October 29, 2009

The Devil in the White City: A Saga of Magic and Murder at the Fair that Changed America
Erik Larson

A Chicago Story – I didn’t get around to reading this page-turner until after Robert Charles, Eugene Burger, Jack Gould, Gordon and Gale Meyer, David Kovac and I participated in Kathleen Carpenter’s related tour for the Chicago Architecture Foundation. The timing worked well: heading down to Hyde Park, visiting the old Midway, walking out onto Wooded Island and learning a great deal of history from Kathleen was the perfect prelude to reading this tale of the imaginative angels and monstrous demons that live among (and within) us. The book accomplishes a rare feat, not unlike the great World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 itself: it keeps topping itself with each chapter. One of my favorite passages – because it is so Chicago – comes when the Fair finally opens to great fanfare, including a Presidential speech, a poetic ode and this:
"Two hundred white doves leaped for the sky. The guns of the Michigan fired. Steam whistles shrieked. Spontaneously the throng began to sing ‘My Country ‘Tis of Thee,’ which many thought of as the national anthem although no song had yet received that designation. As the crowd thundered, a man eased up beside a thin, pale woman with a bent neck. In the next instance Jane Addams realized her purse was gone.

The great fair had begun."
My kind of town, indeed.


Post a Comment

<< Home