Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Broom of the System

There's been a lot of reading going on in these parts lately, so there's a decent chance this turns into Mike's Literature and Baseball Emporium for a bit. You've been warned. Anyway, let's move onto some thoughts about the titular book, which are not intended to be a review of any kind. The best review I can give this book is that I am (re-)reading it at the moment because I recently went to The Most Dangerous Store In The World (The Strand used book store) to buy a copy of Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami (This one will probably get its own post sometime soon), and wound up leaving with four books in a bag. The reason why I included The Broom of the System in this pile is that both copies I have owned previously have not returned from being 'borrowed'. If that's not a ringing endorsement, then I want the two miscreants responsible to give me my book(s) back. You know who you are.

So let's begin. The book in question was written by The Man (David Foster Wallace (Sidenote: Apparently this is a new printing of the book. Before the book itself begins, there is a page of gratuitous praise from noted publications such as the New York Times Book Review and the Cleveland Plains Dealer (I just lost the lucrative Cleveland market, didn't I?). This is followed by a paragraph about the author, which in this case is complete with an end date for him. Sad)) when he was 24. Which is fairly impressive in and of itself (Fun game: Think about the meaning of the words in and of that expression). But even moreso if you look at the content of the book (Which I am thinking of doing any time now. And yes, I wrote that terrible sentence just so I could put this parenthetical here. I'm not proud). The book is set in (Primarily) East Corinth, Ohio, a city shaped like a profile of Jayne Mansfield when viewed from the air. It borders the Great Ohio Desert (Whose acronym is so blatantly obvious that even I feel it is beneath me to mention it in the main text), and centers around Lenore Beadsman, a young woman who fears that she is just a character in a story, brought to life solely by someone else's words. She works at a publishing company answering the phone lines and is dating the firm's editor. One of the main ways they relate is via him telling her stories he has received, which I believe to be made up by him. Occasional excerpts from things he is writing are found in the book. The style of the novel often changes inside the individual chapters, as certain characters have various specific forms taken by the words used to create them. These shifts are easy to accomplish, as each chapter is splt up into multiple subdivisions, fracturing the book more and more. What it is in the end is an attempt to split the atom, miming the day job of one of the book's characters, Norman Bombardini ("No one had ever been able to give butter life either, but..." "What was that?" "Nothing. To be ignored. A slip of the tongue."). Oh yes, and did I mention it's a comedy? And a very funny one at that. This combination of ambition and achievement at such a young age is just another reason that one of our pre-eminent literary talents will be missed. Pick it up and give it a go. Read it with an open mind. But most importantly, think.

1 comment:

Cindi Lynn said...

I'm on it. Oh, and I just borrowed The Windup Bird Chronicles and just read Sputnik Sweetheart so you and I are on a parallel Murakami kick currently.

And by all means---write about books; I won't stop you.