Friday, May 13, 2011

Broom of the System.

David Foster Wallace

Lenore Stonecipher Beadsman’s great Grandmother has disappeared along with twenty five other elderly residents from a nursing home, leaving her confused and bewildered, I would even go as far as to say she was extremely discombobulated and emotionally stranded on the edge of G.O.D (Great Ohio Desert). This sets her out on a course to find her great grand mother, a women who  had an enormous influence on her life & who herself had been a student of Wittgenstein & had brought up Lenore to believe that words create reality, that ''All that really exists of  life is what can be said about it.'' leaving Lenore  convinced that she has no real control of her life. Would that this were her only problem, no this is just an addition to her world, her pet cockatiel - Vlad the Impaler -  has started speaking, and is now a TV star on some evangelical channel, a brother known as The Antichrist. Yet this is still only the pointiest tip of some giant iceberg, she has an on-going relationship with her boss Rick, vigorous part owner of the publishing firm of Frequent & Vigorous, a man who is so obsessed about her, but cannot rise to the occasion when he’s with her, telling her stories as a substitute for sex.


Has it occurred to you that the “Road Runner” is what might be aptly termed an existential program? ……..I invite you to realize that this program does nothing other than present us with a protagonist, a coyote, functioning within a system interestingly characterized as a malevolent Nature, a protagonist who endlessly, tirelessly, disastrously pursues a thing, a telos --- the Bird in the title role --- a thing, a goal far, far less valuable than the effort and resources the protagonist puts into the pursuit” Fieldbinder grinned wryly “ The thing pursued --- a skinny meatless bird --- is far less valuable than the energy and attention and economic resources expended by the coyote on the process of pursuit. Just as an attachment radiating from the self outward is worth far less than the price the establishment of such an attachment inevitably exacts.”…….

A question Doctor..  “Why doesn’t the coyote take the money he spends on bird costumes and catapults and radioactive Road Runner food pellets and explosive missiles and simply go eat Chinese?…..

The piece quoted above, comes from a section titled an “idea for Fieldbinder collection” and is one of the tales threaded through Lenore Stonecipher Beadsman’s story. Which leads us to the heart of Broom of the System, this is a book about words and language, it’s obsessions are about communication whether with others, or with ourselves, with storytelling, with the art of storytelling etc., and again I’m just scratching the surface of the themes paraded, derided, held up for examination, held up, then shot down, laughed out, laughed with. This book is like “V” by Thomas Pynchon, or  “If on a winters night  a traveller” by Italo Calvino, half the fun of this book is in what the writer will do next and can he pull it off, and like the mentioned writers David Foster Wallace is not merely a tight-rope walker, he foregoes the rope as an unnecessary aid, or uses it as though it were a skipping rope, and you watch, and you watch, and you watch, wondering how he does it, wondering how he’s going to bring all the disparate strands, all the stories within stories, all the psychiatric transcripts, all the characters & their own tales together, and yet he does. By the £$£%(())*&^tr5 he does, in a way that is wonderful, bizarre, outlandish, bawdy, hilarious, fantastically inventive and just really funny.


Wallace stated that the initial idea for the novel sprang from a remark made by an old girlfriend. According to Wallace, she said "...she would rather be a character in a piece of fiction than a real person.” I got to wondering just what the difference was. This book is his answer, and what an answer.

This is a book by a writer whose reputation scares people, he was seen as some genius, who wrote books for other geniuses, but in reality he was a comedian, a really clever one, I’ll grant you that, but an exceptionally funny, rib cracking original comic. Next - Infinite Jest, and I can’t wait.






David Foster Wallace(wiki)

The Howling Fantod (DFW)


Mel u said...

I have read only one DFW work so far, a short story.

I think I just have not felt up to the sheer size and maybe the challenge of Infinite Jest-perhaps one of these days-I have a link to another of his short stories and will read it soon-I know he was greatly influenced by Pynchon

Anonymous said...

I'm now reading my first DFW book, Consider the Lobster. Like you, I'm finding him incredibly funny in a way that I can't quite compare to anyone else. It's a truly unique, and wonderful, reading experience.

gina said...

That bit about this book being his answer to the old girlfriend's comment has me intrigued. I think I've said it before but, as you say here, DFW is intimidating. I'll hold off for a little longer, I think. But I do like a book about words and language, especially if it's funny.

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Mel, did you enjoy the short story, if so try this it's just brilliant, it's funny in that Rabelais, Cervantes, bawdy way.

Hello Pete, am in total agreement, this was funny in so many ways, it had me astounded with the sheer dexterity of his writing.

Hi Gina, It's that perception of him being intimidating that's the problem. And that's the point I'm trying to make, once over that & this book is just wonderful, it's funny, it's wordy in a way that is just bizarre,wonderful & could only come from someone who loves language.