A few years ago, I read ‘Double Fold‘ by Nicholson Baker – an enraging look at libraries destroying back issue newspapers and replacing them with often defective microfiche. In the book, Baker discusses both the alarming frequency at which this is occuring, and the inaccuracy of the science cited as justification (Propigated by microfilm and other such companies). As a result of all this, Baker started a nonprofit organization, rented a warehouse, and went on a crusade to preserve what was left of history’s primary sources – daily newspapers.

     I just found out via this messageboard posting that it was Baker’s collection that enabled Fantagraphics Books to assemble the strips necessary for producing their Complete Peanuts series. The first volume was released this spring, with the second (of 25 total) coming in the fall.

     Despite Baker’s best preservation efforts, however, there are several strips that may well be lost to the sands of time:

     “With PEANUTS 1953-1954 going to press next month, we’re setting our sights on PEANUTS 1955-1956. So far we’ve got all the strips gathered except for three very pesky missing Sundays, which we have only in truncated form (from the Nicholson Baker/Duke collection). If anyone by chance has any of these, let us know.

     These are REALLY obscure. I know PEANUTS completists/experts who apparently haven’t even been able to track down a microfiche version.

     The good thing is that the truncated ones we have were black and white, so they’re cleaner than color ones would be.”

     Those disappointed by Baker’s last novel ‘A Box of Matches’ (Me) can look forward to ‘Checkpoint‘ which is published on August 10th. The premise: Two men discuss an attempted assassination of George W. Bush. Oh man, call O’Reilly! This is gonna be a SHITSTORM of overreaction. His publisher (Knopf) has already released the following:

     “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.”