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Finding Tulsa

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Stan Grozniak, director of ’90s B-movies and art films, almost self-sabotages a prestigious directing gig after casting his rediscovered teenage summer stock crush. Still haunted by the death of Rick Dacker, the sexy star of his cult action trilogy, Stan attempts a romance with actor Lance Holtzer, his ‘Tulsa’ from a small town Ohio production of the musical Gypsy.

Discovering more about himself than he wants to admit, he traces his recent success with past obsessions, including a traumatic teenage encounter with an overly affectionate uncle. Framed through a visit to Stan’s boyhood home, the tale of his rise to cinematic success –and the sacrifices he made– captures the passion and heartache of making love, making movies, and the occasional riot.

322 pages, Paperback

First published September 22, 2020

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About the author

Jim Provenzano

14 books126 followers
Jim Provenzano is the author of the novels Finding Tulsa, Now I'm Here, PINS, Monkey Suits, Cyclizen, the 2012 Lambda Literary Award-winning Every Time I Think of You, its sequel Message of Love (a Lammy finalist), and the stage adaptation of PINS (a Bay Area Theatre Critics awardee). His short fiction collection Forty Wild Crushes was published in 2016.

A journalist in LGBT media for three decades, and the guest curator of Sporting Life, the world's first gay athletics exhibit, he also wrote the award-winning syndicated Sports Complex column for ten years. An Editor at the Bay Area Reporter, his seventh novel, Finding Tulsa, was published in September 2020.

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Displaying 1 - 12 of 12 reviews
Profile Image for Santy.
1,188 reviews69 followers
September 21, 2020
3.5 Stars

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.

**eARC Graciously Provided by Publisher via Netgalley in Exchange for an Honest, Unbiased Review**
Profile Image for Joyfully Jay.
7,696 reviews441 followers
September 18, 2020
A Joyfully Jay review.

5 stars

Finding Tulsa is a fantastic first-person narrative told from Stan Grozniak’s perspective. It reads like a long letter, or maybe a director’s commentary track laid over a finished film. Personally, I very much enjoyed the pacing of the story and the non-linear qualities. I think mixing newer and older episodes with contemporary events in Stan’s life helped keep things interesting. That said, I’ll admit I did find it a bit of a challenge to know when “now” is for Stan. I would hazard a guess that it’s sometime in the 90s. For readers familiar with 60/70/80s, there is a lot to get nostalgic over and thread of sadness from reading about some of the friends Stan loses to a disease that, today, can be very manageable with treatment.

Read Camille’s review in its entirety here.

Profile Image for Bud Gundy.
Author 5 books17 followers
September 22, 2020
I've been a fan of Jim Provenzano for years, and I haven't always given him five stars. Finding Tulsa is the work of a writer at the top of his game. Uncompromising and insightful, the observations come relentlessly, unsparingly, and in a voice you don't dare argue with. Whether funny, tragic, or pathetic, every observation comes with clarity and wit, with an occasional revelation that makes you sit back and think. Career, family, love, sex...I can't think of a topic that doesn't come under scrutiny. All of life, I guess.

It's always fun to read Provenzano. We grew up at pretty much the same time and place, and seeing the world through his eyes, and his memories, can feel cozily familiar and profoundly alien at the same time. I envy his ease with describing sex and romance, even at their most ridiculous. And I find myself wondering how I got off to such an early, misbegotten start and didn't know enough to even dream of spending a minute in a booth with Dick, especially while listening to Lance sing.
Profile Image for John.
327 reviews14 followers
October 4, 2020

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.
Profile Image for John.
327 reviews14 followers
October 4, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Thomas Lowe.
51 reviews3 followers
November 12, 2020
I am a fan of Jim Provenzano’s previous books, so I was predisposed toward liking his FINDING TULSA too. When I read that he had a new book coming out, I was excited for it to be released. Then I read the synopsis and I got a little nervous. What I love about Provenzano’s work is how well he tells stories of young gay men falling in love. They ring true and are very relatable. It might be that we’re about the same age and we both grew up in the Midwest, but some of the things he has written eerily mirror my experiences in many ways.

If young Midwestern boys falling in love and coming to terms with their sexuality is a theme of Provenzano’s, he doesn’t repeat himself. Each time it’s a new group of characters experiencing first love in their own unique ways.

So when I read that FINDING TULSA was about an established, mature film director, I worried it would be too “insider” for me, and all I could flash on was William J. Mann’s THE MEN FROM THE BOYS, which, to be fair, I liked just fine, but I really couldn’t relate to the characters in that novel all that much as they lived in a world that was somewhat foreign to me. I don’t need every story to reflect my life, by any means, but it does help for characters to be relatable.

From the very beginning, I was relieved to find the main character, filmmaker Stan Grozniak, to be very human, very relatable, and kind of a nerdy goofball in the sexiest sort of way, so my fear of "insiderism" was unfounded. Stan’s story starts in 1999, but it jumps around in time, taking us back to Grozniak’s youth in the 1970s, which was familiar territory, and immediately a world I understood as well.

When the novel jumped back to the 70s, I started to suspect that Stan was the unnamed main character in “The Lair of Light,” my favorite story in FORTY WILD CRUSHES, Provenzano’s 2016 story collection. It is the story of a gay teen working on college theatre productions and his crushes on the college men and theatre directors he works with.

To my delight I was quickly proven correct as the text of that short story was worked into the narrative of FINDING TULSA pretty much verbatim. It was fun to see that character and that story expanded upon. Fleshing out a short story into a novel can result in a padded narrative that loses the beauty of the original story. Provenzano, however, takes a character I felt I already knew, and he creates a rich narrative that takes nothing away from the original story while building on it beautifully and marrying it with the 1999 story, showing how Stan’s youthful experiences inform the man Stan becomes.

Provenzano weaves the different narratives together beautifully. The latter section, which details Stan’s work directing a gay porn film while he has a casual affair with one of the stars, did not seem, at first, to be necessary to the story, but it was an enjoyable read, so I went with it. As the novel wound down, however, it became clearer how that experience fits into Stan’s journey.

Though I like all of Provenzano’s books that I have read, I would have said (if asked) that EVERY TIME I THINK OF YOU is my favorite, even though it mirrors my experiences the least. That said, FINDING TULSA gives the earlier novel a run for its money on my list of favorites. It also reminds me of something I recently read regarding favorites: why do we have to narrow it to one? Isn’t it more fun to have several favorites? Yes, yes it is.
Profile Image for Kel.
Author 1 book8 followers
September 13, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Bob.
61 reviews1 follower
September 1, 2023
I like when a fiction title can pull in several of my own interests for plot points like movies, theater or even porn! The characters all felt very recognizable and relatable to me too. But only the author's brother knows what's true (biographical) and what isn't. I was a child of the 70's as well so even the references made by the now grown main character in the more recent era that fell flat with the younger characters gave that same awkward feeling we know. And a happy ending on top!
1,041 reviews3 followers
October 29, 2020
Finding Tulsa is a book that takes you back to a different decade than where we are now. It was a difficult time for gays during the sixties, seventies, and eighties with AIDS. The story jumps in time to talk about sexual abuse, partying, porno, theatre, Los Angeles, Ohio, and becoming a film director.

It is very well done in descriptions of the period and how the world was during those times. It also is a book about following your dream and finding the love of your life. It is a story of coming to terms with abuse--even when you didn't understand that it was abuse. Reconciling your feelings as an adult for what happened to you in the past.

There were scenes and scenarios that were uncomfortable for some readers.

It was a trip down memory lane.
Profile Image for Mike Adams.
94 reviews
January 27, 2021
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?

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.
Profile Image for Chris.
263 reviews9 followers
September 30, 2020
Countless stories begin with the protagonist returning home, either to say goodbye to a loved one, escape from something or someone from their current life, or pay an overdue visit, among other reasons. When we first meet Stan Grozniak, the narrator of Jim Provenzano's latest novel, "Finding Tulsa," he is on his way home to pay tribute to a teacher about to retire — but rather than following the formula where an event during the trip triggers a series of actions, the author gives voice to the self-deprecating Stan, who uses the opportunity to share his story —unabridged, in no particular order, often hilarious, sometimes tedious, yet always titillating.

Growing up in Brookside, Ohio, Stan discovered early on that he wanted to make movies. Around the same time, he also realized he liked boys instead of girls. When he becomes involved in community theater as a young teen, Stan meets Lance, a college student and aspiring actor whose smile has such a lasting effect on him that... well, more on that later. Let it suffice to say that Lance is the first significant entry in a veritable catalog of men who provide Stan with some level of pleasure, pain, or ecstasy.

As a well-enough-known gay film director living in Los Angeles, Stan has no shortage of admirers. Over time, his master list includes Barry, his creative partner and sometime lover; Jorge, his sassy associate and occasional friend with benefits; Gerard "Ricky" Kulozik, an actor and the star of his film trilogy who meets an untimely death; Jason, a well-endowed hunk from Australia; and, perhaps most importantly, his Uncle Sean. Yes, you read that right — and more to follow on that, as well.

The novel sometimes reads like a stream of consciousness, yet "Tulsa" is more than just the pseudo-memoir of a Hollywood hotshot and his sexual escapades (however exciting they are to read about — and in lurid, delicious detail), but also an unexpected, endearing love story. Fate intervenes as Stan is casting a cable movie about incest (remember Uncle Sean?) when Lance's headshot crosses his desk. The unsettling feature film allows Stan the opportunity to pursue the boyhood object of his affection while revisiting the unfortunate incident that not only inspired the screenplay, but also had a profound impact on him and his family.

While Stan's life experiences are uniquely his, there are phases and facets we can all relate to, like sibling rivalry, struggling to fit in, the traumatizing first crush, losing someone to AIDS, and a fierce appreciation for the arts. He also takes part in wild scenarios and tantalizing adventures that most of us just fantasize about. Whether it's a small town production of "Gypsy" or a porno movie set in the desert, Stan's limitless passion for creativity and the artistic process remains intact, and guides him throughout.

"Finding Tulsa" is a funny, touching whirlwind of a novel that is equally exhausting and exhilarating. You never know where you're headed from one chapter to the next, which makes for one hell of a ride.
Profile Image for Keith.
334 reviews23 followers
October 19, 2020
3 1/2 stars.
I enjoyed this read.
Personally for me, Jim has alway created some characters who are very endearing and capture my heart.
With this read, he also infused some suprising elements of comedy, puns and one-liners. On many occassions, I burst out laughing as certain characters were ‘read’ unknowingly.
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