Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Currently Reading

David Foster Wallace's first novel, The Broom of the System

I've read a lot about David Foster Wallace and have heard people speak very highly of his work; so I figured I had to read something of his.  But I didn't just want to dive into one of his more recent, and better-known works.  So I opted for The Broom of the System.

I'm only just 80 pages in to a 450+ work, so the jury is still out on a final assessment.  But I'm enjoying what I'm reading so far.  It's a bit bizarre and kinda campy, but it is clear that Wallace is a very talented writer and manipulator of language.

What has really grabbed my attention so far are the fantastically absurd and yet hilariously clever character names.

To wit: "Wang Dang" Lang (and no, he's not Asian); Mindy Metalman; Richard "Rick" Vigorous (and though it hasn't come up yet, I know that another nickname for Richard is "Dick" -- and I think it's not coincidental that Rick Vigorous is apparently much less than "vigorous" in the "package" department); Judith Preitht (think Judas Priest with a lisp), etc., etc. 

Then there's Rick Vigorous's business partner, Monroe Frequent.  They are co-owners of a publishing company at which one of the novel's principle characters, Lenore Beadsman, works as a phone switchboard operator.  So, we hear Lenore at work answering the switchboard phones with the constant refrain: "Frequent and Vigorous."

And I know from chatting with folks who have read the entire thing that there are even more great character names to come.

So far, though, I haven't quite gotten a clear sense of the main plotline or problem, if there even is any; but the writing is fun and enjoyable to read.

That's what's currently on my reading table.  But I wasn't a literary slouch over the past year, either, even though I didn't read any of the books I resolved to read last January.  I did do a fair bit of reading; and I think I will reflect and put together a list of what I did manage to read.

2 comments:

Eric said...

I tried to read Infinite Jest one time but it was just too all over the place and I didn't have the stamina to slog through 800+ pages of that. I remember thinking I would really like this guy's writing in a shorter story. May have to check this one out.

I just finished a great novel by Chuck Klosterman called "The Visible Man". He chooses an interesting way to tell an interesting story: The novel is a set of notes and emails from the female psychologist of a man who has invented a sort of 'invisibility suit' and is struggling with the moral implications of how he has decided to use it. The ending was exciting, but a bit of a let down considering the overall theme of the book... still it was a very entertaining and thought-provoking read. Highly recommended.

I love Klosterman's essay writing, but his first attempt at writing a novel fell flat with me. This one (his second attempt) was much better.

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