I first learned of Nicholson Baker's new book, Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization, when I saw Ed Champion carrying around a well-worn galley copy at a reading a month or so ago. It looked like the kind of book I could become obsessive about, and so I contacted the publisher and begged for a copy, and soon a finished copy (beautifully made) of the book had landed on my doorstep. I'd only read a few pages when Ed invited me to join an online roundtable discussion of the book he was putting together.
Part one of that discussion has now been posted. It includes contributions from Ed, Sarah Weinman, Levi Asher, and Brian Francis Slattery. Upcoming will be lots of argument about historiography, pacifism, Baker's representation of WWII, and much more. I've only chimed in once so far, because I'm still struggling to finish the book amidst a very busy schedule, but once I'm done, I'll have something more to add either at the roundtable, or, if it's completed at that point, here.
Update: And now Part Two, which provides lots of lively argument.
Update update: Here are the other parts: three, four (in which I make my first appearance), and five. Ed sprung a surprise on us at the end -- Nicholson Baker himself came in and responded to some of what we'd said.
I'm still reading the book (halfway through it now...) and will have a bit more to say here at The Mumpsimus about it once I'm done.