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Ella Minnow Pea : a progressively lipogrammatic epistolary fable
Mark Dunn
Adult Fiction DUNN

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Playwright Dunn tries his hand at fiction in this "progressively lipogrammatic epistolary fable," and the result is a novel bursting with creativity, neological mischief and clever manipulation of the English language. The story takes place in the present day on the fictional island of Nollop off the coast of South Carolina, where over a century earlier, the great Nevin Nollop invented a 35-letter panagram (a phrase, sentence or verse containing every letter in the alphabet). As the creator of "the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog," Nollop was deified for his achievement. The island's inhabitants live an anachronistic existence, with letter-writing remaining the principal form of communication. Life seems almost utopian in its simplicity until letters of the alphabet start falling from the inscription on the statue erected in Nollop's honor, and the island's governing council decrees that as each letter falls, it must be extirpated from both spoken and written language. Forced to choose from a gradually shrinking pool of words, the novel's protagonists a family of islanders seek ways to communicate without employing the forbidden letters. A band of intrepid islanders forms an underground resistance movement; their goal is to create a shorter panagram than Nollop's original, thereby rescinding the council's draconian diktat. The entire novel consists of their letters to each other, and the messages grow progressively quirkier and more inventive as alternative spellings ("yesters" for "yesterday") and word clusters ("yellow sphere" for "sun") come to dominate the language. Dunn obviously relishes the challenge of telling a story with a contracting alphabet. Though frequently choppy and bizarre, the content of the letters can easily be deciphered, a neat trick that elicits smiles. Wordsmiths of every stripe will appreciate this whimsical fable, in which Dunn brilliantly demonstrates his ability to delight and captivate. (Oct. 1) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Woe to the poor Nollopians. Some 100 years ago, they honored native son Nevin Nollop by erecting a statue of him, to which they affixed in tiles the sentence that made him famous: "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." The islanders venerated language, and peace and harmony blessed them for decades upon decades. Then the unthinkable happens the tiles begin to fall one by one, first the z, then the q, and on and on and the island's sense of harmony begins to crumble like the glue holding up the tiles. The loss of the z is considered an ethereal message from Nollop, and the island councilors respond by voting to banish it from all communication and impose progressive penalties for its use. As the other letters fall and more proclamations come down, suspicion and dread grip the islanders, who turn inone another in for violating the orders. In the meantime, a small cadre of citizens works tirelessly to halt the devastation. As a fable, this book works exceedingly well. The story, made up entirely of correspondence, conjures up the same mounting tension and repression as in "The Lottery" or Fahrenheit 451. But playwright Dunn also stirs a lot of farce and comic relief into the story with his characterization and with the stilted formality of the official edicts. And, with the ever-diminishing lexicon, the letters get more creative with spelling, word choice, and juxtaposition: "It wasn't wise 4 a person to paint her whole selph. Thing apowt this phirst. Yew will see that it is not healthy. Also, please answer yor portal when I rap." If you're up to the deciphering task, you'll go on a merry romp in this book. Highly recommended. Lisa Nussbaum, Dauphin Cty. Lib. Syst., Harrisburg, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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