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Indecision (2006)

Indecision (2006)

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2.87 of 5 Votes: 1
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0330444573 (ISBN13: 9780330444576)
random house inc (t)

About book Indecision (2006)

Two stars or three stars? I am indecisive and this book is about indecision. I was leaning towards three stars, but the inconsistent tones towards the end felt more like two. Or maybe 2.5I may well be indecisive, in general. The book made me wonder whether I am going through a midlife crisis myself. It introduced me to the term "abulia", and suggested that there may be a pill for the chronic inability to make up one's mind. Dwight is a 28-year old self-absorbed American guy who is seeing one Indian woman in Manhattan, New York while leaving to Quito, Ecuador after losing his job to meet up with another Dutch woman, hoping to have something to return with for his 10-year reunion. He is not particularly likable but at the same time he is so lost it is endearing, in fact identifiable. I kept on reading this book, hoping that it may help me somehow in making my own decisions, perhaps, and in a way it did suggest that it is a good idea to "hail on the journey that would bring forth an unexpected raison d'être" (as the back-cover suggests), but as I write this review, I realize that the book wasn't exactly helpful, because, as someone noted in another review, the second part of the book, especially the epilogue, seems to have been written by a different person altogether. Then again, the writing of this narrative was not altogether consistent. While the first-person narrator (Dwight) uses words that require the use of a dictionary, he also happens to say things like "Hmn" at the end of some sentences and for no apparent reason. There were a few such instances in which I wanted to go right up to Kunkel and make a plea for him to trash the mediocre. "I know you're capable of writing good literature," I would say, "Please don't use words like 'cheesy' after you have boasted your wealthy vocabulary, which, by the way, we get already! We can see you're an intellect but please do not use French words midway (like "The beans looked appetizing and tasted that way too, salty, squishy, and with a definite tang of je ne said quoi") just to sound like a connoisseur because it makes you come off as presumptuous. Oh and that whole piece of conversation with Brigid while making out which looked like it was coming out of some cheap soap opera ("'re not a communist, are you?" Kiss. "Because I can deal with socialism maybe, but..." Kiss. "Or aren't an anarchist, I hope, because" - Kiss...) "Stop. Stop. And speaking of Brigid, I thought she had trouble speaking English. Why does she have no problem using words like 'abscondating'?... And why is it that Dwight who KNOWS what "abscondating" means still cannot differentiate between "its" and "it's" in his emails?!"On the other hand, I enjoyed the psychoanalysis talks (and the pills) very much. [SPOILER ALERT!] This is obviously set in New York and these people are intellects who spend a lot of time analyzing themselves. The fact that the character goes from September 11 to the Amazon Jungle could have its own interpretations, and the idea that there is so much 'choice' in the United States could be descriptive of why the characters are so indecisive. I appreciated the honesty in which the characters were perceived. While they pass as being very intellectual, smart and perceptive, they are also very much lost, and lonely. In short, this is a smooth read. It may be quickly forgotten, but it is also quite relevant in more than one way. Do I regret having read it? Not at all. But I am becoming more comfortable with the idea that I gave it 2 stars. I think.------Quotes:"Once you decide you're only an animal, how do you keep from becoming a vegetable?" "Without arbitrary goals, fervently chosen, I don't know what I'd do with myself."Alice: -(On Lying):"Lying is incredibly important in developmental psychology. Telling a lie is the child's way of separating its world from that of the adults. It establishes your independence, it's how you mark off your own private area of the truth." -(On reality): "So you acknowledge there was a serious question of whether we'd live to see twenty-five. Remember adults would ask us about what we wanted to be when we grew up? And didn't you always feel like you were humoring them, no matter what you said? And then, how it came to a shock to discover midway through prep school, with the Wall coming down, that there really was something to prepare for after all. Yet you had no plans for adult life-none. We could never imagine growing up because the future could always be cancelled at any time. So beyond a certain narrow time frame our desires ran into a kind of horizon and had to stop. There was no such thing as the long term."Dwight's dad:-(On the distinction between the natural and artificial): "Food, exercise, sexual intercourse, warmth - all these things function like drugs" -(On the news that his son lost his job): "It's good to hit bottom, sooner the better. It's a fucking required event, in my book." -(On relationships): "What can you do? The trouble with your mother and me is that we'd exhausted our illusions. As you grow up, you'll find this, Dwight, you keep getting involved with larger and larger illusions that take longer and longer to fall away. The great hope is eventually to find a delusion that will outlast your life. You'll do well to marry a woman you won't realize you can't live with until you're both dead." -(On childhood): "Don't make a career out of your childhood! Do you understand me? Don't make a career out of your childhood or you'll never adapt yourself to any other." And on Dwight's desire "I want to start a new life" he answers: "Ah you'll grow old doing that."Dwight: -(On getting high): "Global tenderness would radiate from us in waves, and no one could understand why we couldn't kiss just as promiscuously every day, and as sincerely hold hands." -(On belief):"You don't believe, but you believe the other person believes. I think that's a model for how everything works out in the end. So I'm sure we'll be fine."

I can't decide. Maybe because we were interns together ten years ago and I basically liked him, even if the rest of the interns that semester thought he was smug. Everyone said he thought he was smarter than the rest of us. What they didn't know is that they were right. He was pretty open about it and honestly, I thought he was right. So I have these misgivings about Ben himself; I want to take him down a notch, just because I do. But that's not fair. So, he's smart. Who am I to begrudge him a well received novel? I mean really. So there's that. But then there's the little stuff: I don't buy Dwight. Or Brigit. Or Alice. Or any of the rest of the perfectly articulate archetypes that populate the story. I knew how the drug would turn out before he started taking it. It doesn't help my impressions that Indecision was sandwiched between watching The Last Days of Disco, With Cocktails at Petrossian Afterwards (self indulgent young people drift about with no real obstacles between them and their whims) and reading How to Save Your Own Life: A Novel (trapped woman can't escape despite abundance of options). Ultimately, I got all the way to the end and thought "huh. So that's what it'd look like if Ben finally wrote a novel. Okay." which is not at all the same as "I should give this to someone who I bet will love it."

Do You like book Indecision (2006)?

Even more than with fellow n + 1 co-founding editor Keith Gessen's All the Sad Literary Young Men, it's almost impossible to talk about this book without talking about the author's background and subsequent life choices. Like Whit Stillman in his movies, Kunkel is a WASPy prep school grad whose characters are likewise, except they're also dumb, lovable putzes. Kunkel's hero is a slacker with a Philosophy degree (his last name of Wilmerding becomes the email handle 'Wilmerdingansich', get it?) lacking the volition to get past his dead-end corporate job or commit to his girlfriend. Given an illicit sample of a new drug promising to cure indecision, he heads off to Ecuador to visit an old girlfriend and turn a page in his life. The funny thing is that, despite the protagonist's cluelessness and obvious disinterest in politics, this is a very political book, full of angry lefties fuming about Neoliberalism and Western imperialism in the Global South. It reads very much like satire: the book's narrator feels vaguely bad and flirts with "democratic socialism", but never really seems to buy into the deeper economic worldview. Given the angle of the magazine Kunkel set up, though, and his subsequent move to South America and authorship of the millenial Neo-Marxist manual Utopia or Bust, you have to assume he's at least semi-serious. Maybe this is how things work nowadays. Unable to express anything sincerely, we have to give over political speeches with a self-aware smirk as if to say, I know, I'm a privileged rich kid, and this has all been done before - but so what. Anyway, I gave it four stars because it had enough funny parts and plot twists. Never has a book been so keen to disavow politics it secretly believes. [Full disclosure: after years of online browsing - and guilted by the paywall - I recently took out a subscription to n + 1.]
—Josh Friedlander

Well, at least I know my insomnia isn't caused by reading interesting books. By page 44, I was already thinking that the best decision was to abandon "Indecision". Problem is, I hate giving up on a book--or a horse, for that matter--but that's another subject which I'd seriously rather be talking about than this book. I also hate giving only one star. All in all, it was unsatisfying and predictable. I really could have cared less if the characters lived, died or were abducted by aliens.I had nothing invested in them. Zero.I have no idea how this earned a spot from the NYT as a notable book of the year for 2005. I'm completely lacking whatever reader's taste bud was needed to find this book palatable. Onward and upward!
—Jody Julian

Masterful Mental Masterbation. But alas- premature sputtering?Beatifully written, with artful insights that pop right off the page. With that said, I can't help but feel Kunkel could have used another couple of years to form the plot of this book. A shame really. Talent like this should be enlightened, not rushed.Its namesake couldn't ring more true. Was the author struck with a mid-book panic that he must deliver a solution to his afflicting abulia? If all he could surmise up for a cure: "...fruits, nuts, beverages of all kinds [?!] , words on a page, a loved mammal in your arms, music...", I would have preferred no solution altogether. Throw in some neo and ism catch phrases, as the magic wand tapped upon the reader's head saying: believe me, this is a satisfying conclusion because it sounds oh so smart. Indecision had all the potential to mark a very specific time and place in Western psyche, but falters through the hurry to publish at a young age. Oh Benjamin, you look so good on your back cover shot. But no one would have judged you for a better book and a few more wrinkles. Writing: Excellent. Literary at best. Thank you Thank you Thank you.Plot: Great start, slippery downward slope.Story: All the potential in the world. Conclusion: Masterful Mental Masterbation- much like this review.

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