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Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark…
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Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters (original 2001; edition 2002)

by Mark Dunn

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,5551922,358 (3.89)385
Member:tiffin
Title:Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters
Authors:Mark Dunn
Info:Anchor (2002), Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:Modern American Lit.

Work details

Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn (2001)

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    bookwoman247: Word play and language are an intregal part of both books. Ella Minnow Pea is a bit more sophisticated, but for adults or teens who enjoyed Haroun and the Sea of Stories, I think they will also find Ella Minnow Pea very enjoyable.
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» See also 385 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 193 (next | show all)
Read this one for our July book club meeting. Is it possible to create a single sentence using every letter of the alphabet. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

The town statue has this very plaque by the creator of the sentence and when letters begin to slowly fall off instead of repairing the plaque the civic leaders choose to ban the use of the letters as they begin to fall.

The book is about censorship and unintended consequences of rules that are not thought out before they are put into effect. ( )
  yvonne.sevignykaiser | Apr 2, 2016 |
This is one of a handful of books where I think it's helpful to know the basic conceit of the book before you start. I marked this as to-read ages ago, but by the time I started, I'd forgotten anything about the premise. As a result, I found it really difficult to get through the first chapter (I felt a little bit lost) and considered giving up and moving on to another book. However, I ended up re-reading its description on goodreads and got excited about it all over again -- and from there, very much enjoyed the creativity of this book.

The subtitle is "A Novel in Letters" -- which is a neat little line of double-meaning, since the novel is told both in the form of letters from person to person, and also a novel about letters, literally -- about what happens when letters disappear from use. The title is fun too; say it out loud if you haven't figured it out yet. The rest of the book is just as clever. ( )
  BraveNewBks | Mar 10, 2016 |
Somewhere off the coast of South Carolina, there is an island called Nollop. And the people of that island believe that the sentence "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog", found by Nevin Nollop, is the most important thing in the world (and they even named their island after him). A huge statue in the middle of the city has the sentence printed in big letters and one day "Z" falls over. The elders of the island believe that this is a sign that Z need to be forbidden.

The world of Nollop had not lost the art of writing letters and that novel is told in the letters of the different people that lived in and around the town. The main character is Ella Minnow Pea, a young girl that grew up on the island and most of the letters are either to her or from her or somehow related to her. Of course after Z, more of the letters start falling off and the elders keep forbidding them which makes the letters writing a bit... problematic.

I love linguistics and the first 2/3rd of the novel are a great exploration of language and power. Then when the number of letters dwindle, the rules change and people can write "phonetically" - which undoes a lot of the magic of the novel. Rules seem to change just because the author cannot tell the story anymore without changing them. The novel could have just stopped there - without evolving into the end story - it would have been even more powerful.

The end game of course is finding another sentence to replace the first one; proving that there is at least one more that contains all letters of the alphabet. Trying to work it out is not that easy when you cannot type a lot of the letters - and finding a way to pass a message without using them makes that an exercise in linguistics (and makes the last few chapters even worse).

It is a nice novel, marred by the need the author felt to make it longer, but still worth a read. ( )
1 vote AnnieMod | Mar 6, 2016 |
5***** and a ❤

On a fictitious island nation off the coast of South Carolina, the people pride themselves on their literacy and writing. Their founder, Nevin Nollop, is credited with writing "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." A sentence that contains all the letters of the alphabet, and which is memorialized in the town square. But when a letter tile falls from the monument, the Council takes that as a "sign" from above, and decrees that they should no longer use THAT letter. The far-reaching ramifications of this, and subsequent, decrees (as more letters fall from the monument) test the imagination, strength and patience of the residents.

The novel is told in epistolary form, and their missives adhere to the ever more restrictive rules as the book progresses. From finding synonyms to creative substitute spellings and even use of numbers, Ella and her friends and family try valiantly to maintain communication. You wouldn’t think the loss of one letter of the alphabet would have much impact. But what if you lost “V” and could no longer express your love? Or “H” and could no longer worship? More importantly, as residents flee the restrictions (or are forced out due to violating the laws), the entire society begins to crumble. Still, Ella and a handful of family and friends fight against the edicts and with the hope of returning their beloved island nation to a place where literacy is once again appreciated.

I had read this before and had a lovely discussion about it with my college roommate’s daughter. A few years ago she gave me the special illustrated gift edition, which has been sitting patiently on my shelves along with other “special” books. I’m so glad I took it off the shelf and read it at this time. This is a wonderful little satire on the use/abuse of power, but it is also a love letter to all of us who love and cherish words.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

UPDATE: 02Dec14 - reread the book and updated my review. ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 26, 2016 |
What a fun read. Don't know why I have been avoiding it for such a long time. It was a recommendation from the podcast Books on the Nightstand, and their summary "talked me into it" so I will share it here as well...

This is an epistolary novel (big word, huh? It is defined at the beginning of the book itself,otherwise I would never have had any idea that there was a specific name for a book told via letters and notes that the characters write to each other). The concept is that there is an island off the coast of the Southern US, that is its own sovereign nation. It was founded by the man who first wrote the sentence "the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog," and they have a statue of this man in their capital city. The statue includes tiles spelling out the sentence, and one day one of the tiles falls off. The ruling council declares that this means that the people on the island can no longer use that letter in written or spoken form, or they will be punished, with a third offense leading to banishment from the island or death.

As the novel continues, more letters fall, and what started out seeming like a quirky, fun challenge that the author set for himself, is transformed into a somewhat dystopian story that reminded me a bit of Margaret Atwood.

Anyway, I enjoyed it very much, and at less than 200 pages, it was a quick palette cleanser after giving up on "Atlas Shrugged". ( )
  magerber | Feb 22, 2016 |
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Epigraph
In the beginning was the Word.

- Gospel of John, Chapter 1, Verse 1
The wicked peon quivered,

then gazed balefully at the judges

who examined him.

- Anonymous Typesetter
Dedication
For Mary
First words
Nollopton. Sunday, July 23. Dear Cousin Tassie, Thank you for the lovely postcards.
Quotations
For the present, it is easier for us to turn away. Our repulsion, you see, will not spur us to revolt until this plague moves much closer to home.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
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References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
Haiku summary
Letters about a
Sign with letters that fall off.
Let her freedom ring.
(_debbie_)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385722435, Paperback)

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 pangram,* “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” Now 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. As the letters progressively drop from the statue they also disappear from the novel. The result is both a hilarious and moving story of one girl’s fight for freedom of expression, as well as a linguistic tour de force sure to delight word lovers everywhere.

*pangram: a sentence or phrase that includes all the letters of the alphabet

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:33 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

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 pangram, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." Now 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. As the letters progressively drop from the statue they also disappear from the novel. The result is both a hilarious and moving story of one girl's fight for freedom of expression, as well as a linguistic tour de force sure to delight word lovers everywhere.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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