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 ...
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).
Full Review (885 words).
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 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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