Human Smoke Signed Edition Hardcover
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"In "Human Smoke," Nicholson Baker turns his unrivaled literary talents to pacifism. His portraits of Churchill's imperial arrogance, Franklin Roosevelt's anti-Semitism, the machinations of the arms merchants, the Germans' death wish, and the efforts of pacifists are unforgettable. Baker's book is truly original." -- Chalmers Johnson, president and cofounder of the Japan Policy Research Institute and author of "Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic"
"In "Human Smoke", Nicholson Baker turns his unrivaled literary talents to pacifism. His portraits of Churchill's imperial arrogance, Franklin Roosevelt's anti-Semitism, the machinations of the arms merchants, the Germans' death wish, and the efforts of pacifists are unforgettable. Baker's book is truly original." -- Chalmers Johnson, president and cofounder of the Japan Policy Research Institute and author of "Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic"
"Absolutely fascinating, engrossing. I can't imagine anyone, no matter how knowledgeable about the period, who won't be astonished and moved while reading Human Smoke." -- Daniel Ellsberg, author of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers
"This quite extraordinary book -- impossible to put down, impossible to forget -- may be the most compelling argument for peace ever assembled. Nicholson Baker displays in astonishing, fascinating detail mankind's unstoppable descent into the madness of war -- slowed only occasionally, but then invariably most movingly, by the still, small voices of the sane and the wise." -- Simon Winchester, author of The Man Who Loved China and The Professor and the Madman
"In Human Smoke, Nicholson Baker turns his unrivaled literary talents to pacifism. His portraits of Churchill's imperial arrogance, Franklin Roosevelt's anti-Semitism, the machinations of the arms merchants, the Germans' death wish, and the efforts of pacifists are unforgettable. Baker's book is truly original." -- Chalmers Johnson, president and cofounder of the Japan Policy Research Institute and author of Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic
"Nicholson Baker movingly pierces the lies, hopes, fears, and myths we so easily imbibe on the road to war -- painful reminders that what has happened in the past can happen again and again and again until we shake loose and react." -- Gar Alperovitz, Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy, University of Maryland, and author of The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Nicholson Baker is the author of nine novels and four works of nonfiction, including Double Fold, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award, and House of Holes, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, and The New York Review of Books. He lives in Maine with his family. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Exposes the opposition to the war ,the numerous times Hitler tried to make peace
with a belligerent and war hungry Churchill.The anti Semitism on all sides.
All the censorship and Lies fed to the public.
I suppose the winners really do get to turn there lies into the truth.
It is easy to underestimate how much postwar circumstances influence the verdict on a war. In different circumstances America's leaders could have been prosecuted as war criminals for their actions in Vietnam, just like Milosevic and Karadic. That may sound unbelievable but it is a quote from Robert Macnamara (Secretary of State at the time) talking about himself.
We won WWII, we wrote the history books, and we all like to believe it was a conflict of moral simplicity. We need books like this that challenge our complacency. I believe it is because our views are so deeply ingrained that some people are attacking this book.
I agree with one of the criticisms. If you want Nicholson to argue his case in the usual way, you will be disappointed. He doesn't argue at all. Most of the book comprises quotations and reports of quotations. He only writes in his own voice for a few sentences at the very end. As has been pointed out, this isn't historical analysis and can never prove anything. But it does have an advantage. He lets the evidence speak for itself. This means anyone open-minded can find the book interesting regardless of their viewpoint.
A good example is the quotes of Gandhi's comments. Some people will read these as virtuous and uplifting. Others will see them as proof that Gandhi was a fool and the pacifits were mad. Nicholson makes no comment, he merely gives us the quotes.
If you aren't satisfied with this, and prefer a book that debates the subject using historical analysis, Buchanan's "Churchill, Hitler and the unnecessary war" is a good choice.
I wish the book's detractors had said, "That's interesting, there is a lot I didn't know in this book, it highlighted some things that aren't usually admitted, and showed that the picture is murkier than most of us appreciate. But I disagree with his conclusion. I still think Churchill was mostly justified and I won't change my view." Sadly, that's not what the reviewers have said.
One reviewer accuses Nicholson of selective commentary. But the total amount of commentary in the entire book is very close to zero. The criticisms of Churchill are quotes from people who knew him. Nicolson is perfectly entitled to gather such quotations. There are already plenty of books praising Churchill. We rarely hear the negative comments and we should hear them. It is healthy to see the darker side of the man we recently voted the greatest Briton of all time. In any case the book does contain a lot of praise for Churchill.
One reviewer, while plugging his own book on the war, gives this attack: "from the heights of superior morality" Nicholson argues for moral equivalence between the allies and the nazis. The implication is clear: I know better; I know that we were angels and the enemy were devils.
Excuse me, who is being morally superior, Nicholson or the reviewer?
In any case the criticism is based on a misreading. The book suggests that the picture is murkier than people often think. Nowhere does it assert moral equivalence.
He does make a number of irritating errors of detail (you can tell he's not a professional historian), and the events chosen are - by their very nature - selective. This tends to give a somewhat distorted view of events, and if you're not already familiar with the period you might find yourself thinking "Hang on - how did THAT suddenly happen?"
Perhaps we are supposed to be shocked to learn that Winston Churchill was a belligerent pragmatist, or that Roosevelt deliberately provoked the Japanese in order to assure America's entry into the war. To anyone who has studied this period at all this is hardly news.
As to Mr Baker's avowal that the American pacificts and anti-interventionists "were right", you must make up your own mind.
Despite these reservations, the book still has a "page turner" effect, with much food for thought for the international realpolitik of the present day.
Worth reading, but not the full picture, not by a long way.
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