The alphabet fades away
Would you like to read a book in which this happens?
It’s one of my all-time favorite books. It’s called Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. He describes it as an “progressively lipogrammatic epistolary fable.”
It is written in the form of letters between the citizens of the fictional island of Nollop, an independent nation off the coast of South Carolina and home of Nevin Nollop, who invented the phrase “the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.” That phrase is written in tiles over a statue of Nollop in their town square, and when one night a storm causes one of the tiles to fall, the council decides that it’s a sign from Nollop that they are no longer allowed to use that letter, in speech or writing, on pain of progressive punishments including public beating and up to banishment.
Then another tile falls. Then another.
The citizens, who are all very attached to their words and writing, mount a campaign to come up with a phrase that uses all 26 letters but is shorter than Nollop’s, thus proving that he was not divine and negating all the edicts.
Because the novel is told in the form of letters the citizens write, and this is the genius part…the author must also stop using the letters as they fall. So the book gradually stops using letters until at one point I think they’re down to just five.
The resolution literally made me get up and dance around the room.
It’s clever, creative, and a not-really-veiled-at-all parable about monotheistic oligarchy. It’s not a long book, you can read it in an afternoon.
GO READ IT RIGHT NOW.