University of Alberta Press

Book details

Publication date: December 2015
Features: 10 B&W photographs, 2 maps, bibliography, notes, index
Keywords: Petroculture/Energy Humanities
Subject(s): LITERARY CRITICISM / Canadian, Petroculture/Energy Humanities, LITERARY CRITICISM / Subjects & Themes / Nature
Publisher(s): The University of Alberta Press

Jon Gordon. Jon Gordon (1979-2016) taught Writing Studies at the University of Alberta and at Athabasca University. He was the winner of the William Hardy Alexander Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (2012). He also taught at the University of Western Ontario, Maskwacis Cultural College, and at The King’s University.

"In 1959 Alberta approved a berserk scheme to set off an atomic blast at Fort McMurray, liquefying the oil sands and freeing a trillion barrels of riches. Engineers with U.S.-based Richfield Oil Corp. rated it a 50-50 chance of economic success. Then-Prime Minister John Diefenbaker killed the idea. 'Certainly not,' he said.... Gordon is a talented writer. Unsustainable Oil profiles the Alberta sands as a phenomenon both cursed and celebrated in art and commerce and media.... Unsustainable Oil is pungent and funny and eloquent. It profiles oil sands as a cultural happening that’s driven Canadians to polar opposites. It works." 

Holly Doan, Blacklock's Reporter

"[Gordon] proposes that we turn to works of literature (plays, poetry, short stories) as a means of re-imagining the narratives that we tell ourselves about our embeddedness in petroculture.... [He demonstrates] that literature performs not only a necessary diagnostic function (namely, to articulate the environmental and social costs of our dependence on bitumen), but also a vital prognostic function, through which we can begin to restore our understanding of the intimate relations between humans and their environment, and our hope for a post-bitumen future". Canadian Literature, Spring/Summer 2016. [Full review at]

Lucia Lorenzi, Canadian Literature

Gordon’s agenda is to short-circuit the extremely polarized debate between team oil and team environment by bringing into play not facts and counterfacts alone but the power of narrative, storytelling, theatre, theory, even poetry.... The book is theoretically astute, Gordon’s writing throughout is crystal clear and elegant, and his analysis of texts insightful: this book is an exhilarating and beautiful read. The Goose 2017: Vol. 16 : Iss. 1, Article 4. [Full review at:]

Pamela Banting, The Goose

"Unsustainable Oil deserves to be read alongside other excoriations of Alberta's great speculative game, such as Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent (2008) by Canadian journalist Andrew Nikiforuk, and studies in the emergent field of petrocriticism, such as Stephanie LeMenager's Living Oil: Petroleum Culture in the American Century (2014). Oil, with its climate consequences, is a defining environmental concern of our age: it has found an impassioned critic in Jon Gordon." , Western American Literature 52.2, 2017

Nicholas Bradley, Western American Literature

ISBNs: 9781772120363 978-1-77212-036-3 Title: unsustainable oil ISBNs: 9781772120981 978-1-77212-098-1 Title: unsustainable oil ISBNs: 9781772120998 978-1-77212-099-8 Title: unsustainable oil ISBNs: 9781772121001 978-1-77212-100-1 Title: unsustainable oil