When Ernest Vincent Wright
announced he was going to write an E-less book, he immediately raised the ire
of the New York
literary establishment who said it was impossible. One critic rather "astutely" noted that the author's name had no less than three Es in it! So that made writing an E-less book impossible!
Wright began writing Gadsby
in long hand
but soon discovered Es subconsciously slipping in. He switched over to a typewriter
and bolted down the E key to ensure he could not type the letter.
The author encountered a number of problems along the way. First, the novel is written in the past tense, and he had to avoid all "-ed" ending words. Numbers also caused a problem. Numbers between seven
and twenty nine all have e in them. This caused another problem because the book was about teenagers and young people. How to introduce the age of someone under thirty? Wright wanted his book to be stylistically correct and refused to use number characters like 16 to get around having to write "sixtee
n". He even avoided using common
abbreviations of E-bearing words like Mr (Mister
) and Mrs (Misses).
For dialog he was forced to use "said" a lot (of course avoiding the use of "replied" and "answered"). Pronouns like "he
", "they" could not be resorted to so characters tended to be referred to by their names over much.
For some simple E-bearing words, he needed to cobble
together some rather lengthy phrases to get around them. "Turkey
" became the "Thanksgiving
National Bird" and "cake" became "an astonishing loaf of culinary art
Despite these problems, Wright cranked out the 50,110-word, E-less novel in only 165 days! Curiously, Wright died on the very day Gadsby
was published. He was 60 years old.
Thirty years late French author Georges Perec
penned a 250 page sans-E
French novel called La disparition
. Perec gave a sly nod to Wright's pioneering work in this realm of "reduced english
". One of his characters was an Oxford
professor named "Lord Gadsby V" (the teacher of the main character "A. Vowl"... har har!). The novel even quotes a composition by A. Vowl that is actually an extract from Gadsby
. In 1994, Gilbert Adair translated Perec's La disparition
into an E-less english language novel called A Void
You can read the complete text of Gadsby here: http://gadsby.hypermart.net