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Say Kunkel

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Every year, one fall debut is so well hyped it’s the talk of the town by August. Benjamin Kunkel’s Indecision wasn’t even out yet when the Times weighed in—twice. First, Michiko Kakutani tweaked Kunkel’s narrator in the voice of Holden Caulfield, then Jay McInerney raved on the cover of the Times Book Review. Last week, Scott Rudin bought the movie rights for seven figures. What’s going on? As a Harvard-educated founding editor of the lit-mag n+1—sort of a highbrow rejoinder to McSweeney’s—the book critic has joined a coterie that brashly declares itself the next generation of literati. But the real attention-getter is the book’s narrator, Dwight Wilmerding, who blunders along on a journey of self-discovery fueled by drugs ranging from Ecstasy to Abulinix—a fictional pill meant to cure the titular affliction. It may seem a well-worn literary path, but Kunkel, 32, keeps the narrative smart, funny, and unpredictable. “From a superficial perspective, this is lad lit,” Kunkel concedes. “But you could say the same thing about Hamlet. I suppose that’s the originary text of lad lit.” After the early praise, Kunkel, like his protagonist, plans to fight the inevitable backlash with a little avoidance. “There’s a reason I’m in Colorado right now,” he says (he heads to Mongolia at the end of September). “As nice as it is for this stuff to be happening, it’s nice as well to pretend that it’s not.’ ”

Indecision
By Benjamin Kunkel
Random House, August 30 ($21.95).


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