David Foster Wallace wrote The Broom of the System as part of his MFA thesis when he was just twenty-four. Focusing on the philosophies of Wittgenstein, Wallace’s characters often deal with issues of existence and language. The book centers around Lenore Stonecipher Beadsman, a young woman working as a switchboard operator in Ohio. When the story begins, Lenore’s great grandmother, also named Lenore, has gone missing from her assisted living facility. While (young) Lenore unravels clues as to where her great grandmother and several other patients have disappeared to, the reader is introduced to Lenore’s obsessive and neurotic boyfriend/ boss, Rick Vigorous, her incredibly vocal and prophetic parakeet, Vlad the Impaler, as well as several other off-the-wall characters.
Told in fragments and from different character perspectives, The Broom of the System does not have the traditional story arc and progresses in a sideways manner. Often character details and progress are given to the reader through Rick Vigorous’ short stories that he reads aloud to Lenore or sometimes delivered through transcripts of Lenore’s psychiatrist visits. If you’re looking for a traditional, straightforward, easy read you might want to look elsewhere. The Broom of the System is hilarious, puzzling, critical, and character driven. I recommend this title to fans of Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, and Adam Levin.