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The Broom of the System: A Novel Paperback – Deckle Edge, May 25, 2004

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4 Stars and Up Feature: Kitchens of the Great Midwest
"Foodies and those who love contemporary literature will devour this novel that is being compared to Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge. A standout." --Library Journal Learn more
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The Broom of the System: A Novel + Infinite Jest + Consider the Lobster and Other Essays
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Editorial Reviews

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... a zany picaresque adventure of contemporary America run amok." —The New York Times

"Wonderful... a cathartic experience with lots of laughs and lots of deeper meanings." —The Washington Post Book World


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (May 25, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142002429
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142002421
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (108 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #675,126 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Foster Wallace wrote the acclaimed novels Infinite Jest and The Broom of the System and the story collections Oblivion, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, and Girl With Curious Hair. His nonfiction includes the essay collections Consider the Lobster and A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, and the full-length work Everything and More.  He died in 2008.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

125 of 132 people found the following review helpful By Tung Yin VINE VOICE on May 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
When I was in my early twenties, I read a lot of works by emerging young writers like Jay McInerney, Bret Ellis, and others. Looking back on it now, it seems unfair to put David Foster Wallace in the same category as those writers, as he is far more talented and imaginative.
"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."
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94 of 103 people found the following review helpful By William McNeill on March 12, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Well, did you like "Infinite Jest"? If so, then yes. "Broom of the System" may not be more of the same, but it's at least less of the same: shorter and less convoluted but with a similar meandering structure and Douglas-Adams-as-grad-student sensibility. "The Broom of the System" is a solid piece of highbrow comedy that stands on its own, though it's hard for "Infinite Jest" fans not to approach it as a warmup. Here's where DFW takes his first crack at many of the themes that wind up in Infinite Book: the (I guess unsurprising) obsession with prodigies, particularly adolescent males who do well in school, the fearless embrace of pretension, and a weakness for glib patter that nicely sets off the occasional jab of sincerity that manages to peek through. The prose is loopy, though more conventionally so. DFW had not yet worked out the collision of stoner-speak and dissertationese that gave "Infinite Jest" its distinctive voice, but the seeds are there. Even plotwise there are echoes: like "Infinite Jest", "Broom of the System" ends in medias res, and it's interesting to see version 1.0 of this neat trick. BotS may not be a re-reader, but it's definitely a reader, and an enjoyable one, assuming you like this sort of thing.
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.
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54 of 58 people found the following review helpful By David Beavers on September 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
Curious and wonderful to see what someone as (obviously insane?) as DFW did back when he was still in a grad program for creative writing -- back when he was just a cunning tyke of 26, before (presumably) the MacArthur Fellowship had given him an oversized novelty cheque just for being really really smart --- before he started writing 1100 page behemoths and incalculably inscrutable short stories. Broom Of The System is, in a way, as straightforward a narrative as DFW ever has written (although there are plenty of POV shifts and a huge, steaming plate of metafictional story-on-story action)... It is a jumping off point, certainly, and you can see some of his fabulous textual obsessions of later books (fathers and dysfunctional families and drugs and addictions) in their earlier forms, here. DFW is to fiction what the band Rush was to music: he is a prog-rock artist, switching POVs and the like with a merciless disregard for tradition, and it's probably best to view his work-- esp. something like Infinite Jest -- as experiments, and not "stories." But with Broom of the System you get a little bit of both -- the first chapter in particular, I think, is one of the most flat-out charming bits of DFW's that I've read.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 11, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Funny, clever as hell, and a little bit precious, "The Broom of the System" is an examination of our postmodern culture from the inside out. Wallace looks at the cultural artifacts of our world, explodes them, and reassembles the pieces to create a kind of narrative arc from the chaotic blizzard of information - it's like watching cable TV, only everything means something, and adds up to some larger purpose. And if Wallace weren't such a teriffic writer, the thing wouldn't hold together; he is, though, and it does, and while there's a lot of intellectual depth to the work, it's also a ton of fun to read, funny and affecting, and Wallace's prose is some kind of inspiration, giving us, as someone said somewhere, THE literary voice of this decade (a feat all the more impressive given that the book came out in '87). It's not a flawless book: Wallce tends to go overboard and get a little self-congratulatory, and the thing isn't quite as focused as his later "Infinite Jest" (an even better novel, though more difficult), but it's more than made up for by the sheer innovation of the book. It may even be a metafictive dissection of the state of metafiction - it's that good, and it bears out that level of thought.
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