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

Twilight at the World of Tomorrow  by James Mauro
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bookshelves: 2016, history

How the 1939 NY Worlds Fair got built and totally crashed, somewhat due to the war. I saw this in a bookstore years ago and always wanted to read it. It sort of lived up to its potential. I always knew about the awesome things that debuted here (television, for one. Faxing. Synthetic speech, the precurser to AAC) but I didn't realize that it was such a disappointment and that it failed it just about every way possible.

I enjoyed reading about the Fair itself, and how it was built. Whalen was an interesting character--couldn't believe he gave himself a $100,000 salary for running it, though. Even when he cut back to $75,000. In 1939 money! That's more than I make now, in 2016 money. Which gives you an idea of how he thought the Fair should be run! He threw way too much money at it. (And the guy who took over for him spent too little. Moderation, dudes.)

It was also interesting how the Fair tied to the World War, and how Whalen thought the Fair could stop the war before it started. Instead, the Fair became something of a memorial for many of the represented countries during the 1940 season.

The bits about Einstein felt tacked on. Yes, he opened the Fair and visited a few times. Yes, the war loomed over the Fair. But did we need random pages devoted to him and his feelings about the war and the atomic bombs? It felt so out of place.

I did enjoy following the bomb squad detectives. I should have realized the ending to that, but it took way too long to cotton on. I was pretty astounded by the cover of the Daily News that they reprinted here--very clearly showing the two dead men, burned and mangled and pieces missing. America has always been a country of rubberneckers, I guess, and violence has always been front page news.

Overall, interesting, but I wish it had focused more on the Fair itself at the end, not just the way things went wrong (weather, people staying away, all the bomb threats, the countries backing out). After all the leadup, I wanted to feel like I was there. (Though Walt Disney was clearly inspired; so much of what got described reminds me of things I see and do at Disneyland and World.) What does it look like now? What happened to the foreigners working the Fair who had no countries to return to when it ended? What was it like to be a visitor? It seems like it got a little too splintered at the end.
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Reading Progress

March 23, 2016 – Started Reading
March 28, 2016 – Shelved
March 28, 2016 – Shelved as: 2016
March 28, 2016 – Shelved as: history
March 29, 2016 – Finished Reading

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