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Twilight at the World of Tomorrow: Genius, Madness, Murder, and the 1939 World's Fair on the Brink of War Hardcover – June 22, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 70 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Former Cosmopolitan executive editor Mauro tries to underscore the irony of the 1939–1940 New York World's Fair, with its theme of world unity, opening on the brink of world war. But Mauro has multiple narratives, moving erratically between the evolution of the fair, with its slogan Building the World of Tomorrow; war brewing in Europe; and Germany gobbling up territory (Hitler refused the invitation to have a pavilion at the fair). As, one by one, European nations closed their pavilions, due to the war, the fair's theme rang increasingly hollow. During the fair's run, Einstein famously wrote to President Roosevelt expressing concern over Germany's stockpiling of uranium, giving rise to the Manhattan Project. To this unwieldy narrative Mauro adds the story of two NYPD bomb squad detectives killed when a bomb detonated on the fairgrounds on July 4, 1940. Aiming for another Devil in the White City, Mauro fails to pull all his threads together coherently, falling short of the mark. Photos. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The subtitle of this in-depth examination of the 1939–40 World’s Fair in New York is somewhat misleading as it suggests too much similarity to to Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City, in which Daniel Burnham’s architectural plans for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago were juxtaposed with the murderous plots carried out by Dr. H. H. Holmes. What happened in Flushing Meadows, New York, is still tragic but tame by contrast: a Fourth of July bombing that resulted in the deaths of two NYPD detectives. Still, Maro’s intensively researched history of what led up to the fair and the fair itself provides a revealing window onto the Depression and prewar America in general. The text includes a intriguing cameo by Albert Einstein, who was a visitor at the fair. Absorbing history but hardly a match for The Devil in the White City. --Connie Fletcher

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1st edition (June 22, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345512146
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345512147
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,049,711 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Talvi TOP 100 REVIEWER on June 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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 personalities behind the 1939 Worlds Fair. Those who thought it up, organized it, worked it, and ultimately the celebrities that visited it. There are a lot of fascinating facts interwoven with the narrative and never once was I bored with the book. The author writes in such a way that you really get a 3-dimensional picture of the people - they are never caricatures or poorly fleshed out. Each feels like someone you might have known and that really makes the read that much more engrossing.

I think it is important to note that this is really about the people behind the fair and not the fair itself. You won't necessarily get a feel of what it was like to be there or experience it - that's for historical or coffee table books. Instead, you'll get a feel of what it was like to live at this time with all the factors that were going on behind the scenes of the build up and then end of the fair.

I was VERY glad to get this and I highly recommend it for history buffs or those who really like the whole idea behind the World Fairs. There is always so much going on behind the scenes and it is clear the author highly researched and really got into the mindset of the people at the time.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
First, let me explain that title.....The site they picked for the 1939 World's Fair was in Flushing Meadows, Queens, and up till that point it had been a garbage dump. A BIG garbage dump. When Robert Moses, Commissioner of Parks, toured the site before construction had started he joked that he had seen rats "big enough to wear saddles." (Funny guy, unless you got in his way, but that's another story......see Robert Caro's "The Power Broker" for an excellent biography of Moses.) The book is full of little comic gems like this. We have lightbulbs at the fair being changed for a cost of $8.81 per bulb, equivalent to about $100 today according to the author, because any electrical work, including installing new lightbulbs, had to be done by union members. Another funny story concerned license plates. One of the key players in creating and building the fair was Grover Whalen, who was a master of public relations. "In 1938 he convinced Governor Lehman to allow the words New York World's Fair 1939 stamped on every automobile license plate in the state.......One particular cynic, a forty-two-year-old mechanic from White Plains named Martin McBohin, expressed his displeasure by covering up the offending ad with electrical tape and subsequently got himself arrested for defacing a license plate. Before his trial he announced to the press, 'Next thing you know the State will compel us to advertise someone's corn flakes.' " Of course, the Einstein connection is one of the most interesting parts of the book. Einstein visited the fair as an official guest and gave speeches, but he also visited as a "comman man" who just wanted to see the sights.Read more ›
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This was a very interesting book about the people behind the making of the 1939-40 New York World's Fair, the exhibits, and how, on the eve of World War II, a promise of a better world drew famous architects and visitors to this fair. Here are the pictures of the buildings created for the fair, many of striking Art Deco design. Here the visitors viewed in exhibit form many of the advances in science and technology that we take for granted and have never lived without, such as TVs, superhighways with clover leaf on and off ramps, microwave ovens, and more. Even a fact about the location surprised me, and I don't know how many people know. In F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, characters drive by what he calls a great "ash heap." This fair was placed on land reclaimed for a HUGE garbage dump! It's the same location used for the 63-64 fair, and as a park, it is still there! Who knew?? It was great to be able to visualize what my parents had seen.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Twilight at the World's Fair is a very good book which really could have used one more trip through the editor's notes. It covers the New York World's Fair of 1939 from the original concept in the depth of the depression, through building, opening and all the myriad problems that occurred until it closed in 1940.

Starting in the darkest part of the Great Depression a group of New Yorkers came up with the idea of revitalizing the city economy and encouraging others by hosting a World's Fair in the big apple. This meant finding sponsors willing to put up millions in support. Then transforming the land from a massive city dump into a show piece. A previous fair in Chicago had been dedicated to the past century of development. The Men of New York dreamed more than this. They wanted their fair to stand out. They were not going to look to the past but rather the future. The Theme of the fair was to be "Building the World of The Tomorrow" to give people something to aim for.

Mauro follows the twists and turns of fate that the fair and its planners lead by modern showman Grover Whelan, went through to bring it all off. Indeed the story is far more Grover Whelan's than anyone else's as he was the heart and soul of the fair, from planning to finance to greeting officials. Behind it all, as they planned to show of tomorrow, the present day was sinking towards the horrors of World War 2, and this of course affected the fair as well.

Mauro writes well and has done good research there are however a few things that could have used a little more attention. Most notable is the somewhat jerky transitions between several different stories. Each is well written and entertaining but the hand off between them is awkward and the reader cannot help but feel the strain of fitting it in.
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