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Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters (2001)

by Mark Dunn

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,3232373,005 (3.88)425
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)
  1. 20
    The Wonderful O by James Thurber (SylviaC)
    SylviaC: Both stories use a light touch to look at language and censorship.
  2. 21
    Tepper Isn't Going Out: A Novel by Calvin Trillin (amysisson)
    amysisson: Both are deceptively simple stories that highlight absurdity in human behavior.
  3. 21
    Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie (bookwoman247)
    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.
  4. 00
    Just a Couple of Days by Tony Vigorito (sturlington)
    sturlington: Breakdown of language
  5. 00
    The ACB with Honora Lee by Kate De Goldi (GirlMisanthrope)
    GirlMisanthrope: Short sweet charming book , featuring the alphabet
  6. 00
    The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips (4leschats)
    4leschats: Similar aspects of word play demonstrate how the abstract nature of language creates, alters, and describes our concrete experiences.
  7. 12
    Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (Runa)
  8. 01
    The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (Yells)
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» See also 425 mentions

English (236)  Dutch (1)  All languages (237)
Showing 1-5 of 236 (next | show all)
Mark Dunn's "Ella Minnow Pea" was OK. But I've read Georges Perec's "A Void" and seen how brilliant a similar concept can be, so it really didn't impress. ( )
  amerynth | Oct 1, 2021 |
A sweet and surprisingly easily readable novel about an island's corrupt Council slowly dropping letters from the alphabet.

I couldn't quite tell what time period the novel was supposed to be set in - sometime in the 1900's? More recent? - but it doesn't really matter. There's a little island of the United States, populated by separatists who got it declared a sovereign nation, who revere Nollop for creating the immortal sentence "the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." They revere him to such an extent that they believe what he did impossible. When letters start falling off his statue, they then must, of course, remove those letters from their reality.

Language is obviously a huge part of this book, and you can tell Dunn loves it, and loves words. The letters that Ella and her cousin exchange are filled with different words, for the pure joy of using them. When they begin excising letters, the result takes a little while to notice, as there are so many alternative words they can use. But it does become noticeable, and, soon, many are leaving Nollop, voluntarily or otherwise.

There's not much plot devoted to why the Council decides as they do, or how they're monitoring everyone, but it doesn't really matter. This is a novel about language and it's use, not about politics and free speech. I do wish Dunn had decided that a little more firmly, though. We don't need the little revelation that Nollop was a schemer and fame-hungry.

I also disliked that, eventually, everyone left except Ella, because they told her she had to stay and fight for everyone. That's so unfair and cruel! Though it was pleasant to see the little community that popped up from those who remained. ( )
  Elna_McIntosh | Sep 29, 2021 |
SECOND READING:
A bit more grim because it's a bit more real. All about censorship and bad government. It wasn't as fun this time. But still very well done.

FIRST READING:

Clever little phonetic fable that crescendos up to a frantic tipping point bordering on insanity. Dunn slowly takes you on a journey from light-hearted detachment to serious emotional attachment. Very talented. Can he top this? Probably not. ( )
  OutOfTheBestBooks | Sep 24, 2021 |
I'd never before read such an interesting book. The complexity behind each word is surprising and I congratulate Mark Dunn for this exceptional epistolary novel.
The title of the book alone (Ella Minnow Pea=LMNOP) proves its geniality. ( )
  _Marcia_94_ | Sep 21, 2021 |
When this book started out I thought it was going to be one of those pretentious books about reading like If On A Winters Night A Traveler by Italo Calvino where it's all self-referential and definitely marketed to those types of people who say stuff like "we're so much better than everyone else because we read books and we're intellectuals" and to some degree this book was absolutely like this (albeit less misogynist than Calvino's attempt at metafiction)
I think the first half of it was pretty boring and the entire book seemed based on a single gimmick. The characters had little to no development and there was hardly a need for a plot because we already knew where it was going to go. This book was little more than a vessel for a linguistic gimmick. But I have to say, the second half of the book picked up a good deal and I was pretty entertained and impressed by the literary gymnastics the author went through.
I also think it was a fairly surface level critique of totalitarianism and didn't really make any sort of point about it. It felt kind of like a flippant treatment if im being completely honest.
En somme, it was vapid but somewhat fun to read. ( )
  jooniper | Sep 10, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 236 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mark Dunnprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gall, JohnCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Risberg, MiaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Williams, ClaireCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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
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Wikipedia in English (3)

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.

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

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