I don’t want to give the wrong impression: Mires’ book is not a work of humor. It’s a scholarly work whose bulk is nearly 25% endnotes and other appendices, and, though Mires is a good writer, she isn’t aiming for comedy. It’s just that, as the story plays out, it’s hard not to laugh. There’s a large cast of characters and the story is writ large on the world stage. Apparently, everyone wanted the U.N. in their backyard (except Concord, CT) and residents, from average Joes to the Rockefellers, fought to get it there. The size of the “capital” also went through various metamorphoses during the process: originally conceived as a small town, the U.N. eventually became a large compound instead.
There’s far too much content in Mires’ book to go into much detail about the process, but Mires keeps the book moving at a pretty steady pace, even if I did get a little bogged down once or twice in the endless litany of names and places presented for consideration. Of course, even that isn’t necessarily a bad thing--it probably accurately replicated how the U.N. felt after being approached dozens of times by boosters from South Dakota, Michigan, San Francisco, and, of course, New York. The material, which could potentially be very dry, is handled well, and I suspect that someone more attuned to world history or any of the civic areas the book touches on would enjoy it even more than I did. There are also numerous photos and sketches throughout, and they serve as a powerful illustration of how crazily monomanicial the various boosters got in pursuit of their cause.
In the end, the U.N. ends up in New York City, of course, and, to us 75 years later, the competition for the U.N. looks a little silly. Mires is aware of this, but she addresses it well at the end of the book when she says:
Looking back, if it all seems a little crazy, then we have lost touch with the atmosphere of determination, hope, and anxiety the characterized American society at the end of the Second World War. We have forgotten the time when people in cities and towns across the United States imagined themselves on the world stage--and not just the stage, but at its center as the stars of the show.If you want to see if your hometown was a contender, check out the full list at Mires' blog, Capital of the World.