Would it be too bad a play on words to say that I am undecided about Indecision? It is not bad, although there are groan worthy moments. And it is not great, although there are some really great passages. It's a sloppy book that has potential for greatness, or had it if an editor would have sat on it until it was reworked. Every review makes the Holden Caulfield analogy, but I think the better analogy is Benjamin Braddock. Dwight Wilmerding, the late twenties protagonist just floating through life reminds me so much of The Graduate's Benjamin Braddock floating in his father's pool day in and day out after graduating from college, no direction, no motivation - and no real clear path for a male in his twenties to follow at this particular historical moment, that there is a prolonged adolescence for people in their twenties, and Dwight at a couple points in the novel claims it is because of the absurdly long lifespans people live, so that our parents are still alive, that they are dating in their fifties, and going to live for a couple, if not a few more decades most likely, and that this is something that people did not have to deal with until recently, and thus one excuse among many that Dwight attributes for his ennui.
And surely, this is why I enjoyed this book, and why The Graduate is my favorite movie because I relate so well to that pool scene, because I spend my day lying in bed reading, or doing so on my roof in nicer weather and I don't know where it is I am going, don't even have any destinations that I am shooting for. And surely, part of the reason I didn't like this book is because it is someone close to being a peer who has been published, someone who I don't even think is that good, but someone who had the motivation to put pen to paper, or hand to keyboard, or whatever, but someone who overcame the indecisiveness of his character, Dwight, and did something he wanted to do.
It is also pretty impossible to read fiction by twenty somethings and not hear the influence of Dave Eggers. As maligned as he often is, I am really convinced that years down the line when people look at all the stuff written from this era, they will be able to see how all these writers obviously read Eggers at some point and picked up that same voice, those same energetic, getting all your caffeine induced thoughts out in one breath, in one comma heavy sentence, and doing it all that new sincerity way, taking genuine pleasure in odd things, in things where enjoyment would previously be considered ironic. Kunkel's path mirrors Eggers' so well. Eggers published Might, a small circulated, but widely adored magazine and then published A Heartbreaking Work, which got well-deserved praise, but praise which was so pervasive and everywhere and surely a result of his connections already among the literati. Same deal with Kunkel and n + 1 - and surely his association with that magazine is probably the only reason this book was published by Random House and why it has recieved the amount of press it has, as imperfect a book as it is.
And just like Eggers' first book also where there is a scene in the car with Eggers and Toph unironically enjoying Journey, Kunkel has a car scene where he is unironically enjoying Air Supply. The ending of this book is also similar in some ways to A Heartbreaking Work with a rousing monologue urging the reader to live life, to be a part of it, and this is where this book really falters, Kunkel's - it changes the tone of the novel too much, these last twenty pages and sounds way too didactic. It doesn't come naturally enough, organically.
And since I borrowed the book and am going to give it back tomorrow (Hannah, hopefully you'll be at work), here are the quotes I might at some point want to thumb back to:
Arriving in Banos at dusk I dashed into the HOMBRES room of the bus station and stood pissing into the reeking urinal with fantastic mightiness. It did me a lot of good, releasing the suffering contents of my bladder. And as my pain gave way to half-happiness I though of how I loved to piss, and in fact to sneeze, to shit, to remove wax from my ears or snot from my nose, to ejaculate or to spit, and even when sick to vomit - anything at all along those lines. I might never become a wise and decisive person, but at least an entire lifetime of excretion and other removals remained before me, and faced with the prospect of such cost-free, morally neutral, and abundantly available pleasure, how could I ever regret my disgusting life on earth? I am the poison that is in me, and I love getting rid of it. 117
I walked out of Alice's building and started hustling to work. Along with the morningtime coolness there was also something new in the air: this slight kind of back-to-school tightness. The sunlight seemed faintly to smell of sharpened pencils, a sensation that comported very nicely with the feeling of renewed education you get from being psychoanalyzed. And along with the back-to-school flavor there was a definite edge of anticipation in the air as well. Because going to school year after year - it really schools you, and so at every onset of fall I'd always feel a certain seasonal imminence of big games and difficult exams, new crushes, homeroom disasters. At the beginning of every school year and now into adult life I'd walk toward class or work in the morning and think Something big is going to happen this year. At some point during these nine months that will seem longer than a year, something is definitely going to take place. The statistical near certainty, combined with the utter vagueness, sent the same chill through me that was already in the air. 144
In my experience when a person doesn't know what to do with himself, he will check his email. 192
"No!" She punched me on the shoulder. "React to me! Think, or feel - don't guess at it! If you ever had been me, you would react to me, not always guess." 207