New: Book Report: Oil!

This is the book that the movie "There Will Be Blood" was based on. But that's not how I heard of this book. I saw Word for Word perform the first chapter. This group acts out short stories and stuff--but instead of just giving the dialog, they give all the words from the book. It sounds like a stupid idea, but it turns out to be pretty darned good. Probably because they choose material that works well. And are good actors.

Anyhow, I was in Chicago and needed a book to keep me from going insane on the flight back home. At the IIT bookstore, they had a lot of books about architecture and engineering and not much else. This was one of the books in the "else" category. I didn't have high hopes. But this book was pretty good!

It's a story of oil and moviemaking in Southern California. It shows you how the Southern California economy works--that is, largely through bribery. (It doesn't really talk about water rights... but it talks about enough.) It's sorta like Candide set in SoCal--the son of an oil magnate grows up with good intentions, and gradually figures out why society's machinations cause so many people to have rough lives. The sad part about this book is that it holds up Communist Russia as the system that would save the people from their misery. But... this book was written back before WWII, and word hadn't gotten back that the Commies were just as corrupt as the capitalists.

Ah, corruption. There's the old saying that an honest politician is one who stays bought. This book had a variation.

Now [the politician] was to give the oil men a whole string of valuable leases for practically nothing; but he had to have more money. That was the trouble in dealing with politicians; you bought them before election, and then you had to buy them again after the election, they wouldn't "stay put," like business men.

When I go back and re-read that paragraph, it sounds like the book is a total downer. But it's funny. I meant what I said about Candide--this book is has bleak humor. It's good. Check it out.

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Posted 2009-12-18