Thursday, March 04, 2004

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson was immensely readable. Larson anchors the book with two strong characters: H. H. Holmes, a serial killer responsible for potentially 200 murders, and Daniel Burnham, chief architect for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, alternating chapters between the two. This juxtaposition works pretty well - the two lines don't meet, but I didn't really feel like they needed to. The parallel occurrences provided contrast to each other; the optimism represented by the fair contrasted with the dark future presented by Holmes. Each in its own way shows a vision of the present day from the past. The fair introduced new products and amusements that are household names now, clean drinking water, etc. While Holmes ushered in a future of serial killers and the dark side of human behavior, which is on full display these days. That these coexisted then, as now, only makes the book that much more entertaining.

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