Behold Dwight Wilmerding: a self-diagnosed slacker with an amazing capacity for resisting change or growth that his friends call his “indestructible Dwightness.” At 28, the narrator of Indecision lives in a Manhattan crash pad with his prep school pals, works at a lame techie job that will soon be outsourced to India, and can’t quite get his heart to acknowledge the existence of a splendid girlfriend. His static life is plagued by such chronic vacillation that a friend slips him an untested new medication designed to instill willpower in people like Dwight, perpetually caught up in their own mental machinery. Of course, Dwight’s ironic intellectual reckonings and viscous procrastination are the entertaining heart of this perfectly pitched debut. Charmingly adrift, he admits, “Everyone always moves so insouciantly into the future, one foot in front of the next, that it seems as if they’ve already been there and liked it enough to go back for more. Only their total confidence permits me to follow without undue terror.”
Benjamin Kunkel, a founder of the literary journal n+1 (and former Voice reviewer), manages to whip up a cerebral novel that doesn’t feel overly, uh, cerebral. He does this partly through the funny, familiar quality of characters’ conversations and partly by adding a plotline that thrusts our hero into the jungles of Ecuador with a female anthropologist. There he grapples with colonialism, the nature of personal freedom, and ecological destruction—all while freaking out on a pretty powerful native intoxicant. “Don’t make a career out of your childhood,” Dwight’s father once advised, and out there in the wild, he just might find a way to start growing up.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 30, 2005