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Indecision: A Novel Hardcover – August 30, 2005
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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)
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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
Top customer reviews
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.