I was able to get through this entire book over the course of one weekend, and positively riddled it with underlines and dog-ears and asterisks and exI was able to get through this entire book over the course of one weekend, and positively riddled it with underlines and dog-ears and asterisks and exclamation points. I feel confident in my ability to discuss and connect the issues of anti-capitalism, environmental racism, indigenous rights frameworks, and methods/methodologies of resistance. I do feel less confident in my ability to rattle off important numbers (a table of hidden costs, inflated v real job numbers, and quantities of carcinogenic toxins would have been useful). I couldn't tell you the distinctions between fracking, shale oil, and tar sands oil extraction. I also found myself wishing there were maps of the affected/targeted areas included for reference.
I was surprised and pleased by how little I felt the need to go emotionally tit-for-tat with the material. Often, when reading a collection of essays, there's either an excess of theory OR appeals to anger and indignation that can make reading somewhat of a slog (because it's hard to finish when you keep getting up to scratch your head or flip tables, yanno?). This collection manages to be straightforward in a way that doesn't negate the urgency of the material--it makes it easy-to-read and quick-to-apply. It does an excellent job of presenting facts, experiences, arguments, retorts, successes, failures, and lessons learned in a relatively concise and engaging manner, so that we can take action right now.
The conciseness is a little lacking: about 15 essays in, I realized it was no longer necessary to read each chapters' conclusions--they're either the same, or reference each other as further reading. In the editors' efforts to amplify a diversity of impacted communities' voices, the voices began to overlap one another. Based on which chapters had the most underlines and dog-ears, my suggestions for teachers or organizers who need a quick-and-dirty rundown of the tar sands-Canada machinery and the myriad efforts to halt it are:
Assembling Consent in Alberta The Environmental NGO Industry and Frontline Communities Beyond Token Recognition New Beginnings Kihci Pikiskwewin -- Speaking the Truth Labor Faces Keystone XL And Climate Change Pipelines and Resistance Across Turtle Island What Does It Mean to Be A Movement?
So he gets compared to Evelyn Waugh all the time, apparently because they're both British lads from the upper echelons of the class hierarchy who projSo he gets compared to Evelyn Waugh all the time, apparently because they're both British lads from the upper echelons of the class hierarchy who project their existential malaise and self-loathing onto others in the form of scathing witticisms. Or something--I haven't actually read Waugh. I tried, at the library, but I had just had my pupils dilated and I couldn't focus on the page. Also I am a little wary of reading about wealthy folks because I'm not super keen on humanizing them. Oops. :-\
What did I like about the Patrick Melrose novels? Oh gosh... just really beautifully written, without sounding like writing. Not literary (though I like literary). Unpretentious (despite being situated in ruling-class England). Really fucking profoundly philosophical, and then sort of darkly funny, and then just quietly observant....but not a philosophical treatise, nor very dark, nor even very quiet. It's just remarkably present and straight-forward. And it very easily could not have been all those other things: it's about a man trying and sometimes failing to avoid becoming the father he had, a father who molested him, and it could be entirely depressing or elegiac or overwrought, but it's not. It's just GOOD.
It's interesting, too, because it's surprisingly without politics. By that I mean, similar stories about young girls or women have some sort of redemption arc or revenge narrative, and the protagonist's assault is central to her entire being. Everything she does is derived from one moment, and her subjectivity is wholly in reaction to it--and does one even have subjectivity when they're just responding to one thing? And is it better or worse if the character is constantly motivated by the pain of sexual assault? Like, does a book have good or bad politics if it is or isn't all overt about that stuff?
He also gets booted from the upper class because of some mental health issues with his mom, so it's not a stretch to feel for the guy. Er, yay?
No but really, one of the best books I've read in years. I finished it in a couple of weeks, which is remarkable considering I had to constantly put it down so I could write things of my own. That, to me, is the mark of a magnificent novel: its power to make me write my own.