November 22, 2005

Decisively Not Impressed

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Imagine there was a pill, a magic pill if you will, that was able to cure abulia, the loss or impairment of the ability to make decision or act independently. It would enable the utmost indecisive person, like myself, to overcome their crippling failure to choose A or B. Fellow abulia sufferers, if deciding what movie to watch over the weekend, what dish to order at a restaurant for dinner leaves you hot and bothered from the unbearable apprehension it ensues, the Abulinux pill is for us! Our day has come! We can reclaim our lives from indecision hell!

Well actually, it doesn’t exist. It’s an imaginary drug dreamed up by first-time novelist Benjamin Kunkel. Kunkel’s novel, Indecision, revolves around this mystery but completely fictional drug, and its effect, or lack thereof, on his shiftless lead character, Dwight Wilmerding.

Dwight is an underachiever at best, having come from a comfortable well-adjusted upbringing in an affluent Connecticut town. He attended the best private schools all his life, only to sit in a cubicle every week day, “overqualified and air conditioned,” listening to computer users ask obvious questions to which he replies with obvious answers. But this doesn’t faze Dwight; he’s perfectly okay with not knowing who Hugo Chavez is, or not measuring up to his older accomplished sister.

Dwight is responsible for planning his high school reunion, which suddenly floods his mind with memories of Natasha, a girl he liked throughout his teenage days. She sends an email to Dwight and mentions she’s in Ecuador, he should come too.

Meanwhile, what some might consider luck running out (his lease is about to expire and his job is to be outsourced to Mumbai) Dwight brushes off with indecisive neglect. Lack of ambition and regard for where he’ll be sleeping the month after next gives him ample time to hang with the fellas in their cramped downtown New York City apartment. And deciding if he should go to Ecuador or not has become a full time job in and of itself.

I must say that Dwight’s is a life complete separate and apart from mine, I being a first generation American and college student in the U.S., and Dwight having all the opportunities in the world at his fingertips, deciding that, eh, he’d rather just sit back and ‘chill.’ That said, Kunkel, as a removed Midwesterner, does a superb job weaving a story depicting scenes of eternal boyhood in which prep school alums like Dwight take up 9-5 jobs as a side note to their otherwise busy schedule consumed with sipping Jiggy Juice or eating ‘eggy mess’ with the roommates. When spotted still wearing flannel and listening to Pavement, Veneetha, Dwight’s on and off love interest, sighs, “You’re a living cliche … It’s not even a fresh cliche.” Sadly, this is the plain truth, one that almost made me want to put down the book for good.

However distant Dwight’s life is from mine, I could definitely appreciate the funny moments that fill and consume Dwight’s mind, relatable to just about any twenty-something year old – or any twenty-something year old who never stops thinking and whose brain is always on cruise control. (To say that I think too much is an understatement.) It’s nice to find that someone besides myself So Dwight’s life went, until Dan, Dwight’s nocturnal medical student roommate, tells him of Abulinix. He solicits Dwight to try it out, although it seems to be more of a proposition to participate in a lab study than a friendly concern. But a forewarning; the drug kicks in 9 days after initial use. Perfect! Dwight thinks. This will work out for the best, as he will already be in Ecuador with the beautiful Natasha when his indecision will supposedly end. Natasha. He doesn’t even know her last name.

The rest of the book depicts Dwights roller-coaster ride, from quitting his job and leaving Veneetha a parting break-up note, to traveling to Ecuador to meet the woman that was meant for him. Dwight’s story is not a funny one, more of an intriguing account of the human mind and the tricks that it plays. Why when something goes wrong in one part of our lives do we fixate on a miraculous person/event/dream, wherein if that person/event /dream were realized, all would be right with the world? We would then walk through fields with flowers in bloom, be carefree, and find our lost mojos. Yet more often than not, when we build up something that strongly in our heads, it ends up letting us down. Not to say that something wonderful, or at least interesting in Dwight’s case, won’t be the eventual outcome, but it’s a downer when we come to the realization that the grass is hardly ever greener on the other side.

In conveying this moral life lesson, Kunkel succeeds. But I found myself lost in the convoluted details of Dwight’s escapades in Ecuador with the Argentine / Flemmish Brigid, who is yet another woman far more sophisticated and mature than the unassuming Dwight.

In the end, I decidedly didn’t care if Dwight won the war of overcoming his indecisiveness. He’d just lost his job and was now vacationing in Ecuador on daddy’s pretty penny. Sorry, but being in a school where I have encountered a number of drifters like Dwight, who are floating along, able to take time and “figure things out,” I’ve decided that I don’t think I can really enjoy reading a book about it.

Archived article by Sophia Asare
Sun Staff Writer