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The Broom of the System: A Novel (Penguin Ink) (The Penguin Ink Series) Paperback – Deckle Edge, June 29, 2010
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About the Author
David Foster Wallace (1962–2008) wrote what would become his first novel, The Broom of the System, as his senior English thesis at Amherst College. He received an MFA from the University of Arizona in 1987 and briefly pursued graduate work in philosophy at Harvard. His second novel, Infinite Jest, was published in 1996. Wallace taught creative writing at Emerson College, Illinois State University, and Pomona College and published the story collections Girl with Curious Hair, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, and Oblivion and the essay collections A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again and Consider the Lobster. He was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Award, and a Whiting Writers’ Award and served on the Usage Panel for The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. His last novel, The Pale King, was published posthumously in 2011.
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I can't tell you how many times I've read this book or others from DFW. It's an incredible experience, provided that you actually like the way that the man wrote. I say that because not everyone WILL like the way that he wrote. Just look at the 1 star reviews for proof.
Yes, he uses some unfamiliar words and writes sentences that go on for pages, but he tells stories (most based on some true event that occurred plus a lot of imagination and coloration) that really capture the human experience and tell "the story" in compassionate, entertaining ways. We all know people who are just exactly like someone that DFW wrote about, and once you get the intent of his writing, and the cadence, you might just find DFW's mind to have been a creative, articulate place.
Books, like movies, art, food, music and wine, do NOT resonate equally with everyone. People who don't appreciate Premier Cru Bordeaux probably won't drink more than one sip before moving on to something that appeals to them. But if you "don't get Bordeaux", that doesn't mean that it's garbage, it just means that it doesn't appeal to you. Hey, you're entitled not to like it.
Similarly, I can't read John Le Carre. Millions of other people can, but I can't. Le Carre doesn't write garbage, he is well loved by the people who find that his writing resonates with them. It's just that he doesn't reach me, and that's that, so I move on.
My best advice to you is to try some of DFW's shorter works first before you invest time and energy in "Broom" or "Infinite Jest".
I wish you way more than luck!
It is my first DFW and when I began reading it I had no idea what I was getting into. Like most reviewers, I slogged through parts of it, and at times asked myself what the point was of different characters or things. When I finished the book my first emotion was relief that I was finished reading it--I wasn't sure if I had liked it or not. The next morning as I was drifting out of dreams and into consciousness I began thinking about it again and everything started fitting into place. I went from antipathy to amazement.
The entire story is about one event, the change of the main character's life (as every story is supposed to be), but that change is examined like a math problem or a puzzle. It is as if DFW sat down and said "Ok, Lenore is here, and she needs to get to here...what needs to be different so she can do so? How can those changes occur?"
Admittedly, he took some changes that could have been simple and ran with them, but that's what sets this book apart. Throughout the story he tries to let you in on the secret--"this is what the book is about" he says repeatedly. It's about words. It's about escaping from the boxes we allow ourselves to be trapped in. It's about how we allow words to create and rule our lives. And it asks a key question about life--"What's so wrong with admitting what you want?"
If you are looking for simple narrative this is not the book for you. It's thick and wordy and sometimes hard to follow, but if you have the time and interest it's very very worth it.
A word of warning, though: don't get the Kindle edition. It's riddled with errors indicative of poor OCR. There are many instances of quotation marks pointing the wrong way, random periods appearing, and missing line breaks. Nearly every occurrence of the letters "rn" together are rendered as an m. E.g. "bom-again Christians," "com" instead of "corn," and a character named Vem who is probably actually called Vern.
Somebody had a computer scan the print version and then never looked at it. It makes for pretty frustrating reading at times.
EDIT: Amazon sent me a message that they updated the Kindle version to fix issues. Some of the issues are fixed, but not all of them.
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