Monday, October 19, 2009

The Devil in the White City

I first got DITWC (Devil in the White City) when it came out however many years ago. I remember bringing it to class, possibly during my junior year of high school, with every intention of reading it. Fast forward to two weeks later and it was at the bottom of my locker under several tons of paper, where it stayed until I was forced to clean it out at the end of the year. I remember putting it in the stack of books I was taking home and the dean commenting on how great a book it was. I nodded and murmured in agreement, despite knowing only that the cover was pretty. Eventually it made it's way back to my bookshelf and sat for another year or so, until I exhausted all other reading options and was faced with eye-gouging boredom or DITWC.
Looking back I should have chosen the eye-gouging, because dear christ in heaven DITWC was the most boring painful book I have ever had the misfortune of reading. It took me a week and a half to get 2/3 of the way in only to throw it down in fit of rage and block it from my mind.

Four years later. while looking at Luis' syllabus, I cringed at the thought of reading it again after my traumatic first experience; however I reasoned with myself that I was older and more mature and maybe it wouldn't be as bad as my teenage self made it out to be. Wrong. It still blows. It takes a lot to make Chicago and a serial killer boring and terrible, but Larson some how does just that. The problem is, DITWC was never meant to be one book. Larson should have split it into "The White City" and "The Devil," thus not torturing lovers of architecture with stylized serial killer anecdotes and vice versa. That being said, I still wouldn't buy them. Burnham's bio stopped being interesting 80 pages in and the saga of H.H Holmes? Lets just say if purple prose and wordy wordiness was sugar, I would be a diabetic. It seems like Larson at last minute, realized that a dry architectural biography wouldn't line his pockets so he spiced it up with the murderous H.H Holmes. It sure worked! I hear he sold the rights to be made into a movie.....

It's a pity though, both stories if done right, had huge potential to be great works of literature and not just the flavor of the month, eventually to be replaced with whatever hyped up, so and so book is next on the market.

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