Skip to main content

About the Book

About the Book

Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters

In Ella Minnow Pea, Mark Dunn transports readers to the imaginary island of Nollop, named for Nevin Nollop, inventor of the pangram (a sentence using all letters of the alphabet) "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." It is an idyllic place, free from technological innovations like television and computers, where Nollopians devote themselves to the liberal arts and especially to the cultivation of language. But when a tile containing the letter "Z" falls from the monument the islanders have erected to honor Nollop and his illustrious sentence, a chain of events is set in motion which will threaten the very foundations of the Nollopian state. The High Island Council calls an emergency session to discuss the fallen letter and in it they see a sign and portent, a message from the great Nollop himself to cease all use of the letter "Z" in spoken and written communication. The Council passes a law against uttering words containing the letter; punishment for violating their strictures can lead to banishment and even death. And as further letters begin to fall, Ella Minnow Pea and her family, along with the rest of community, are forced to live under linguistic siege. Books are destroyed. Newspapers shut down. Citizens are publicly flogged, placed in stocks, their property confiscated and their lives ruined, all for slips of the tongue. But with the help of Nate Warren, a researcher living in South Carolina, the islanders decide to fight back, vowing to create a pangram even shorter and therefore more dazzling than the one for which Nollop has been elevated to divine status. The only question is: can they do it before all is lost?

Charming, intellectually engaging, and filled with fascinating wordplay, Ella Minnow Pea is a cautionary tale about authoritarianism, about the dangers of reading signs and symbols where there are none–and about the irrepressible human urge to speak freely.

Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters
by Mark Dunn

  • Publication Date: September 17, 2002
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor
  • ISBN-10: 0385722435
  • ISBN-13: 9780385722438