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Checkpoint [Paperback]

Nicholson Baker
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

9 Sep 2004
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.

Product details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus; First Edition edition (9 Sep 2004)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0701178191
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701178192
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 13 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 987,440 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

An incendiary firecracker of a novel about a man who wants to assassinate President Bush.

About the Author

Born in 1957, the author of several acclaimed novels, most recently A Box of Matches, and two controversially sexy ones (Vox and The Fermata) as well as essays.,including the campaigning Double Fold for which the New York Times called him 'the Erin Brokovich of the library world'.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant satire 15 May 2006
Controversial and criticised by many, Checkpoint is a stark satire on political activism. While the characters are intentionally simple, perhaps even a bit 2D, there is evidence that plenty of research has gone into presenting the reader with real facts and a true representation of the frustration and impotence felt by a significant proportion of our generation. It's funny, sometimes ridiculous and well worth the read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.0 out of 5 stars  46 reviews
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ASSASSINATING ASSES, AND OTHER SUBPLOTS 11 Oct 2004
By Shashank Tripathi - Published on
First off, some reviewers on this site fault Baker for trifling the otherwise formalized cottage industry of Bush-slandering with something as puffy as an assassination. Anyone who has read the novel until its denouement will know that this is simply incorrect. The script never equates legitimate anger at the duplicity and dishonesty of the Bush administration with assassination, the whole "plot" of our crazed protagonist is meant to come across as silly as our second character so laboriously keeps grinding at.

That cleared, this scamming little novella may not sport the sparkling prose of a typical Baker tome but it offers a delectable flavour in its own right.

The text is in its entirety a dinner-table conversation between two friends, one a fanatic opponent of Bush's invasion of Iraq and thus contemplating killing the president with a giant rolling ball (and other contraptions like it, let's not dwell on trivia that're to be savoured in Baker's customary bizzare prose), and the other a wiser, more balanced sort attempting to dissuade his friend with murderous tendencies.

With this scaffolding, Baker presents not only some very interesting trivia such as an updated version of Napalm being allegedly employed in Iraq despite all claims to the contrary (apparently because the formula is technically different; more lethal now) but also some very opinionated insights into the heart of the matter.

Barring the somewhat twisted inference that our assassin-wannabe draws from his indignations, or the odd out-of-place rant on evils of abortion and such, this is quite a clever little conversation that shouldn't take more than a couple of hours to devour from cover to cover.

I'd recommend it in a blink.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Makes Your Blood Boil 21 Sep 2004
By Lukas Jackson - Published on
I suppose it's a sign of the times that I feel strange checking this book out of the library, what with the Patriot Act, and now writing a review on Hell, if the F.B.I. kept a file on Ernest Hemingway, they certainly have one on Nicholson Baker after this brave book.

The novel is written as a transcript of a taped conversation between two friends, Ben and Jay. The book's a quick read at just a little over 100 pages and can be devoured in a few hours. The intense conversation captures Jay's rage at Bush and his bloody crusades in Iraq, and while Ben empathizes, he is the voice of reason trying to keep Jay under control. Jay rails about the mutilated Iraqi children, Bush and friends' shameless self-enrichment while others suffer, etc. Ben, who appears to be more interested in history than the present, tries to get Jay interested in photography, and tells him that he has to concentrate on the beautiful trees, not the metaphorical gnats swarming around him.

If you're at the library or bookstore, do yourself a favor and breeze through this book. Anyone should be able to feel an echo or twinge of Jay's rage when he depicts the gross aggression and hypocrisy of this Administration. While the reader probably won't agree with the entirety of what Jay says, the dialogue is powerful and affecting.

This book will be even more grimly relevant if Dubya manages somehow to win the upcoming election. The neocons are itching for more war and the silver-spoon simian is happy to appease them. We are a few small steps from reinstatement of the draft and other morbid reminders of Vietnam. If this happens, I am sure the streets will be filled with Jays.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a political book 27 Aug 2005
By P. Vogel - Published on
I think that people who try to take the political content of this book seriously are missing the point. The point of the book, like any good novel, is not in scoring political points but exploring the lives of the people involved in the novel. Because the political point of view of the two protagonists is contemporary, it's hard not to react to the political statements being made. Not surprisingly, then, many reviewers have considered the book as a political tract and have commented on how valid the political analysis is (maybe it helps to be Canadian).

But that's not the point: The point is seeing two people living in the United States in 2002/2003. While the protagonists do, occasionaly, make points that real political commentators make, they also make absolutely loony points. Like a David Mamet or Harold Pinter play, the pleasure in this book is the dialog (the book is all dialog), the characters, and their relationship.

When reading this book it might be worthwhile to take the long view: Assume that the protagonists are living in the time of Louis XIV and are considering assissinating the king. In that frame of mind, you wouldn't care about the politics and would only interested in the people. On that basis, I enjoyed the book. What is impressive to me is how much the author reveals about the characters and their values through the incidentals of the character's conversation. We see two people who really have given up on any hope of influencing their country's direction (or even the direction of their own lives) and who can not tell the difference between fact and supposition. They have come to the point where the only difference they believe that they can make in the public sphere is through some spasmodic dramatic action.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A quirky book 28 Sep 2004
By alexander laurence - Published on
This book is a little like Baker's Vox from a few years ago. It is a minor success. There should be more books about killing George W. Bush. I hope that this is the first in a trend.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a possible signpost 25 Aug 2004
By gaius marius - Published on
i've read baker before ("mezzanine") and this is an entirely different approach. gone are the minute observances and analyses of passing moments and events, implying significance in detail. in its place, barely mitigated rage -- in the form of a dialogue between two erstwhile friends, representing temptation and discipline -- directed at the dubya administration. but that, of itself, represents a different kind of observation.

many people will concentrate on the fact that the novel is framed as a persuasive argument (a dialogue, almost in theater form) for and against killing a sitting president, and that's for some a violation of "holy" edict. but that's really a sideshow within the book, imo, which is more of a discourse on the popular perception of futility and despair in the state of american government affairs, and is vivified by resultant (and altogether common) anger. it also pays to note that the novel could have just as well been written from the republican point of view about killing clinton.

the dialogue moves quickly if obsessively and rambling, and the book is a short and easy read. the conversational language is typical of the informal stream-of-consciousness literature of our times, which robs the language of any poetry but is widely accessible even among the barely literate. symbolism is somewhat heavyhanded -- some of it made necessarily ridiculous by the need to skirt american law regarding our demotic royalty.

works like this from intellectual authors -- especially one that has built a reputation on close observation -- appear only in times of great political stress, imo. the very existence of the book is perhaps its most interesting feature, serving as a sort of standardized-testing oval in an examination of our society that we can now shade in with our No. 2 pencil. as an observation of our world, it is a warning for the perceptive -- the understanding and compromise and patience of days gone by is fraying, even if it is still usually reached, and the end of civil peace may be approaching.
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