In the Spring of 1939, standing on the roof of our apartment house at night and gazing due east, you could see in the distance the glow of the New York World’s Fair. Sometimes you saw the colors change, from blue to green to rose and sometimes there were sky-rockets and star-bursts. You could not hear the music at that distance, but you could imagine it—and the crowds, and the fountains reaching toward the sky. “It’s a thing like a fair,” says a character in Scott Fitzgerald’s story “Absolution”—

Go to one at night and stand a little way off from it in a dark place—under dark trees. You’ll see a big wheel made of lights turning in the air, and a long slide shooting boats down into the water. A band playing somewhere and a smell of peanuts—and everything will twinkle.

The New York World’s Fair continues to be a subject for reflection...


New to The New Criterion?

Subscribe for one year to receive ten print issues, and gain immediate access to our online archive spanning more than four decades of art and cultural criticism.

Popular Right Now