14 March, 2021

The Broom of the system

BY David Foster Wallace

Book Information1/1/0/US/VP/1987/1,300?  •  ?  •  ?


This is the first edition, hard-cover version of David Foster Wallace's debut, possibly the most scarce of all his first edition publication, with rumored 1,300 copies only. A soft copy version was simultaneously published under the "Contemporary American Fiction" series of unknown copies. And I got this book for the Strand Bookstore quite many years ago, evidence by the rather rigid clear protector, which Strand used (maybe still uses) for its rare books, affixed with a "Rare Book Room" sticker in gold. The latter part was for nostalgia, and the book serves as an objectivist totem of my times spent in New York City, in late 2000s, as a young Quantitative Associate (that's the actual title) working for a then bulge bracket after graduate school in the west coast. Collecting David Foster Wallace then seemed trendy, and intellectual, especially with "The Broom of the System" that deals with philosophy and language. The Wittgenstein influence, especially on philosophical questions as merely linguistic confusion, or not, certainly resonated with my younger self who was earning a philosophy degree part time. 

One thing's unchanged. I've always like the cover design. It seems to me an early form of digital art with a subtle form of chaotic vibrancy that the female protagonist dealt with in twirling, dancing grace. I looked up on the designer recently, and chanced upon her short, poignant blog detailing her post retrenchment life: how she tried to put a structure to the new everyday-is-a-weekend routine, her personal resentment to her published but less than acclaimed debut novel, and her quiet despair over failed promises, broken dreams, and self doubt. These quotidian concerns, in varying forms, are real, and get increasing visceral with age. There is no country for no men.















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