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The Broom of the System

3.84  ·  Rating Details  ·  13,554 Ratings  ·  1,054 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 WallaceSlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt VonnegutGravity's Rainbow by Thomas PynchonThe Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas PynchonIf on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino
Postmodern Genius
52nd out of 436 books — 446 voters
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46th out of 432 books — 571 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
Jan 09, 2015 Joshua Nomen-Mutatio rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
"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
...more
Garima

PORTRAIT OF AN INFINITE JESTER AS A YOUNG MAN

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.
...more
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
...more
j
Mar 06, 2015 j rated it liked it
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
...more
Mariel
Jan 27, 2012 Mariel rated it it was amazing
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
Brad
Jun 04, 2016 Brad rated it really liked it
I could very theoretically start listing the shelves where this touches upon, but I'd rather just say that this is a first novel most cocaine heads listening to the middle days of heavy metal would want to write if they were hopelessly in love with with the craziest *roughage* post-modern deconstructionists willing to push all narratives into wonderfully feathered *roughage* prose that's more absurd mixed wth frame within frame within frame *roughage* stories that are linked so very vividly with ...more
MJ Nicholls
Dec 04, 2012 MJ Nicholls rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, merkins
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
Mark
Jun 29, 2009 Mark rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Davis
Jul 27, 2009 Davis rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Darwin8u
Dec 23, 2011 Darwin8u rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
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.
Franco  Santos
Odio-amo este libro. Un oxímoron esperable al leer una novela de David Foster Wallace. Es creo que la novela de él que más se centra en el humor.
Mircalla64 (free Liu Xiaobo)
" E il mio presente scrosciò e schiumò nel mio passato, e gorgogliò via."

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
...more
George-Icaros Babassakis
Σε λίγες ημέρες κυκλοφορεί από τις εκδόσεις Κριτική το πρώτο μυθιστόρημα του David Foster Wallace [μετάφραση & επίμετρο: Γιώργος-Ίκαρος Μπαμπασάκης]

Μια ιδιοφυώς στημένη κωμωδία με σκοπό να ασκήσει σκληρή αλλά και βαθύτατα ανθρώπινη κριτική στην ατμόσφαιρα και τη νοοτροπία που δέσποζαν στις Ηνωμένες Πολιτείες τη δεκαετία του 1990. Ο David Foster Wallace, στο πρώτο του μυθιστόρημα, δείχνει το δυναμικό ταλέντο και την πολύπτυχη ευρυμάθειά του. Ένας συναρπαστικός συνδυασμός υψηλής φιλοσοφίας και
...more
Andrew
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
Gabriele
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
...more
Arwen56
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
...more
Roderick Vincent
Feb 28, 2016 Roderick Vincent rated it really liked it
Shelves: toptwenty
(4.5 stars)

David Foster Wallace creates characters more colorful than an array of salt water fish swimming in a fish tank. Each wears a hat that never quite fits, brains either too small or large or too soupy from the scrambling of gray matter spread out in the frying pan of this Cholula flavored narrative that makes your tongue tingle. It must be serendipity one of his Trigger fish is named Rick Vigorous, or RV as Dr. Jay prefers to call him (cough, cough, nothing like me, however). Tailless Ri
...more
Marcus
Feb 02, 2013 Marcus rated it really liked it
Shelves: american, fiction
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
Rob
Sep 16, 2007 Rob rated it liked it
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
Jim
A waitress places a basket of Jersey's best onion rings on the table.

Tony Soprano says, "I went ahead and ordered some for the table."

18 seconds later, the screen went black, and that was the end of one of HBO's most popular series.

Viewers were PISSED!!

Likewise, after nearly 500 pages of The Broom of the System, DFW decides to end his book with a half-sentence,

"I'm a man of my

What could easily have been a 5-star reading experience just drops off to a black screen, and yep, you got it, I'm PISSE
...more
Hadrian
May 13, 2011 Hadrian rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Linda
Jun 12, 2016 Linda rated it really liked it
4.5 stars rounded down. Loved almost every minute of this book and the narration of the audio was superb. Lenore and Vlad were my favorite characters. :)
John
Jun 14, 2016 John rated it really liked it
A fun, clever, and often hilarious existential comedy. Great characters, philosophy bits well-integrated into the story. I wasn't 100% sure I caught how it all tied together at the end, but that's part of the fun with Wallace. The audiobook production was excellent.
Madeleine
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.
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
stefano
Mar 13, 2016 stefano rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, novels, usa
Allora. Parce sepulto, diceva quello. E io lo parco il sepulto, eccome se lo parco. La prima volta che ho sentito parlare di David Foster Wallace è stata quando è morto. Prima, mai. E per qualche giorno mi era sembrato che non averlo letto - dai, non hai letto Infinite Jest? E neanche La scopa del sistema? - fosse una terribile colpa da espiare al più presto. Insomma, devo confessare che ero un po' preoccupato: questo signore americano qua, un mezzo genio mezzo drogato mezzo alcolizzato mezzo de ...more
Adam
Sep 19, 2012 Adam rated it liked it
DFW said of The Broom of the System that it "seems like it was written by a very smart 14 year old." He's sort of right. Sort of.

It's minor Wallace. It contains nothing of the tremendous emotional range, brilliant characterization, and ingenious narrative drive of Wallace's other two novels and his better short stories. It is a collegiate novel which contains one too many snarkily dismissive lines about collegiate writing. It desperately seeks to attain the sort of tone and really really human
...more
Maria
Aug 13, 2013 Maria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Fran
May 11, 2015 Fran rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, usa
Un concentrato (si fa per dire...) di ironia e atmosfere surreali.

Avrei voglia di una rilettura in originale, per apprezzare il potere della parola ancora meglio, ma temo con rammarico che sia al di sopra della mie capacità.
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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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“Modern party-dance is simply writhing to suggestive music. It is ridiculous, silly to watch and excruciatingly embarrassing to perform. It is ridiculous, and yet absolutely everyone does it, so that it is the person who does not want to do the ridiculous thing who feels out of place and uncomfortable and self-conscious . . . in a word, ridiculous. Right out of Kafka: the person who does not want to do the ridiculous thing is the person who is ridiculous. [...] Modern party-dance is an evil thing.” 69 likes
“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.” 58 likes
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