Monday, July 23, 2012

Useless Information?

(Picture of the first Ferris Wheel)

Thanks to Erik Larson I can tell a group of people (over drinks), without help from Google (or Wikipedia), that George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. - I'll say George Ferris, Jr. instead - invented the Ferris Wheel  in 1893 for the Chicago World's Fair (aka, the World's Columbian Exposition ).  He, Mr. Ferris, invented the Ferris Wheel, in part, because  the Chicago World's Fair needed something - something that wasn't a "tower" - that  would out-do the Eifel Tower, which was constructed four years earlier for the Paris Exposition in 1889.
A teacher I had in university said "good writing evokes the senses" and I never forgot it.  Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America evoked all the senses, especially my sense of smell and site (and Larson eerily evoked my sixth sense at the end of novel).
I finished the The Devil in the White City on June 28, 2012.  I’m a slow reader because I make a point of reading every word in every book I read.  In horror, I understand there are some readers who skim and/or skip ahead which strikes me as a form of cheating.  Despite being a slow reader, I read this book rather quickly because I couldn’t put down. 
(Picture of Dr. H.H. Holmes)

The Devil, in The Devil in the White City, is Dr. H.H. Holmes, a “charming” serial killer, who constructed a temple, so-to-speak, to practice his evil craft of murder.  Some have speculated that he may have killed as many as 200 people, but no one knows for sure.  The White City is the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 (officially known as the World's Columbian Exposition in celebration of Columbus’ discovery of the New World 400 years earlier).
(Picture of the Chicago World's Fair, 1893)

Chicago of 1893 was a dirty and smelly city:  horse manure piled on the streets and it wasn’t uncommon to see a dead horse floating in its waterways.  Larson captures the era, both the horror and the beauty, of Chicago’s gilded age (America’s version of Victorianism) in such detail that pictures are not needed.  I say this because at one point during my reading I thought there should have been more pictures: pictures of the architecture, pictures of the construction of the Chicago World’s Fair, pictures of Holmes’ temple of horror.  I was wrong. 
(Dr. H.H. Holmes' House of Horror.  Built specficially for murder.)

When I finished The Devil in the White City I couldn’t find another book that was as gratifying.  Everything seemed so dull.  Nonetheless, I was able to find two books – one non-fiction and one fiction – that I’m enjoying:
Paris 1919:
Six Months that Changed the World
(by Margaret McMillan)
As a lover of history, I’ve wanted to read this book for a number of years.
The Queen's Fool
(by Phillippa Gregory)

I love the cover this book and I can’t help but wonder: who is the most butch-male, the most masculine man too have read this book?

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