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2.67 out of 52.67 out of 52.67 out of 52.67 out of 52.67 out of 5 2.67 (36 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Benjamin Kunkel Narrator: Patrick Frederic Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: August 2005 ISBN: 9780739322109
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Benjamin Kunkel’s brilliantly comic debut novel concerns one of the central maladies of our time—a pathological indecision that turns abundance into an affliction and opportunity into a curse.

Dwight B. Wilmerding is only twenty-eight, but he’s having a midlife crisis. Of course, living a dissolute, dorm-like existence in a tiny apartment and working in tech support at the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer are not especially conducive to wisdom.

And a few sessions of psychoanalysis conducted by his sister have distinctly failed to help with his biggest problem: a chronic inability to make up his mind.

Encouraged by one of his roommates to try an experimental pharmaceutical meant to banish indecision, Dwight jumps at the chance (not without some meditation on the hazards of jumping) and swallows the first fateful pill. And when all at once he is “pfired” from Pfizer and invited to a rendezvous in exotic Ecuador with the girl of his long-ago prep-school dreams, he finds himself on the brink of a new life.

The trouble—well, one of the troubles—is that Dwight can’t decide if the pills are working. Deep in the jungles of the Amazon, in the foreign country of a changed outlook, his would-be romantic escape becomes a hilarious journey into unbidden responsibility and unwelcome knowledge.

How to affirm happiness without living in constant denial of the ways of the world? How to commit, and to what? At once funny and poignant, gentle and outrageous, finely intelligent and proudly silly, Indecision rings with a voice of great energy and originality, while its deeper inquiries reflect the concerns and style of a generation.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “A comico-philosophico-socialist-engage-coming-of-age love story? Post-9/11 cri de coeur?  Dobie Gillis with drugs and advanced degrees in philosophy and public policy? The Marx Brothers allowing Karl to sit in for a spell? Whatever the genre, Indecision is a wonderful novel, and Benjamin Kunkel is able to provoke deep thought and deep laughter in equal measure.”

    Arthur Phillips, author of Prague and The Egyptologist

  • “Laughs, sex, and machete-wielding…Well-paced.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “Zany…Its humor…bursts forth in several madcap and welcome scenes…A serious comment on American values and habits…A lighthearted romp through the jungle of love and life.”

    Library Journal

  • “Dwight is the kind of charming neurotic one advises one’s friends against dating, though he does, in his frayed Brooks Brothers button-downs, have a certain Holden Caulfield-like appeal…Kunkel has created what is easily the most endearingly original voice in fiction so far this year.”

    Vogue

  • “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.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Undoubtedly novel. [Kunkel] brings us vividly into Dwight’s nerdy and nebbishy but endlessly inventive mind for a pleasurable wallow in his indecisiveness. In a voice that’s equal parts funny and serious, honest and eccentric, he constantly throws us for another loop.”

    Elle

  • “I finished before I knew it and doubled back to read again, for fun.”

    GQ

  • “A promising premise…Clever…Indecision offers lively commentary on the pros and cons of personal freedom.”

    Booklist

  • “There are big surprises in store for both Dwight and the reader in this unusual coming-of-age story…Kunkel has a fresh voice, and this is a confident first novel. I look forward to his second.”

    BookPage

  • “A voice so compelling that ideology doesn’t override character, verisimilitude, or narrative flow…Dwight—smart but underachieving, self-effacing but self-absorbed, funny and sympathetic and a bit of a doofus—has a distinctive and irresistible voice…Engrossing.”

    Poets & Writers

  • Indecision manages to make the whole flailing, post-adolescent, pre-life crisis feel fresh and funny again…Deeply satisfying…The funniest and smartest coming-of-age novel in years.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “A prototypical bildungsroman, a breezy comic account…A philosophical examination of the nature of personal freedom and responsibility in the face of impending global economic and ecological disaster.”

    Newsday

  • “Kunkel has succeeded in crafting a voice of singular originality.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “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…Crisp prose.”

    New Yorker

  • “Sophisticated…[The] prose alone strongly hints at the depth of Kunkel’s skills, which is to say, quite simply, he’s for real.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • Zany...Its humor...bursts forth in several madcap and welcome scenes...A serious comment on American values and habits... A lighthearted romp through the jungle of love and life. Library Journal
  • Laughs, sex, and machete-wielding...well-paced. Kirkus Reviews
  • A comico-philosophico-socialist-engage-coming-of-age love story?  Post 9/11 cri de coeur?  Dobie Gillis with drugs and advanced degrees in philosophy and public policy?  The Marx Brothers allowing Karl to sit in for a spell?  Whatever the genre, Indecision is a wonderful novel, and Benjamin Kunkel is able to provoke deep thought and deep laughter in equal measure. Arthur Phillips, author of Prague and The Egyptologist
  • Ben Kunkel is a truly original thinker, whose ideas keep pace with the astonishing dexterity of his language. He also has the rare ability to be hilarious about serious things. In the hapless, charming Dwight Wilmerding, he has created one of those narrators whose voice you can hear in your head long after the book is finished. Nell Freudenberger, author of Lucky Girls
  • There is nothing indecisive about Benjamin Kunkel’s ability to conjure the singular voice of Dwight Wilmerding in all its savvy innocence and thorny charm. Indecision is a wise, frank, funny and stealthily big-themed novel, and Benjamin Kunkel is a writer to be reckoned with, or better yet, read. Sam Lipsyte, author of Home Land
  • I read Indecision in one sitting, with much admiration and continuous pleasure. I expected it to be a comic novel, but its deep seriousness came as a surprise. The narrator is a real achievement, and the sinuous but fluent prose Kunkel gives him is perfectly matched to his perceptions: always tentative, yet precise and alert, witty in the best, most spontaneous way, also tender and generous. Pankaj Mishra, author of The Romantics and An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World.
  • A very funny book...Lyrical and even tender...For a slim satire, Indecision brims with insight into the modern urban condition. Time Out New York
  • There are big surprises in store for both Dwight and the reader in this unusual coming-of-age story...Kunkel has a fresh voice, and this is a confident first novel. I look forward to his second. Book Page
  • A promising premise...Clever...Indecision offers lively commentary on the pros and cons of personal freedom. Booklist
  • I finished before I knew it and doubled back to read again, for fun. GQ
  • Undoubtedly novel. [Kunkel] brings us vividly into Dwight’s nerdy and nebbishy but endlessly inventive mind for a pleasurable wallow in his indecisiveness. In a voice that’s equal parts funny and serious, honest and eccentric, he constantly throws us for another loop. Elle
  • 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. Publishers Weekly
  • Dwight is the kind of charming neurotic one advises one’s friends against dating, though he does, in his frayed Brooks Brothers button-downs, have a certain Holden Caulfield-like appeal...Kunkel has created what is easily the most endearingly original voice in fiction so far this year. Vogue
  • One of this year’s best debut novels...Sell[s] a new kind of irony that Mr. Kunkel’s contemporaries will appreciate...Dwight is already the most articulate first-person narrator you will read this fall...Brilliant. New York Sun
  • One could quote endlessly from this book, which is made of almost nothing but good lines...Dwight as a characters is silly and sometimes shrewd as well as likeable; as a narrator he’s heaven. New York Observer
  • A prototypical bildungsroman, a breezy comic account...A philosophical examination of the nature of personal freedom and responsibility in the face of impending global economic and ecological disaster. Newsday
  • This postmodern, posteverything, fresh and funny novel by a young writer seems to develop a nonironic social conscience. The New York Times Book Review
  • Indecision manages to make the whole flailing, postadolescent, prelife crisis feel fresh and funny again...Deeply satisfying...The funniest and smartest coming-of-age novel in years. Jay McInerney, The New York Times Book Review
  • He’s got this voice that just grabs your attention and won’t let go...Old Dwight’s book really knocked me out. Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
  • Illuminating .. [Kunkel] can write...Indecision is a lot like doing acid: it takes about seven hours, chances of a bad trip are slight, and the whole world seems magical and foreign and invincible, something we’d want to write down and remember when our brains landed safely on earth again. V Magazine
  • A voice so compelling that ideology doesn’t override character, verisimilitude, or narrative flow...Dwight–smart but underachieving, self-effacing but self-absorbed, funny and sympathetic and a bit of a doofus–has a distinctive and irresistible voice...Engrossing. Poets & Writers
  • “Do not fear Kunkel as a new Jay McInerney or Brett Easton Ellis. Neither of those writers is capable of the generosity and sweetness that dog Dwight. Neither are capable of writing so smartly funny...Read Indecision with a smile on your face. The fate of Dwight Wilmerding is zany, surprising and strangely affecting.”

    Cleveland Plain Dealer

  • “Kunkel manages to whip up a cerebral novel that doesn’t feel overly, uh, cerebral...Funny.”

    Village Voice

  • “Very funny…The prose itself offers much pleasure. Kunkel would have given Stanley Elkin a run for his money in the clever metaphor department…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. Dwight’s plot never plays second-fiddle to Benjamin Kunkel’s intelligence. My advice? Read this one.”

    Washington Post Book World

  • Here's what Indecision gives you: sustained social and intellectual comedy, possibly the last but certainly the funniest Superfluous Man in modern literature, drive-by satire plus detailed set-piece send-ups of Young Adult colgrads at work and play. The mockery is humane. The tale of Dwight Wilmerding is told with style and care. And there's a surprising ending. Benjamin Kunkel, welcome! Norman Rush, author of Mating and Mortals
  • Very funny...The prose itself offers much pleasure. Kunkel would have given Stanley Elkin a run for his money in the clever metaphor department... 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. Dwight’s plot never plays second-fiddle to Benjamin Kunkel’s intelligence. My advice? Read this one. Washington Post Book World
  • Kunkel manages to whip up a cerebral novel that doesn’t feel overly, uh, cerebral...Funny. Village Voice
  • Do not fear Kunkel as a new Jay McInerney or Brett Easton Ellis. Neither of those writers is capable of the generosity and sweetness that dog Dwight. Neither are capable of writing so smartly funny...Read Indecision with a smile on your face. The fate of Dwight Wilmerding is zany, surprising and strangely affecting. Cleveland Plain-Dealer
  • Sophisticated...[The] prose alone strongly hints at the depth of Kunkel’s skills, which is to say, quite simply, he’s for real. The San Francisco Chronicle
  • 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...crisp prose. The New Yorker
  • Kunkel tackles serious modern concerns–continued poverty in the developing world, the pervasiveness of psychotropic drugs–with dexterous linguistic chops and assured comic timing. Washington Post
  • Kunkel has succeeded in crafting a voice of singular originality. Entertainment Weekly
  • Original and enjoyable...The reader has no choice but to be swept up by this delightfully neurotic and unexpectedly original tale of quarter-life crisis-cum-adventure...At a time when many fictional works are increasingly serious and grim, a romp through Kunkel’s enjoyable and often downright silly novel is a nice reprieve...Indecision is a novel unlike any in recent memory, and in Dwight Wilmerding one discovers a genuine, fully-realized voice that echoes into the room long after the book has been set aside. Vail Daily
  • “Here’s what Indecision gives you: sustained social and intellectual comedy, possibly the last but certainly the funniest Superfluous Man in modern literature, drive-by satire, plus detailed set-piece send-ups of Young Adult colgrads at work and play. The mockery is humane. The tale of Dwight Wilmerding is told with style and care. And there’s a surprising ending. Benjamin Kunkel, welcome!”

    Norman Rush, author of Mating and Mortals

  • “I read Indecision in one sitting, with much admiration and continuous pleasure. I expected it to be a comic novel, but its deep seriousness came as a surprise. The narrator is a real achievement, and the sinuous but fluent prose Kunkel gives him is perfectly matched to his perceptions: always tentative, yet precise and alert, witty in the best, most spontaneous way, also tender and generous.”

    Pankaj Mishra, author of The Romantics and An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World

  • “There is nothing indecisive about Benjamin Kunkel’s ability to conjure the singular voice of Dwight Wilmerding in all its savvy innocence and thorny charm. Indecision is a wise, frank, funny, and stealthily big-themed novel, and Benjamin Kunkel is a writer to be reckoned with, or better yet, read.”

    Sam Lipsyte, author of Home Land

  • “Ben Kunkel is a truly original thinker, whose ideas keep pace with the astonishing dexterity of his language. He also has the rare ability to be hilarious about serious things. In the hapless, charming Dwight Wilmerding, he has created one of those narrators whose voice you can hear in your head long after the book is finished.”

    Nell Freudenberger, author of Lucky Girls

  • A 2005 New York Times Book Review Notable Book

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Amnuck | 2/2/2014

    " So many lessons... "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Joel | 1/31/2014

    " This book is an embarrassment to people in my generation. Novels should attempt the impossible task of naming that which can't defined, of making us more certain and full of wonder all at once. Benjamin Kunkel goes so far as to tell us, though his protagonist, what's missing in our lives: Democratic Socialism. Thanks a lot, asshole. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Christoph | 1/30/2014

    " I liked it, but didn't find it to be that hilarious. Maybe because I'm an overthinking 28-year-old myself.(view spoiler)[ The conclusion, while charming, was sudden and rather unmotivated. (hide spoiler)] "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Emma | 1/29/2014

    " Loved it. Thoroughly modern, fascinating main character and voice. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Josie | 1/13/2014

    " yeah, i really liked this one. most important, it was funny. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ethan | 11/29/2013

    " Sincerity is the new sarcasm. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jonathan | 11/20/2013

    " The main character becomes quite annoying and a bit too navel-gazzely for my taste. At some points of the book you can see why people were impressed by Kunkel's talent. Hopefully, he will improve his ability to work with and more fully develop a plot the next time around. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 fahad | 11/17/2013

    " obviously a first book. seems to pick up and go into interesting territory, only to end like a cheesy romantic comedy. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nicola Turner | 11/12/2013

    " I am surprised at the low score this book got. I found it to be absolutely hilarious and touching at the same time. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Karschtl | 11/11/2013

    " As undecided as the protagonist was I in the question whether I should keep trying or stop reading because I wasn't particularly interested in the story. Finally I gave up after about 40 pages. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Audrey | 11/5/2013

    " i think i forced myself to read to pg 100 in this but i fucking hated it! i'm not sure i even made it that far. this guy is just another priviledged d-bag who has nothing interesting or introspective to say "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jesse | 10/29/2013

    " This book is a lot like its (distinctively rendered)narrator--clever and charming enough to be ingratiating, but not to be looked to for anything serious or meaningful. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Agata | 8/7/2013

    " The only reason i gave this three stars instead of two is because of the strong beginning. It really went downhill quickly. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Janine | 7/3/2013

    " Don't like it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Iz | 6/3/2013

    " started off pretty funny, became a great travel story, then turned into a weird drug story, and ended in a political "moral of the story" which was apparently the whole point of the book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 allison | 3/15/2013

    " First half of the book was laugh-out-loud funny, then it just got increasingly wha--? "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Christine | 1/27/2013

    " eyes on the road - read with my ears. Good entertainment factor with the task at hand "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Scrumplet | 8/21/2012

    " Coming-of-age story most suited for those in their twenties who don't know what the hell they want to do with their lives but have been in the same rut for too long a time and can't seem to escape the goddamned purgatory. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dan Varley | 3/15/2012

    " A post-post-modern, post-irony, post-9/11 bildungsromen. Affecting and funny and (yes) moral. Proud that Kunkel is in my generation of young writers. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Jessica Gottlieb | 1/10/2012

    " Too whiny and annoying. I stopped reading. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Suzie | 11/27/2011

    " story of my generation. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Shirley | 11/7/2011

    " Still the worst book I've read in years, maybe ever (at the very least: winner of the lowest ratio of quality to hype). I made it ~150 pages in, thus losing two hours of my life that I'm never getting back. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Sara | 8/22/2011

    " I liked this quite a bit in the first half of the book, then everything got very strange and tedious. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Erica Leigh | 7/4/2011

    " Just couldn't get through this one. I liked the writing style; it was pretty funny...and the plot was quirky enough that I wanted to find out what happened, but I don't know. The writing was a little too awkward and I got bored after a while. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Frank | 6/11/2011

    " I liked this better while I was reading than I did once I was done. It tries really hard. Gorgeous cover, though. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Carissa | 3/29/2011

    " Full-blown lad lit. I found it kind of stupid and vapid. Could be because I'm not a dude - I still think it's a mediocre effort however you look at it, though. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Terri | 3/24/2011

    " C'era una volta una generazione di 30 anni alla deriva. C'era una volta una generazione che non sapeva scegliere niente di niente nella propria vita. C'ERA UNA VOLTA UNO scrittore che scrisse di un ragazzo di questi.
    Il resto metticelo tu. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Larry | 1/17/2011

    " I read this a while ago but I agree with what many have said. A book version of my least favorite film genre: mumblecore. In other words, I'm overeducated and under 30 and I can't get my life together and I want you to think it's interesting that I don't have any real goals. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Joanna | 1/3/2011

    " it had its problems but i would read another benjamin kunkel book should there be another one. i feel like i can see where he's going and he didn't get there with this but i think he'll get there someday. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cheryl | 12/1/2010

    " A cute book but maybe a little too much emphasis on drugs to help push himself in certain directions. I love the smart writing style though & wish he would write a new- more grown up book. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Laura | 11/28/2010

    " Not really worth your time. I thought it would be interesting, because I also suffer from indecision- it wasn't. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ambra | 11/8/2010

    " Are you indecisive???? MMmmmmmmmhh... Don't read it then!
    It gets even worse!!! "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Alice | 10/8/2010

    " J'ai acheté ce bouquin 1euro, je ne donne pas plus comme étoiles... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Scrumplet | 9/21/2010

    " Coming-of-age story most suited for those in their twenties who don't know what the hell they want to do with their lives but have been in the same rut for too long a time and can't seem to escape the goddamned purgatory. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Brian | 9/7/2010

    " can't really decide if I liked this book or not... honestly "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Mitch | 8/4/2010

    " I share almost too much with the main character to enjoy this. "

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About the Author
Benjamin Kunkel grew up in Colorado. He has written for Dissent, The Nation, and the The New York Review of Books, and is a founding editor of n+1 magazine.
About the Narrator

Patrick Frederic is an American actor whose film and television credits include The Big Easy, 200 Cigarettes, and Law & Order, among others.