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Oil : Object Lessons - Michael Tondre


By: Michael Tondre, Ian Bogost (Editor), Christopher Schaberg (Editor)

Paperback | 3 October 2024

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Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things.

Black gold. Liquid sunlight. Texas tea. Oil remains the ur-commodity of our global era, having been distilled from ancient algae and marine life to turn modernityâs wheels. Wars are fought over it. Some communities are displaced by its extraction, so that others may reap its benefits. But despite its heated history, few will ever see oil on the ground. Shrouded within a labyrinth of oil fields, pipelines, and manufacturies, it tends to be known only through its magical effects: the thrill of the road, the euphoria of flight, and the metamorphic allure of everything from vinyl records to celluloid film and synthetic clothing.

Michael Tondre shows how hydrocarbon became todayâs pre-eminent power. How did oil come to structure selfhood and social relations? And to what extent is oil not only a commercial product but a cultural oneâ"something shaped by widely imagined dreams and desires? Amid a warming world unleashed by fossil fuels, oil appears as a rich resource for thinking about histories of globalization and technology no less than the energetic underpinnings of literature, film, and art.

Object Lessons is published in partnership with an essay series in The Atlantic.

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