Saturday, March 11, 2017

Review: "The Broom of the System" by David Foster Wallace

My biggest take away from reading The Broom of the System, the first novel by David Foster Wallace, is the key as to why some people, and maybe rightly so, call him one of the most overrated writers. It is less apparent in his most famous novel, Infinite Jest, simply because it is a better book, but looking back the same fatal flaw that runs through this rather enjoyable book runs through this one as well, and it’s Wallace’s inability, or unwillingness, to tie his narrative together into something that feels like it belongs together and not something with a meaning hidden behind post modern musings and a rather vague intent. Reading this, I feel confident in saying that the novels that came after Infinite Jest, such as House of Leaves, 2666 and even, more recently, A Brief History of Seven Killings, are for sure standing on Wallace’s shoulders, but they have improved on the template he created. The story, which is a bit easier to comprehend than the story of the Incandenzas, concerns one Lenore Beadsman, an office jock in a future version of Cleveland, Ohio, who simultaneously finds herself in the romantic crosshairs of her older boss, the insanely jealous Rick Vigorous and having to unfurl the mystery of her grandmother, also named Lenore, who went missing from her nursing home along with about twenty other patients and staff, who might be hiding in a giant manmade desert just outside the city. As always, the answers are never as much fun as the asides in any Wallace story, and this is one funny book, a quality he rarely gets lauded for and improved on his more famous novel, with scenes involving a bible beating parrot, college students wanting girls to sign their ass and one little story involving three campers and their rules for cooking prove that in another dimension Wallace would be one of our greatest stand up comics. An early version of a novelistic formula I have come to enjoy the more I get into it, this first taste of one of our most fascinating literary figures was better than I expected.

Rating: 4/5

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