Why are we so fascinated by the underworld?

Karen Abbott is a journalist and author of the New York Times bestseller Sin in the Second City, an exploration of the role of brothels in the cultural and political life of turn-of-the-century Chicago. Prior to publishing Sin in the Second City – which took her three years to write and research – Abbott worked for Philadelphia magazine and for Philadelphia Weekly. Abbott, a native of Philadelphia, received her BA from Villanova University in 1995. The critically acclaimed Sin in the Second City tells the story of Chicago’s Everleigh Club, a famous high-end whorehouse that was known as the “finest brothel in the land.” Abbott lives with her husband in Atlanta and is working on her second book, a portrait of Gypsy Rose Lee and Depression-era New York.

  • Transcript


Karen Abbott: I think people are . . . want to see how far their darker natures can go, and what exactly constitutes their darker nature and where it might take them. You know there’s always, of course, an attraction to what’s dangerous, and what’s ____________, and what’s forbidden. And I think that vice is a big part of that, and you know the people who put vice . . . who offer vice, and put vice out on display, and who trade in vice where vice is the currency, such as in a democratic machine, big city machine – all of these things are just inherently interesting because they speak to a nature of ourselves that we don’t always offer for public consumption.

Recorded On: 1/22/08