Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ella Minnow Pea: Orwell Meets Lewis Carroll, Writes Book

Book number 11 is complete. It was an odd book, called Ella Minnow Pea, by Mark Dunn. The plot premise concerns a small island whose residents worship Nevin Nollop, creator of the sentence “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” – the shortest sentence that contains all 26 letters of the alphabet (and used by many typing teachers for practice). The sentence is on a cenotaph honoring Nollop, and one by one, they fall off – an act interpreted by the High Council as a sign that the letters are to be banished from the alphabet. Punishments for violations are draconian; third offense results in banishment. Neighbors turn in neighbors, and inevitably, the council members use their position of power to gain advancement for themselves, confiscating property for their own use. It has a very Animal Farm quality to it.

The book is written in epistolary form, so the writers must obey the edicts as they write – resulting in the writing devolving over the course of the book to near-nonsense. It’s quite fun, really – as though Orwell was channeling the spirit of Lewis Carroll. The citizens attempt to conform, but as the language structure itself deteriorates, it is harder and harder for them to do so.

I enjoyed the book, but it’s not for everyone. When I described the plot to my husband, who I thought would enjoy it because he enjoys playing with language and torments me with his endless puns, he rolled his eyes and said, “I’m glad you like it, dear.” My stepson was all, “Yeah, whatever.” And my friend Cindy said, “I read that for my book group … you’re really enjoying that?”

I did, actually. 39 more books to go.


  1. I've heard of that - my friend rated it really highly. Thanks for bringing it to my attention again!
    Glad you enjoyed book no.3. What's next?

  2. I read this recently too (my review's here). It wasn't quite as exciting as I was expecting -- I was geeked to read it when I read the premise -- and though I agree that it's *definitely* not for everyone, I ended up liking it quite a bit.
    Great review!

  3. Not sure what I will read next. I'm looking at the pile and trying to decide. I will let you know when I do.

    Thank you for the comments! I really appreciate them.

  4. Hello, Thank you for following. I need your email address for the entry in the HUSH HUSH contest

  5. Hmm...I wonder if I'll enjoy it. The "not for everyone" is what concerns me. Usually that means it's not for me. ;)

    Good luck with the rest of the challenge!!

  6. Your description makes it almost unnecessary to read the book - because your description encapsulates the ideas in the book so well.


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