The good folk at Simon & Schuster (hiya Caroline!) have just sent me a review copy of Nicholson Baker's Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II; The End of Civilization. This, of course, is the normal run of things: publishers send books, I review them. But I'm ever so excited because I like Baker a lot ... and this particular book is signed. To me!

The dedication reads "To Mark -- Nicholson Baker" which, I grant you, isn't that exciting nor as personal as you might wish for (Nicholson, dude, where's my "love"? "Lots of love" would have been nice, you know. Was that too much to ask? Really?) But it's something. And it's a nice way to start May Day.

The book itself is quite controversial, see recent post at e.g. -- which styles itself "anti-state, anti-war, pro-market" (well, they got the first two right!) -- or see the five-part roundtable discussion at Filthy Habits or read the slamming Adam Kirsch gave it in The New York Sun (thanks Steve) back in early March. If I get a chance, Mr Baker's anti-war screed will be read this weekend.

Readers Comments

  1. It's an interesting book, Mark. I'm curious to hear what you think of it. I may have some things to say about it over at my blog...

    Kirsch's review, incidentally, is simply stupid.

  2. Richard!

    I owe you a looooong email ...

    In the meantime, looking forward to seeing whatever you post about this over on

    And, yes, Kirsch's review is idiotic.


  3. I have just bought this and will be starting it this weekend. The only other book I have ready by Baker is A Box of Matches (how different from Human Smoke - but with some synergy in the title?).

    Incidentally, Peter Hitchens blog has an article on the topics covered by this book and quoting Human Smoke here and there


  4. I recommend the Baker, though it's hardly a screed. He lays out his evidence and invites you to do the screed.

  5. I'm going to read Kirsch's review simply because he isn't idiotic often. (Agree?)

  6. Lee Henshaw Monday 05 May 2008

    Now that I know that you're a fan of books with notes from the author in them I'll write some suitable in mine for you. I'll try and keep it clean. I'm still working on that list of my top ten books for you. It keeps changing, but I'm nearly there.

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