Review: 'Finding Tulsa' a Funny, Touching, Whirlwind of a Novel

by Christopher Verleger

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday September 29, 2020

Review: 'Finding Tulsa' a Funny, Touching, Whirlwind of a Novel

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.

"Finding Tulsa"

by Jim Provenzano


Chris is a voracious reader and unapologetic theater geek from Narragansett, Rhode Island.