Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Nicholson Baker and indecency

I'm not talking about his book Human Smoke, for which he's taking such a terrible, terrible beating (Anne Applebaum in The New Republic is just one example of the fury Baker's pacifist revision of WWII history hath wrought - among some very heavy hitters!), but of his delightful review of The Flash Press: Sporting Male Weeklies in 1840s New York, by Patricia Cline Cohen, Timothy J. Gilfoyle and Helen Lekfkowitz Horowitz. There's a fundamental decency about Baker that I see in all his books and reviews, including Human Smoke, though I'm not sure I accept his (implied) argument there. I believe it springs from his respectful wonderment about the world - that's what enables him to be a scholar and a Wikipedia enthusiast - and I'm so glad he hasn't lost the spirit, despite the roasting Human Smoke has occasioned. Nothing like a Baker review to march me off to the library... "thanks to the meticulous research of these three scholars, we once again have a way of looking through a tiny, smudged window into New York's long-past illicit life." Keep up the good work, Nick!

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