Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization
Bestselling author Nicholson Baker, recognized as one of the most dexterous and talented writers in America today, has created a compelling work of nonfiction bound to provoke discussion and controversy -- a wide-ranging, astonishingly fresh perspective on the political and social landscape that gave rise to World War II.
Human Smoke delivers a closely textured, deeply movi...more
The book generated a lot of heat when it was released a few months ago because it challenges the idea that World War II was a “good” war, something that is today an article of faith for all decent c...more
Roosevelt knew about the Japanese navy moving toward Pearl Harbor.
Winston Churchill did all he could to antagonize Germany into a war of attrition through the air.
Britain bombed German cities before the London Blitz started.
Jews suffered more due to the English blockade of Germany than anyone e...more
Perhaps not, Nobel! That prediction was a big fat FAIL!
The author then takes us into brief passages in time, quick mention of WW1 and onto the start of WW2. This turns out to be the...more
Using an all factual anecdote approach, Baker completely revised my thoughts on how WWII started, especially casting Churchill into a very gray figure and Roosevelt into a much more gray light than had ever been aware of.
He enumerates the many people who opposed the war and sought to minimize the violence and deprivation wreaked on innocent people. This in itself reminded me of how out-of-favor and margi...more
"1. The Fascizing processes occurring in Britain as a result of war are systematically exaggerated.
2. The actual record of Fascism, especially its pre-war history, is ignored or pooh-poohed as ‘propaganda’. Discussion of what the world would actually be like if the Axis dominated it is evaded.
3. Those who want to struggle against Fascism are accused of being wholehearted defenders of capitalist ‘democracy’. T...more
Like Baker, I w...more
Because so many of us unquestioningly accept the heroism of the Allied role in World War II, B...more
And yet, I'm saddened that so many people have been offended by this notion that war is wrong. Always. well, that's where we are right now, as the subtitle of the book indicates.
This is the kind of history book I can deal with, and enjoy reading. Bite size nuggets, glimpses and snapshots. Some appear...more
Keep in mind, of course, that most histories are written by the victors.
This history is also unique in that it does not take into account how thin...more
It's no surprise that a pacifist portrayal of World War II will invite controversy. Yet what really seemed to divide reviewers of Human Smoke was not Baker's dovishness but his devices: the many short anecdotes and quotations that comprise this book. This style, which allows readers to reach their own conclusions, won over some critics, even if they remained unconvinced by Baker's pacifism. Yet many others found the book's form an offense in itself, charging that Baker takes quotations out of co...more
If the goal of a book is to make you think and question your assumptions, this book succeeds on every level. No book I have read this year (or possibly i...more
Good God, what a book. If you like contrarian histories, if you're the kind of person who likes to drop at parties sentences that begin something like "well, actually, you know, that beloved piece of conventional wisdom is wrong" ... you'll love this.
It’s an engrossing view of the months and years leading up to Pearl Harbor, told in short snippets and summaries of news articles. He specifi...more
There were many moments in this book where I realized everything I knew wa...more
I was prompted to investigate this book after watching two Penn Point episodes on the author, who is a favorite of Jillette. http://revision3.com/pennpoint/humans...
The author being unknown to me, I elected to collect some reviews on the book. I was also motivated to find a review which addressed the allegations that Baker makes numerous factual errors in presenting his historical treatise (Penn also mentioned he was aware of these allega...more
This book tells you the pacifist movement during WWII. Besides the holocaust done by Axis to the Jews, you would also see how Allied had used bombing and economic blockage which, in effect, create a holocaust on the nor...more
I thought the book revealed quite well how each government involved presented the conflict from a diff...more
'I cannot welcome this entry of America,' Gandhi said. 'By her territorial vastness, amazing energy, unrivalled financial status and owing to the composite character of her people she is the one country which could have saved the world from the unthinkable butchery that is going on.' Now, he said, there was no powerful nation left to mediate and bring about...more
"I like how quickly it moves; I imagine that the text is laid out in very small sections making the book just a collection of 3-4 line paragraphs. It seems that Nicholson Baker acted as a sort of anthologist of history when he gathered the ton of research it must have taken to create the book and selected which snippets of...more
The author uses a striking literary device of immense power. Every one of the hundreds of passages gives the date. For example:
Captain Philip S. Mumford, a former British officer in Iraq, joined the Peace Pledge Union. He gave a speech about why, "what is th...more