"Boom Town," Sam Anderson, Crown, 432 pages, $28.
Sam Anderson first visited Oklahoma City in 2012 to report on its NBA franchise for the New York Times Magazine and calls it “unlikely, unreasonable, arbitrary.” Despite the rhetoric, however, the writer has clearly discovered a subject that energizes him.
Anderson lays out its Sooner roots, how Oklahoma City and its original promise appear to strike him as a perpetual example of the soul-altering fantasies of a boom town, of the abiding and destructive American hunger for instant success amid the usual financial desperation.
To be fair, boom is almost always accompanied by its unfaithful spouse, bust. The oil business has alternately enriched and depleted the city, starting in 1928 and continuing right up to the present with the advent of fracking.
There are the supersonic booms that echoed through Oklahoma City in 1964 during Operation Bongo II, when the Chamber of Commerce volunteered the metropolis for a six-month experiment in how well its stoic citizenry could tolerate daily blasts from overhead jets in the forlorn hope that the city might become a hub for supersonic air travel. (Answer: not well.)
There is the depraved, cataclysmic boom from the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. And in a metaphorical sense, there is the premature boom of Oklahoma City’s relatively new NBA team, the Thunder.
Through the history of its economy, its politics and its most famous citizens, Anderson’s brilliant book shows what’s most surreal about Oklahoma City is that this city is for real.
NEW YORK TIMES