Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

January 21, 2016 Epistolary, Language 11

Good Day, Bookworms!

Last year I participated in a super fun book blogger Valentine gift swap and received a copy of Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. It took me nearly a year to get around to reading it, of course, but you understand. The burden of an overflowing TBR list is a real struggle.  Read it, I did, though, and now I’m going to tell you all about it.

ellaminnowpeaThe titular main character of Ella Minnow Pea is a young woman living on a fictional island off the coast of South Carolina. The island nation of Nollop was named for Nevin Nollop, the man credited with creating the pangram “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” A favorite of typing students everywhere, no? (Oh my gosh, do they even teach typing and keyboarding anymore? Excuse me while I crank up my Victrola and lament my age.) All is well in the little nation of luddites until letters begin falling off Nollop’s statue. The town’s totalitarian council takes the letters falling as a sign that Nollop is sending them a message from the great beyond and they ban the usage of any letters that have fallen from the statue in both speech and writing.

As this is an epistolary novel, the entire plot unfolds via letters written by Nollop’s inhabitants. As letters are progressively removed from the alphabet, the residents are forced to get wildly creative with their vocabulary. Remember that episode of Gilmore Girls where Rory is introduced to the Life and Death Brigade and runs across a group of over privileged dudes who are speaking without the use of the letter “e”? It’s a bit like that, only it wasn’t a game and you could get yourself severely punished by slipping up. As more and more letters were removed from the alphabet, the missives got increasingly more difficult to read.

I want to take this book at face value and think of it as a quirky little book playing with language. Unfortunately, if I think about it too hard, it feels like it’s going hardcore at allegory territory and I don’t really care for any of the allegories I’m coming up with. I guess I’d better quit thinking so hard about it, huh? I’ll end up foisting all sorts of unintentional meaning upon the thing and lose all the enjoyment I got from it. That’s it. I’m turning off my brain right now. We’re done here.

Talk to me, Bookworms! Do you ever feel like you read too much into an author’s motives? 

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11 Responses to “Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn”

  1. Lindsey

    I’ve heard this one is a fun read, but I haven’t read too much about the allegories. Now I’m kind of curious…:)

    Also, good news! They do still teach typing – my second grader was excited to show me his progress on home row the other day.

    • Words For Worms

      That’s the thing! I’m not even sure if there ARE any allegories to be had or if I’m projecting things onto the book because I’m cranky! I am so relieved to hear that typing is still a thing that is taught- I sort of assumed children just picked it up on their own these days.

  2. Jennine G

    I always feel like I haven’t noticed half of what it supposed to! And, the teaching of typing is becoming less and less. It’s been officially removed form out junior high curriculum. Makes no sense with everything being technology based.

  3. ThatAshGirl

    First off….I totally took keyboarding in Grade 9. Those keyboards with no letters on them were a bitch.

    I think the name is cutesy and clever but I tend to dislike books that are trying too hard to be clever.

  4. Andi M. (@estellasrevenge)

    This one smacked of motives to me. Not that that’s a bad thing necessarily, but I tend to find allegory and/or satire a little tiresome after a while. This one was fun and clever, but I’m kinda glad it was short!

  5. Jenny @ Reading the End

    I’m with Andi in that I can get tired of allegory and satire very fast. But I think Ella Minnow Pea works despite all that — it’s short, as y’all both note, and it’s also just fun, which helps. It’s hard to focus on What It Might All Mean when you’re watching Mark Dunn tie himself in knots to avoid forbidden letters!

  6. DoingDewey

    Haha, I have the same problem getting to book swap books. I’m trying to read more books I own this year though and hopefully I’ll get better about it. I really like books written in interesting formats and epistolary novels in general, so I’d love to check this out.

Talk to me, Bookworms!

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