Andy's Reviews > Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization

Human Smoke by Nicholson Baker
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's review
Jul 12, 2011

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Consisting almost entirely of a litany of factoids, anecdotes and vignettes from the period leading into World War II, and finishing shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack, Human Smoke is essentially a 90's-style deconstruction of history, more a response to the zeitgeist of the Bush-era of the '00's than to that of the early 20th century. It chips away at the facades of FDR and Churchill, while, at the same time, singing the praises of British PM Neville Chamberlain. It suggests that the there was an element of provocation toward both the Axis powers in the period leading to the war. It also seems to suggest that WWII was something of a pre-emptive war. It fails to convince that this is necessarily a bad thing. It is, at times, fascinating, and at other times, kind of annoying. But it does serve as a history of a subject not previously given a great deal of coverage, namely pacifism and peace movements before and during WWII, though with a decided bias in favor of same.

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