by Jim Provenzano
Palm Drive Publishing
Reviewed by John Francis Leonard
It’s not easy writing a novel in the first person and relying on the sole perspective of your narrator, but Jim Provenzano pulls it off beautifully in Finding Tulsa. He brings us the remarkable voice and life experience of Stan Grozniak, a struggling Hollywood director and a nuanced gay man in a town where so many live on the surface of things. Alternating between his coming of age in a small Ohio college town as a boy working in and in love with the theater and his adulthood as a man who doesn’t quite fit the gay L.A. stereotypes; we fall in love with Stan’s unique voice, wicked wit, and true heart. Sex in the era of the AIDS crisis is explored as well as the deep personal losses brought by the early pandemic.
Stan is a survivor and he braves the loss of early success and many a dear friend. His survival is a triumph, he’s never down for the count for long. We get to know him intimately, his early crushes on unobtainable men, his abuse by a male relative, and his unique perspective on gay life and the ravages of a pandemic that took so many of our friends and lovers. You always find yourself rooting for him as he stages his Hollywood comeback and continues his long search for the perfect man. L.A. is home to a unique breed of gay man and lest we forget, was an early epicenter in the AIDS crisis. It’s refreshing to get the perspective of a gay man from that city who doesn’t quite fit its mold: he has no abs, he’s not unattractive, he’s just a real man who doesn’t feel that burning gay need to be visually perfect. All that and he’s still got game, leading an active sex life with attractive men. It’s refreshing and timely as well as unusual for a “gay Hollywood novel.”
Finding Tulsa is both a unique and satisfying read that gives much perspective on the AIDS pandemic and living through it as a modern gay man.
John Francis Leonard is an advocate and writer, as well as a voracious reader of literature, which helps to feed his love of the English language. He has been living with HIV for fifteen years. His fiction has been published in the ImageOutWrite literary journal and he is a literary critic for Lambda Literary. Follow him on Twitter @JohnFrancisleo2.