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David Foster Wallace's Balancing BooksFictions of Value$
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Jeffrey Severs

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780231179447

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231179447.001.0001

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Come to Work

Come to Work

Capitalist Fantasies and the Quest for Balance in The Broom of the System

(p.33) 1 Come to Work
David Foster Wallace's Balancing Books

Jeffrey Severs

Columbia University Press

The Broom of the System offers a covert dialogue with Reagan’s consolidation of the neoliberal agenda around a revived version of the Protestant call to work in the 1980s, driven by fears of the effects of a service economy. I unpack this novel’s preoccupation with work, other (less reliable) forms of creating and accruing value, and connected issues of language use: my foci include the leisure-based national literature represented by Rick Vigorous, the ersatz topoi of Protestantism and self-reliance embodied by Governor Zusatz and Reverend Sykes, and the countering force of Lenore Beadsman, importantly named (in what I show to be Wallace’s continual play with initials) for the pound, unit of weight, currency, and work. Lenore is associated with value, clarity, ground, the balance scale of justice, and, in a key early image of contingency in art, the miraculous value of lottery tickets.

Keywords:   The Broom of the System, Ronald Reagan, work

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