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Book Club Wed Oct 29 2008

Sin in the Second City on the Web

Interested in reading what others think of our current Book Club selection? Here are some reviews and blog posts of varying opinions on Sin in the Second City:

Blog Critics: "Abbott writes the non-fiction book almost like a novel, with rich descriptions and an eye towards character. Sin in the Second City never gets salacious, though the author sometimes gets flowery with her descriptions."

New York Times: "'Sin and the Second City' is assiduously researched. And it is well put together, mixing brief and longer chapters rather than striving for a more arbitrary format. But Ms. Abbott has to narrate and debunk, and her task is complicated...It's no small matter to sift the facts from the hyperbole."

My Individual Take: "The author clearly sympathizes with the Everleigh sisters' shrewd business sense while raising an eye-brow at the male-dominated society that alternately condoned then condemned the sexual exploitation."

Steven Levitt's Freakonomics Blog: "Rarely do I get to the end of a book and wish that it had still more chapters. On the rare occasion when this does happen, the feeling usually passes quickly. When my longing for a book persists, I know I really liked the book." (Don't miss the accompanying New York Times Q&A with Abbott.)

Pop Matters: "You can almost see the jerky movements on an old-time cinema screen as Abbott parades her cast of often questionable characters: the shady politicians, the criminal and political bosses, the cops, the pimps, the patrons, the troubled sons of wealthy men. With real people like on-the-take aldermen Michael 'Hinky Dink' Kenna and 'Bathhouse John' Coughlin, who needs fiction?"

Claire Zulkey interviews Abbott: "I've seen your book linked with The Devil in the White City: what do you think it is about Chicago's sordid history that's captured more than the local imagination?"

Book Dork: "So: the first half of the book is all fanciful demimonde, with these bizarre unique characters flitting around in absurd amounts of jewelry and utterly invented personas (complete with birth dates moved up more than a decade), encouraging men to drink champagne out of their harlots' shoes and linger in tackily elegant rooms paneled entirely with mirrors or done up to resemble all the regions of the world or decorated entirely in monochrome...It's fantastic."

Chicago Daily Observer: "The story has been chronicled before, but never in such explicit detail. Despite the lurid subject matter, Abbott labors to make the operators of the Everleigh Club look as refined and respectable as members of the Junior League. Surprisingly enough, some people are buying into this revisionist argument."

Mark Bernstein: "The whole White Slavery question strikes us today as a strange mix of naïveté and hypocrisy, mixed with prudery and class friction. This is, pretty much, Abbott's diagnosis, and because she has little real sympathy with the reformers, nearly half of her book is devoted to preachers and reformers she clearly views as colorless and dull. I think more could be done with this material."

Wall Street Journal: "One doesn't hear much nowadays about bordellos, also known as cathouses, brothels, houses of ill repute or simple whorehouses. When I was an adolescent in Chicago, in the early 1950s, the trip to such a place was a rite de passage for nearly every male youth of unambiguous appetites."

You can also hear what Abbott has to say about the book herself:

Interview from a WGN appearance.

Interview on NPR.

Interview on WBEZ's Eight Forty-Eight.

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Book Club is the literary section of Gapers Block, covering Chicago's authors, poets and literary events. More...

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