A Map of Tulsa

Benjamin Lytal. Penguin, $15 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-0-14-242259-5
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. Instead of running away, the pretentious narrator of this updated version of Salinger’s bildungsroman travels headlong back home to claim the town where he came of age. After his first year at a never-named college back East (bearing a striking resemblance to Harvard, Lytal’s own alma mater), Jim Praley returns to Tulsa. On his first visit to a local bar, he reconnects with a woman he went to high school with, who invites him to a birthday party. There he meets the beguiling Adrienne Booker, muse of the local teen set, a rich high school dropout who lives alone in her family’s downtown penthouse. Adrienne sings, smokes, drinks, and doesn’t drink—that alcohol is both not important and abused is rather subversive—and has sex with Jim on the night they meet. In spite of a vow to spend the summer reading classic literature, Jim falls hard for Adrienne, spending days on end teaching her the art history he remembers from his freshman course and watching her paint. After that mythic summer, and a chapter chronicling Jim’s brief literary career in New York, a motorcycle accident draws Jim back to Tulsa to witness Adrienne’s ruination firsthand. Although the doomed girl is the focus of Jim’s obsession, 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. Agent: Edward Orloff, McCormick & Williams Literary Agency. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/18/2013
Release date: 03/26/2013
Genre: Fiction
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