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The Broom of the System

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  10,390 ratings  ·  866 reviews
Published when Wallace was just twenty-four years old, The Broom of the System stunned critics and marked the emergence of an extraordinary new talent. At the center of this outlandishly funny, fiercely intelligent novel is the bewitching heroine, Lenore Stonecipher Beadsman. The year is 1990 and the place is a slightly altered Cleveland, Ohio. Lenore’s great-grandmother h ...more
Paperback, 467 pages
Published May 25th 2004 by Penguin Books (first published 1987)
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Infinite Jest by David Foster WallaceGravity's Rainbow by Thomas PynchonSlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt VonnegutIf on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo CalvinoThe Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
Postmodern Genius
44th out of 414 books — 316 voters
Holy Bible by AnonymousNaked Lunch by William S. BurroughsHouse of Leaves by Mark Z. DanielewskiFear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. ThompsonAlice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll
Weirdest Books Ever
49th out of 351 books — 494 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
"I think I had kind of a mid-life crisis at twenty, which probably doesn't augur real well for my longevity. So what I did, I went back home for a term, planning to play solitaire and stare out the window, whatever you do in a crisis. And all of a sudden I found myself writing fiction."

It was 1986 and he was 24 years old when it was published. He began writing it fresh out of a fairly tumultuous mental health crisis at age 22 (or as he put it "a young 22") while simultaneously writing a highly t


You will see it. A dream dreamt and a dream realized. With this book, my small journey is complete (in a way) and I witnessed (in a small way) what went in the making of Infinite Jest. Let me draw the conclusion in broad brushstrokes. The Broom of the System + Girl with Curious Hair is NOT equal to Infinite Jest but a jest that was beginning to take shape in a mind, which in my eyes was capable of achieving anything. What David wanted to do was crack.
Stephen M
Are Words the Totality of Thoughts? Fighting Wittengenstein with (attempted) Brevity

The first thing that may strike a reader of DFW’s debut is his commitment to excessive detail. I imagine that his intention, among other things, was to illustrate the idea that words circumscribe our ability to conceptualize; thus, the mental imaging that is conjured up by his descriptions are malleable due to the author’s choice of certain word inclusion and exclusion. In a humorous bit, he describes in gross de
Jan 27, 2012 Mariel rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: that book was written just for me...
Recommended to Mariel by: my special-wecial friends
It was the tree frog story. The story about the Thermos woman who is always in profile, hiding under scarves and out of the way of all human connections. It was the tree frog that lived in the hole in her neck, and he through holes in the scarves around her neck. The tree frog that she nurtured and resented. Symbiotic amphibiotics. That was a part of her and yet not apart of her. This whole other not self thing that kept herself out of everything else. And the tree frog can only blink sadly, and ...more
MJ Nicholls
Lord Wallace of Amherst’s debut novel is—pardon the obvious—an enormo-homage to the postmodernist ladies. I was surprised at the sheer Gaddisness of this one (narratorless dialogue, two interlocutors per section, frequently deployed throughout) and not so surprised at the Delilloian weirdness and Barthian frametalemaking. The structure seems intricate and impressive, although the plot is mostly linear—each alphabetical sub-chapter responds to events close to those in previous alphabetical sub-ch ...more
This book flat-out demands a multi-layered meta-review. I mean, it has everything a po-mosexual could ask for: characters aware they might be characters in a novel, nested short stories read by the characters that comment on the parent text, an intentionally unresolved and fractured plot, pages and pages of ironic philosophical dialogue, and an ending that just

Unfortunately, that level of post-modern detachment requires real talent, the talent of, say, David Foster Wallace. Yet DFW famously crit
Jul 27, 2009 Davis rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Any literate individual
Recommended to Davis by: Mom
David Foster Wallace was once quoted as saying "The Broom Of The System seems like it was written by a very smart 14 year old". I respectfully disagree with the always self-degrading and self-conscious author (Rest In Peace). In fact, due the relative success of this novel, and his inability to utilize it properly, Wallace had a mental breakdown. The circumstances around this book, both before and after, are incredibly interesting, and regretfully, there is a whole lot of space here to talk abou ...more
aidan w-m
not entirely successful in its conceits, unlike a lot of his other writing, but a ton of fun. self indulgent & sophomoric in the best way, & of course very, very smart. & as always, the structural play is fascinating.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This is a hard nut to crack. I decided long ago I needed to read old David Foster Wallace, and I wasn't feeling committed to the 1100 page chore of "Infinite Jest." As far as I can tell, he draws on three American literary traditions: the first is the American hysterical realist tradition that it helped to found (see DeLillo, Franzen), the second being the batshit tradition beloved by smart 18 year olds (see Vonnegut, Robbins), and the third being Thomas Pynchon, who is his own wonderful, babbli ...more
Praticamente questo libro è la “parola” nella sua immensa varietà. Parola che può farsi racconto, romanzo, nonsense, parabola, metafora, suggestione, gioco, analisi, invenzione, descrizione, silenzio, menzogna, imitazione.

Francamente, non ci ho capito granché e dubito che lo rileggerò mai, ma, per questa volta, non mi è spiaciuto averlo fatto. E magari non c’è proprio niente da capire, a parte il fatto che sconfiggere il caos, generato anche verbalmente, è impossibile.
Leo Robertson
I’ve pained and obsessed over the recognition of genius in others for a long time now and finally feel like I’ve made some progress in my own thoughts: this is the most I will ever have to say about a book I read only a third of before giving up.

This, this, a story told to me with all the confidence of a young man so filled with self-belief and enthusiasm for a tale that he might well explain the entire plot of a film he enjoyed to me after I had just answered ‘Yes, I did see it.’ [1]

To those o
Sentimental Surrealist
Basically, this is in places fun and beautiful, and in other places too gimmicky to really succeed; it often comes off as though DFW had read about these philosophical concepts and tried to write a novel for the purposes of illustrating them but didn't fully grasp the idea of successfully incorporating and developing character. This means that, in places, his debut comes off as an exercise as much as a story, and does occasionally dip into the dread look-how-smart-I-am territory, although he sti ...more
Mircalla64 (free Liu Xiaobo)
ok, pronti? via

"puoi fidarti di me, sono un uomo di"

Lenore ha una nonna che è scappata dalla clinica, una nonna studiosa di Wittgenstein, poi ha un uccellino Vlad L'Impalatore, che parla a vanvera e un fidanzato, non fidanzato, un amico, Rick Vigorous, di Frequent & Vigorous, che è poco vigorous e ancora meno frequent!
poi c'è la fuga di nonna e amiche, papà che va a Corfù, sorelle e fratelli, e infine i racconti di Rick
ce n'è abbastanza per tre di romanzi
e tutti postmoderni...

"Mettiamo che N
Sep 16, 2007 Rob rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: fiction
this was published 10 years before Infinite Jest. much like in IJ, every single character in this novel is broken, defective, missing some vital piece. one is missing a leg, one is missing a penis, many lack morality, or empathy, or confidence, or even any self-identity. but in infinite jest, you end up really liking a bunch of them -- their defects make them lovable, or you love their good qualities in spite of their defects. but in this novel, i sort of grew to despise all but one. i pinned al ...more
Brevi appunti sparsi:

1. Questo è un genio.

2. Se cercate un libro con una trama lineare, un inizio e una fine, esposto chiaramente, con uno stile sempre uguale, canonico e mai stravagante, senza "voli" incomprensibili e filosofici (o presunti tali)... fermatevi qui e cambiate libro.

3. Scrivere a 24 anni un romanzo del genere significa o che hai un'immaginazione oltre ogni limite, o che sei completamente folle o che sei perennemente fatto. Propendo per un misto dei tre.

4. Si fa fatica a staccarsi
I sure wasted a lot of time in college is all I can say. All in all, not a bad PoMo novel from a undergraduate senior thesis. Some ideas didn't seem to be finished, or put away, but that also seems to be a familiar theme in DFW's work. Not my favorite DFW, but I'd still prefer most days to read mediocre DFW to good/great anyone else.
The best part of the book, and by telling you this, I am not really giving anything away, at least nothing that is pertinent to the plot of the book, is that there is a man-made black sand desert in Ohio, near Caldwell, Ohio, the Great Ohio Desert, where people go wandering, hiking, hiding, resolving existential crises, sunbathing and fishing in the desert's lake. It is "a blasted region. Something to remind us of what we hewed out of. A place without malls." It is often crowded and the best tim ...more
David è uno spasso, davvero. Per quanto ci siano evidenti riferimenti a stati depressivi e disagi affini, lo stile di Wallace non è angoscioso, anzi, è brillante, è vivo.
Io ho riso, ma proprio tanto. E io sono una di quelle che a guardare Paperissima si deprime.
E' divertente, nella sua tristezza; qualunque situazione acquisisce, attraverso la sua voce, una connotazione particolare. Che più il momento è tragico, più lui te lo rigira in un modo irresistibile. Paradossi narrativi che spiazzano e co
Saverio Mariani
Non si può negare l'evidenza.
L'evidenza è che DFW era una personalità al di fuori di ogni schema, così come la sua scrittura.
Una tavolozza di colori infiniti, capaci di mescolarsi nei modi più improbabili. La parola, il testo, in questo romanzo (si può chiamare ancora così? Boh, forse no!) vengono fatti esplodere, ma prima portati alla massima potenza.
La scopa del sistema è un libro che poche persone avrebbero potuto scrivere.
Tutto questo non si può negare, mi sembra oggettivo.
A DFW questo v
If my first novel were this good, I'd be tempted to pull a Harper Lee and let that one beautiful work be monument enough to my prowess as both a wordsmith and a storyteller.
Jun 23, 2008 Alex rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: philosophy majors
"It's no Infinite Jest."

That's probably the most obnoxious way I could possibly kick off this brief review of a book which, on its own terms, is very good. It's funny and clever, indubitably "smart". Some of the scenes are fantastic - for example, a finale that reminds of the procession at the end of 8 1/2 - and some are deliciously cringe-worthy - for example, almost anything containing one Mr. Rick Vigorous.

But, at risk of belaboring this point, it's not Infinite Jest.

I remember reading an int
Funny, witty and disinhibited, “The Broom of the System” prend à la légère the theories of Wittgenstein and Derrida right from the title, whose significance is partly revealed in a dialogue between Gramma Lenore and her grandson, whom she asks about the more elemental part of the broom – the bristles or the handle. When he points the bristles, she triumphantly yells: ''Aha, that's because you want to sweep with the broom... If what we wanted a broom for was to break windows, then the handle was ...more
Aug 09, 2012 David rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Post-modernists, owners of smutty cockatiels
I am not sure how to describe this... thing I read. David Foster Wallace was supposed to be some sort of sublime genius. I thought The Broom of the System was trying way too hard to be sublime and ingenuous, and while there were plenty of clever bits, it was clever bits and characters tossed around in a mostly unfunny satire of... something.

There really isn't a plot per se. Lenore Stonecipher Beadsman is looking for her great-grandmother, who up and disappeared from her nursing home along with a
David Huang
THIS BOOK IS SO FRICKIN GREAT AND I RECOMMEND EVERYONE TO READ IT. This book is seriously one of those books that I don't even consider to be JUST a novel, or a STORy, even. This is on a whole 'nother level; it is literature, it is a sort-of-philosophical text, it is revelation. I know this sounds cheesy, but this book seriously changed my outlook on life and view on reality. ( I read this about the same time that I first watched Waking Life, which is a GREAT MOVIE that also has to do with reali ...more

As a raving fanatic of DFW, I was surprisingly and to all contrary expectations let down quite thoroughly by his first novel. People say it's a mini Infinite Jest, but that's really not true at all. I mean there are budding and teasing similarities, but they are, in my opinion, very different novels concerned with different issues. First, The Broom of the System is mostly in dialogue without the sharp wit and rolling-on-the-floor-funny humor and the trademark myriad lengthy footno
I've never read any of Wallace's fiction before, and this thing is just crazy. It's got this really playful, almost freewheeling sensibility that is grounded by these long but agonizingly precise sentences, especially with the dialogue. It feels kind of like Donald Barthelme on crack. And my god, is it funny. Only A Confederacy of Dunces has ever made me laugh this hard while reading. I wasn't sure what to make with all of the little philosophical flourishes, at times they seem sincere, at times ...more
Nate D
Mar 26, 2008 Nate D rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those for whom self-indulgence is its own sticky reward.
Recommended to Nate D by: Anne
This was my first brush with DFW, outside of a few stories in McSweeney's back issues (one of which was compressed entirely onto the spine). The original review (below) is oddly underwhelmed-sounding, despite the 4 stars and my memory of the book's general excellence. Sometimes we don't immediately realize how much something will stick with us:

My first foray into DFW besides a few stories in McSweeney's back-issues, so chosen because it was about half the length of the signed copy of Infinite Je
È così abbiamo rotto il ghiaccio con DFW. In questo spassoso "dialogo tra Wittgenstein e Derrida", come lo definì l'autore stesso, ne esce vittorioso proprio DFW che dimostra di avere una versatilità non indifferente pari solo alla sua fantasia. Certo, se non fosse per l'estremo verbositá che verso il finale fiacca anche il lettore piú smaliziato, il mio giudizio sarebbe ben piú alto. Anche il finale, surreale ed affrettato stona con il resto del romanzo (che l'autore si sia auto-fiaccato?). Bon ...more
DFW's first novel. All of his trademarks are there, the multilayered plot/writing style, the fact that the author is playing with language and that he is more than capable of making it do anything he so desires, but I am also picking up almost a youthful enthusiasm from it, as though the author is eager to write all of this down. A stark contrast to the titanic and belabored Infinite Jest, or the resignation one can pick up from The Pale King.

The idea that this book is one of his best is still c
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David Foster Wallace worked surprising turns on nearly everything: novels, journalism, vacation. His life was an information hunt, collecting hows and whys. "I received 500,000 discrete bits of information today," he once said, "of which maybe 25 are important. My job is to make some sense of it." He wanted to write "stuff about what it feels like to live. Instead of being a relief from what it fe ...more
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Infinite Jest Consider the Lobster and Other Essays A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again:  Essays and Arguments Brief Interviews with Hideous Men This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life

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“At first you maybe start to like some person on the basis of, you know, features of the person. The way they look, or the way they act, or if they're smart, or some combination or something. So in the beginning it's I guess what you call features of the person that make you feel certain ways about the person. ... But then if you get to where you, you know, love a person, everything sort of reverses. It's not that you love the person because of certain things about the person anymore; it's that you love the things about the person because you love the person. It kind of radiates out, instead of in. At least that's the way ... That's the way it seems to me.” 40 likes
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