Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Broom of the System” as Want to Read:
The Broom of the System
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Broom of the System

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  18,866 ratings  ·  1,495 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)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Broom of the System, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
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)
Infinite Jest by David Foster WallaceSlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas PynchonThe Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas PynchonCatch-22 by Joseph Heller
Postmodern Genius
443 books — 541 voters
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony BurgessHoly Bible by AnonymousNaked Lunch by William S. BurroughsFight Club by Chuck PalahniukAlice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll
Weirdest Books Ever
1,001 books — 1,096 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.84  · 
Rating details
 ·  18,866 ratings  ·  1,495 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Broom of the System
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 really liked it
It feels weird calling DFW playful, but it's very hard not to get caught up in his linguistic acrobatics here. This is really good writing. It's a strange but effervescent balance of casual formality and rule-following goofiness. It also feels quite a lot sharper than Infinite Jest and The Pale King - like Wallace was writing with the intent to entertain first, edify second. Early enough in his craft that he was still eager to please, perhaps? Hadn't fully come into that pretentious image of the ...more


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
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
Mar 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017, modern-lit
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.
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.
MJ Nicholls
Dec 02, 2012 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
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
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.
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 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars
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
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
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
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,
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
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
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-read
DFW did for me again. I love his work. I was worried that I would not enjoy this as much as I did Infinite Jest and Pale King, but I loved it. It was laugh out loud funny. Many great characters orbiting one, Lenore Beadsman.
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
Shelves: dfw, american
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
Jan 26, 2014 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.
Scott Rhee
Is it okay to really like a novel without knowing what the hell it's about? Because this is the problem I'm having with the late David Foster Wallace's "The Broom of the System". Ostensibly, it seems to be about a young woman named Lenore Beardsman, who goes to visit her grandmother (also Lenore Beardsman) at the nursing home only to find that her grandmother, including 22 other residents and staff, have disappeared without a trace, just vanished overnight. Believe me when I tell you that this i ...more
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.
Jan 10, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mostly bros and dudes, I'm afraid
Recommended to Alan by: Subsequent work and bygone days
And so but then...

Most really pretty girls have pretty ugly feet, and so does Mindy Metalman, Lenore notices, all of a sudden.

David Foster Wallace's work has definitely become more problematic to read and review since the first time I encountered The Broom of the System back in 2002, before his suicide in 2008 and subsequent revelations about his personal, real-world abusive behavior. The male gaze pervades Wallace's first novel from its first sentence onward—and the fact that Wallace is usu
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace
  • White Noise
  • Inherent Vice
  • Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace
  • The Crying of Lot 49
  • V.
  • Underworld
  • Gravity's Rainbow
  • The Corrections
  • Vineland
  • The Instructions
  • Lost in the Funhouse
  • Wittgenstein's Mistress
  • David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest: A Reader's Guide
  • Bleeding Edge
  • Libra
  • Freedom
  • Ratner's Star
See similar books…
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

Related Articles

Tech pioneer, cofounder of Microsoft, cochair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and author Bill Gates is an avid reader who has becom...
183 likes · 108 comments
“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.” 105 likes
“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.” 80 likes
More quotes…