ella-minnow-pea

If you’re looking for a quick and fun read, please grab a copy of Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. The book follows a fictional island where they worship the creator of the pangram, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” The pangram is attached to a statue, but one day a letter tile falls off, “Z.” The high council rules this as a sign to banish “Z” from the alphabet. As more and more letter tiles begin to fall, fewer letters of the alphabet are available for use. How is the island to communicate? It’s cleverly written and absolutely a refreshing take on fiction. xo Pan

so i bought a used paperback from amazon.com and it looks like this

I DON’T KNOW IF YOU CAN READ THAT BUT IT HAS A KEY FOR TONE, WORD CHOICE, IMAGERY, SYNTAX, AND THEME.

LIKE OH MY GOD?? WAS THE PREVIOUS OWNER AN ENGLISH TEACHER OR AN UNDERGRAD STUDENT OR SOMETHING?? USED BOOKS ARE HEAVEN-SENT WTF.

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Book Review: Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn is one of the most quirky and innovative books I have read in some time. Set in the fictional island of Nollop off the coast of South Carolina, Ella, her family, and the people of Nollop are witness to a horrifying event: the outlawing of letters of the alphabet!

The island was named after Nevin Nollop, inventor of the phrase, “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.” At the center of town is a statue of Nollop with an epitaph of this very phrase below it. When letters begin to fall off, the island’s Council takes this as a sign from the grave of Nollop, and decides to outlaw the alphabet one letter at a time. First they lose ‘Z,’ a relatively simple loss and one that does not seem to affect very many. The entire book is written in letters to and from Ella, her family, and the townspeople. At first, this is only a simple form of communication, but eventually becomes the only way people communicate, as saying an illegal letter out loud leads to public humiliation, flogging, and eventual deportation if the offenses continue.

Much of the humor of this book comes from each new chapter when additional letters are lost, and language of Nollop changes from a most eleoquent sounding verse to a stuttered and almost childlike structure. At times difficult to read because the language was so “out there,” Ella Minnow Pea is hilarious and I would it read again just to figure out how Dunn could write such a story.

If my blog were restricted by the laws of a Tumblr Council, I imagine it would read a little something like this:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z I hear that Tumblr has decided to outlaw letters of the alphabet entirely! Supposedly some letters on their secretary’s keyboard have been falling off and they are taking this as a sign from some unnamed entity. As such, at precisely midnight tonight, ‘Y’ will no longer be among the other letters of the English language. Extracting the very essence of our language and forbidding its use is absolutely mad! No problems as of yet, but I can only imagine the complications that will arise should other letters fall off the keyboard. Outlawing letters, outrageous!

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X * Z Oh, writing without use of a certain letter is quite difficult. I must think further ahead in my writing than normal. It’s rather strange to have only have use of 25 letters and not 26. A good friend just emailed me. Tumblr has outlawed three more letters! Can someone tell the woman with the board with all those letters (writing that sentence without use of a certain letter was almost impossible!), to stop jamming her fingers so hard? Tonight the letters ‘D,’ ‘K,’ and ‘V’ will disappear. What a shame… Oh dear, the Tumblr Council informed me that I just used an illegal letter. It slipped right under me! Just a warning for now. What will happen next time? A B C * E F G H I J * L M N O P Q R S T U * W X * Z

I just learnt that the woman with the computer letters threw it on the floor in frustration. We lost almost all of them and most punctuation too, except these letters:

* B C * E * * * * * * L M N O * * R * T U * * * * *

Tumblr not nice…

The End

Well that was a fun exercise, and I have even more respect for Mark Dunn. I haven’t had that much fun writing in awhile. Read Ella Minnow Pea and experience it for yourself. And if you haven’t figured out what the title sounds like, give the alphabet song a whirl.

Lori’s Book Recommendations:  Ella Minnow Pea, by Mark Dunn

If you are a lover of books, words and language, you must read this book.  The author describes it as a “progressively lipogrammatic epistolary fable.”  I recommend this book to anyone who stands still long enough.  It was one of my go-to recommendations when I worked at Borders and I had more customers than I can count come back to tell me how much they loved it.  I bet I hand-sold fifty copies of this book.

It is epistolary, i.e. told in the form of letters written between the characters, who are the residents of the independent island nation of Nollop, off the coast of South Carolina.  Nollop’s most famous resident and namesake is Nevin Nollop, who invented the phrase “the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.”  A statue of Nollop and a cenotaph of the phrase stands in the town square.

One night, a storm comes and one of the letter tiles in the phrase falls off the cenotaph.  The town elders decide that this constitutes a sign from Nollop, that his divine commandment is that they are no longer to use that letter, in speech or in writing.  The punishments are harsh and the consequences immediate.  The citizens at first try to go along, but then another letter falls, and then another…

The genius of the book is that its epistolary format means that the author must abide by the same rules of letter use that the citizens are being forced to use.  So as the book progresses, letters are excised from the text one at a time (which is what “progressively lipogrammatic” means, by the way).  The heroine, Ella, spearheads an effort by the desperate citizens to prove that Nollop isn’t divine by coming up with a sentence that uses all 26 letters of the alphabet but is shorter than the “quick brown fox” sentence.

The culmination of this plot literally had me leaping from my chair and shouting and dancing about the room.

It is a delightful, charming book that nevertheless contains some biting satire about the tyranny of oligarchs and even the blind adherence to a dogma.  It is also a love letter to anyone who values literacy and language.  It’s a short book, a fast read.  I did it in one afternoon.

I’m reading a book called Ella Minnow Pea, which is also the name of the main character.  She lives in a place dedicated to the man who coined the sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” which includes all the letters in the English alphabet.  The town is slowly banning a new letter every month, and all recidents must adhere to this by neither writing nor speaking any words with these banned letters in them, lest they be punished and banished.

I’m more than half way through and I just understood the title of the book.

Ella Minnow Pea.

Say it out loud.  Say it faster.  Say it until your brain says, “OH DUH.”

Walking back to the library after a trip to the post office, I saw a copy of one of my favorite books lying in a bin outside a used books store. It was an advance reader’s edition, but, based on the rigid spine, had certainly never been read.

Poor Mark Dunn. The thought of the unworthy Cynthia pained me so much, I knew I had to take this book home. You’ll get read, Ella Minnow Pea. I’ll make sure of it. 

2014 Books Read (so far)

I’ve been so busy finishing up my grad school thesis; it’s been forever since I’ve written an original book review. BUT I’ve still been doing plenty of reading, as it’s my favorite way to relax when I’m stressed, and procrastinate when I have work to do.

 I’m listing the books I’ve read so far in 2014, by order of my preference instead of date read. If anyone has questions or wants to my opinion on any of these reads, let me know!

1. Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn

2. The Dinner by Herman Koch

3. Maze Runner series by James Dashner

            The Maze Runner

            The Scorch Trials

            The Death Cure

            The Kill Order

4. The Magicians series by Lev Grossman

            The Magicians

            The Magician King

5. I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley

6. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

7. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

8. Skippy Dies by Paul Murray

9. Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn, David Levithan

10. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

11. Divergent series by Veronica Roth

            Divergent

            Insurgent

            Allegiant

12. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

13. Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld

            Uglies

            Pretties

            Specials

            Extras