Gadsby: A Lipogram Novel by Ernest Vincent Wright

by Rachel Baker on August 6, 2013

Let’s start with this: A lipogram is a type of word game that consists of writing at least a paragraph in which a particular letter is avoided.

And there was once a 50,000 word novel written without the letter “e”. I have a hard enough time getting rid of superflous words on a regular basis – I can’t imagine sitting down to try to write a novel without the letter “E”. Can you?

I recently read about Gadsby: A Lipogram Novel in an article titled 10 Works of Literature that were Really Hard to Write from Mental Floss Magazine.

Wright wanted to prove that a great author could work around such a restriction and still tell a gripping story. To prevent any stray Es from entering the text, he tied down his typewriter’s E key, and then put his expansive vocabulary to the test. The result is an astounding feat of verbal gymnastics. While vividly describing a wedding scene, Wright manages to avoid the words “bride,” “ceremony,” and even “wedding” (he calls it “a grand church ritual”). To explain away the verbosity of the language, he uses a narrator whose poor command of English and circumlocution even irritates the story’s other characters.

According to the Amazon post for Gadsby:

A warehouse holding copies of Gadsby burned shortly after the book was printed, destroying most copies of the ill-fated novel. The book was never reviewed and only kept alive by the efforts of a few avant-garde intellos and assorted connoisseurs of the odd, weird and zany.

If you are interested in reading Gadsby by Ernest Vincent Wright, a copy (in sections) of the book can be found at Spineless Books.

You can also find a Kindle Copy entitled Gadsby: Champion of Youth (Special Edition) for $2.00. The editor for this Reginald Routhwick, and the publisher is Publisher: Constitution Books; Revised edition (February 23, 2013)

The first Paragraph of the book (cut and pasted from Spineless Books) :

If youth, throughout all history, had had a champion to stand up for it; to show a doubting world that a child can think; and, possibly, do it practically; you wouldn’t constantly run across folks today who claim that “a child don’t know anything.” A child’s brain starts functioning at birth; and has, amongst its many infant convolutions, thousands of dormant atoms, into which God has put a mystic possibility for noticing an adult’s act, and figuring out its purport.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Amazon Wish ListEvernoteFlipboardInstapaperNewsVineSpringpadWordPressTypePad PostStumbleUponLiveJournalPocketRedditShare

Previous post:

Next post: