Indecision on Chambers

When Matt Haber and his roommates say they see themselves in Benjamin Kunkel’s mostly well-received Indecision, they really mean themselves.

my feelings about Indecision are complicated since, for whatever reason, Mr. Kunkel chose to set part of his book in my old apartment. If you knew my roommates or me in that era, you might even be prompted to think that Mr. Kunkel set part of his book in our lives. The Petri dish in which he grew Dwight, his privileged, sexually confused, self-absorbed meta-manchild, was my living room. Mr. Kunkel took little effort to disguise the loft on Chambers Street that I shared with three friends. We lived there out of economic necessity (a student and recent grads) and friendship (three of us went back as far as elementary school). With the help of a non-union carpenter, we built rooms (without ceilings), and we filled the place with our parents’ hand-me-downs. Sometimes we threw parties; sometimes it felt like we were living in a reality show without cameras.

Writers, of course, are shameless samplers and remixers of their friends’ and families’ lives. (Diddy hides his source materials better than most authors.) But it’s a real drag to hear Scott Simon on NPR describe your fictional fifth roommate as living among “disconnected souls,” or to read Michiko Kakutani describe the way Dwight and his “slacker friends live in a dormlike apartment, spend a lot of time listening to the Dead, ingest tons of drugs and hold lots of zeitgeisty conversations about Truth and Love and Meaning.”

Sensationalism! We never listened to the Dead. (Maybe we put in “Ripple” once, like, ironically.)


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