|This recent novel from Dave Eggers reminds me a lot of Nicholson Baker’s novel Checkpoint, which involved two friends meeting up in Washington DC for the first time in years. One friend’s anger, rage, and sadness at the direction of the country (under Bush) had calcified into fossil and he was explaining this to his new friend while also explaining his (ridiculous) plan to kill the president.
In this novel, we have a series of dialogs between a man in his 30s and different people he has kidnapped and imprisoned in an abandoned air force base near town in California. We don’t know what his point or anger is for a while as it slowly unravels. He begins by imprisoning a would-be astronaut, a former TA in a physics class who we learn has not been able to go up in the US space shuttle as the program had been recently phased out. We next get the imprisonment of a US congressman, the man’s mother, a local cop, an old teacher, and then a woman he sees on the beach. Through each conversation we better understand the often justified anger the man feels, but mostly the helplessness and lack of control this anger allows for. It turns out some situations he’s understood only through his lens of rage are more complicated than he thought, and some it turns out are less so. More than anything, this man seems unable to tell his own story to himself in a such a way to allow him to live. It’s book that I couldn’t imagine enjoying all that much in print form, but I think it makes a compelling audiobook.