I received a copy of the book from Netgalley to review. Thank you for the opportunity.
A strange and unusual novel which wasn't really to my taste. It was quite a controversial novel.
An OK read.
4 1/2 stars. A young teenager willingly (in his eyes) has sex with an adult relative. Please see this as a trigger warning. He grows up to become a director of a trilogy of cult films. When the opportunity arises to direct a feature film with very similar subject matter he begins to realize his experience was actually abuse and how it affected his life. Despite the dark subject matter the book itself is more a celebration of life, family, friends and Hollywood with all the good & bad that entails. I really enjoyed the writing style and was thoroughly engaged from beginning to end. Thank you to the author and NetGalley for providing a review copy of this book to me. Highly recommended.
Although I'd already pre-ordered a paperback copy, I wanted to get to reading this, and signed up on #NetGalley to get an advance ebook. What an epic ride! Aside from his paired romance books, and each being gay fiction, none of the author's works are similar. I first found PINS when a friend gave me a copy (since I wrestled in school). Over the years, I've read his other books, and despite some flaws, found them entirely readable.
But 'Finding Tulsa' covers more ground in a robust funny way than his previous work. It's about Stan Grozniak (what a name), a sort-of has-been film director who gets a chance to make a cable TV feature with gay themes. He and his partner, producer, writer and sorta boyfriend Barry, develop the script amid tussles in bed and thematic disputes.
While casting the movie, Stan asks to do an 'open call' in addition to hiring studio-recommended actors. Who does he find but Lance, his teenage crush from a summer theater production of 'Gypsy' from his former small Ohio hometown.
But wait, back up. There are a bunch of time shifts divided by chapters. The earlier 1970s chapters lovingly describe Stan's youth as a theater actor and wannabe techie, and his crushes on Lance and Dick (a techie and stage carpenter- you can almost smell the heat in the lighting booth), as well as Stan's young interest in making Super8 films with his brother.
Jump ahead to the '90s, and Stan finds Lance, his 'Tulsa' (get it?) and casts him in the TV movie. Around the same time, Stan is wooed by gay porn star Jason Daw, who wants an artistic take on his next adult feature. All this is woven in with numerous cinema and musical theater references, fun descriptions of Stan's various films, and a subtle nod to Homer's 'Odyssey.'
A lot more happens, including Stan's fun conversations with Jorge, his sassy costume designer pal, and Barry, who gets pushed aside as Stan and Lance figure out how to reconnect off-set. Some of this is told in a lengthy diary section that describes the filming of the TV movie, which includes the taboo subject of incest; also a part of Stan and Barry's young lives. This may put off some, but the writing debates it from several characters' perspectives.
Is Stan empowered or in denial? Is he a brilliant auteur or a self-absorbed jerk? That's one part that makes this story intriguing. Stan spills the beans on his sexual adventures in memoir/confessional style, including some wild romps with his action movie star, the hunky yet sadly deceased Rick Dacker.
The latter part of the story includes (spoilers) a gay porn video shoot in Arizona, and some retro-style studio scenes where Stan discovers the humanity of the rental studs. But why does Stan agree to do this at the brink of a mainstream success? You'll have to read it to find out.
Suffice it to say that 'Finding Tulsa' treats gay male sexuality, love, loss and AIDS, in both funny and winsome/nostalgic ways; graphic and sometimes about porn, but not written as porn. The L.A. setting is witty and evocatively described; helicopters, swimming pools, awards shows, and so much more. If only we could actually see some of the fictional movies in this story.
Well, this was certainly different from what I usually read but you know what, in a strange sort of way, it worked for me.
The story (memoir? potential autobiography?) was written in a format that was a bit unusual and took some getting used to. However, at about the 20% mark, I finally started getting what the book was about.
What helped me get more settled was the realisation that the story was not being told in a linear format but rather, it hopped and skipped throughout the life of the protagonist Stan Grozniak; beginning sometime near the most recent events in his life and then moving right on to his earliest memories with his brother in the late 1970's Ohio.
If I'm to be perfectly honest(and when am I not?), even with this realisation I still struggled a lot with these time jumps. Especially because they could change multiple times within one retelling (e.g. in a particular story we moved from 1989 down to 1986 then back to 1990). Also, I do not know if this was because of Era that was being retold or just my lack of knowledge but most of the references in his childhood and adolescence(and there were a LOT) flew right over my head. At a point I resigned myself to just going with the flow and not googling most of references like I was doing.
Nonetheless, even with all my confusion and furious googling, I honestly enjoyed the tale of how Stan Grozniak came to be. He had a fascinating and somewhat disturbing upbringing (I'm looking at you Uncle Sean you bastard).
These stories brought out a whole plethora of reactions from me as they covered a range of topics from his love of film through to being a queer creative in LA in the 1980's and 1990's. Some made me laugh, others made me roll my eyes, some I didn't see the point of(lol!) and some even made me clutch my pearls(yes I didn't believe I even had pearls to clutch but there you go).
All these snippets of Stan's life coalesced into an unusual but intriguing story about an unusual but intriguing man.
This is recommended for when you are in the mood for something distinctly different.
<b> **eARC Graciously Provided by Publisher via Netgalley in Exchange for an Honest, Unbiased Review**</b>
Jim Provenzano's "Finding Tulsa" is a series of unfortunate events that translate to a novel that is at times endearingly eccentric and frustratingly plotted. The main protagonist Stan is a film director who has seen better days and finds himself pulled into staging a comeback in his hometown. The story takes quite a few twists and turns that allow for moments of comedy, drama, and romance (a second chance at first love). There are moments where the story shines when the array of characters converge on this small town and the reader can delight in seeing Stan work to overcome the odds against him. Yet, the novel could have been tightened considerably to draw in the threads of the plot, and cut some of the tangents taken that don't quite pay off in the end. I'm all for a good side quest, yet it needs to have a purpose by the end of the story (something gained, earned, or gleaned) and that wasn't always the case here.
I received a copy of 'Finding Tulsa' from NetGalley in exchange for my fair and honest review.
'Finding Tulsa' belongs in company with 'The Lost Language of Cranes' by David Leavitt and 'The Mysteries of Pittsburgh' by Michael Chabon. If I had not known going in that this novel was a work of fiction, I would have assumed it to be an autobiography. The narrator is focused on himself alone and makes no assumptions about the other cast of characters around him. In the first chapter, narrator Stan gives a clear indication of what to expect: "This story goes back and forth, but loops around itself. My life/career/whatever, misguided as they come, is based purely on the loss and discovery of men" (p. 11).
This story is filled with nostalgia, sex, and gorgeous prose. Some of the themes, such as incest, may be difficult for some readers. The story is framed around the AIDS epidemic, film, and one man's loss and discovery of himself. 'Finding Tulsa' is written in an autobiographical-style, which lends itself to family stories, rich history, and heartbreak. Provenzano writes, "Blood is sexy. Immigration stories are sexy. They are about survival, movement, shifting in planetary communities. Every man is the composite of all of his race(s), which makes him precious, even more so if he's gay, since he is the end of the line. He is his own extinction" (p. 84).
I docked this novel a star because of its difficulty to follow at times with the looping storyline and large cast of characters. It is also important to be critical of the narrator throughout the book. There are numerous times when he tells a story and then states that it didn't happen that way. He is concerned, as I said, about himself. Overall, however, the story is well-written and surprising at times. I would certainly recommend 'Finding Tulsa' to anyone wanting to read a book with gay main characters and a solid family story.