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CHECKPOINT by Nicholson Baker Kirkus Star


by Nicholson Baker

Pub Date: Aug. 10th, 2004
ISBN: 1-4000-4400-6
Publisher: Knopf

From Baker (A Box of Matches, 2003, etc.), a tiny little slip of a thing about—about what? About assassinating George W. Bush?

Yup. And a droll piece of work it is, at times even hilarious. A fellow named Jay, it seems, has called an old friend named Ben, saying to Ben that he must talk with him, urgently. Ben drives like mad to DC, goes to the hotel room Jay is staying in, helps Jay put a 390-minute audiotape into a tape machine, then turn it on and test it (“JAY: Testing, testing. Testing. Testing”). Once it’s running, the book begins, the whole portrayed as a two-man closet drama consisting of what the tape records. A bit of small talk—the two haven’t seen each other for quite a spell—and then, bingo: “JAY: I’m going to assassinate the president.” (“BEN: You’re shitting me, right?”) Nope, no shit. At least, it seems that’s the answer, since Jay even has a view of the White House—or thinks he does, that the house of the Prez is just behind a certain clump of trees—an early hint of Jay’s lack of a perfect grip on reality. He’s got magic bullets, he says. And little razor-sharp discs that fly through the air. And other things, including a gun. And, boy, does he have complaints. The nation’s biggest employer is Wal-Mart, he declares: “Sam Walton’s kids are some of the richest people in the world. The money those four have . . . [It’s] enough to make you shit. It’s like they’re sitting in tiny rubber dinghies, floating on seas of hog waste. And it all came from those stores. Our country’s dying, man! We’re killing people and we’re dying at the same time! I brought a hammer along.” High humor, ghastly seriousness (Jay really does have a gun), and a great question, to remain unanswered here: Does he do it?

An absolute treasure for anti-Bushists, the purest sin-and-snake-venom deceit and villainy to pro-Bushists. Let the reader-voter call it.