“BOOM: Oil, Money, Cowboys, Strippers, and the Energy Rush That Could Change America Forever” is a Kindle Single written by Tony Horwitz, detailing his investigative reporting of as many aspects of the contemporary domestic oil situation as he can fit into 117 pages and 4000 miles (Canada tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries and all the pipeline drama in between). This project was written before the Dakota Access Pipeline drama, which was unfolding as I read it -a confluence that I’d love to recommend, were it possible.
As might be expected, “BOOM” reads like good old-fashioned investigative journalism -while Horwitz himself is inserted into the narrative, this is more Gonzo-Lite than some of the more contemporary forms of creative nonfiction, the kind of pieces that perform more as a personal essay viewed in an external framework. Neither of these forms is necessarily superior, but Horwitz has certainly chosen the correct one for his purpose, with mainly concerns exposition. You will learn shit about how Northern America does fossil fuels here. You will come into contact with good people who participate directly in potentially damaging practices, and you will have some sympathy for them. This is something that Horowitz does really well.
All in all, I think that E-readers and E-reading apps offer, if not a better media form, then an additional and valuable one. I can’t think of many magazine publications of 100+ word narrative nonfiction/reporting -the closest thing that comes to mind are the essays of David Foster Wallace, but that seems to be the exception that proves the rule. I don’t want to read a weighty-ass tome on this shit -as much as I perhaps ought to- and a fifteen-page distillation is going to leave a lot of worthwhile shit on the cutting room floor. I was reminded of the value of Jon Ronson’s The Elephant in the Room. These kinds of things are time-sensitive and valuable, and digital publication of much longer longform work that simply isn’t book material is something I intend to keep paying close attention to.
British newspaper The Guardian has been running a series of reports into police violence in America, and as part of that project, they produced one of the best pieces of traditional investigative journalism that I’d seen in a long time -a five-part multimedia report called “The County” that deals with my hometown, Kern County, specifically.
Kern County has the highest rate of citizens killed by police in the entire United States, as well as a horrific track record of internal corruption, sexual assault/abuse, sexism, and all sorts of other unsavory qualities. “The County” does an exceptional job digging into the particulars of this, as well as contextualizing it all within both the regional realities and the larger narrative of police abuse in the US.
Recommendation: Read it! Links are provided -go, go, go!
I’ve never purchased as subscription to The Paris Review, for the following reasons:
-I’m broke as hell
-They have most of their back interviews and lots of other good stuff available on their website
-There are a few other literary journals out there that are a bit more interesting and pertinent to my particular interests and proclivities
All this means is that in spite of having read tens -if not hundreds- of thousands of words online that had originally been printed in The Paris Review, I had never actually held a copy of The Paris Review in my hands. I found an older edition (Winter 2004) at Bookhounds for 1.49 and went for it.
The verdict? It’s good. Turns out one of the most prestigious and eminent publishers of literary fiction does pretty well for itself. The issue cast a very wide net thematically, featuring short fiction, interviews, nonfiction, reporting, photography, visual art, and poetry. All but a few pieces were great, and the only things that felt dated were the ads in the back after the contributor information. I’m still not sold on a subscription, although I’m far more likely to consider it… maybe when I’m a bit less broke. Did I mention I’m a Powell’s Partner? Buy a book through the link below and my blog gets 5% of your purchase and you don’t pay a cent more.