the nineteenth century, in 1897, that the Nellie Johnstone well blew...