The Broom of the System Paperback – May 1993
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From Library Journal
The year is 1990, and the place Cleveland. Lenore Beadsman works as a telephone operator for Frequent and Vigorous Publishers. Her roommate's name is Candy Mandible, their parrot is Vlad the Impaler, there is a Judith Prietht, and businesses have names like Hunt and Peck. Lenore's great-grandmother and several cronies disappear from their nursing home, and the search for them leads across the Great Ohio Desert (G.O.D.). The novel is largely dialogue, much of it quite funny and perceptive. Obviously not aimed at the Danielle Steel or Robert Ludlum crowds, Wallace's book will appeal to people his age (mid-20s) and to older readers who enjoy trying the unfamiliar. Libraries serving such patrons should consider it. Mary K. Prokop, CEL Regional Lib., Savannah, Ga.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'Daring...hilarious...enigmatic...wonderfully odd... a zany picaresque adventure of contemporary America run amok' NEW YORK TIMES 'Dazzling...exhilarating...bizarre...sweepingly successful...engaging and haunting... a remarkable book with lots of prestidigitation in it... Wallace's talent is consistently impressive' SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Broom of the System is a strange, off-beat, inventive, hilarious and philosophical novel. DFW has a love for incorporating many view points and different styles of writing; in this novel alone we get transcripts, first person diary entries, stories within stories, third person and even a news release at one part. But that's not to say that the novel doesn't have a cohesive feel.
The plot is too complex to really go into totally, but it centres around the disappearance of Lenore Beadsman's grandmother, also named Lenore. Lenore, a philosophy major, has an overbearing and super jealous boyfriend, who also happens to be her boss at a publishing house in which she works as a switchboard director. She has a roommate named Candy Mandible, a wide ranging and bizarre family (of whom, her brother, LaVache with his drug habits and prosthetic leg, is the best), and a bird named Vlad the Impaler.
The style is kind of like a cross between Don DeLillo's dialogue and Kurt Vonnegut's social satire. But really there is nothing quite like reading David Foster Wallace. For those that are frightened of David Foster Wallace for whatever reason, don't be. His short story writing, especially in Oblivion, can be inaccessible and frustrating, but luckily Broom of the System doesn't fall into either of those categories.
This is the kind of novel that you can analyze, if you wish, and get into the philosophy, or you can just read it because it's hilarious. Win win, really.
Wallace's greatest strength as a writer was his uncanny ear for great dialogue, which is one of the most admirable traits in "The Broom of the System". Another was his ability to create great characters like his heroine Lenore Stonecipher Beadsman. While the book is fundamentally a "Perils of Pauline" saga recounting the romantic - and otherwise - misadventures of Lenore, there are ample witty asides to everything from boardroom politics to Wittgenstein. I read this novel a few months ago, but I still can't get it out of my head, so compelling is Wallace's portrayal of Lenore and her friends and colleagues.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
"The Broom of the System" is Wallace's debut, and like most first-borns, it received the most love and attention. It's more accessible than "Infinite Jest" and can be read more easily in smaller chunks without having to figure out, for example, when the events being narrated actually took place.
There isn't much of a plot in "Broom," which is remarkable when one considers that the novel runs over 500 pages. Loosely speaking, it's about the travails of Lenore Stonecipher Beadsman, a 24 year old woman who works as a telephone switch operator for a magazine edited by her lover, Rick Vigorous, who is anything but. Her grandmother (also named Lenore) has disappeared from her nursing home, and Lenore is the only one who seems worried. But that's only a fraction of what the book is about.
It's full of stories within stories, some the sad submissions that Vigorous derides (but that are far better than his limp and self-indulgent attempts at writing), others little asides that seem irrelevant but aren't. Mostly, "Broom" is an exploration of language and ideas -- some chapters involve highly detailed descriptions of, for example, the Goldberg-like trail of a pebble; other chapters are entirely dialogue, with no description of who is speaking (but which is clear from context).
In other words, this is not a novel about sex and drugs (although there are sex and drugs), and it's not a shallow, Gen-Ex picture of excess. The nearest comparison I can think of, in a loose way, is Neal Stephenson's "Cryptonomicon."
And if you don't? Specifically, what if you disliked "Infinite Jest"? Then the question becomes: how much did you dislike "Infinite Jest"? Say you found it annoying from the word go, think DFW is an insufferable smartypants, and hurled (or more like shotputted) the book across the room soon after the chapter that begins "Where was the woman who said she'd come. She said she would come" and continues in that vein for a good ten pages? Well, obviously you're going to hate "Broom of the System" too. If you're more of a middling Wallace non-fan, however, someone who finds him pretty good but too self-indulgent, made it about halfway through IJ, and can chuckle good naturedly at the Onion headline "Girlfriend Stops Reading David Foster Wallace Breakup Letter At Page 20", then BotS might be for you. It's DFW before he had developed either the courage or the inclination to go completely nuts. And there's not a footnote in sight.