Monday, November 01, 2010

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

This fun read – with the subtitle as neat little pun – gave me, in a few hours, long-lasting pleasure. This satiric story tells of a fictional island off the coast of South Carolina devoted to the memory of Nevin Nollop, the supposed author of the shortest sentence containing all 26 letters of the alphabet. One day, a letter falls from his monument, and the island’s governing committee decides this constitutes a message from the dearly departed Nollop.

Their interpretation of the message leads them to ban use of the fallen letter in all written and oral communications. The first letter to drop is “Z,” and no one seems to mind the loss of this rarely used letter. The first offense merits a warning, the second a lashing or several hours in the stocks, and the third offense results in banishment with death for those who refuse or return. Of course, once banished, the property of the departed citizen becomes the property of one of the island’s administrators. However, as more tiles fall, communication becomes rather sticky.

Dunn manages to cover nearly every institution deserving of satire. A cult slowly grows around Nollop, and when confronted with scientific evidence of the weakness of the adhesive holding the letters to the monument, the council dismisses the explanation. They then assert Nollop uses chemistry to convey his messages – an intelligent de-signer as it were.

If it weren’t so scarily akin to current book banners, birthers, and young earth advocates, it would actually be hilarious. Well-worth a quiet afternoon of reading. (5 stars)

--Chiron, 10/25/10

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