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The Broom of the System

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  19,940 ratings  ·  1,581 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 January 6th 1987)
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Aaron Hand I'll answer your question with a question of my own: Could a native English speaker read this and understand it? I'm not convinced.

But you seem to be …more
I'll answer your question with a question of my own: Could a native English speaker read this and understand it? I'm not convinced.

But you seem to be a good English speaker. And I actually think any lack of understanding would not come from having to grasp the English words, but just from the twisted concepts. There are a lot of idiomatic expressions that might trip you up, but I don't think they'd get in the way too much.(less)
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Average rating 3.84  · 
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 ·  19,940 ratings  ·  1,581 reviews

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Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
Jan 18, 2012 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
Tom Quinn
Mar 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing

Decided to bump this up to 5 stars for the simple reason that I've now read it twice and generally any book I read more than once is one I call an outstanding read. More than that basic reasoning though, I really enjoy the playful language, the many puns, the clever juvenalia of the symbolism, and the gently mocking metafictional stories-within-stories. Also I've got a vested personal interest in anything pineal gland (Hail Eris!) which gland features significantly here as a


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.
Jul 02, 2010 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
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
Mar 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-lit, read-2017
A very enjoyable book, which is lighter in tone than Infinite Jest but still very complex.

I finished this over a week ago, while travelling up to Scotland for a walking trip on Skye, and it is no longer fresh in the memory since I have read other things since.

As in Infinite Jest, Wallace has created a fictional landscape of considerable complexity - an Ohio governor who decides to create a desert (the Great Ohio Desert, so like O.N.A.N. a silly acronym) as a tourist attraction, a bird whose ab
Jan 16, 2012 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
Dec 31, 2015 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
Jan 19, 2009 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
MJ Nicholls
Dec 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: merkins, novels
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
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my introduction to DFW. This book is pretty impressive for being written by a 24-year-old. The problem is this book doesn't hold together really well. It feels like it has a plot but in the end you think about it and it didn't really have one. I didn't care too much for the end of the book and I felt like even though there were a lot of really funny parts, most of the humor is very awkward. I do want to go deeper into Wallace's works. ...more
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
May 23, 2021 rated it liked it
A fine first novel by the late, great David Foster Wallace. It got dull and confusing at parts but on the whole it was an enjoyable read. 3 out of 5
Dec 20, 2011 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. ...more
Jul 16, 2009 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
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Part 1

Judith Prietht. Once I sounded it out I hated her so much. DFW’s humor is something I haven't found anywhere else: its weirdness, the build up to the jokes, and the LOLZ. The therapist scenes were the hardest I’ve laughed at a book since the Eschaton debacle.

Another thing DFW brings to the table is his descriptive writing which immediately embeds me into the scene,

The hair hangs in bangs, and the sides curve down past Lenore’s cheeks and nearly meet in points below her chin, like the brit
May 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A borderline maximalist novel. Clever. Witty at parts. Rife with Wittgenstein theories. Overall, thoroughly enjoyable.
May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars
Jessica Sullivan
Nov 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is a complete treasure for fans of David Foster Wallace. Here, in the honors thesis he wrote as an undergraduate student, we bear witness to the beginning stages of the thematic content (entertainment; consumerism; meaning; raw, gooey sentimentality) and literary style (philosophical, clever, post-modern) that would ultimately evolve into his masterpiece, Infinite Jest.

Inspired by Wittgenstein, The Broom of the System is — in the simplest terms — about language, meaning and identity. T
Aug 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, american
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
Okay, so I went into this with weirdly low expectations -- too many reviews saying it's immature, or not as good as the real DFW, the later DFW, but I think I just got tricked by the whole DFW cult thing that so annoys me, even though the books themselves delight me.

Anyway, this book was, granted, neither as long nor as difficult as Infinite Jest, but it was still a joy to read. There was the writing, which is beautiful, and also the material, which I guess I expected to be missing or immature,
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
Jul 13, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
My thought processes when reading a David Foster Wallace book:

“Wait who is that?”
“What’s going on?”
“That’s weird”
“That’s funny”
“I don’t get it”
“Haha nice”
“Ugh so sad”
“Wait why”

I’ve been lukewarm on most of his books so far, with the exception of the Pale King. That book had me swinging back and forth between moments of intense beauty/sadness and wave upon wave of boredom. But that was the point, and it prolly would’ve been one of my favorites had the book been finished.

This isn’t an easy
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
The Word Out of System

Funny, witty and disinhibited, David Foster Wallace's 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
Aug 27, 2007 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
Dec 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who've read and liked DFW
Recommended to Junta by: Infinite Jest, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men
The Broom of the Social Cataloguing Website

The white letters on the square black keys my fingers tap on. The books I'm currently reading, on my desk and next to and on top of the printer on the stand beside it. The glass of water that will take two or three more drinks before I refill it in the kitchen, with several cubes of ice. The box of Kleenex with pictures of a baby polar bear on all six faces. The desktop calendar made out of black wooden cubes for the two-digit days, in white script,
Jul 27, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  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
Roderick Vincent
Feb 06, 2016 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
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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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