Read L'escombra del sistema by David Foster Wallace Free Online
Book Title: L'escombra del sistema|
The author of the book: David Foster Wallace
ISBN: No data
ISBN 13: No data
Edition: Edicions del Periscopi
Date of issue: February 2013
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 19.93 MB
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Reader ratings: 4.4
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"I think I had kind of a mid-life crisis at twenty, which probably doesn't augur real well for my longevity. So what I did, I went back home for a term, planning to play solitaire and stare out the window, whatever you do in a crisis. And all of a sudden I found myself writing fiction."
It was 1986 and he was 24 years old when it was published. He began writing it fresh out of a fairly tumultuous mental health crisis at age 22 (or as he put it "a young 22") while simultaneously writing a highly technical philosophy thesis at Amherst in order to graduate with a double major in philosophy and English. Regardless of any of its debut-novel flaws, these extra-textual facts should help to compel most who've read this unique, relentlessly funny and youthfully ambitious book.
To echo some basic points made quite often—no, it doesn't pack the same punch as Infinite Jest, of course—pretty much nothing does. Yes, it has some debut-novel flaws, but incredibly minor ones and ones that I can't really name specifically—there's just a vague sense of a sort of green incompleteness that's absent from his other work, the exact source of which is hard to pin down. It may just have something to do with the competition; Infinite Jest comparisons haven't been escapable since '96 and it simply dwarfs most books and not merely on a scale measured by pages or centimeters.
The book's harshest critic that I've encountered has been the author himself. In what is still probably the single most impressive interview with a writer that I've ever read (and re-read too many times to count) the following rapidfire, seemingly annoyed, self-slagging paragraph spills out of a yet still youthful (c. 1993) Wallace six years after Broom was published:
DFW: Think of The Broom of the System as the sensitive tale of a sensitive young WASP who’s just had this mid-life crisis that’s moved him from coldly cerebral analytic math to a coldly cerebral take on fiction and Austin-Wittgenstein-Derridean literary theory, which also shifted his existential dread from a fear that he was just a 98.6°F calculating machine to a fear that he was nothing but a linguistic construct. This WASP’s written a lot of straight humor, and loves gags, so he decides to write a coded autobio that’s also a funny little post-structural gag: so you get Lenore, a character in a story who’s terribly afraid that she’s really nothing more than a character in a story. And, sufficiently hidden under the sex-change and the gags and theoretical allusions, I got to write my sensitive little self-obsessed bildungsroman. The biggest cackle I got when the book came out was the way all the reviews, whether they stomped up and down on the overall book or not, all praised the fact that at least here was a first novel that wasn’t yet another sensitive little bildungsroman.
I disagree with the extent of his public, self-depricating take, but have a real soft spot for those helplessly under the spell of rigorous self-dissatisfaction, so we break even with a smile in my heart for ol' painfully self-conscious Dave. Plus, he just remains hilarious and entertaining even in these fits of seemingly unjustified or overly dismissive criticism.
As is natural with any writer who developes a unique voice and point of view, one can easily see this as the precursor to his later works. The seedlings are all there in plain view: thematically, stylistically, structurally. One might be tempted to call this something like Infinite Jest Jr. if it didn't sound like something only a totally unthoughtful or phony or lazy critic might say, but the connections can rather effortlessly be made, that's the point.
I actually think that this book is more consistently entertaining than his others. There are boring sections of Infinite Jest and The Pale King and anyone who says otherwise is a goddamn liar. But this book, to me, more or less has zero dips. It's also the most purely comedic novel of the three. There are some touching and intense scenes, but mostly I sense so much symbolic meaning behind much of the plot, action, dialogue and omniscient description that it's also his least harrowingly humane novel. This is all in comparison to two "pants-crapping-awesome" (to borrow a Kowalskian phrase) novels, so take each assessment with a grain of salt.
And it just might be possible that perhaps one needs an interest in philosophy, psychology, linguistics or just a good ol' fashion liberal arts education for much of what I found funny to be seen as such, but nonetheless, this was my experience with it. So much of the "intellectual" content I took to be scathing satire of the failures of academia and largely influenced by the fact that he was still in college while writing this. All of the therapy scenes for instance, while simultaneously making some legitimately interesting points about human psychology, were just one long chuckle for me. Or the sort of mock-Lacanian, Self/Other stuff that Norman Bombardini pontificates about while stuffing his face and trying to become large enough to fill the universe. The introductory scene with this character had me laughing hysterically (hand over my mouth, high volume, zero control) on my bus ride to work one morning. I remember it fondly. Part of what's so funny about it is the same thing so many haterz find repulsive about books in the postmodern canon: a supposed lack of "realism." Why does everybody speak so unrealistically? would be the best way to sum up the charges. Wallace has a rather trademarked style of coupling baroque or academic language with slang and blunt utterances. This more often than not has a comedic effect, however, since it's used throughout a book so sub-textually concerned with language itself, it also makes for a beautiful pairing—styles and themes snugly juxtaposed, everything in its right place. To quote something further from the previously cited interview about "realism" that I think nails how I feel:
DFW: Well, it depends whether you’re talking little-r realistic or big-R. If you mean is my stuff in the Howells/Wharton/Updike school of U.S. Realism, clearly not. But to me the whole binary of realistic vs. unrealistic fiction is a canonical distinction set up by people with a vested interest in the big-R tradition. A way to marginalize stuff that isn’t soothing and conservative. Even the goofiest avant-garde agenda, if it’s got integrity, is never, "Let’s eschew all realism," but more, "Let’s try to countenance and render real aspects of real experiences that have previously been excluded from art." The result often seems "unrealistic" to the big-R devotees because it’s not a recognizable part of the "ordinary experience" they’re used to countenancing.
Wallace goes on later in that interview to make some brilliant points about the need for fiction writing to have well-crafted elements that remind the reader that they're engaged in a form of communication with the author, which I think speaks to some complaints about the lack of variation or "realism" in the cast's ways of speaking in work such as Wallace's and other prime suspects like DeLillo et al. These points are also elegantly and cogently tied to the deeper ongoing agenda of his writing: to alleviate despair, loneliness, alienation, etc.
Some of my favorite parts of this book are when Rick Vigorous, editor at a quarterly lit-mag, recounts some of the short fiction submissions to his undeserved girlfriend (and the book's ostensible center of narrative gravity) Lenore Stonecipher Beadsman. The tales are told often as they lay in bed together at the end of the day. The submissions are commented on as not being very good or being too weird or too sad, but again I disagree with Wallace's/"Rick's" judgments here. It occurred to me that this may've been a way for Wallace to covertly sneak in some short story ideas he'd had but previously self-critically knocked down as being subpar, without having to put them out there as legitimate efforts. But it's also possible that he was just making fun of a kind of story writing that he saw fellow writers turning out that annoyed or otherwise displeased him. Or some combination of the two motives. Regardless, I really enjoyed all of them.
There are also layers of Wittgensteinian philosophy embedded in the thematic substrata of this book. I'll recommend this (which I've read and enjoyed) and this (which I haven't read yet but that I know has relevant essays in it) to those interested in seeing all the neat ways in which ideas about metaphysics and the nature of language and the written word are examined and promulgated in between the lines and occasionally are the lines.
Outside of these loftier sub-agendas there's really just a delicious bulk of hilarious, absurdist, and lovingly-detailed storytelling and world-building at the helm of this relatively stunning freshmen effort. I'd like to see a better novel written by a 22 year-old, but it seems pretty unlikely. Bring it on, whippersnappers.
As I mention in my original non-review review-like thing from a few years ago, now seated a paragraph below and spared from deletion out of sentimentality: This was the last fictional work of Wallace's that I made my way to along my ravenous "Why helloooooo there, Mr. Wallace" readerly journey. It also just so happens to be the first book he ever published. Firsts and lasts and births and deaths. Get it? It felt meaningful and weighty at the time when I struggled to turn feelings into preserved keystrokes while feeling particularly sad about his all-too-final bow:
I find it fitting in a initially intuitive and deeply, personally meaningful way that the one DFW book I've yet to read is his novelistic beginning and is going to be read last by myself; considering the horrible events of September 12th, 2008; considering the nature of things beginning and ending; considering the near-constant ruminations on such things being heightened in new and more profound ways all of the time; considering that the successive passage of time implicitly involves more and more bearing witness to myriad beginnings and endings; considering my love for what I've come to understand The Author to "be" via his writing and talking; considering the ways in which we long to reverse the march of history, the fundamental law of entropy, the physical constant known to science as the rate of decay; considering that this dead man was once a little bit younger than myself when he officially kicked off what would be a body of work that will long surpass his own working body; considering, just considering...
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Read information about the authorDavid Foster Wallace worked surprising turns on nearly everything: novels, journalism, vacation. His life was an information hunt, collecting hows and whys. "I received 500,000 discrete bits of information today," he once said, "of which maybe 25 are important. My job is to make some sense of it." He wanted to write "stuff about what it feels like to live. Instead of being a relief from what it feels like to live." Readers curled up in the nooks and clearings of his style: his comedy, his brilliance, his humaneness.
His life was a map that ends at the wrong destination. Wallace was an A student through high school, he played football, he played tennis, he wrote a philosophy thesis and a novel before he graduated from Amherst, he went to writing school, published the novel, made a city of squalling, bruising, kneecapping editors and writers fall moony-eyed in love with him. He published a thousand-page novel, received the only award you get in the nation for being a genius, wrote essays providing the best feel anywhere of what it means to be alive in the contemporary world, accepted a special chair at California's Pomona College to teach writing, married, published another book and, last month [Sept. 2008], hanged himself at age 46.
-excerpt from The Lost Years & Last Days of David Foster Wallace by David Lipsky in Rolling Stone Magazine October 30, 2008.
Among Wallace's honors were a Whiting Writers Award (1987), a Lannan Literary Award (1996), a Paris Review Aga Khan Prize for Fiction (1997), a National Magazine Award (2001), three O. Henry Awards (1988, 1999, 2002), and a MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant.
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