Benjamin Kunkel's hip debut, Indecision

Jim Newell vs. Claire Stapleton

When gliterary scenester Benjamin Kunkel released his debut novel, Indecision, the New York Times proclaimed it would have been "the funniest and smartest coming-of-age novel in years." But only if he had stopped "in midsentence some 20 or 30 pages earlier." Street eds, Jim Newell (pro) and Claire Stapleton (con) argue the legitimacy of this literati golden boy.

Point:

Although he writes for a pretentious demographic, Kunkel's prose is humble and earnest. He avoids the young writer irony trap, and this is good.

Counterpoint:

Everything in Kunkel's debut is some form of hipster cliche (though he's not exempt from regular-people cliche -- note his overly-divulged Freudian attraction to his sister).

Point:

Kunkel's dialogue feels real for his generation. The main character starts a bunch of sentences with "No, yeah..." Everyone does that these days, what with anxiety and all.

Counterpoint:

Though Kunkel isn't entirely without merit and proves to be capable of some good writing, it all falls flat because there's no compelling story, and the Salinger-esque plight of the upper-middle-class boy is too overdone to be refreshing alone.

Point:

Shucks, he can put together a sentence. For example: "I spent the morning trekking behind them through the silvery syrup of the jungle light." Nice, methinks.

Counterpoint:

From his prep school pedigree and prototype antidepressants to his trendy New York lifestyle and self-loathing/self-pitying/self-aggrandizing voice, main character Dwight is uninteresting, contrived and truly annoying when he tries to wax philosophical: "During the Cold War you felt like you had a reason to get up in the morning. Now what have we got?"

Conclusion:

Indecision effectively shows how embarrassing it is to still proclaim some sort of Gen-X rebellion at 30 when all of your friends have jobs, families and lives. Very '06.

Counter-conclusion:

Kunkel may be so hot right now, but he probably shouldn't quit his day job.


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