The Thumbnail Book Reviews

by John Q McDonald --- 6 May 2005


by Nicholson Baker

If you like George W. Bush, you may think this book is treason. If you don't like him, you have probably already thought many of the dark ideas Nicholson Baker presents in this brief novel. The book received some notoriety for presenting the conversation between Ben and Jay, sitting in a hotel room discussing the assassination of President Bush. As in Vox, Baker has written a short novel that is composed entirely of the dialogue from a single conversation. This one centers around Jay's plan, spawned by his deepening frustration, to become an assassin who saves the world from Bush's destructive avarice. His arguments are compelling, if you were not a supporter of the president. They might sound like shrill conspiracy talk if you were. Ben tries to talk Jay out of this nefarious plan, appealing to some sense of balance and reason, even though Ben isn't a big fan of the president, either. What results is a book that may have tested the limits of free speech, but is also, this reader would suggest, a fundamentally American (and therefore patriotic?) rant about the state of the country and the world, and the actions of those who use and abuse their power. (By now, you should be able to guess which side of the aisle this reader sits.) It is clear that the author is offering his own frustration, and his own view of some of the contradictions in what makes this country great, and make this country awful at the same time. It probably should be read in one sitting. It is an energetic screed, a fictional opinion piece in a recent flood of short opinionated books.

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