Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Five best books on evil

Adam Haslett is the author of You Are Not A Stranger Here, a short story collection, which was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award, and won the PEN/Winship Award. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, Zoetrope, and Best American Short Stories as well as National Public Radio’s Selected Shorts.

His debut novel Union Atlantic was published last year.

With Daisy Banks at FiveBooks, Haslett recommended five books on evil, including:
Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil
Peter Maass

Your next choice is very pertinent – this is Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil by Peter Maass.

Yes, this was written before the spill in the gulf but it is a very well-written and detailed account of how countries have been affected and infected by the oil industry and how their politics have been distorted. It covers places like Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, New Guinea and Ecuador.

They are all places where, particularly with those last three, the power of the corporations is larger and more organised than the structure of governance. It shows the way in which business of that scale, even if practised under what passes for law in those countries, ends up as corruption. So there is this evil of greed and disequilibrium of one substance taking over an entire economy and the effects that has on the possibility of any other kind of development.

What is interesting to me is how different countries deal with this situation. It is so different in Africa to, say, in the United Arab Emirates or in other places where populations are less dense and the existing clan structure means the wealth is spread through a somewhat larger network of people; of course, those people then hire millions of guest workers to perform the labour of their budding service economies, and that creates a different, more nominally legal form of exploitation and neglect.

Do you think the reaction to the BP oil spill is very different because it has happened in the US rather than in a country like Nigeria?

It is certainly true that press coverage changes everything so that the amount of attention it gets is a function of how much media the US has to spend on it. But I think the quantities are so high at the moment that it’s difficult to overestimate the long-term consequences of this event.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Adam Haslett's Union Atlantic.

The Page 99 Test: Peter Maass's Crude World.

--Marshal Zeringue