Friday, January 11, 2019

BOOM TOWN :: Sam Anderson


1. I don't have anything approaching rabid interest in Oklahoma. No offense to the Sooner State. I know all the words to the songs of Oklahoma! and can do jazz-hands while singing them (and am strangely compelled to do so, thanks to Craig Ferguson). I have driven across the state numerous times and enjoy the lovely Will Rogers Turnpike. Heck, some of my favorite people have Oklahoma roots (James Garner, Meg Gardiner--age before camaraderie). Generally speaking, however, I would not pick up a book about Oklahoma. Yet I did.

2. Even with the f'ing snappy-as-hell mouthful of a subtitle, "The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, its Chaotic Founding, its Apocalyptic Weather, its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis," I likely would not have given Boom Town a second glance if the cover was just another retread dust bowl photograph. Yet it is not. And thusly was born my first aces read of the year.

This is a kickass cover. I had no clue what to expect when I plugged in and was blown away (no tornadic pun intended). Sam Anderson, former book critic for New York magazine and now a staff writer at the New York Times magazine, was sent to OKC in 2012 to write a piece about the Thunder, the basketball team with an engaging if recent history in OKC and its improbable run at a title. What he discovered was so much more.

From the story of the city that was created in a day, April 22, 1889, when the Oklahoma Land Run brought 5-digits worth of residents (non-native residents; again, another story), Anderson has created a fascinating, emotion-packed trip through an otherwise boring civics lesson.

Woven through the story via the Thunder is Oklahoma City's heart--its beloved weather forecaster, urban renewal and decline, quirky NBA general manager and superstar players, civil rights heroes, local rock legend oddball, gas and oil issues and, yes, terrorism.

Often laugh-out-loud funny, Anderson is a master at mixing things up and throwing curveballs of emotion. I was so enthralled in his retelling of the Buffalo Bills' multi-Super Bowl run (stick with me, I know Buffalo is not in Oklahoma) that I did not see the gut punch that was coming until he threw it. Well played, Sam Anderson.

STREET SENSE: Even if you're not a fan of history, non-fiction, sports, or Oklahoma, I recommend this one. Which says a lot.

A FAVORITE PASSAGE: I listened to the audio version, which was well done, if a tad stiltedly, by Anderson himself. I was laughing so hard at the start I almost switched to the hardcover version on my shelf to really immerse myself, but I'm glad I stuck with the audio, it was performed with love. This does mean that I have no real quote, since I'm way too lazy to bookmark audio passages and write them down. Suffice to say, it would have been some hilarious bit about James Harden's beard (a character unto itself) or something that would have made me cry.

COVER NERD SAYS: I didn't even know I wanted to read this book until I saw the cover.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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