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Indecision: A Novel Paperback – April 11, 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (April 11, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812973755
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812973754
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,222 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Dwight B. Wilmerding, a feckless, 28-year-old college grad, stumbles upon an experimental drug to help him with his chronic inability to assert himself. He soon loses his tech support job and rashly jets off to South America in pursuit of an enigmatic, beautiful woman named. While Dwight's misadventures lead to some entertaining moments, the problem with this recording is simply that Frederic sounds much older than Dwight is supposed to be (dialogue crutches like "dude" and "like" don't ring true). Frederic is a good reader with a wry, sharp-edged delivery that works well with this type of material. His other characterizations are fine, and he shines in a memorable portrayal of Dwight's brash, commodities-trading father. The idea of treating the malaise of modern youth with pharmaceuticals is clever and conducive to several funny episodes, but Frederic's performance as the main character is a bit hard to swallow.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From The New Yorker

Twenty years ago, Don DeLillo, in "White Noise," created a character so beset by morbid anxiety that she begins taking pills that obliterate the fear of death. In our era of precision-targeted psychotropics, this scenario no longer shocks; it's drearily plausible. For similar reasons, the satirical springboard of Kunkel's first novel—a neurotically aimless New Yorker takes medication that he believes will instill in him the ability to make commitments—is rather creaky. Moreover, the Big Pharma plot only partially masks the fact that this is yet another novel in which a charming, Nick Hornby-style layabout is mechanically cajoled into semi-maturity. Kunkel's narrator has an appealingly rascally voice, and the author is expert at depicting highbrow buffoonery—at an all-night Ecstasy party, flesh and philosophy commingle to hilarious effect—but the book, for all its crisp prose, can't escape the staleness of its conceit.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

This book was boring from the start.
Melvin H.
Neither Dwight nor the other characters seemed to think much about it, which I just couldn't understand or accept.
I did liked the character, Alice, but felt that her description lacked depth so I did not really get to know her.
J. Maxwell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Cliente de Amazon on September 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I was struck by how wildly the reactions to this book vary. The women seemed to like it more than the men. I don't regret reading it but could not recommend it to others. I used to live in Quito and so had my interest piqued by the setting. I think I might have been less pleased by the book without this association.

On occasions Kunkel is funny, on others he is off the mark and needed to be taken to task by an editor. I imagine that a writer may have an approach where he gets "stuff" on the page that needs to be ferociously edited and honed, either by the writer alone or in conjunction with an editor. This didn't happen with Indecision.

There are some genuinely thought provoking musings but there is also a bit too much musing of lesser quality. Since a lot of the prose was the random inner musings of the main character, I think Kunkel felt entitled to leave them "in the rough". I would have preferred more cut and polish. I thought that the writer totally failed to give life to the Brigid character and the latter part of the book lacked believability.

He falls into "democratic socialism" in a way that does not jive with his subsequent commitment to the cause. I have often marvelled at how the mainstream media covers the anti-globalization protests of major economic summits without ever allowing the views of the protesters to be heard, leaving one to believe that they are simply a contrary rabble with no clear idea of what they are against. It was disappointing that Kunkel failed to properly develop some kind of expression of this anti-globalization / anti-neo-liberal viewpoint.

He is a young man and I hope he goes on to produce better quality work.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By D. Riethof on October 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Many with strong negative reactions to this book appear to find its confused, questing main character, Dwight, superficial and annoying. This may or may not be true, depending on your tolerance for privileged, navel-gazing young urbanites, but it seems to me beside the point. Just because a book is about someone superficial and annoying doesn't necessarily mean the book is.

The real question is: does this novel accurately reflect and/or offer authentic insights into problems of living in the modern world?

Okay, so that was really two questions, but I think the answer to both is a resounding yes, though I'm still sorting out what exactly those insights might be.

Perhaps one is that a certain shopping mentality has extended beyond the mall and infected our decision-making about life -- about mating, beliefs, career, and on. With more and more options available to us every day, it becomes more and more difficult to decide on anything, or anyone (now that you can shop for dates online too). And even when we do decide, don't we always have the feeling that something better is just around the corner?

I think the book is also trying to say something about a certain emerging crisis in masculinity. All the women in the book - Dwight's sister, his girlfriends - come off as together and grounded, filled with passion and goals. The men, on the other hand -- Dwight, his roommates, his father -- despite their clear intelligence, seem rudderless and morally adrift, and are more or less looking for women to save them from themselves.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By C. Yu on September 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The first 50 pages of Indecision were like brain candy. Specifically, they were like Pop Rocks for my late twenty-something post-ironic soul - a lot of fizzle and the promise of danger, and also some drooling. Every other line in the first quarter of this book made me want to throw it across the room in a fit of envy/admiration. So clever! So right on the money! Aargh, I wish I had thought of this first!

The middle 100 or so pages, however, were different. I started to pick up a rhythm of beats and scenes and sequences, faint at first and then undeniable. The density of good lines decreased sharply and by the time I was about 2/3 of the way through I realized I was reading an extended screenplay/treatment.

The epilogue is really inexplicable. It feels a little Frankensteinish, like some grotesque body part grafted onto the wrong novel. It was as if Mr. Kunkel wanted Dwight to arc from Point A to Point B, realized ten pages from the end that he had not gotten the character anywhere near where he needed to be, emotionally, intellectually or even just geographically in the story, and basically just drew a straight line to the end, as in, voila, here we are.

I think a lot of the negative reviews on here may have been brought on as a result of backlash at the crazy amounts of attention Mr. Kunkel has received, especially from the New York Times. I think he absolutely deserves it - the attention, not the backlash. But I do think this book, for whatever reasons (hopefully not including a rush to completion driven by a justifiably excited publisher) falls way short of the promise it exhibits in the opening chapters.

Still, I know I'm buying his next book no matter what, so I guess that says a lot right there. I guess I was just expecting so much from Jay McInerney's review (that'll teach me) that even an above average reading experience was a severe letdown.
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