...a pre-emptive, wryly compassionate renunciation of his subject that most writers would never have the nerve to make ... Despite the rhetoric, however, it soon becomes apparent that in regard to 'the great minor city of America' — given the sardonic context thus far, I think this constitutes high praise — the writer has discovered a subject that energizes him the way a birch-bark canoe roused John McPhee ... Anderson may have a gimlet eye, but the nature of his civic scrutiny tends toward the affectionate ... And unlike navel-gazing yappers like Hunter S. Thompson, Anderson doesn’t splatter himself all over the story. He never drowns out anyone with his sly, entertaining voice. His sensibility, sophisticated though it may be, is generous enough to stand up and offer its seat to others ... brilliantly rendered.
...[a] dizzyingly pleasurable new history of Oklahoma City ... Anderson’s book wants to convince you that the capital of America’s forty-sixth state is the most secretly fascinating place on earth ... Anderson writes brilliant alternating sequences on Clara Luper, Oklahoma City’s forgotten civil-rights icon, and Stanley Draper, the deliberately anonymous Chamber of Commerce director ... The effect of the cross-cutting structure is to turn the story of Oklahoma City into a kind of giddy Jenga tower, a mismatched jumble of fascinations. Since that is precisely what Oklahoma City is, this works. Anderson conveys not only the factual data about boom-and-bust cycles in the energy industry but the feeling of a city defined by them ... Boom Town is a dazzling urban history, which is precisely what it sets out to be ... Anderson writes beautifully about the human beings he encounters, both living and dead. A minute-by-minute account of the Oklahoma City bombing left me almost in tears.
Anderson is a great basketball writer...and his material on Harden, Durant, and particularly Westbrook in Boom Town will surely enthrall hoops fans. But Boom Town will also thrill anyone who couldn’t care less about the NBA; at its core, it’s a curious reporter’s portrait of the cultural and civic life of a strange and great city. If you’re a non-Oklahoman, you’ll experience frequent shocks of recognition at the foibles of the modern urban experience; Anderson’s explorations, though, will have you opening your preferred travel app, idly pricing tickets to the Sooner State ... The cast of characters that Anderson has assembled in his book offers an embarrassment of riches, a testament to Anderson’s skills as both a reporter and a historical researcher ... The imaginations of sports and cities reinforce each other rather perfectly, a connection that Boom Town mines for all its possibilities.
Sam Anderson’s ambitious new book about Oklahoma City reanimates a place that has too often been portrayed as simplistic ... one of the more exciting new profiles of a Plains city in recent memory ... What could have easily devolved into a bone-dry academic text instead surfaces as an animated Plains epic that complicates the popular notion of a supposedly stale place ... like many of the best sports stories, Anderson’s deconstruction of the rise and fall and ultimate plateau of the Thunder has less to do with sports than with character—and Oklahoma City, Boom Town explains, is brimming with character ... At the start, there’s a certain whiplash feel to Boom Town. But the further that one reads, the less disparate each thread feels, until finally a theme develops and the reader begins hunting for it in the smallest details ... Though Anderson’s empathy for Oklahoma City shines through, Boom Town isn’t a work of boosterism. The author refuses to skip over or whitewash the more unfortunate episodes of the city’s past.
Mr. Anderson writes about Oklahoma City with zeal and devotion, his rollicking prose perfectly suited to Oklahoma City’s boom mentality. He expertly deploys singular characters to illustrate the city’s strangeness, from meteorologist Gary England, who became a household name by reporting on the tornadoes that regularly menace the city, to Wayne Coyne, the lead singer of the Flaming Lips, who, as his hometown’s merry prankster, drags Mr. Anderson into various hijinks. But there are poignant and deeply compassionate sections in the book, too. Among them is a frank assessment of Oklahoma City’s tortured racial history ... Mr. Anderson certainly doesn’t seem inclined to decamp from his perch in New York. But the city demands attention. Take that, Indianapolis.
Anderson’s conversational prose and spirited chapters, grouped into sections, are a good match for his information-packed style. In the section 'Color,' for instance, his layer-cake approach stacks racial injustice and civil rights activism in OKC’s history; Thunder center Daniel Orton, a hometown player, recalling a racially charged moment in his high-school basketball career; and Wayne Coyne, eccentric front man for the Flaming Lips and legendary lifelong OKC resident, convincing Anderson to help him add a literal rainbow to the city’s streets overnight ... Reading Anderson’s time-traveling, civics-minded, and thoroughly person-focused story of OKC, one gets the feeling that his research didn’t uncover a single fact that he could keep to himself, and his enthusiasm for the city’s singularity—and the implications of it—is beyond infectious.
Anderson has just attended a Century Chest celebration at the First Lutheran Church, at which a time capsule, sealed 100 years before, has been unveiled. Anderson is skeptical. 'Time capsules are ... almost always empty, damaged, full of junk—further depressing evidence (as if we needed any) of the absolute tyranny of time.' The passage evokes its author deftly: the inside outsider, captivated but unconvinced, part of the collective while also essentially apart ... for much of Boom Town the tragedy [of the federal building bombing] is as absent as the negative space where the Murrah building used to stand ... Anderson, however, knows what he is doing, which is less to create a history of Oklahoma City than to map it out as psychic space ... The story has to exist in the interstices, to be intuited as much as told ... What Anderson is tracing is the creation of a narrative, the story the city tells about itself.
It’s not Anderson’s goal to render the city as sad. He empathizes with and loves Oklahoma City for all of its weirdness. He doesn’t slum with pity or rage. But he is at his best describing farces and historical tragedies in sober, simile-rich prose ... Anderson’s book argues that even though a city might be doomed, it can still be interesting. In fact, that might make it more interesting.
Oklahoma City can be a pretty easy punching bag, and New York journalist Sam Anderson rarely misses his jabs--like this faint praise: 'one of the great weirdo cities of the world.' His first book, Boom Town, is a hilarious history and drive-through study of this Midwestern city born of bedlam and ambition during the 1889 Land Run.
...Anderson helpfully profiles several of the residents and leaders who have given the city its unique character, including civil rights activist Clara Luper, legendary weatherman Gary England, and Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne. But the book centers on the Oklahoma City Thunder, the NBA team formerly known as the Seattle Supersonics ... Anderson’s back-and-forth style is challenging, and he has an unfortunate penchant for gratuitous profanity. Nevertheless, he provides an entertaining history of a city that, for all its booms and busts, is never boring.
...a rollicking, kaleidoscopic chronicle of America’s 27th-largest city ... [a] vivid narrative of Oklahoma City’s tumultuous history ... Anderson’s lively and empathetic saga captures the outsize ambitions, provincial realities, and vibrant history of a quintessentially American city.