Summary and book reviews of A Map of Tulsa by Benjamin Lytal

A Map of Tulsa

A Novel

By Benjamin Lytal

A Map of Tulsa
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  • Paperback: Mar 2013,
    272 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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Book Summary

A stunning debut novel of first love set against the art scene of late-90s Tulsa by a former New Yorker editorial staffer

The first days of summer: Jim Praley is home from college, ready to unlock Tulsa's secrets. He drives the highways. He forces himself to get out of his car and walk into a bar. He's invited to a party. And there he meets Adrienne Booker; Adrienne rules Tulsa, in her way. A high-school dropout with a penthouse apartment, she takes a curious interest in Jim. Through her eyes, he will rediscover his hometown: its wasted sprawl, the beauty of its late nights, and, at the city's center, the unsleeping light of its skyscrapers.

In the tradition of Michael Chabon's The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, A Map of Tulsa is elegiac, graceful, and as much a story about young love as it is a love letter to a classic American city.

I remember the heat the day I came home. I leaned my forehead against my parents' picture window and the heat came through the glass. Tulsa. For a few days I drove, sailing south on 169 and coming back, sweeping across on the Broken Arrow, retracing old lines, bearing down with new force. My parents were very kind. But I decided I had to go to the bars.

In the city of my elementary school, and of my good blue- carpeted church, this was a step I had never taken. I knew where to go: across from the Mexican restaurant where my parents now ate after- church lunch there was a row of bars— in Tulsa's warehouse district. They didn't card here. I parked, I could hear my dashboard clock tick. And even as I watched, three teenage girls in peasant dresses filed out of the Blumont and lit their cigarettes. The sun was setting, the brick wall caught fire. The three girls stood there for some reason, as if in front of a firing squad, squinting in the sun.

At college maybe I became conceited ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

A Map of Tulsa charts the contours of Jim Praley's own complex and beautiful coming-of-age journey. Benjamin Lytal has written a soulful and utterly haunting book that is as much an ode to a city as it is to first love. As his novel shows us, It is hard to distill and separate a sense of time or place from love – especially first love. They are all interconnected, together forming the essential arteries of one universal map.   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

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Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

[D]eftly composed but emotionally sodden debut novel...An off-key Midwestern reminiscence with a self-pitying air of despondency.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. If Catcher in the Rye has lost its raw clout for recent generations of Internet-suckled American youth, here is a coming-of-age novel to replace it.

Author Blurb Dinaw Mengestu, author of How to Read the Air and The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears
A Map of Tulsa is a remarkable novel. Benjamin Lytal has written a glorious and exquisitely crafted work of art, one that poignantly brings to life all the joy and heartbreak of youth with compassion, grace, and wisdom.

Author Blurb Mark Binelli, author of Detroit City is the Place to Be and Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die!
Benjamin Lytal understands, and brilliantly captures, how the most aching significance can be wrought from a place, a time, a girl, solely because they were yours. One wouldn't imagine Saul Bellow and Jarvis Cocker as complementary influences, but that's the mad genius of A Map of Tulsa, an exhilarating debut unabashedly besotted by home and cheekily, preemptively nostalgic for a youth not yet lost.

Author Blurb Christian Lorentzen, author of The Millions
The plot involves a penthouse in a skyscraper, an oil fortune, a motorcycle accident, dancing in bars, taking pills, and having sex outside. But mostly it's about walking around the city - your hometown, reconquered - and wondering what your destiny will be.

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Tulsa, the "Oil Capital of the World"

vintage postcardIn 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 in Bartlesville, 40 miles north of Tulsa. The Red Fork and Glen Pool gushers were discovered shortly thereafter and the city, which started ...

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