Checking the Legality of Checkpoint

The Christian Science Monitor wonders whether Nicholson Baker’s Checkpoint: A Novel is illegal.

Note the careful language used by the publisher on the Amazon site:

Checkpoint is a work of fiction by acclaimed author Nicholson Baker, a novella that explores the peculiar angst many Americans are feeling right now about their country and their president. The book is set up as a conversation between two old high school buddies. One of them, in despair about the direction the country is going, is convinced he must kill the president; the other tries to talk him out of it.

Baker wrote Checkpoint in response to the powerless seething fury many Americans felt when President Bush decided to take the nation to war. “How do you react to something that you think is so hideously wrong?” asks Baker. “How do you keep it from driving you nuts? What do you do with your life while this wrong is being carried out? What are the thoughts — the secret thoughts, the unpublishable thoughts, so to speak — that go through your head?”

Some people have rational responses. Others do not. Baker’s book does not suggest violence is ever an appropriate response. But in order to understand the reasons why a violent act is always a mistake, one must first look at the contemplation of such an act.

The dialogue in Checkpoint is angry, funny, pointed and absurd. All of it has relevance to our world. And it is through the conversation in this novel that Baker hopes to raise important questions about how we react to violence — both individually and as a nation.

Maybe they should have called the book The Novel Checkpoint: A Novel, and By The Way, That Means It’s Fiction, Which Means, Of Course, That It Is Certainly Not True. The release date has been moved up to August 10.


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