Ella Minnow Pea, by Mark Dunn
MacAdam/Cage Publishing, 2001
Lovers of language rejoice! Mark Dunn has provided the world with a positively FUN novel in Ella Minnow Pea.

On the fictional island of Nollop, which lies just off the coast of South Carolina, the trouble starts when the letter Z falls off a monument. This isn't just any monument; the inhabitants built the monument to honor their hero, Nevin Nollop, inventor of the pangram The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog. Island leaders take this as a sign from beyond that the letter should be banished from use.

As you might expect, other letters begin to fall of the monument and the island is faced with an ever diminishing vocabulary from which to draw upon, unless someone else can come up with a pangram  a sentence using all letters of the alphabet with minimal reuse of letters  of the same number of characters or fewer, than the one devised by Nevin Nollop.

Dunn first became fascinated with "lipograms"  writings crafted to avoid using one or more letters of the alphabet  when he cam across a series of "Mary had a little lamb" poems, each of which omitted a different letter of the alphabet. In writing Ella Minnow Pea, Dunn decided to follow the rules he set up for the islanders.

Told as a series of postal missives, each chapter calls for omitting one more letters of the alphabet. And I must applaud Dunn for his ability to accomplish this, which must've resulted in many references to his thesaurus.

Few of us stop to think about how many ways there are of saying the same thing, while it is precisely our wording of ideas and thoughts which differentiates a Hemmingway from a Baudelaire, from a Jackie Collins. Dunn has given us a whole new perspective on word choices with his unique and engaging story.

Plays by Dunn:  A Delightful Quarantine; Belles: A play in two acts and thirty-nine phone calls; Cabin Fever: A Texas Tragicomedy; The Deer & the Antelope Play; Dix Tableaux: A Play in Ten Scenes; Five Tellers Dancing in the Rain; Frank's Life; Gendermat: A One-Act Play; Helen's Most Favorite Day; Judge and Jury; Minus Some Buttons; PIGmalion; and Sand Pies and Scissorlegs.

Fiction by Dunn:  The Age Altertron (Calamitous Adventures of Rodney and Wayne, Cosmic Repairboys (ages 9-12); Ibid: A Novel; and Welcome to Higby.


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