The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America (Anglais) Broché – 10 février 2004
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How easy it was to disappear:
A thousand trains a day entered or left Chicago. Many of these trains brought single young women who had never even seen a city but now hoped to make one of the biggest and toughest their home. Jane Addams, the urban reformer who founded Chicago's Hull House, wrote, "Never before in civilization have such numbers of young girls been suddenly released from the protection of the home and permitted to walk unattended upon the city streets and to work under alien roofs." The women sought work as typewriters, stenographers, seamstresses, and weavers. The men who hired them were for the most part moral citizens intent on efficiency and profit. But not always. On March 30, 1890, an officer of the First National Bank placed a warning in the help-wanted section of the Chicago Tribune, to inform female stenographers of "our growing conviction that no thoroughly honorable business-man who is this side of dotage ever advertises for a lady stenographer who is a blonde, is good-looking, is quite alone in the city, or will transmit her photograph. All such advertisements upon their face bear the marks of vulgarity, nor do we regard it safe for any lady to answer such unseemly utterances."
The women walked to work on streets that angled past bars, gambling houses, and bordellos. Vice thrived, with official indulgence. "The parlors and bedrooms in which honest folk lived were (as now) rather dull places," wrote Ben Hecht, late in his life, trying to explain this persistent trait of old Chicago. "It was pleasant, in a way, to know that outside their windows, the devil was still capering in a flare of brimstone." In an analogy that would prove all too apt, Max Weber likened the city to "a human being with his skin removed."
Anonymous death came early and often. Each of the thousand trains that entered and left the city did so at grade level. You could step from a curb and be killed by the Chicago Limited. Every day on average two people were destroyed at the city's rail crossings. Their injuries were grotesque. Pedestrians retrieved severed heads. There were other hazards. Streetcars fell from drawbridges. Horses bolted and dragged carriages into crowds. Fires took a dozen lives a day. In describing the fire dead, the term the newspapers most liked to use was "roasted." There was diphtheria, typhus, cholera, influenza. And there was murder. In the time of the fair the rate at which men and women killed each other rose sharply throughout the nation but especially in Chicago, where police found themselves without the manpower or expertise to manage the volume. In the first six months of 1892 the city experienced nearly eight hundred homicides. Four a day. Most were prosaic, arising from robbery, argument, or sexual jealousy. Men shot women, women shot men, and children shot each other by accident. But all this could be understood. Nothing like the Whitechapel killings had occurred. Jack the Ripper's five-murder spree in 1888 had defied explanation and captivated readers throughout America, who believed such a thing could not happen in their own hometowns.
But things were changing. Everywhere one looked the boundary between the moral and the wicked seemed to be degrading. Elizabeth Cady Stanton argued in favor of divorce. Clarence Darrow advocated free love. A young woman named Borden killed her parents.
And in Chicago a young handsome doctor stepped from a train, his surgical valise in hand. He entered a world of clamor, smoke, and steam, refulgent with the scents of murdered cattle and pigs. He found it to his liking.
The letters came later, from the Cigrands, Williamses, Smythes, and untold others, addressed to that strange gloomy castle at Sixty-third and Wallace, pleading for the whereabouts of daughters and daughters' children.
It was so easy to disappear, so easy to deny knowledge, so very easy in the smoke and din to mask that something dark had taken root.
This was Chicago, on the eve of the greatest fair in history.
From the Hardcover edition.
Revue de presse
“A dynamic, enveloping book. . . . Relentlessly fuses history and entertainment to give this nonfiction book the dramatic effect of a novel. . . . It doesn’t hurt that this truth is stranger than fiction.” --The New York Times
"So good, you find yourself asking how you could not know this already." —Esquire
“Another successful exploration of American history. . . . Larson skillfully balances the grisly details with the far-reaching implications of the World’s Fair.”—USA Today
“As absorbing a piece of popular history as one will ever hope to find.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Paints a dazzling picture of the Gilded Age and prefigure the American century to come.”—Entertainment Weekly
“A wonderfully unexpected book. . . Larson is a historian . . . with a novelist’s soul.”—Chicago Sun-Times
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En même temps avec l'essor de l'expo, de plus en plus de monde arrivait à Chicago soit pour trouver du travail soit pour voir un spectacle grandiose qu'ils ne reverraient jamais. Beaucoup de jeunes femmes venaient chercher du travail dans cette ville, connue pour ses vices, mais beaucoup disparaissaient sans laisser de trace.
L'alternance entre la construction de l'Expo, avec toutes les inventions, notammament, la Grande Roue de M. Ferris qui apparaît pour la première fois; et la décadence, et la dépravité du Dr. Holmes qui font froid dans le dos; on imagine bien l'ambiance de l'époque. Déchirée entre la grandeur de Chicago, la volonté de réussir à tout prix et l'angoisse grandissante de savoir comment vivre l'après Expo...
On peut se demander si les nouvelles de Jack l'Eventreur peu de temps avant avaient une influence sur le Dr. Holmes (Sherlock a fait, lui aussi, son appartition à cette époque), il y avait également les meurtres abominables des parents de Lizzie Borden. Une nouvelle ère se présentait à l'horizon, qui risquait de nous traîner vers le bas.
Rempli d'anecdotes, et de noms connus qui font surface justement pendant l'expo qu'on ne soupçonnait guère ne fait que renforcer le lien historique.
Unfortunately for Burnham and his team, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Due to a lack of organization and bickering among the committees responsible for the fair, construction began far later than it should have. Partially completed buildings blew over and burned down. Union workers threatened strikes. One sideshow act showed up a year early, while another (which was believed to be made up of cannibals) killed the man sent to retrieve them and never showed up at all. And there was a monster on the loose. A man who used the chaos of Chicago at this time in history to conceal the murders of dozens of people - many of them young, single women. A man who constructed a building with stolen money, then used the building as a slaughterhouse to lure, kill, and dispose of his victims.
THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY is a terrific book. It is nonfiction, but it reads like a novel. The real-life details of this story seem almost too bizarre to be true, yet this is one example of the old saying that "truth is stranger than fiction." The author, Erik Larson, even includes a lengthy section at the back where he documents his facts and explains his suppositions.Lire la suite ›
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This book has a split personality. It describes the heighth of human achievement and the depth of human depravity. Lire la suitePublié il y a 6 mois par Davie C Crockett
There are no dialogues in this book! For me it's too difficult to read. It was recommended to me, but i gave it away after a few chapters.Publié il y a 20 mois par Anna
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