Twilight at the World of Tomorrow : Genius, Madness, Murder, and the 1939 World's Fair on the Brink of  War
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Twilight at the World of Tomorrow : Genius, Madness, Murder, and the 1939 World's Fair on the Brink of War

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  217 ratings  ·  54 reviews
The summer of 1939 was an epic turning point for America—a brief window between the Great Depression and World War II. It was the last season of unbridled hope for peace and prosperity; by Labor Day, the Nazis were in Poland. And nothing would come to symbolize this transformation from acute optimism to fear and dread more than the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

A glorious vi...more
Hardcover, First Edition, 401 pages
Published June 22nd 2010 by Ballantine Books (first published June 17th 2010)
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This fascinating book might be re-titled "the life and times of the 1939 New York World's Fair", as it gives an extensive history of the fair itself but also adds in the critically important context of the era, including the ramping up of the world towards global war, the aftermath of the Great Depression, and Albert Einstein's tragic, messy exile from his homeland and tangential association with the Manhattan project.

In a broader sense it captures the mood and struggle of all of America at the...more
April Helms
I really enjoyed this accounting of the 1939 World Fair in New York City. The story behind this extravagant affair seems a good mix of the best and the worst of humanity. It was planned with the best intentions -- a place dedicated to peace and an optimistic future. But it wound up being a microcosm of the world at large as it struggled with the Great Depression and was looking at another World War. The grand opening of the Fair in 1939 seemed to be a foreshadowing of how the event would go -- t...more
Lauren Albert
While the title is overly sensationalist, the book was very interesting and I learned a lot about both the World's Fair and the period. I had never read, for instance, about how the start of the war affected the fair (with Russia shutting down its pavilion, for instance, and shipping it all back home). Mauro shows how the fair was financed and how low turnstile numbers affected profits, or lack thereof. Speculation that non-New Yorkers weren't visiting because they were intimidated by the city o...more
Jason Reeser
One of my big regrets is that I did not get to see the World of Tomorrow in 1939. But since I was still thirty-one years away from being born, I can forgive myself. But man, I wish I could have been there. This book gives you a limited chance to see what it was all about, and it throws in a bit of drama about bombings at the fair. The real drama is played out in the political arena as the world comes together to pledge peace at the World's Fair and ends up facing off in one of the most distructi...more
I'm not surprised to learn the author originally intended to write a novel, but changed his plans when his agent and mentor suggested he write it as nonfiction instead. This history of the 1939 New York World's Fair is so well written that it wraps you up in the lives and feelings of the numerous historical characters. It's so compelling that you care what happens to the major figures—such as Grover Whalen and Albert Einstein—and even the not-so-famous folks—such as the 2 policemen on New York C...more
This book, a history of the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair, was interesting but I found it to be not particularly compelling. On the face of it, outsize egos, creative bookkeeping, terrorist bombings, and the march to World War II are ingredients for a crackerjack story (think of an Erik Larson like "The Devil in the White City"). Unfortunately, here the characters (such as New York parks czar and massive egotist Robert Moses) are ciphers, the situation in Europe is distant and muted, a murder...more
Such an interesting topic - so mishandled here. A tedious slog.
The premise of this book was intriguing; truth and fact are often so much more interesting than fiction. This book was really an interesting in-depth look at the 1939 World's Fair, from the first glimmer of an idea (from an unlikely source) to the manipulations, politics, finances, construction, international relations required to make it happen, plus the social and economic impact that fair had on the community, this is a fascinating book.

The book also reminds us that domestic terrorism has be...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rob Atkinson
Both the media and Goodreads reviews tend to compare this title unfavorably with "Devil In The White City" by Eric Larson, which strikes me as unfair. While I read and adored that bestselling book, its chief focus was on the mass murderer H.H. Holmes and his grisly career in Chicago, which coincided with that city's Great Exposition of 1893. The history of that fair's legendary "White City" was compellingly woven into what essentially was a gripping 'True Crime' story.

James Munro is after somet...more
Elizabeth K.
I am probably *slightly* cheating by not filing this under "didn't finish" because I was really skimming by the last third. I get the feeling that the author was inspired by that Devil in the White City book about Chicago, he seemed very intent upon linking the fair to various themes in play at this point in history. This felt a little arduous a lot of the time. When I read this kind of book, I always think that it would have been a lot better as a well-researched magazine article, or rather sev...more
Mar 22, 2012 Christa rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: American history,WWII history, Einstein, Great Depression, New York City
Recommended to Christa by: the library
Shelves: history
This book caught my eye on a shelf at the library and I thought I'd give it a try. I have also read "The Devil in the White City" (by Erik Larson) about the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and enjoyed it a lot, so I was hoping that this would be along the same lines.

Like "Devil," this book follows a couple of different storylines which are all, in turn, influenced by the 1939 New York World's Fair. "Twilight" focuses on the people and process developing and then running the fair, the career and fam...more
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I have to admit to having a fascination with the Worlds Fairs in New York and worried this book would either be an overdramatic novelization or a dry as bone read. I was pleasantly surprised, instead, to find a well written and engrossing true-tale - created by using historical documents as the basis upon which to build the story of the Worlds Fair.

After only a few pages, you're hooked as you learn about the persons and p...more
This is one of those truly great adventures(and btw great read) into the hearts, minds and dreams of huge egos that clash and burn. But oh my the back stories to this Herculean effort to build this dream is so well drawn by Mauro. His narrative weaves a diverse mosaic of characters together that are so well articulated. These lives and stories inevitably intersect But what could have been bogged down with facts comes alive with Mauro's passionate retelling . Every obstacle is detailed with with...more
This is is literally a random purchase - I was on a binge, standing in line at the bookstore checkout with a bunch of other books I was buying, and the cover caught my eye exactly as it was supposed to. So I bought it. This is primarily about the 1939-40 New York World's Fair, which was plagued with bad luck from the start: low attendance, rain, more rain, Nazis, bankruptcy, technical difficulties, labor disputes, war in Europe, and a bombing.

I think Mauro did his best work in this book when he...more
The very idea of a World's Fair may be foreign to anyone not born before the 1950's, but for those who experienced one, they show the extremes of what man is capable of doing. For the United States in 1939, at the cusp of World World II and not yet recovered from the Great Depression, the New York World's Fair served as both the best and worst of the time.

It is hard to believe that a $67 million, 1,216 acre fair could be built in the heart of Queens, on the remains of one of the largest garbage...more
Daryl Crompton
An interesting read. For me, the joy in the book was the unexpected history - the side stories of Albert Einstein, Charles Lindbergh, and Robert Moses were more interesting than the main topic and character that focused on the 1939 worlds fair.
I suppose if one is from New York City, the book would be much more interesting.
There is the expected telling of European countries that are represented in the first year of the fair, only to become symbols of countries that once were independent. (Poland...more
I don't venture into the non-fiction section of the library often enough but when I happened to recently this book caught my eye. It helped that Albert Einstein's picture was on the cover since he is high on my list of people who I find to be fascinating. The whole world's fair idea beckoned to me as well since I vaguely remembered hearing about world's fairs and I have seen remnants of them, some firsthand.

I was surprised at just how absorbing I found this book to be. I learned about some prom...more
Mary Anne
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I had known absolutely nothing going about the World's Fair of '39 when I went into this book, and I feel much more enlightened at the end, if a tad bit confused at times. Mauro's style of weaving in the personal lives of the Fair's major players - as well as occasional guests - serves the story's impact well, although it can interrupt the flow at times. It began to feel a little rushed near the end, but thinking more about the book it seems as though Mauro was a fan of Grover Whalen's over-the-...more
This is not devil in the white city-although it is interesting in it's own right. I felt the author stretched to be able to include the interesting information on Einstein, but it worked in the context of the book. I felt shortchanged on the bomb squad- I imagine he shared what informatioin was available, there just wasn't enough. All in all, though, a great read.
Ted Hunt
I think the author thought that he could write a book about the 1939 New York World's Fair similar to Larson's book Devil in the White City, and multi-level examination of the fair and some of the personal stories wrapped up in that event. Some parts of the book work well, other's seem forced. And the chronology is very difficult to keep straight in some parts, as he jumps between stories (and years) so much that I found it difficult to follow at times. The story of the fair is the most interest...more
Margaret Sankey
From the moment the 1939 NY World's Fair opened (after 3 years of politicking and hustle), there was Trouble Around the Lagoon of Nations--from the Nazi annexation of the Czech Pavilion, the defiant Polish-American bugler, Mayor LaGuardia's Hitler baiting, unfortunate product naming (the Westinghouse Microblitzkrieg!), bomb threats, awkward royal visits (George VI desperately looking for a bathroom), Einstein debunking the magic tricks, and an amusement area with both ""Oscar the Obscene Octopus...more
Homer H Blass
Attempt at writing a History of the New York Worlds Fair of 1939-1940 similar to book on Chicago's World Fair of 1890 but this fair was less exciting and less intertwined with other news stories of the time..However very sad in some ways. Several nations who sent exhibits such as Poland and Czechoslovakia were conquered or partitioned during the year the exhibits continued in New York City. The author also deals with one issue about the British Royals I have not seen covered or discussed anywher...more
If you're interested in the background of the 1939 world's fair (and who isn't), I'd say five stars. But this book is trying to be "Devil in the White City," and doesn't have the drama that the other book has. This has lots of conniving (and Robert Moses), and drama--World War II breaks out in the first year of the Fair. It has bombs and the bomb squad. It's missing a writing style that draws you along with the story. However, it's a good overview of the people and the times and the World of Tom...more
Christy  Laub
If you're looking for "Devil and the White City," look elsewhere. But if you have a fascination with Worlds Fairs, utopian quest, and ideas of the future from the past, this book for you. The "murder" element, while an important part of the story and part of the zeitgeist, is a bit overhyped and feels slightly tacked on at spots. Also, the book ends a bit abruptly -- I would have liked a little more on the after effects of the fair since there was so much build up. But while it's not perfectly w...more
Loved the history surrounding this story. Found the whole task of getting a World Fair going at this time in history a huge under taking, couldn’t believe it ever got finished. Wish I could have seen it at its completion. As far as the writing, it read more like a history book and less like a novel. I’m sure the author cringes every time it is compared to “The Devil in the White City” but I don’t think you can help compare the two-they follow the same premise. However, “The Devil in the White Ci...more
Kalendra Dee
The 1930 New York World’s Fair was supposed to be bigger, better, and more profitable than Chicago’s 1934 Century of Progress World’s Fair. Right from the start, however, the planners ran into problems with the location, unions, weather, and attendance. Soon, terrorist would enter into the picture, and people would start to die. A fascinating look at a Depression Era World's Fair; a Fair dedicated to peace at the time the world was on the brink of another world war.
David R.
An often lifeless account of the 1939 World's Fair. Like Erik Larsen (re: 1893 Columbian Exposition) Mauro uses the device of viewing the Fair through the lens of several personalities. He succeeds with 1939 fair president Grover Whalen, but falls flat with a monochrome treatment of bomb squader Joe Lynch and with Albert Einstein. Oh, and the book's title is definitely hyperbolic: I don't recall "madness" and the murder(s) aren't actually given much ink.
I very much enjoyed this book. Mauro tells two stories at the same time, one about two cops who end up on the bomb squad and the other of the fair itself. I had no idea that planting bombs was so common at the time. I don't understand why these aren't treated as America's first cases of domestic terrorism, but there you go. For a book about history, a story that has already happened, I found the writing compelling and the ending very climactic.
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