three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
19-Nov-Dec-2005
user_rating: 
0

A-IndecisionLike many postcollegiate young men in New York City, Dwight Wilmerding suffers from a nearly debilitating case of abulia, the inability to make up his mind. He can’t commit to a girlfriend. He can’t commit to a job. He can’t commit to what he wants for dinner. Then one day Dwight’s med school roommate offers him the drug Abulinix, an experimental treatment for chronic indecision. He takes it. At the same time, a former crush invites Dwight to visit her in Ecuador. He goes to meet her. And what happens next, besides the drugs, sex, and self-consciousness? Decisions. Maybe.
Random House. 241 pages. $21.95. ISBN: 1400063450

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"If Kunkel had stopped his novel in midsentence some 20 or 30 pages earlier, he would merely have written the funniest and smartest coming-of-age novel in years. In fact, he seems to be trying to do something more ambitious." Jay McInerney

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Because he’s young and uses big words, Kunkel may unfairly be compared to David Foster Wallace or Rick Moody, but unlike them he has succeeded in writing a novel that’s clever without being self-conscious." John McNally

Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Kunkel’s insight into his protagonist is astoundingly authentic, with Dwight’s anxieties and elations, his wit and cruelty, practically breathing through Kunkel’s rich words. . . . Despite an overdone formula—a coming-of-age yarn—Kunkel brings enough novelty to the material to emerge as an alpha author rather than a mindless mutt obeying the expectations of the genre." Piet Levy

New York Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Still he’s funny, Dwight is, and kind of earnest and definitely a lost soul, which in the end, I admit, really sort of gets to you." Michiko Kakutani

San Francisco Chronicle 3.5 of 5 Stars
"[F]or all of Indecision’s stoner Woody Allen phrasing . . . that may lead some to think Kunkel is merely, if entertainingly, riffing, there is much evidence that the novel is more sophisticated than it lets on. . . . That prose alone strongly hints at the depth of Kunkel’s skills, which is to say, quite simply, he’s for real." Oscar Villalon

Critical Summary

The whiny, wisecracking narrator lifts this bildungsroman well above the clichéd masses. Dwight’s voice "blends astute and whimsical observation with cerebral gymnastics and tortuously modest, wistful introspection" (New York Times Book Review). Yes, some reviewers found Dwight annoying. But even they were ultimately won over by his childlike innocence, madcap adventures, and the debut author’s skillful prose style. Sure, reviewers were unsure how to handle the novel’s preachy, pseudopolitical twists. But this is a story about uncertainty; vacillating critics are par for the course. Kunkel "manages to make the whole flailing, postadolescent, prelife crisis feel fresh and funny again" (New York Times Book Review). He deserves your time. Probably.