Wilder’s short second novel, following the similarly semifarcical My French Whore, takes a poignant and whimsically romantic poke at turn-of-the-last-century Europe’s privileged gentry. When British concert violinist Jeremy Spencer Webb snaps, pouring water down a tuba and pounding the Steinway during a performance, he is sent to a health resort in the German Black Forest to recover. There, under the care of the orchestra director’s brother, Dr. Karl Gross, Jeremy meets his idol, the consumptive Anton Chekhov, and an elusive cute Belgie named Clara Mulpas. His treatment, a regimen of rigorous walks, long baths, fine dining and the local white wine, is put to the test when he is asked to play with the string quartet that entertains the guests during dinner. The episode ends badly, but helps deepen his friendship with Chekhov. Jeremy also grows closer to Clara: struggling to restrain his normally flirtatious impulse so as not to scare her off, he gradually wins her over, with unexpected results. Wilder lovingly depicts the miraculous joy and inevitable loss that liberate true emotion in Jeremy and his music.
–> –Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization by Nicholson Baker
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.