13 AUGUST 1927, Page 21


Oil! By Upton Sinclair. (New York : A. and C. Boni. i2.50.) This very long novel is at once a love story and a tract for the times. But Mr. Sinclair, though he has succeeded in making his amorous passages interesting, writes primarily with the purpose of exposing modem civilization in general and Big Business in particular. The opening chapter describes bril- liantly a motor journey across California taken by J. Arnold Ross, the self-made Oil King, and his young son " Bunny." The divergence in character between father and son is subtly suggested at once, and upon that divergence the slight plot of the story turns. Bunny is sensitive, idealistic, and dreamy, He early alarms his father by showing sympathy for the " under-dog," and, after passing through the University and having made various experiments in love, including one with a famous film star, he develops Labour and Bolshevik ideas and opposes his father during a great Oil Strike.

The story itself, however, counts for very little. It is merely the thread upon which the author has strung a re- markably vivid series of pictures of American life during the present century. Three United States Presidents are intro- duced by name, and readers familiar with modern America will probably be able to pierce the thin disguise that veils the identity of the various business magnates, Labour agi- tators, film actors, and other characters introduced. It is possible that some of Mr. Sinclair's scenes are overdrawn. But the picture he gives us is, at all events, a true one in essentials, and there is no questioning the sincerity with which he castigates the greed and corruption of our mate- rialistic age. His book is fascinating as a panorama and, in the main, convincing as an indictment. But, like too many destructive critics, he seems to have no satisfactory remedy to offer.