"A Map of Tulsa" --- A Widely Praised First Novel from Benjamin Lytal
Today on ST we speak by phone with Benjamin Lytal, who grew up in Tulsa and now resides in Chicago, and who has written for The Wall Street Journal, The London Review of Books, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Sun, The Believer, McSweeney's, and other publications. Lytal's first novel, "A Map of Tulsa," has just been published, and he'll be doing a free reading/signing in connection with this book tonight (Tuesday the 26th) at the Harwelden Mansion here in Tulsa at 7pm. (The event is being co-presented by Book Smart Tulsa and This Land Press; see this link for more information.) As one critic noted of this book, in a starred review in Publishers Weekly: "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.... The strength of this debut novel is Lytal's evocation of place: Tulsa through Jim's eyes is tenderly revealed. There is magic here if the reader has experienced any such provincial city, for the prose provokes remembered images, acutely vivid." And, moreover, this is from a review of "A Map of Tulsa" at Vogue.com: "When he made his publishing debut a decade ago with a short story in McSweeney's that held its own in the issue with the likes of Denis Johnson and David Means, Benjamin Lytal aimed to make Tulsa, Oklahoma, 'look like a mournful spaceship.' That spectral, wasted picture of the city ('I loved the largeness of Tulsa, its big, summery fragrance, the asphalt, the puff of chemical air-conditioning') looms over his first novel, in which Jim Praley, home from college, renews an obsession with Tulsa and Adrienne Booker, the girl who never left. Jim and Adrienne race through backyards at dawn and drive the sprawling freeways looking for inspiration for her paintings. As his fixation on Adrienne supersedes his own writing, Jim wanders further, impressionable and lost, an expatriate in his own hometown; Adrienne, in her own way, becomes as tragic a figure as Gatsby's Daisy."