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Checkpoint by Nicholson Baker


by Nicholson Baker

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I thought that I would find reading this book to be a lot more cathartic than it actually was. Baker's decision to set his book in the real world with a character discussing his plan to assassinate George W. Bush, rather than just some nameless President, however, seems like just a cheap ploy for attention.

Of course, had he elected to use a nameless target rather than a real person, this book would have perilously little to recommend it. The characters are not nearly interesting enough to sustain the narrative (short as it is), leaving the book bereft of anything to attract a reader's interest, short of one's particular feeling about the current administration.

Even that, however, feels lacking. Modern political discourse, sadly, doesn't progress much past calls for assassination, although those calls are couched in metaphor and abstracted. But conservatives just want liberals to just run away to their hippy communes and leave the man's work of running the country to the "real patriots," while liberals just want the conservatives to be locked away for their fascist war crimes.

So reading Checkpoint doesn't feel like anything new or even shocking. Oh, look, people hate the President and wish he was dead; frankly, that's not even yesterday's news. ( )
  jawalter | Nov 18, 2012 |
More than just an anti-Bush dialogue, although if true, it was way worse than I even knew. What I found interesting, if subtle, was the interplay between the two not-very-close friends, one wanting to assassinate the President and the other trying to convince him not to. Different attempts, different strategies, positions reversing, food discussions, links to the past. The politics are there, but so are the characterizations. ( )
  ReneeGKC | Feb 17, 2012 |
One wonders how Baker got this story through his agent and his editor and into print in August of 2004. It's pretty clear that this is simply the author ranting about the political situation of 2004; framing it as a dialog turns a rant into a "novel" just like putting a handle on the side of a building makes that "portable".
But even bad Baker remains interesting. ( )
  AsYouKnow_Bob | Jul 31, 2011 |
A conversation between two friends, one of whom has decided to assassinate the president. While its potential for suspense and for exploring the human psyche is great, this novel is mostly a political rant and doesn't work on any level. ( )
  fanoula | Nov 18, 2008 |
anti-bush, but disappointing,dialalog goes on &on stating the obvious without making any points that further the case against Bush. Progressives will agree just because, conservatives will go on & on with spurious claim that we are fighting terrorists. ( )
  thosgpetri | Jul 10, 2008 |
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For Carroll, and in memory of Bob
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JAY: Testing, testing. Testing. Testing.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0701178191, Paperback)

Two men - Jay and Ben - sit in a Washington hotel room. Jay has called his old friend Ben there - to tell him why and how he wants to kill the President. Jay is a bit of a loser (he's lost his girlfriend, his job, his car), generally easy-going, but now he's on edge and he's angry - and he's acquired some radio-controlled flying saws, and is working on a boulder with a depleted uranium centre- but he also has a gun and bullets. Ben is the voice of liberal reason, with a job and a family. Jay switches on a tape machine, and the two men argue. Well, Ben tries feebly to reason or cajole, while Jay rants and rages about everything from the horror of what happened at that southern Iraq checkpoint where US forces opened fire on a Shiite family in a Land Rover, killing most of them, and decapitating two young girls; to the iniquities of the present administration, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al., and abortion (if they're against abortion, how come they can kill women and children?), not to mention the napalm-like substance ('improved fire jelly') used in bombs in Iraq. Their dialogue veers from chilling and serious to wacky and crazed (Bush, says Jay, is 'one dead armadillo'). Checkpoint is a novel about a man pushed to the extremes, by a writer who is clearly angry. Like Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, it takes the temperature of America just below the surface and finds it at boiling point.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:30 -0400)

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Jay has summonded his old friend Ben to a hotel room not far from the nation's capitol. During the course of an afternoon, they will share a delicious lunch and will crack open a bottle of wine from the hotel minibar. They will chat about everything from Ben's new camera to Iraq to the unfortunate fate of a particular free-range chicken. And Jay will explain to Ben exactly why and how he is planning to commit a murder that will change the course of history.… (more)

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