Mighty Red Pen

January 27, 2008

A novel novel

A recent recommendation by Our Bold Hero over at Notes from the Copyeditor led me to check out Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters, an inventive and unusual novel by Mark Dunn.

The gimmick is this: it’s an epistolary, lipogrammatic novel. Huh? It’s a novel written in letters (correspondence), carefully composed to progressively avoid more and more letters of the alphabet. Here’s a description:

Ella Minnow Pea is a girl living happily on the fictional island of Nollop off the coast of South Carolina. Nollop was named after Nevin Nollop, author of the immortal phrase containing all the letters of the alphabet, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” Ella finds herself acting to save her friends, family, and fellow citizens from the encroaching totalitarianism of the island’s Council, which has banned the use of certain letters of the alphabet as they fall from a memorial statue of Nevin Nollop.

The story is charming and the conceit is certain to appeal to word nerds. It’s a work of great creativity and originality, to be sure, although the writing is a tad precious, for example:

On Wednesday, July 19, the Council, having gleaned and discerned, released its official verdict: the fall of the tile bearing the letter “Z” constitutes the terrestrial manifestation of an empyrean Nollopian desire, that desire most surely being that the letter “Z” should be utterly excised–fully extirpated–absolutely heave-ho’ed from our communal vocabulary!

Holy SAT words, Batman! You’ll definitely exercise your vocabulary.

In any case, it’s certainly a big step up from my most recent alphabet-related adventure, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

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