Usually I withstand the hyperbole about the latest ‘must-read’ book, but I have been frequently curious about David Foster Wallace. Some readers that I respect influenced me to order the recently published, unfinished The Pale King. In New York last week, I spotted a new edition of his first novel The Broom of the System. The cover of the Penguin Ink edition hooked me. Today, eighty pages in and the novel is chucked aside. It is not for me, a shimmering imitation of Pynchon and Salinger. Am I missing something?
>No, you are not missing something, but I would not have recommended that title. I believe that it was his undergrad senior thesis project or something to that effect? Probably the last thing I would have read by him, Infinite Jest being the first. Unfortunately since DFW's death, everything he wrote has become shiny and wonderful to marketers.
>Thank you, Frances. I won't let it deter me from reading Infinite Jest and The Pale King. For now, I'll turn to Stendhal.DFW's dying young is pretty much guarantee of canonisation, Kurt Cobain-effect.
>Hey, Anthony—It's a Pynchon homage/imitation, and perhaps a failure of a novel. I agree with Frances — IJ is the grand work, although I'm partial to the collection Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, which is almost like a novel in stories (*almost*). His essay collection A Supposedly Fun Thing is superb. But, if you're interested in his fiction, I'd go straight to the grand work, Infinite Jest.
>Thanks, biblioklept; my intention is to read IJ but I have The Pale King on its way from the US as well. I tried Brief Interviews and started off enjoying the stories, but drifted onto something else.I am glad I did not persist with Broom, expecting it to improve.