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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: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #168,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Dwight Wilmerding, the vacillating, down-market prepster protagonist of Kunkel's debut novel, gets fired from his low-level job at Pfizer and, with the lease running out on his hive-like Chambers Street boys-club apartment, lights out for Quito, Ecuador, where high school flame Natasha is holed up. Before this momentous undertaking, Dwight has been afflicted with chronic postcollegiate indecision, particularly in relationships: should he pursue a life with his quasi-girlfriend, Vaneetha? Start up again with Natasha? And what about his weird thing for his sister, Alice? As luck would have it, one of his roommates is a med student who turns Dwight on to Abulinix, an experimental new treatment for chronic indecision, which makes his South American jaunt very eventful indeed. A subtheme on the post-politicality of post-9/11 20-somethings gives the book some bite and surfaces most conspicuously in the form of Brigid, the Euroactivist who, along with the drug, brings Dwight clarity, and even hope. Annoying but accomplished, this entertaining book has screenplay written all over it, from the hot Dutch Natasha to the shambling cute Dwight—not to mention Harvard-educated, New York– literati Kunkel himself. (Sept. 6)
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 Edmund Mcguigan 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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18 of 20 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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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By D. C. Palter on May 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I know this sounds like I'm just trying to be cutsey, but I am honestly undecided of what to like make of this book. Is the prose, "I said like, 'Dude!.'" brilliant, original writing illustrating the decadence and sloppy thought of Dwight, the bright but lazy protagonist, or just bad writing? Hmmm. My tentative conclusion is that it is a talented, but inexperienced writer trying too hard to be original and getting in the way of his own story, but I could be convinced otherwise.

But mostly, I spent most of the first half of the book waiting for the promised story to finally develop, most of the second half thoroughly enjoying the surprising story that did develop, and finally having everything destroyed by an ending that degenerated into a rant on the evils of globalization. And I can't decide if the writer got carried away adding details to Dwight's socialist conversion, or if the whole book was, as it claims to be, a tract to convert the reader to the forces of anti-globalization.

What I found most annoying was the title and book jacket promising a comedy about a chronically indecisive person, cured through pharmacology with comic unintended consequences. Instead, this was a story of how a lazy person used German philosophy to justify avoiding the expectations of his parents until his love for a woman convinced him to switch his allegiance from Wittgenstein to Marx.

Still, the writing was brilliant and original in parts, and the story interesting when it stuck to the story. I suspect that most people will either love this book or hate it, with few people like me stuck in the middle. If you're looking for an anti-globalization love story, with plenty of philosophy and sometimes penetrating insights, there is not another book you'll enjoy more. If you're looking for a traditional novel and are expecting the pharmacological comedy promised by the book jacket, you'll be very disappointed.
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