Checkpoint: A Novel by Nicholson Baker - review by John Dugdale

John Dugdale

The Assassin’s Agony

Checkpoint: A Novel


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ADVANCE COVERAGE OF Checkpoint depicted it as a novel appearing to advocate, or at least take seriously as an option, the lulling of the US president. This was wholly misleading. To begin with, any text of little more than 100 pages is not a novel, however much it protests it is one; and Checkpoint also fails to fit the bill in taking the form of a dialogue between two men, without any narrative commentary. It's really what is sometimes called a 'chamber play', a work in dramatic form - resembling in this case the male dialogues of Edward Albee or David Mamet, and perhaps also indebted to Rameau's Nephew by Diderot - which is nonetheless intended for reading rather than performance.

Ben, a historian and teacher, is summoned to a hotel room in Washington without explanation by his troubled friend Jay, and turns up fearing suicide. Jay switches on a tape recorder and announces that, having been on antiwar marches which mobilised thousands yet failed to have any impact on policy,

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