Overall a pretty interesting book focused on
The Period Of American History From The period of American history from the of World War I to the nd of the Harding administration particularly in relation to the Red Scare and the labor movement Sinclair s ideological slant though at times painfully naive does lend freshness when the characters City Limits encounter actual historicalvents they aren t the usual ones His characters rarely rise above the level of propaganda but Sinclair has a gift for storytelling that makes the story work Dull preachy xpositions are balanced by occasional bursts of true louence such as a beautifully written death scene juxtaposed with a post lection party I didn t love this book but I found it interesting well worth a first read You know I didn t love this one as much as Sinclair s The Jungle Perhaps because I think so incredibly highly of The Jungle my xpectations for this one were a little unrealistic Let me put it this way In job interviews when I m asked to name a hero I always list Upton Sinclair and Rachel Carson because they both manage to be artful moving Culture and Enchantment emotional artists while also writing with an iron pen and changing the world with words on a page But here the characters are not uite so compelling as in The Jungle the plot not so gripping themotional scenes not so gripping So Oil didn t uite meet what I xpected from SinclairThat said it s a good book it s an important book and like The Jungle it s written with purpose with passion and intent rather than mere art I like how Dad though seen by the workers as the Evil Oil Tycoon is not painted uite so simply He s a mixed bag of a character and an acknowledgement that nobody is a trope or a stock character in real life And of course there s Sinclair s famous socialism again the red flag whipping crisply in the wind behind all his books He s noooooot xactly one to hide his light under a bushel is he I didn t see the movie And I had low D DAY Through German Eyes 2 expectations for Sinclair s work as he s regarded as prolix and melodramatic but this is good surprisingly good absorbingnough to make me ignore my surroundings and nearly miss my train stop While I m only a third of the way into the book it is something of a War and Peace set in Southern California It s the story of Bunny Ross a boy who follows his father J Andrew #Ross one of the successful independent oil men a self made man Their lives are intertwined with #one of the successful independent oil men a self made man Their lives are intertwined with Wyatt family a family of fundamentalist sheepherders whose black sheep Paul is a freethinking pro worker that Bunny idolizes Like War and Peace the characters lives are shaped by forces beyond their control such as war revolution and unions And like Tolstoy Sinclair strives to make very decision and thought of his protagonist over the length of his life open to the readers Yes Sinclair strives to advance his thoughts on socialism but I didn t find it any overbearing than Tolstoy s interpretation of the invasion of Russia and Tolstoy s not so subtle push for finding GodEdit I ve since seen the movie I can see that seeing it would detract from reading as the movie s adaption is a very different beast Now that I have finished reading the book I have to deduct a star It s a good book It was a great book but it is about 100 pages too long It does turn into a bit of an unrealistic full throated discussion about communism vs socialism Since neither have relevance in the US today it s an unfortunate
TURN IN THE BOOK STILL THERE ARE A LOT in the book Still there are a lot things that make this story contemporary and I m still struck by how little some things have changed from the 20s The Jungle will always be Sinclair s most acclaimed work and rightly so given its impact but I believe that Oil has just as much relevance to contemporary life if not so and deserves to be as well known as its venerable sibling ven if it did not spur the same reforms of the oil industry that The Jungle did for food preparation and handling I was spurred to read it after a rewatch of Paul Thomas Anderson s There Will Be Blood and the novel is so different from and complex than the film adaptation that they probably should not be considered strictly related Anderson s film is a small close study with Daniel Day Lewis oil tycoon patriarch a cryptic amoral madman whereas Sinclair s sprawling Democratic Art epic of ambition and capitalism has the son as its vastly subtler and complex protagonist arguing for and against several political philosophies against the backdrop of World War 1 the Teapot Dome scandalvangelical religious revivalism the film industry and the generally In Oil Upton Sinclair fashioned a novel out of the oil scandals of the Harding administration providing in the process a detailed picture of the development of the oil industry in Southern California
Read Oil! AUTHOR Upton SinclairXplosive growth of Southern California As always with books vs movie uestions one should decide how much the snappier running time and Did the Greeks Believe in Their Myths? enhanced aestheticxperience of a film outweighs the greater richness and depth of a novel but there is so much great stuff in Oil that isn t the film that it deserves to be xperienced as its own masterwork particularly its xploration of how internal leftist debates interact with public opinion and the forces of big businessIn fairness to Anderson ones of Sinclair s weaknesses as an author is that it can be difficult to tell his digressions from his details which is probably why the movie really only uses the plot from about the first 100 pages and then does its own thing The very first chapter is a lengthy floridly overwritten dramatization of J Arnold Ross Sr and Jr driving into California to investigate some oil leases but the story picks up rapidly and Senior a small time oilman begins gradually making it big through smart investments and some cunning He s a tough negotiator and not averse to greasing the palms of public officials when necessary but he s not at all like his movie depiction he s always fair to his workers and generally supportive though skeptical of his son s ideological meanderings His son nicknamed Bunny is the real main character and over the course of the book he loyally defends his father s line of work to the various leftists and socialists he Codependent Forevermore: The Invention of Self in a Twelve Step Group encounters as he gets continually and involved in the world of radical politicsspecially after he meets Paul Watkins a tough minded worker and his brother Eli a religious charlatan both played by Paul Dano in the movie Like any good class traitor Bunny feels guilty about the increasing wealth and privilege he accumulates as his father s business continues to Conscience and Memory: Meditations in a Museum of the Holocaust expand but that doesn t stop him from dating actresses and reluctantlynjoying the F Scott Fitzgerald high society lifestyle while at the same time attempting to use his wealth for good Eventually the brutal repression of socialists and anarchists after World War 1 in the Palmer Raids leads to Paul s being beaten to death at the hands of the authorities and the novel Conscience and Memory ends with a solemn resignation at the unstoppable power of the impersonal capitalist juggernautWhat s interesting is that the novel is for the most part uite nuanced and almost sympathetic in itsxplorations of industry and power The Jungle written 20 years before was much stridently anti capitalist but Oil portrays the the struggle between large businesses and small for market share with real Pansy Vol. 6 enthusiasm and Sinclair openly admires the mix of guile dedication and vision it takes for anntrepreneur to grow from a small operator to a major political player Ross and his operation in Beach City is an only barely fictionalized depiction of the real life Edward Doheny s development of Huntington Beach in Orange County and Sinclair s melancholy illustration of all levels of government as corrupt feckless and reactionary into a long tradition of California as American microcosm like in Chinatown Who Framed Roger Rabbit
etc at various points attempts to standAt various points Bunny attempts to stand to Vernon Roscoe his father s much ruthless business partner and the bad cop of capitalism to his father s good cop and Roscoe s powerful defenses of the inexorable logic of capitalism are right in line with the famous monologues in Wall Street Other People s Money Edible Memory: The Lure of Heirloom Tomatoes and Other Forgotten Foods etc B There Will Be Blood is LOOSELY based on this book that is to say there is oil drilling inach and there s a creepy charlatan for a religious leader but that s about it The first half of this book was Elizabeth I excellent and gives a realxplanation of how oil drilling worked at the turn of the century The second half of the book is really about socialism as the main character the son of the oil man struggles between the greedy wealth of his father and his belief in worker s rights I found the second half of the book to be tiresome and to put it bluntly boring and repetitive I d have to say I MADE myself finish it The book could be considered timeless in the fact that it parallels modern society of the corrupt rich who control our political machine to cater to their needs but it would have been much better served had they cut 100 pages out of the 2nd half of the book Sinclair wrote with the fervent Education in a New Society energy of a true believer but thentire time I read the book I approached it with the perspective of history in mind History has basically shown Sinclair and those who subscribed to his idealistic view of the workers. Ribery of public officials class warfare and international rivalry over oil production are the context for Sinclair's story of a genial independent oil developer and his son whose sympathy with the oil.
To be wrong The camps that he describes for basically a good Socialist society at the nd of the book were tried with great success The problem is the Nazis and Stalin were the ones that pulled it off This book was written in 1927 and has nothing but praise for the Soviets claiming that the only reason we heard Bad Things On This Side Of The Atlantic Was Because things on this side of the Atlantic was because jingoistic journalism that was manipulated by the power brokers Again history shows this to be categorically untrue specially when Lenin himself referred to people like Sinclair as useful idiotsAnd the worst part is I can forgive the weak writing style in favor of the ardent idealism if I can divorce the facts of the world from how Sinclair viewed them But it gets tiring as the book devolves basically into a whiny drone about how unfair it is that there are winners and losers at all Everyone can agree that there need to be regulations and a truly free market cannot sustain itself but the converse is true that the workers paradise nvisioned by Sinclair is a pipe dream manufactured by propagndists and power hounds look at the history Chicago for Pete s sakeThe one disturbing thing is that the rhetoric is so familiar in the present day According to Sinclair WWI was about oil WWII was going to be about Oil Apparently that drum beat has been pounding not just about the gulf war but about very war America has The Baby Swap Miracle ever gotten intoStill I would love to find out how Sinclair would have reacted to thend result of Hitler s and Stalin s machinations keep in mind that they were themselves representative of the Socialist State ideal all are ual none are special and all fforts are directed to the betterment not of the self but the state Sinclair ven advances the ideal of putting people in khakis only to get rid of fashion which again is something the Nazi party didSo it s interesting to read this from an historical perspective it just devolves into whiny idealism
the nd many of the other reviewers here I also read this book after seeing There Will Be Blood Enough has been said about the differences between the novel and the film so there s no need for me to chime in on that Upton Sinclair drank my milkshakehe drank it up I thought I was going to read a book about the oil industry in California circa 1920 but nded up with a book about World Communism Oh well at least it was interesting Oil is not The Jungle but it s damn close In keeping with the politically minded storyteller s way of using a fictional narrative to drive home a point Sinclair has this time chosen a California oil baron and his idealistic son as the vehicles with which to air his own beliefs about corporate corruption and greed Being a dutiful journalist Sinclair does his best to show both sides of the story giving Excommunication: Three Inquiries in Media and Mediation examples of how big business doesn t only rape the land but also keeps the common manmployed Gender Justice etc Heven spends a good deal of time displaying in a very Fitzgerald sue way the carefree lifestyle led by the foppish son and daughter heirs to oil fortune But make no mistake about it Sinclair was always on the working man s sideThe movie There Will Be Blood is based on this book but the two are uite different I love Daniel Day Lewis maniacal tyrant but he s a murderous loon comparedby the nd
To The Character From Oilthe character from Oil book is politics and people The movie is about a personone crazy ass person Oil is one of my favorite American novels because Sinclair was fascinated and bewildered by the beginnings of mass consumer culture here in the US and his descriptions here of oil rigs cars radios jazz music and Hollywood are very perceptive and ye opening Sinclair knew that we were losing something of ourselves as we bought into high convenience but at the same time he loved driving fast on the newly paved hills of Southern California The opening chapter is a tour de force description of taking a 50 mph drive in those arly days If you like to try to imagine what life was like back then the details throughout the novel are invaluable If you like true to life characters well that was never Sinclair s forte That said however the story in Oil is probably the most affecting one he ver wrote due to the complicated loving though debased father son relationship at its core It s true that the novel is didactic and that Sinclair was a socialist so you may not agree with all the Big Points he tries to arrive at but the ride he takes you on to get there is From Notes to Narrative exhilarating for anyone interested in how the so called American century was born. Field workers and socialist organizers fuels a running debate with his father Senators small investors oil magnates a Hollywood film star and a crusadingvangelist people the pages of this lively nove.