Friday, January 11, 2008

The Devil in the White City

I have just finished Erik Larson's 2003 book (of this title) telling the truly remarkable story of Chicago World's Fair of 1893. This became one of the wonders of the world, but the real wonder is how it ever happened at all, given the almost insurmountable difficulties that the architect Daniel H. Burnham faced.

However, Larson intertwines stories of two men. One is glorious, heroic and visionary as Burnham created the 'White City" - a massive, beautiful landscape of white buildings with the first Ferris Wheel, set in an incandescent, wonderland of canals and gardens. The other is inglorious and macabre, as he tells the story of H.H. Holmes who managed to hide his terrible crimes as a serial killer of young women under the drama of the World's Fair.

Often chapters are literally intertwined - Burnham's story alternating with Holmes'. One of my friends said she couldn't bear to read about Holmes so she omitted alternate chapters! I sympathized. But I also understand the author's intent: "the juxtaposition of pride and unfathomed evil struck me as offering powerful insights into the nature of men and their ambitions."

As I prepare for my next sermon on God's promises, positively though realistically, I remember what Martin Luther once wrote. "The devil makes promises too."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"God's promises are like stars in the night; the darker it gets, the brighter they become."
Quote of David Nicholas