A book has finally usurped Chris Ware
for the coveted Gerry Canavan Book of This Arbitrary Length of Time prize. The second BotALoT winner is Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America
, which magically appeared on my shelf just an hour after a friend told me it had replaced Hyperspace
as his favorite nonfiction book. (I think Patrick and Casey gave it to me, but it could have been my mother or someone else. Whoever it was, thank you. You are awesome.)
I used to say that Kafka invented the 20th century. Now I know he invented only half of it -- the other half was invented for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair
. The book follows two parallel tracks that together seem to define the history of the last hundred years. The first is the story of the fair itself, how a group of architects and innovators created stunning and unprecedented structures in just two years, inventing along the way half the infrastructure we now take for granted. This is the formative myth of the twentieth century writ large: the myth of progress.
The other narrative line is the story of perhaps the first instance of that classic twentieth-century American archetype, the serial killer
It's a truly fantastic book.