© 1926, 1927 Upton
Sinclair, 1954 David Sinclair
The news affected Beach City as if an angel had appeared in a shining cloud and scattered twenty-dollar
gold pieces over the streets. You see, Ross-Bankside No. I
"proved up" the whole north slope; to tens of thousands of investors, big and little, it meant that a hope was turned into glorious certainty. You couldn't keep such news quiet, it just didn't lie in the possibility of human nature not to tell; the newspapers bulletined the details
-- Ross-Bankside was flowing sixteen thousand
barrels a day, and the gravity was 32, and as soon as the pipeline
was completed -- which would be by the end of the week -- its
owner would be in possession of an income of something over
twenty thousand dollars every twenty-four hours. Would you need to be told that the crowds stared at Dad and at Bunny, everywhere they went about the streets of the city? There goes the great
J. Arnold Ross, owner of the new well! And that little chap is his son! Say, he's got thirteen dollars coming to him every minute of the day or night, whether he's awake or asleep. By God, a fellow would feel he could afford to order his lunch, if he was to have an
income like that!
Bunny couldn't help but get a sense of importance, and think
that he was something special and wonderful. Little thrills ran over him; he felt as if he could run up into the air and fly. And then Dad would say: "Take it easy, son! Keep your mouth shut, and don't go a-gettin' your head swelled. Remember, you didn't make
this here money, and you can lose it in no time, if you're a light-weight." Dad was a sensible fellow, you see; he had been through all this before, first at Antelope, and then at Lobos River. He had felt the temptation of grandeur, and knew what it must be to a
boy. It was pleasant to have a lot of money; but you must set up a
skeleton at the feast, and while you quaffed the wine of success, you must hear a voice behind you whispering, "Memento mori!"
Oil, by Upton
UPTON SINCLAIR was born into an impoverished Baltimore family
on September 20, 1878. At fifteen, he began writing a series of dime
novels in order to pay for his education at the City College of New
York. He was later accepted to do graduate work at Columbia, and
while there he published a number of novels, including The Journal
of Arthur Stirling (1903) and Manassas (1904).
Sinclair's breakthrough came in 1906 with the publication of The
Jungle, a scathing indictment of the vile health and working conditions of the Chicago meatpacking industry. The work, which won
him great literary praise, helped in the passage of the pure food laws
during the Progressive Era. He also joined the company of several
writers and journalists of the time who were branded as "muckrakers" by President Theodore Roosevelt.
Sinclair used the
money from The Jungle to begin a utopian experiment, the Helicon Hall Colony of Englewood, New Jersey. In
1915 he moved to California where he unsuccessfully ran for public
office on four occasions. He wrote several politically progressive
pamphlets and became a powerful figure in California's Democratic
party, almost winning the governorship in 1934. After his defeat he
continued to write books. Other works include King Coal (1917);
Jimmie Higgins (1919); The Goose-Step (1923); Oil! (1927); Boston
(1928); World's End (1940); Dragon's Teeth (1942), which won him
a Pulitzer Prize; O Shepherd, Speak! (1949); and Another Pamela (1950).
Shuffle the cards, and deal a new round of poker hands: they differ in
every way from the previous round, and yet it is the same pack of cards,
and the same game, with the same spirit, the players grim-faced and
silent, surrounded by a haze of tobacco-smoke.
So with this novel, a picture of civilization in Southern California, as
the writer has observed it during eleven years' residence. The picture
truth, and the great mass of detail actually exists. But the cards have
shuffled; names, places, dates, details of character,
episodes -- everything
has been dealt over again. The only personalities to be recognized in
book are three presidents of the United States who have held office during the past fifteen years. Manifestly, one could not "shuffle" these,
without destroying all sense of reality. But the reader who spends his time
seeking to identify oil magnates and moving picture stars will be
time, and perhaps doing injustice to some individual, who may happen to
have shot off his toe to collect accident insurance, but may not happen
be keeping a mistress or to have bribed a cabinet official.
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