In his all too brief career as a writer, David Foster Wallace was recognized quickly as the finest writer of our generation. A most astute assessment made by the likes of exceptional peers such as Rick Moody and David Lipsky; the latter, the author of a recent best-selling travel memoir, "Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself", recounting a five day road trip spent with Wallace. That Wallace was destined for literary greatness is clearly demonstrated in this novel, "The Broom of the System", written as an honors thesis at his undergraduate alma mater, Amherst College. It is an exceptional, fascinating, often compelling work of fiction that ranks with my own favorite outstanding modern literary debuts; "Neuromancer" (William Gibson), "Fool on the Hill" (Matt Ruff), and "Gun, With Occasional Music" (Jonathan Lethem). However, with the notable exception of Gibson, no other writer can lay claim to influencing an entire generation of his peers, like, for example, Rick Moody, whose most recent novels, "The Diviners" and "The Four Fingers of Death", could be seen as partial homages to Wallace's exceptional literary craft.
Wallace's greatest strength as a writer was his uncanny ear for great dialogue, which is one of the most admirable traits in "The Broom of the System". Another was his ability to create great characters like his heroine Lenore Stonecipher Beadsman. While the book is fundamentally a "Perils of Pauline" saga recounting the romantic - and otherwise - misadventures of Lenore, there are ample witty asides to everything from boardroom politics to Wittgenstein. I read this novel a few months ago, but I still can't get it out of my head, so compelling is Wallace's portrayal of Lenore and her friends and colleagues. This book is the literary equivalent of a delectable dish that can't be eaten for health reasons; an entire carton of Ben and Jerry's ice cream or a stack of Nathan's hotdogs devoured at Nathan's annual hotdog-eating contest. But it is a delectable sin that is well worth reading, displaying to all how remarkable Wallace's nascent literary talent was to be.