/ Reading Notes /
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America
Erik Larson, 2003
A terrific read in a number of respects, preeminent in my mind as I launch this note pad is the evidence it documents against central planning.
Reading it I said to Jan more than once yesterday that one of the joys of reading is that you never know what you’ll find or where you’ll find it. Did I want to learn about the building of the worlds fair in Chicago of the 1890s? No; until I started reading. Did I know even then that I’d become fascinated with historical personages such as Holmes or Predergast? I might have been happy to meet landscape architect FL Olmstead, architect Louis Sullivan, men whose work I aready know a bit about, but there are a host of others I never heard of, any one of whom make the read worthwhile. Even absorbed I never guessed I’d stumble onto the the origin of the Pledge of Allegiance, or the composition of the belly dance song — which I knew from childhood as Oh they don’t wear pants / in the southern part of France.
I’m delighted to see the planners get humiliated for their hubris, I’m for the storms, not for the engineers, but I also love the lawless chaos of Holmes’ Chicago abattoir for women waifs right down the block from the pile of the fair. I thought I knew an evil charismatic thief; but Holmes eclipses him, as thief, adding mass murderer. It’s not every day that we get an intimate look at a real serial killer.
Holmes murdered at least four women: the number may be closer to two hundred!
Bravo, for now, and I’ll add more.
Worlds Fair, Chicago, 1893
Centralized hubris undermined the Fair, combined with the weather, the economy. Of course the latter is intricately bound with centralized hubris! Buffalo Bill asked for a spot in the midway, it was denied. He set up near by and therefore didn’t have to share his income with the Fair organizers, even as he regularly outsold them. A horse race was organized, the finish line at Buffalo’s Bills. The winner won a saddle but was denied the prize money when it was learned he’d ridden the first 100 miles by RR! Reminds me of that girl decades ago who crossed the finish line first at a NY (or Boston marathon), after riding much of the way by subway! And we still think we’re capable of judging things! of organizing things! or accurate counts, and sortings.
2013 01 27 Now reading Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin. Terrific.