Twilight at the World of Tomorrow
The 1939 New York World’s Fair transformed the dumps of Flushing Meadows into a wonderland of science, architecture, and cultural achievement. Marketed as the “World of Tomorrow,” the Fair highlighted futuristic innovations from dishwashers to nylon to television. Great figures of the age, including President Roosevelt and Albert Einstein, contributed to its spectacle. But with bomb threats, financial crises, and a second World War on the horizon, the Fair’s image of a peaceful future seemed little more than a mirage.
James Mauro takes us back to a world teetering between Depression and World War, and a city striving to prove itself. Maura has a wonderful eye for detail, and unearths some of the Fair’s funniest oddities and idiosyncrasies. But with so many personalities jostling for center stage, the flow of the narrative suffers. Although this work has clear similarities to Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City, Mauro’s organization and characterization fall short. Characters are built up only to disappear abruptly from the narrative, and the anticipated satisfying conclusion never comes. Twilight at the World of Tomorrow is an engaging portrait of an oft-neglected era, but one that, like the 1939 World’s Fair, never quite delivers on its promised splendor.