Wallace, David Foster. Broom of the System. Read by Robert Petkoff. New York: Hatchette Audio, 2010.
Odd. Outlandish. Offbeat. Quirky. Inventive. Crazy. These words and more drifted through my head as I read Broom of the System. Meet Lenore Stonecipher Beadsman. She is looking for her great-grandmother who has gone missing from a Shaker Heights nursing home. When twenty-five other inmates are unaccounted for, all hell breaks loose, in an undefined kind of way. That’s the “plot” even though it is buried under pages and pages of other seemingly unrelated ramblings and doesn’t surface that often. But, don’t worry – the ramblings? they are all connected. You’ll meet Rick Vigorous, Lenore’s obsessed boss; Judith Prietht, a nosy coworker; Spatula; Alvin Spaniard; Sigurd and Blanchard Foamwhistle; the gymnast Kopek Spasova; Candy Mandible; Mindy Metalman, Peter Abbott (who must descend the tunnel to fix a cable – get it?) and many, many others. There’s a cockatiel named Vlad the Impaler who quotes the Bible and talks dirty. He gets his own religious talk show. There’s Norman Bombardini who orders nine steak dinners in one sitting. People think he’s trying to eat himself to death; Mr. Bloemker who frequents a Gilligan’s Island themed restaurant with an extremely lifelike blow-up doll (which explodes – a really funny scene). Don’t forget the Antichrist, Lenore’s brother with the wooden leg complete with built-in drawers for drugs. I could go on and on. There is a love triangle, a love square, therapy sessions and competition between baby food companies. I feel like I have covered the whole book but really, I haven’t even scratched the surface.
By the way, Robert Petkoff does an amazing job with all the different character voices. Norman Bombardini and Vlad were my favorites.
Reason read: Ohio was founded on March 1st, 1803.
Author fact: Broom of the System is Wallace’s first book.
Book trivia: This is a long book, nearly 500 pages long.
I listened to this as an audio book to and from work every day for a month. As an audio it was long and rambling. While there are solid characters and there is somewhat of a plot those details were lost on me. It was a joy just to listen to the language – even if on the surface it didn’t make sense. I know I missed a lot because I wasn’t reading the words (Case in point, the Great Ohio Desert otherwise known as G.O.D.). As I was listening I couldn’t help but picture Wallace at a party – one of those large, no one really knows anyone else, sprawling kinds of party. This is Wallace’s first go at getting published, so he wants to be noticed. He’s talking loudly for the benefit of the few people outside the circle, the ones apparently not listening to him. He keeps one eye on the people he wants to impress, hoping his witticisms will draw them into the cluster. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I found that Wallace was trying too hard to be clever. Every sentence was witty word play, full of idioms and literary tricks.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Big Ten Country: The Literary Midwest (Ohio)” (p 29).