Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ella Minnow Pea

When Scott Pack first told me the idea behind Mark Dunn's book Ella Minnow Pea, I could feel myself go rigid with excitement.

The book's premise involves a statue of Nevin Nollop, the author of the sentence 'The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog' on the small island of Nollop. Nothing much happens in Nollop, but then one day a Z falls off the sentence and the Island council decree that no one should use the letter Z as a result. The islanders see this a quaint decision to begin with, and even plan Z farewell parties, until reality hits. They are faced with a death sentence (appropriately!) if they ever use a Z in their spoken or written language. Then a Q falls off, and more and more letters are banned as they drop one by one off the sentence. Eventually - guess what - only L,M,N,O,P remain - Nevin Nollop lives on!

The book is billed as 'A Progressively Lipogrammatic Epistolary Fable', but what I love about it is that it's so much more than a great idea. I started reading it thinking it would be fun, but found it swiftly chilling. It's got one of the sweetest love stories in it - in fact two, and the book even becomes a thriller as the search for an alternative sentence develops. One page of the book is this simple decree:

G go tinite at mitnite. No more 'G'. So long 'G'.

I often worry I'm too geeky in how much I love wordplay, but this book makes me feel better. I can't believe I missed it first time round, but am so happy to have discovered it now. If nothing else for these alternative days of the week when 'D' drops off the sentence, and therefore out of the language:

"For Sunday, please use Sunshine
For Monday, please use Monty
For Tuesday, please use Toes
For Wednesday, please use Wetty
For THursday, please use Thurby
For Friday, please use Fribs
For Saturday, please use Satto-gatto.
Parents: you may wish to help your children absorb these new words by turning the process into a game of some sort, simple flash cards also constituting a tried and efficient course"

Have a good Toes today everyone....

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