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'Boom Town,' quirky tale of OKC, selling out.

Byline: Brian Brus

OKLAHOMA CITY The story of Oklahoma City is nearly impossible to find lately.

Sam Anderson's Boom Town, a sprawling narrative of the city's 130-year-old history, sold better than local bookstore owners had expected. The first few hundred copies flew off the shelves almost immediately at places like Full Circle and Commonplace, managers said.

Local reviews have been mixed, leaning toward the good. Bob Blackburn, executive director at the Oklahoma Historical Society, said he thoroughly enjoyed the book "as a unique portrait, not a history; it's definitely not a history" for the writer's perspective and storytelling skill.

"It tries to capture the personality, the DNA of a community, by using very select stories to emphasize his interpretation," Blackburn said. "And I think he has done it brilliantly."

Dana Meister, manager of Full Circle near Penn Square Mall, said the author captured Oklahoma City's essence, "warts and all."

The book was released just a month ago. Full Circle hosted Anderson for a signing event Aug. 22, resulting in a full-house sellout. The Boom Town hardback was listed in the top-five of's best-sellers in sports journalism as of Monday.

Anderson, an award-winning journalist and writer for the New York Times Magazine, was sent to Oklahoma City in 2012 to write about the Thunder's meteoric rise in the NBA. While performing his due diligence, as an Oklahoma businessman might say, Anderson came to believe the city deserved more attention.

"Oklahoma City is one of the great weirdo cities of the world as strange, in its way, as Venice or Dubai or Versailles or Pyongyang," he wrote in the introduction of the book. "It is worth paying attention to for the improbability of what exists there, all the time, every day."

Anderson launches into an exploration of the city's excesses, imbalances, illusions and over-corrections, balanced against pride, insecurity, tragedies and achievements: from bombing terrorists to tornadoes, heavy on attention to basketball in the major-league city. And yet he does so often with tongue in cheek.

Former Mayor Mick Cornett, for example, earned Anderson's attention for paying a "devil's bargain" with musician Wayne Coyne at the renaming of Flaming Lips Alley to celebrate the local band's success Cornett, in his official, proper capacity, smiling through Coyne's enthusiastic cussing, both in love with their city.

Cornett could not be reached for comment Monday.

It was yet another example of chaos and control, hand-in-hand, Anderson's underlying thesis of Oklahoma City.

"We ordered a ton of his books when he was in town, not sure whether they would sell or not," said Victoria Storm, bookseller at Commonplace. "The buzz definitely took off since then, with people liking it so much that they're suggesting it to their friends.

"From what I've heard, people like the attention given to their city, and it seems like the intent was pretty well received," she said.

Boom Town will likely end up on the must-read list for locals seeking confirmation that, yes, they are living in an era that will be historic someday, or by sports fans deeply in love with the Thunder and curious about its pedigree. Bookstore owners have ordered hundreds more copies to keep up with demand for as long as it lasts.

Not everyone is in a hurry to read or discuss it, however. Oklahoma City Manager Jim Couch hasn't read the book yet, City Hall spokeswoman Kristy Yager said. Couch, a key figure in expressing the will of City Council and Urban Renewal Authority officials, received a raspberry from Anderson for an observation about wood paneling in his office.

Representatives for the Thunder said they hadn't read the book or didn't feel as though they were in a position to talk about it. Team owners could not be reached for comment.

"I think he did a very fair job," Mayor David Holt said. "He could have put on rose-colored glasses, but he told our story authentically.

"You're getting a credible, credentialed, well-known writer to tell Oklahoma City's story to a national audience, and I think that's a gift to the city under almost any circumstances," Holt said.

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Publication:Journal Record (Oklahoma City, OK)
Geographic Code:1U7OK
Date:Sep 10, 2018
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