Diana Skelton's Reviews > Oil!

Oil! by Upton Sinclair
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it was amazing
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Written in 1926, this novel has a strong contemporary resonance. The backdrop to the plot includes oil magnates purchasing the election of Warren Harding to ensure that new oil fields will be awarded to them. US soldiers must remain in Russia long after World War I ends to fight for the financial interests of American businesses. Hollywood blockbusters have the clear ideological goal of defending capitalism against communism. And the invention of radio enables the growth of the first megachurches.

Some excerpts:
"Bunny--of course without any hint that he had ever had knowledge of such a thing--had asked the lady teacher about the possibility of a business man's paying a public official extra sums for his time and trouble in public matters; and the lady teacher had been shocked by such a suggestion, and had declared that it would be bribery without question. So now Bunny told Dad, and the latter explained. It was the difference between a theoretical and a practical view of a question. The lady teacher had never had to drill an oil well, her business didn't depend on moving heavy materials overs a sheep-trail; all she did was jist to sit in a room and use high-soundin' words like 'ideals' and 'democracy' and 'public service.'"

"And then the President himself came home, to declare that he had achieved a complete victory. In the name of 'self-determination' of all peoples he was giving the German Rhineland to France, and German Africa to Britain, and the German Tyrol to Italy, and a Chinese province to Japan, and to the United States a mandate over Armenia! Also he had made a perpetual alliance with France and Britain, whereby we bound ourselves to maintain this brand of self-determination forever! When this program had been thoroughly realized, a tone of hilarious cynicism became the correct thing among the young intellectuals of America; fashionable young matrons took to deceiving their husbands in the name of chastity, and college boys began toting hip flasks out of loyalty to prohibition."

"Perhaps would come another car, and again it would be necessary for you to leave the comfortable centre of the concrete ribbon, and content yourself with a precisely estimated one half minus a certain number of inches. Each time, you were staking your life upon your ability to place your car upon the exact line--and upon the ability and willingness of the unknown other party to do the same. You watched his projectile in the instant of hurtling at you, and if you saw that he was not making the necessary concession, you knew that you were encountering that most dangerous of all two-legged mammalian creatures, the road-hog."

"Gregor was the very picture of what the students called a 'Bolsheviki.' As it happened, Gregor's father belonged to one of the revolutionary parties whom the Bolsheviks were now sending to jail; but how could you explain that to a student body which dumped into one common garbage can Socialists and Communists and Syndicalists and Anarchists, Communist-Anarchists and Anarchist-Syndicalists, Social Revolutionaries, and Social Democrats, Populists, Progressives, Single-taxers, Nonpartisan Leaguers, Pacificists, Pragmatists, Altruists, Vegetarians, Anti-vivisectionists and opponents of capital punishment. Also there was Rachel Menzies, who belonged to a people that had been chosen by the Lord, but not by the aforesaid student body."

"Bunny replied by telegram, inviting one old and four young Jewish Socialists to have dinner with him before the meeting. He took them to an expensive restaurant--thinking to do them honor, and forgetting that they might feel uneasy as to their clothes and their table manners. Verily, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the feelings of the disinherited."

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Reading Progress

July 1, 2017 – Started Reading
July 1, 2017 – Shelved
August 15, 2017 – Finished Reading
September 3, 2017 –
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September 3, 2017 – Shelved as: literature

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