Killing is Wrong
 
 

Killing is wrong.  Things are important, but lives are more important than things.  A system is good if elevates the value of the human individual.  No system or part of a system should be organized to kill people. 

How can we promote the value of the individual with a policy of targeted killings?  Of allowing honor killings?

Can we not stop preventive killing, punitive killing, retributive killing, and killing to save money?  Are there not better ways to scare children?  

Yes, I talk too much.  No, I do not think clearly.  Killing is wrong.

3-5 -07  See Levi Asher at http://litkicks.com/BakerSmoke -I think that the point to Guantanamo and Stimson's and Davis's intimidation attempts can be found in Oliver Twist.  We read that "pocket-handkerchiefs [are] decided articles of luxury" (Ch III), and at the end, we read that Fagin is to be hanged (Ch LII, Fagin's Last Night Alive).  If I were to read this book, I would find an attestation that Fagin's fate is the fate of children who steal handkerchiefs.  It is social control by killing the disobedient and scaring the children as we do so.

 3-14-08 I read Human Smoke and find it useful and truthful. Until now, I have admired Grimes's reviews. And until now, I have not read Nicholson Baker, except for a few pages in "Vox." He has been called the best writer in the country, so I've asked myself from time to time why I don't read him. I found three typos--"Heyndrich" for "Heydrich" and "thermate" for "thermite"; well, two typos but feel that A. Phillip Randolph should not be called Phillip Randolph but suspect that Baker knows that he was called Phillip and I don't--and sent a postcard to South Berwick with no street address with those concerns and with the only Rufus Jones anecdote that I know.

The critic assumes you have read the book or seen the movie or the play; the reviewer assumes you haven't.

I would like to thank Mr. Asher for his comments on the review.

Without rereading, I think that Grimes writes as if Baker's book is an essay and ignores the vignette method. Yes, he indicates that the book is vignettes, but no, he does not acknowledge that this is a different kind of book.

I came to this review today, Thursday the thirteenth of March, still trying to get a handle on the Kakutani condemnation of Faludi's book and my horror over the 1862 Minnesota story, Chaksa and other Indians hanged even with pardons from President Lincoln, etc., and with Fred Douglass's 1892 plea for anti-lynching in Harvey Wish's collection fresh in mind--and surprised that in 1922 the House passed an anti-lynching bill and the Senate committee reported it out for approval, and it took a filibuster to kill it.

My father said that but for the Civil War, the South would have expanded slavery, etc. After reading Human Smoke (and, years ago, Patricide and the House Divided, plus a word or two on the political genius and slavery hater Lincoln), I incline to believe that we could have done without the Civil War. I don't like it, the idea of doing without the Fourteenth Amendment, but it appears that for decades we came close to doing without it, thanks to the Supreme Court.

After reading Baker (whom I keep wanting to call Blake), I incline to accept Grimes if he says that to Baker, Roosevelt and Churchill were in some sort of equivalency with Hitler, and, I add, Stalin, the greatest mass murderere in human history. And Lincoln, whom I will die admiring--incidentally, come April 13 or 14, the anniversary of the assassination, is a good time to read "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd."

I don't know how much space is allowed or whether any is allowed--I'm not registered.

Yes, the British blockaded and bombed, yes, we provoked the Japanese so that we could get in, no, nobody wanted the Jews--so my hero Orwell comes in and says, when you gotta fight, you gotta fight, and the war geniuses Lincoln and Churchill say, when you gotta mobilize your people, you gotta mobilize the part of them that is capable of being mobilized.

Yes, Jews and other Germans were interned.

It is a fine book, and Grimes does not make it clear that you go from the title page to the first vignette and you read vignettes or whatever they are called in plain English, anecdotes, STORIES for four hundred pages, and then you stop. Then Mr. Baker makes a couple of pages of comments and says how he feels. Grimes calls his reportage "affectless." I doubt it, but have always remembered the story in Life of Andrew Wyeth taking weeks to paint all the gray blades of grass in "Christina's World" before he put the first red on the canvas and "IT KNOCKED ME ACROSS THE ROOM."

What does Grimes want to contradict? Has Baker written another Fragebogen [Ernst von Salomon's "Der Fragebogen" 1955?] that requires the same kind of review--"This guy is pretty convincing, but watch out, he's a WRITER and will fuck up your mind if you are not careful."

Love,

Stuart