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The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace

June 21, 2013

The Broom of the SystemAndrew loved David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, but after hearing about the plot I wasn’t sure I would love it too. And with more than 1,000 pages, I just wasn’t ready for the task. But since I really wanted to read something by David Foster Wallace, I thought The Broom of the System seemed like the perfect choice. And I loved it.

This novel was published when Wallace was just 24 years old. The Broom of the System is set (mostly) in 1990 and the main character is Lenore, who works as a receptionist at Frequent and Vigorous Publishing. Yes, the name of the publishing house is Frequent and Vigorous, and that is what I love about David Foster Wallace. I also love his cast of characters: we meet Dr. J, whose patients ride into his therapy sessions on automated chairs; Rick Vigorous, who urinates when nervous; Lenore’s great-grandmother (also named Lenore) who sets her home thermostat at exactly 98.6 degrees; Wang Dang Lang, no comment; and a bird named Vlad the Impaler.

Lenore’s family, which includes a stoned brother who talks to his leg and a sister who puts on slightly creepy therapy plays with her children, owns Stonecipho Baby Foods and they are in some sort of competition with Gerber. Lenore’s great-grandmother goes missing and havoc is wreaked at Frequent and Vigorous Publishing when the phone lines become crossed and hundreds of calls are misdirected there. Then Vlad the Impaler becomes a sensation, a man tries to eat the entire world, and Wang Dang Lang reappears.

The Broom of the System is an incredibly funny, entertaining, and unique novel. I loved every minute of it, right up until the unfinished-but-slightly-wrapped-up ending, that I hear is pretty classic David Foster Wallace. I liked this book so much that I just may have to tackle Infinite Jest, and every other David Foster Wallace I can get my hands on.  

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