Saturday, March 4, 2006

Devil in the White City

Beter late than never for a BC recap! Thanks to Red for hosting a fun evening--we are so glad to have you and La Mademoiselle back in town! It was clear that Red was back in full effect since the quotation mark fingers came out early in the evening. We started off with a cheese and charcuterie plate. Then, since there's no such thing as too much cheese, we segued into a mixed green salad with hot chevre for dinner's first course, followed by sauteed chicken and asian vegetables as the entree. Dessert was stewed mixed berries over vanilla ice cream with Vahlrona chocolate. But why stop at just one dessert? We then had a taste testing of assorted Belgian chocolates courtesy of Raf. How do you say "lish" in Flemish?

The White City had rating of 6.57, but that doesn't tell the whole picture. Everyone except Logan's Run loved this book and rated it in the 7 to 9 category, but Logan's Run's score brought the average down. Harsh! In general, people found The White City to be fascinating. The story of the Chicago world's fair and how it was built undoubtedly is a landmark of huge cultural and historical importance--yet most (not all) of us knew very little about it. One neat aspect to reading non-fiction is that it puts into context things you have learned before. For example, some of us had studied the architects who built the fair, so the names Burnham, Root, and Sullivan already were familiar. For the rest of us, it gave shredded wheat, belly dancing, and the Ferris wheel new meaning. But, as interesting as these tidbits are, our discussion really focused on the difference between life at the turn of the 19th century and now, just over 100 years later. In what ways are we better off now, and in what ways worse? Throughout our discussion, a little of both came out. Take pollution. The description of Chicago's persistent haze and blanket of soot from coal burning and construction, not to mention the omnipresent stench of slaughtered animals was pretty revolting. But then someone raised the point of how much more we pollute the environment today. On the other hand, the rampant killing (even H. H. Holmes aside), kidnapping, "disappearances" and general violence--most of which went unprosecuted--seemed worse than what we have today. I could go on and on, we talked about medicine, the war in Iraq, women's rights, moustaches and the Whitechapel Club. We didn't have a whole lot of time left to discuss the characters, although another hour probably was warranted to talk about Holmes himself and what lead him to become one of the most grisly serial killers in history. Not lish. I have to give some airtime to the alternative viewpiont. Logan's Run just didn't find the story to be gripping, but rather a bit too bogged down in the details for her taste. Partly that may be because of writing style, and we did poke fun at the author, Eric Larson, for some of the dramatic sentence structures he used to try to infuse a potentially dry historical account with interest...... "and that man was Frank Lloyd Wright!"

Our next BC is on Wednesday, April 5 at Ms. K's house. Please volunteer for dessert or apps. Also, at our next meeting we will discuss potentially moving BC to the second Wed of the month to have less conflicts with Red's and La Mademoiselle's trade shows, so please look at your calendars and think about it. This change is part of a larger effort to increase book club attendance that has been expressed by some of our members. One last administrative point: bring book suggestions! The LOD is so 2004. We want to resume picking two books at a time.

We will be reading the Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett.