Archive Book Review: The Broom of the System
This book was so weird and funny and strange and interesting and clever and odd and full of beautifully written moments, and seriously just the weirdest book I’ve ever read and still liked.
Book Review Date: November 26th, 2012
At the center of David Foster Wallace’s The Broom of the System is the bewitching heroine, Lenore Stonecipher Beadsman. When her great-grandmother goes missing along with twenty-five other inmates of the Shaker Heights, Ohio, Nursing Home, Lenore’s life is thrown into chaos. Featuring an insanely jealous boss and a cockatiel that quotes Auden and the King James Bible, Lenore’s quest to find her great-grandmother against daunting odds cleverly moves into an exploration of the paradoxes of language, storytelling, and reality.
Okay, so I finished this book like a week ago, but the holidays messed me up. Anyway, this book was so weird and funny and strange and interesting and clever and odd and full of beautifully written moments, and seriously just the weirdest book I’ve ever read and still liked. And because of this book I want to rename Hamilton, my yellow cockatiel, Vlad the Impaler because that bird was hands down the funniest character in the whole book. That being said, I actually really liked the way the dialogue was often set up — sans ALL dialogue tags. Nothing. Not what they were doing nor who was speaking. It was sometimes hard to figure out who was talking but usually it would sort itself out, and honestly, it was just quite fun because it was so different. Y’all, this is a strange one. The ending especially. (Unless I got a defective copy, which I don’t think I did). But it’s weirdly perfect for this perfectly weird book. And on top of all that, the cover is just beautiful … and especially awesome because it has a cockatiel on it.
Most really pretty girls have pretty ugly feet, and so does Mindy Metalman, Lenore notices, all of a sudden.
- …that weird sympathetic laugh you laugh when everybody else is laughing so hard they make you laugh too.
- …the sun, always at either a right or a left tangent to the placement of the Tower, casts a huge, dark shadow of the Building over the surrounding area — a deep, severely angled shadow that joins the bottom of the Tower in black union but then bends precipitously off to the side, as if the Erieview Plaza section of Cleveland were a still pool of water, into which the Tower had been dipped, the shadow its refracted submergence.
- …in the face of the reasonable and in the beginning polite requests of one or even all of the neighbors that hostilities against the range of potential lawn enemies that obsessed him be toned down, at least in scale, before all this drove a wedge the size of a bag of Scott’s into our tennis friendship…
- …the firm publishing things perhaps even slightly more laughable than nothing at all…
- …perched high atop this mountain of the unthinkable would be the fact that I was in love, grossly and pathetically and fiercely and completely in love…
- …who lives with a schizophrenically narcissistic bird…
- Here is hair that is clearly within and of itself every color — blond and red and jet-black-blue and honeynut — but which effects an outward optical compromise with possibility that consists of appearing simply dull brown, save for brief teasing glimpses out of the corner of one’s eye.
- …and a kiss with Lenore is, if I may indulge a bit for a moment here, not so much a kiss as it is a dislocation, a removal and rude transportation of essence from self to lip…
- …and certainly the chief reason why I continue to see him in the face of mounting evidence of major incompetence, is the fact that he is also completely unethical and an incorrigible gossip who tells me all of what Lenore tells him.
- Veronica was beautiful. But a beauty like a frozen dawn, dazzling and achingly remote.
- It occurs to me that I couldn’t care less.
- I find dieting makes me insanely angry at everything. Dieting makes me want to murder everyone around me.
- Lenore Beadsman was in possession of the following items. … A bird, in the cage, a cockatiel, the color of a pale fluorescent lemon, with a mohawk crown of spiked pink feathers of adjustable height, two enormous hooked and scaly feet, and eyes so black they shone. A bird named Vlad the Impaler, who spent the bulk of his life hissing and looking at himself in a little mirror hanging by a string of … paperclips in the iron cage, a mirror so dull and cloudy with Vlad the Impaler’s own bird-spit that Vlad the Impaler could not possibly have seen anything more than a vague yellowish blob behind a pane of mist. Nevertheless. A bird that very occasionally and for a disproportionate ration of seed could be induced to stop hissing and emit a weird, extraterrestrial “Pretty boy.” A bird that not infrequently literally bit the hand that fed it, before returning to dance in front of its own shapeless reflection, straining and contorting always for a better view of itself.
- “I just don’t know what you mean by love. Tell me what you mean by that word,” Vlad the Impaler said. // “You’re going to have to buy a very small gag,” said Candy.
- I’m starting to think something is just deeply wrong with the youth of America. First of all, a truly disturbing number of them are interested in writing fiction. Truly disturbing. … These kids should be out drinking beer and seeing films and having panty raids and losing virginities and writing to suggestive music, not making up long, sad, convoluted stories. And they are as an invariable rule simply atrociously typed.
- Sounds like Gramma is maybe half a bubble off plumb…
- Why is a story more up-front than a life? // It just seems more honest, somehow. // Honest meaning closer to the truth? // The truth is that there’s no difference between a life and a story? But a life pretends to be something more? But it really isn’t more?
- …jealousy is simply the stupid man’s misdirected projection of insecurity…
- For whatever part of your wait was my fault I apologize, although none of it was my fault.
- Lenore’s sister is ravingly lovely, if one likes the ravingly lovely type…
- “How can you be so ugly to me?” // “‘Cause I’m bored, and when a man gets bored enough he gets like an animal. I’m an animal now. … When animals get so they feel trapped, they get ugly.
- … the severing of an established connection is exponentially more painful than the rejection of an attempted connection…
- …things were never, not ever, at no single point, simply all right. Things were never just OK. I was never just getting by. Never. I can remember I was always horribly afraid. Or, if not horribly afraid, horribly angry. I was always desperately tense. Or, if not tense, then in an odd hot euphoria that made me walk with the water-jointed jaunt of the person who truly does not give a shit one way or the other. I was always either so unreasonably and pointlessly happy that no one place could seem to contain me, or so melancholy, so sick and silly with sadness that there was no place I could stomach the thought of entering. I hated it here. And i have never been as happy as when I was here. And these two things together confront me with the beak and claws of the True.
- …and then we can go conversationally wild.
- …shadows spilling in like ink…
- A really important part of being here is learning how to lie. ‘Strategic misrepresentation,’ we call it.
- I am passionately, fiercely, and completely in love…
- My bird. … Who is now troublingly and also obscenely able to talk.
- We sow to reap, here in America.
- …so that it’s like I’m sort of talking to myself, alone, now, except even more so, because there’s now this little feathered pseudo-myself outside me that, constantly reminds me it’s just myself I’m talking to, only.
- Some words have to be explicitly uttered, Lenore. Only by actually uttering certain words does one really do what one says. ‘Love” is one of those words, performative words. Some words can literally make things real.
- So then why do you love me? … On the basis of what? I need to know, so that I might try desperately to reinforce those features of me on the basis of which you love me.
- Stop trying to pin me … I feel like a butterfly on a board.
- I must know things … You must begin to tell me things, or I will implode.
- But the average collegiate material you should be able to spot a mile off. … What shall we say? Perhaps that it tends to be hideously self-conscious. Mordantly cynical. Or, if not mordantly cynical, then simperingly naive. Or at any rate consistently, off-puttingly pretentious. Not to mention abysmally typed, of course.
- It’s when people begin to fancy that they actually know something about literature that they cease to be literally interesting, or even of any use to those who are.
- I vastly prefer blatant bullshit to overt cruelty.
- …Mindy’s eyes were so dark they were almost black, and they seemed to spread out far more across the upper ridges of her cheeks, and back at the sides, like the wings of a dark sort of fluttery bird: large, delicate, full of a kind of motion even when still.
- [A cotillion]. Said function consisting of row after row, group after group, whole nations of tired, nervous, bad-postured girls in immoderate pink gowns. Then, heads thrust out, hands resting on one another’s shoulders, lips moving just inside one another’s ears. I squint a bit over my third or fourth something and am in a tinkling, frosted swamp, a cold pond of candy flamingos, flowers of snow, slowly hardening under a varied crystal sun.
- It takes forever. Everything falls into itself, slow as feathers.
- …as all around them the badge-happy Scouts are running here and there, positively radiating Competence In The Wild…