Jonathan Schell

  • The Not-So-Good War

    In form, Human Smoke is unique. Nicholson Baker seeks to tell the story of the origins of World War II through a chronological sequence of several hundred vignettes, as if one were to screen Gone with the Wind through a series of uncaptioned snapshots. Yet however impressionistic Baker’s technique may seem, he is pursuing an ambitious and sweeping reinterpretation of his subject: He evidently regards the “good war” as bad, a colossal mistake. In other words, Baker is tilting against the most deeply settled and ardently embraced piece of conventional wisdom in the current armory of American