Ella Minnow Pea is an epistolary novel set in the fictional island of Nollop situated off the coast of South Carolina and home to the inventor the pangram The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog. Now deceased, the islanders have erected a monument to honor their hero, but one day a tile with the letter “z” falls from the statue. The leaders interpret the falling tile as a message from beyond the grave and the letter is banned from use. On an island where the residents pride themselves on their love of language, this is seen as a tragedy. They are still reeling from the shock, when another tile falls and then another....
Dunn writes very well, and I like the idea that every one on the island is so literary with extensive vocabularies. It seems fitting since their identity as a community is based on a single sentence.
My favorite letters:
Toes, Noogie 7
Here’s the news: there is a new woman on my street. Her name is Georgeanne Towgate. She is lonely, shows great apprehension. I will try to help her. She is not at all similar to my Tom who is strong, wise, pleasing to the eye. Thy gelatin was so tasty. I am happy I met thee.
Phritay, Nophemger 10
Tanya toll me yew were assing aphter me. I am phine.
Lately, I haph startet painting my torso in pretty, motley hews. I sit in phront oph the mirror in the sleepy-room. I atmire my hantyworg. I am a hooman apstrat painting! This morning I got some olt remnant paint phrom the hartware warehoose. Now I haph enoph to paint all opher my whole selph!
O.k. Word really didn’t like that last letter. I had to go back and re-correct the corrections.
What amazed me about this book was Dunn's ability to write meaningful, correct sentences when less and less letters were available to use. Pretty clever.