Human Smoke by Nicholson Baker
The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization

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Synopsis

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 moving indictment of the treasured myths that have romanticized much of the 1930s and '40s. Incorporating meticulous research and well-documented sources -- including newspaper and magazine articles, radio speeches, memoirs, and diaries -- the book juxtaposes hundreds of interrelated moments of decision, brutality, suffering, and mercy. Vivid glimpses of political leaders and their dissenters illuminate and examine the gradual, horrifying advance toward overt global war and Holocaust.

Praised by critics and readers alike for his exquisitely observant eye and deft, inimitable prose, Baker has assembled a narrative within Human Smoke that unfolds gracefully, tragically, and persuasively. This is an unforgettable book that makes a profound impact on our perceptions of historical events and mourns the unthinkable loss humanity has borne at its own hand.
 

About Nicholson Baker

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Nicholson Baker is the author of nine novels and five works of nonfiction, including The Anthologist, Human Smoke, and Double Fold (winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award). He lives in Maine with his family.
 
Published March 11, 2008 by Simon & Schuster. 577 pages
Genres: History, War, Travel. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Human Smoke

Kirkus Reviews

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A catalog of primary sources creatively fashioned by novelist and National Book Critics Circle Award–winner Baker (Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper, 2001, etc.) tells the grim story of the making of two world wars.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of Human Smoke: The Beginnings o...

The New York Times

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“‘Perhaps my factories will put an end to war even sooner than your congresses,’ Alfred Nobel said. ‘On the day when two army corps may mutually annihilate each other in a second, probably all civilized nations will recoil with horror and disband their troops.’”

Mar 23 2008 | Read Full Review of Human Smoke: The Beginnings o...

The New York Times

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Nicholson Baker’s muddled and often infuriating pacifist interpretation of the events leading to World War II sounds its single, solemn note incessantly: war is bad.

Mar 12 2008 | Read Full Review of Human Smoke: The Beginnings o...

The New York Times

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Nicholson Baker’s pacifist history of World War II is an eloquent and passionate assault on the idea that targeting civilians can ever be justified.

Mar 23 2008 | Read Full Review of Human Smoke: The Beginnings o...

The Guardian

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Baker uses his cut-and-paste technique to undermine completely the notion that Churchill - and to a lesser extent Roosevelt - were in any conceivable way unalloyed forces for good in the world.

May 31 2008 | Read Full Review of Human Smoke: The Beginnings o...

Bookmarks Magazine

Other reviewers were confused rather than incensed by Baker’s many snippets, suggesting that Human Smoke might not be the best book for someone just learning about the war, or even for someone looking for a pacifist take.

Apr 10 2008 | Read Full Review of Human Smoke: The Beginnings o...

New York Magazine

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New York Magazine

You do your worst—and we will do our best.” (Baker recently said that his book’s austere tone was, in part, a reaction to this rhetoric: “Churchill’s endlessly flowing eloquence temporarily turned off my adjectival spigots.”) “Bombing was, to Churchill,” Baker writes, “a form of pedagogy—a way of...

Mar 24 2008 | Read Full Review of Human Smoke: The Beginnings o...

Bloomberg

Nicholson Baker, author of "Human Smoke" Cover art for "Human Smoke" by Nicholson Baker.

Apr 17 2008 | Read Full Review of Human Smoke: The Beginnings o...

The Blurb

- in both senses - response to Human Smoke, and sums up the book .

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truthdig

But China is building up its reserves of wheat, and is now widely seen as working more energetically than many developing countries for an ambitious global climate change agreement.

Jul 28 2014 | Read Full Review of Human Smoke: The Beginnings o...

truthdig

But Democrats’ recruitment of Heitkamp proved to be a winning move.

Nov 07 2012 | Read Full Review of Human Smoke: The Beginnings o...

truthdig

Israel has become accustomed to others fixing their mess, but the time ahs come or them state of Israel to grow up and become responsible.

Jan 19 2009 | Read Full Review of Human Smoke: The Beginnings o...

truthdig

So he declared in the subtitle of his book: “The Beginning of World War II, the End of Civilization.” Yet after “the End of Civilization” come 336 pages about the history of the war, ending with the curious date of Dec. 31, 1941, more than three weeks after Pearl Harbor.

Apr 18 2008 | Read Full Review of Human Smoke: The Beginnings o...

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