Ella Minnow Pea

by Mark Dunn | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 0413772950 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingmiketrollwing on 4/27/2006
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2 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingmiketrollwing on Thursday, April 27, 2006
I just finished this wonderful little novel, one of those books you wished you had read before. It was recommended to me many months ago by BCer, little-red. Then it came up again on the Waterstone's "Rediscover these" list presented by MartiP in her Book Talk thread, and so I at last picked it off Mount TBR.

Mark Dunn describes EMP as A Progressively Lipogrammatic Epistolary Fable. So it is. (Thoughtfully he explains the words.) It's also a little gem of a dystopian fantasy. EMP resonates as powerfully as Animal Farm, more strongly than Brave New World, and is better written than both. EMP deserves at least their popularity. Spread the word!

The story is the development of a simple Quixotic fancy: in the tiny autonomous island nation of Nollop, just 21 miles south-east of Charleston SC, stands a monument to a native son, Nevin Nollop. His claim to fame is the composition (allegedly) of the famous pangram: "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." Alas, the tiled letters on the monument proclaiming this message start to fall off one by one. The religious elders of Nollop then decree a prohibition on the use of the fallen letters....

At one level, this is a hugely enjoyable and somewhat silly exercise in wordplay; at another level, the tale is dark and grimly serious. EMP presents the distilled essence of tyranny. How absurd, how senseless, how inhuman to persecute, torture, banish large numbers of people because they write or utter certain letters of the alphabet!

But that's the point: real tyrannies ARE absurd, senseless, inhuman in their arbitrariness. Whether the tyrant is bent on mass murder of Jews or kulaks, or merely banning school text books about evolution, there is no reason beyond: coz we sez so, and if you know what's good for you, you'll shut up and like it!

There are many echoes in the story of tyrannies we know- the Salem witch hunts, Gestapo dependence on people willing to inform on their neighbours, Stalin's mass deportations to the Siberian Gulag. Also, intriguingly, there are hints of how things might develop if Dubya feels Fundie religion should take centre stage in American life.

Ella Minnow Pea is as original and unforgettable as it is brief. A small masterpiece.

Journal Entry 2 by BC-08080413432 from London, Greater London United Kingdom on Saturday, April 29, 2006
Picked up at the Cardiff meet. I've been wanting to read this for ages so I'm glad to have found it. To go on to molyneux when I've finished with it.

Journal Entry 3 by BC-08080413432 from London, Greater London United Kingdom on Tuesday, May 02, 2006
This is a lovely book. Very clever and charming and playful but at the same time carrying an important message about power and language. miketrollstigen has said it much better than I could!

I'll now send this on to molyneux.

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