So, just finished Broom of the System, and I don't understand why it is so praised by everyone. I'm not trying to be edgy or similar, I really hope you could tell me all the good aspects of the book. Maybe I'm too stupid or not simply used to this post-modernism stuff, but I have also bought Infinite Jest and I don't know what to expect. Is there any way for me to gradually understand this genre?
I was also expecting to laugh many times, but I have only chuckled a bit during some instants. And maybe could you please explain me the ending, under spoiler?
Much of the influence comes from DeLillo's debut "Americana", including the head-shaped-city thing which comes from a reference in DeLillo's novel about how John Wayne (IIRC) was so big in town that there was talk of building a city shaped like him or something.
DFW claims not to have read Pynchon but he also claimed not to have read BEE and people have called him out on that saying how influenced he was by BEE being so young at the time of publication etc.
There was actually an ex-student of Wittgenstein's affiliated with Amherst and who lived nearby that DFW knew about, which was obviously an influence to him when thinking up the plot.
Two of the main influences in terms of prose were Nabokov's Lolita (which influenced Rick's objectification of Lenore: the detailed "romantic" parts being superficially endearing but also somewhat creepy in their being so superficial) and Run, Rabbit by John Updike, which DFW thought (and later suggested in his novel about old authors close to death, including Updike, and solipsism) was misogynistic but also pretty entertaining. The character of Biff Diggerence is based on Updike, and like Updike Biff comes from Shantilly, Virginia (or whichever obscurish town/city Updike is from).
The essential theme of the book IMO is the nature of personhood in relation to language. Is the parrot a person for being able to mimic the reverend and Lenore's crude housemate? Is the psychologists's doll a person since he carries it around and talks to it? Is the city itself a person since it's shaped like one and has in its brain a switchboard (albeit a malfunctioning one) connecting the city? Are the babies who are fed the special babyfood people (babies not typically being granted the kind of full personhood an older child otherwise has) for being able to precociously verbalize etc? Lenore is twinned with her Gramma (most obviously by name) because like her grandmother she feels that she lacks a function and therefore is in a weird gray area in terms of being a person, since as Witt-chan says the meaning of something is associated with its function. Like the city swithcboard shaped like an actress's head (an actress herself associated with her grandmother), Lenore's thoughts are misdirected, and like a character in a fictional novel Lenore's story is told throughout by a rapid, obsessively detailed narrative voice much like that of Rick, her obsessive and jealous lover. The only chapter really in which we get any different style of dialogue is the childishly-written first one, where Lenore refuses to sign herself away to the men (and thus forfeits a function in the way women at the time often found one, namely by marrying).
Thanks, got them on my list.
Alright, but there's a thing I don't understand: does the main plot have an actual important role in the book, or is it there just to further symbolize the "language-philosophy"? What really happened to Lenore Senior? Is Lenore Jr, really dead? And why does the book end with half word?
i think it's more just 'personage' in general though. it really is an over-literary identity crisis.
dfw was prompted to write it when someone he knew said (presumably as a joke) she'd prefer to be a character in a novel. the book is a question of the difference. it is also fueled by the anxiety of switching from a science education to an english education and being doubtful of the usefullness in either, questioning what they make of you as a perosn.
he notes that the publishers were all pleased to see his novel was not just another young person's bildungsroman, but admitting later it was.
i see it as pretty much a quarter life crisis examined through the terms of intellectualization, like the lingustic element mentioned by the other poster (among other things)
and i think there is a solipsism element there too, the emphasis on being stuck with one's own self and unnable to communicate effectively to others (also highlighted in the various linguistic parts)
anyways op, Infinite Jest is a very different beast and loved by lots of people who didn't like Broom, it's also much clearer in its intentions and more overt in its theme. personally I kind of love Broom of The System. I recognize infinite jest as a more 'important' work, but there is a really fun energy to Broom as well as a sense of mystery some of the best of postmodernist writers capture where you feel the book knows more than the author does.
not to mention the gen-x nostalgia
My deal is that you're selling your existence short by investing in the illusion that by being able to paraphrase a wikipedia article you are somehow intelligent or genuinely informed about things you aren't. You're degrading yourself by parroting the opinions of other people, rephrasing them to make them sound like your own opinions. If this becomes a habit you will soon find yourself as a quiet echo of other peoples' thoughts, never possessing the sort of ironic and absurd confidence it takes to actually say what you mean without allowing your perspective on life to be entirely dictated by other people.
Speaking of Americana, in that book the protagonist has an eccentric friend who runs an equally eccentric niche radio show and there's no doubt in my mind that it had on influence on him when he came to write about Madame Psychosis