Book recommendation: Indecision by Benjamin Kunkel

When I was in Ecuador recently, I came across a novel in a bookstore with the words “Takes place in Ecuador!!” scrawled in pen on the cover. It looked like an interesting book– something a hip, young, twenty-something such as myself might enjoy. The book was Indecision, by Benjamin Kunkel, and it is the story of a guy who, dissatisfied with his normal, workaday life in America, decides to take an experimental drug that will cure his chronic indecisiveness (hence the title). He soon decides to take a trip to Ecuador, in pursuit of a girl he once had a crush on– surely one of the better reasons to go.

The book portrays almost perfectly the feelings a lot of people of my generation are currently having about their lives– pressure to conform, pressure to get the good job with the big salary, get the girl, have the 2.3 kids. And there’s the worry that even if all those things are satisfied, your life still might lack fulfillment. Early on in the book, Kunkel describes this memorably:

It was the familiar fear, made honest through sudden intensity, that once all the sensation had evaporated from my life the residue would be a cliche. I’d die, St. Peter would be like, “So how was it?” and I’d say, “Great place. I liked the food. I was sick for part of it. But the people were really nice.” And that’d be it.

Along the way, he makes a number of clever observations about the travel lifestyle that really rang true to me: “Here we have the great question of [bus] travel in Ecuador… Does one prefer intense thirst or else the persistence over many hours of the need to urinate?”

Saying that this novel defines my generation is perhaps overstatement, but he’s right on the money with this observation: “In my experience, when a person doesn’t know what to do with himself, he will check his e-mail.”

Check out Slate’s review of the book here, and the New York Times’ review here.

Posted by | Comments Off on Book recommendation: Indecision by Benjamin Kunkel  | December 21, 2007
Category: Travel Writing

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