Talking Assassination Blues

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Author Nicholson Baker–who managed to make something surprisingly deep and gripping out of riding an office building escalator in his novel The Mezzanine, and whose Vox was gifted to Bill Clinton by Monica Lewinsky–tries to make literary hay out of two guys jabbering in great detail about why and how to assassinate George W. Bush. (One character is for it, one is against it.) The Christian Science Monitor gets a headstart on what promises to be the potted politico-literary controversy of late summer: Nicholson Baker can't write that, can he? Excerpt:

You have a substantial right to create fiction no matter what the subject matter," says David Greene, executive director of the First Amendment Project, a nonprofit advocacy group. "But it's slightly complicated when you're talking about threats against the president. If this were an author who was less acclaimed, you'd find him at a minimum being checked out by law enforcement. This Justice Department is more likely to investigate something like this."

FBI and Justice Department spokesmen refused to comment on Baker's book or to indicate if officials were investigating it.

"Checkpoint" had been scheduled to appear Aug. 25, just days before the Republican National Convention in New York, but this week Alfred A. Knopf pushed the book's 60,000 first printing up to Aug. 10.

While Baker's tour de force achievement in Mezzanine means he deserves the benefit of the doubt and will probably surprise us, the world of political punditry's reactions and counterreactions to this could probably all be typed in their sleep, and ought to head straight to the remainder table. (I of course preemptively release myself from this anathema.)

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  1. Maybe his aspiration is to be known as the next Ambrose Bierce, who in 1900 wrote a poem, occasioned by the shooting of William Goebel, the governor-elect of Kentucky:

    The bullet that pierced Goebel’s breast
    Can not be found in all the West;
    Good reason, it is speeding here
    To stretch McKinley on his bier.

    This was published just a few months before McKinley was actually assassinated.

  2. Well if he was a high school kid writing this he’d be expelled from school right now and the Secret Service would be giving him the once over for daring to write about his rich fantasy life.

  3. That doesn’t sound like a book with much lasting value, particularly if Bush loses his bid for reelection. Imagine how appealing a book about two guys debating whether or not to assassinate Jimmy Carter would have been in, say, 1982 or later. I would think most people’s reaction would be “who cares? He’s gone anyway”.

    It sounds like a bid to cash in on the “We Hate Bush” movement while there’s still time. 🙂

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