"A progressively lipogrammatic epistolary fable" by Mark Dunn, the famous playwright. A rather odd book; the premise is Theberesque, but the writing is somewhat stiff and wordy, particularly early on (but it's great for expanding your vocabulary).

It's written as a series of letters between the citizens of Nollop, primarily Ella Minnow Pea and her family. Nollopians have a healthy respect for the English language and the written word (hence the unusual verbosity of the letters), and idolize their namesake, Nevin Nollop*. Nevin's big achievement was inventing the famous pangram "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog". To celebrate this achievement, Nollopton (the capital of Nollop) has an statue of Nevin Nollop in the town square with the pangram prominently displayed on the pedestal. One day, the hundred-year-old glue holding one of the tiles to the pedestal gives out, dropping the letter 'Z' to the ground. After a hasty emergency meeting of the council it is decided that this is a sign from the late Nevin Nollop, indicating that this letter should be dropped from the language. Those who continue to use this letter will be warned, punished, and, on the third offense, banished.

This isn't too bad, as 'Z' isn't used often, and the citizens of Nollop have large vocabularies to help them work around most occurrences of the letter. Then 'Q' falls. Then 'J'. Things are looking bad, people are being banished, and the council is getting more strict as each letter falls. As the letters 'D', 'K', and 'F' fall, the island starts to become depopulated and the council starts to drift into tyranny. The council has given one condition under which the restrictions on letter use might be dropped; if someone can come up with a pangram with fewer than 32 letters, thus proving that they are a greater expert on the English language than was the great Nevin Nollop.

The main gimmick of the book is that as the rain of tiles progresses, the missives of the coutryfolk are required to forgo more and more letters (Hence the "progressively lipogrammatic" in the initial description). It's not until they lose ten letters (one of them a vowel) that the council allows them to use bastard spelling ('Phish' for 'Fish', etc.). Throughout the book Mark Dunn scatters other bits of wordplay, including, of course, a number of pangrams. This is a fun book for anyone who enjoys playing with words, but it doesn't have a lot of adventure, romance, mystery, or drama. While it has some of each, they are only a backdrop to the heady excitement of guerrilla pangraming and lipogrammatic writing.


* As far as I am aware, Nevin Nollop is a fictional character.

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