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Oil! | [Upton Sinclair]

Oil!

As he did so masterfully in The Jungle, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Upton Sinclair interweaves social criticism with human tragedy to create an unforgettable portrait of Southern California's early oil industry. Enraged by the oil scandals of the Harding administration in the 1920s, Sinclair tells a gripping tale of avarice, corruption, and class warfare, featuring a cavalcade of characters, including senators, oil magnates, Hollywood film starlets, and a crusading evangelist.
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Publisher's Summary

As he did so masterfully in The Jungle, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Upton Sinclair interweaves social criticism with human tragedy to create an unforgettable portrait of Southern California's early oil industry.

Enraged by the oil scandals of the Harding administration in the 1920s, Sinclair tells a gripping tale of avarice, corruption, and class warfare, featuring a cavalcade of characters, including senators, oil magnates, Hollywood film starlets, and a crusading evangelist. Sinclair's glorious 1927 epic endures as one of our most powerful American novels of social injustice.

©1954 David Sinclair; (P)2008 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Sinclair's 1927 novel did for California's oil industry what The Jungle did for Chicago's meat-packing factories." (Library Journal)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (358 )
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4.2 (188 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Gregory new jersey 05-18-08
    Gregory new jersey 05-18-08 Member Since 2006

    voracious consumer of books and music... dadaist, luftmensch, knight of standards & practices... motto: to be finite is to be fallible...

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    "an outstanding book"

    this book, long out-of-print, has suddenly appeared back in print due to the critical popularity of the movie "there will be blood" -- that this book "needed" a loosely adapted screenplay to re-enter the american consciousness is an irony of Sinclarian proportions... this is a majestic book, filled with the type of realism that makes Sinclair's best works so effective; what in a lesser author's hands would have resulted in didactic diatribe, Sinclair never loses -- and never lets the reader lose -- sympathy with his characters, both positive and negative, due to the realism with which their inner and outer lives are portrayed... the narration is excellent, bringing unobtrusively to the fore, Sinclair's sense of humor, irony, and insightful social criticism... "Oil!" is that rarity amongst books -- a book that is itself a highly satisfying work, but one which -- like Samuel Butler's "Edward Pontifex, or The Way of All Flesh" -- leaves the reader wishing that the book were longer, so well drawn are the book's characters and situations... as a life-long devoted reader of Upton Sinclair, who had not previously had the opportunity to read "Oil!", i would unhesitatingly rank it as amongst Sinclair's very best works, which like so many of Sinclair's novels, leave the reader hungry for more...

    18 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alicia Czechowski Baltimore Maryland 06-04-08
    Alicia Czechowski Baltimore Maryland 06-04-08 Member Since 2008
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    "Will Things Ever Change?"

    Upton Sinclair's fictionalization of the Teapot Dome scandal is timely and engrossing. Here are the sleezy beginnings of big oil interests which have only become more powerful with the decades. Politics and big oil, hand in hand in 1912, hand in hand in 2008.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jane Sacramento, CA, USA 07-15-08
    Jane Sacramento, CA, USA 07-15-08
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    "Now I get it!"

    I saw the movie "There Will Be Blood" with much excitement....and then wondered if I was completely stupid when I was left with the feeling ..."I don't get it". After listening to Oil!, I get it now. The movie left out the whole story. It's a shame too, because this book was as riveting, if not more so, than The Jungle; and if a movie was to really be based off this book it would have to be on the scale of The Godfather, very, very, long. Too bad we lack the cultural attention span for that. Anyway, I read it had been out of print, so I'm glad it's back and I had a chance to "read" it.

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julie Melbourne, Australia 11-16-08
    Julie Melbourne, Australia 11-16-08 Member Since 2007
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    "Absolutely Engrossing and topical"

    A fabulous listen from start to finish. Although the excellent film, "There Will Be Blood" was based on this book it only used a tiny portion of the plot which seems to have a special resonance with the current economic climate. I always liked reading Upton Sinclair but listening was even better. Possibly not a good read for anyone with far right politics though.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David 12-21-10
    David 12-21-10 Member Since 2012

    Indiscriminate Reader

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    "Not at all like the (better) movie, but still good"

    This was quite a listenable story for a novel set (and written) in the Twenties. Upton Sinclair was a prolific author who knew how to spin a tale, even while he was trying to expose the evils of capitalism. Sinclair's socialist beliefs are very much in evidence, but don't let that put you off -- he doesn't get up on a soapbox so much that it distracts from the plot (though it's obvious that the plot is there in order to push his agenda), and the setting, the situations, and the characters are all engaging and draw you into the roaring 20s oil boom in Southern California. Don't listen to this expecting it to be much like the movie loosely based on it, There Will Be Blood. The movie adaptation was completely different and the story almost unrecognizable compared to the novel (though still good).

    The weakness in Oil! (besides Sinclair's socialist pot-stirring) is that it jumps around quite a bit. Most of it takes place in Southern California and focuses on the relationship between Bunny, the idealistic young heir to an oil fortune who becomes a "red sympathizer," and his father, the ruthless oilman who never stops doting on his son despite the fact that he keeps opposing everything his father stands for. But there is also Bunny's childhood friend Paul who comes back from serving overseas in Siberia to preach class struggle, his evangelical brother Eli, a Hollywood star, university student movements, rigged elections, spiritualists, and many other tangential subplots. They all connect somehow to the main plot, but if you like tightly-focused stories, this may be too distracting for you. I like stories with many different (not always related) threads, though, so I enjoyed it. A great historical novel despite the overt political preachiness.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K. Plaisance Buffalo Gap, TX United States 03-30-11
    K. Plaisance Buffalo Gap, TX United States 03-30-11 Member Since 2015

    Hippie Gal

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    "Oil"

    The 1st half is excellent and I enjoyed it very much. The second part as Bunny got older was a bit of a drag but overall very enjoyable.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    D. Jones 02-26-15
    D. Jones 02-26-15
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    "So little change in 100 years..."
    Would you recommend Oil! to your friends? Why or why not?

    I would and have recommended it. It is sobering how many of the observations made by Sinclair in the 1920's are still relevant today.


    Was Oil! worth the listening time?

    It is a long book and is peppered with Sinclair's socialist leanings but, his observations of social issues are spot on. 100 years since the story and over and over it rings current...except that we are FAR more addicted to oil than in 1920 and we seem to be willing to do anything to anyone to keep it flowing.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Maggie California 02-15-15
    Maggie California 02-15-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Fabulous book...a must listen"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Oil! to be better than the print version?

    I haven't read the print version, however, the narration is so good it is hard to imagine it could read as well as it 'listens'.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Oil!?

    Great characters, a superb masterpiece of balancing sympathy and scorn


    Have you listened to any of Grover Gardner’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I haven't heard other Gardner performances, but this one is absolutely outstanding.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    It made me laugh, over and over, and wince with the recognition of human fraility.


    Any additional comments?

    If you like politics, or class struggle or great expositions about human nature, this is not to be missed. I haven't read/listened to "The Jungle" (that will be next), but I can't imagine why this isn't considered a masterpiece.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K 01-31-15
    K 01-31-15 Listener Since 2010

    Say something about yourself!

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    "Outstanding!"
    If you could sum up Oil! in three words, what would they be?

    A controversial jewel.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    James Arnold Ross aka Dad, who was a shrewd and determined self-made millionaire. The author set out so precisely Dad's tenderness in guiding his child, who was driven by humanitarian idea, through an unfriendly environment.


    What does Grover Gardner bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Mr. Gardener brought all the characters to life-- everyone of them. He was fabulous.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    I am particularly drawn to this era of time. That period, and this book, illustrates with distinction the "have's" and "have not's." Here, when Dad learned a worker had lost his life on a rig, I initially was angered he did not provide a stipend for the widow. I mean, he was making money hand over fist so he wouldn't have missed it. It took just a few minutes to realize that even though Dad did not do that-- did not even consider it as a matter of fact, he had acted as a responsible employer by providing insurance that paid her $5,000. (Pennies compared to his millions but responsible according to economics of the period.)


    Any additional comments?

    I want to point out that the book and the movie aren't akin. I thought the movie was tacky and portrayed Dad in a horrible light. This book places Dad in a more realistic perspective, i.e. business man vs. family man. It's a good read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patrick Mahony 01-07-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Beware! NOT...There will be blood"
    What did you like best about Oil!? What did you like least?

    Do Not buy this book if you're looking for the written version of the movie There Will Be Blood. I am shocked that there is even a picture of the Daniel Day Lewis character on the cover. There is oil prospecting in this book...and that is about where the similarities end. There is father and boy and their relationship is nothing like the movie. There is Eli the evangelist, who has very little interaction with father and boy. There is no drama between the three of them...none.


    Was Oil! worth the listening time?

    This book was 18 hours and I was desperately wishing it was 12.


    Any additional comments?

    The narrator was the only thing that made the "There will be blood" novel tolerable.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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