Worst Book Idea Ever! Gadsby- The Novel with No Letter E
As much as readers and writers love literature, we have to admit that the literary world abounds with bad ideas. For example:
* Snooki got a book deal.
*Somebody other than Mario Puzo wrote a sequel to The Godfather.
*Sue Grafton’s alphabet mystery series is a bad idea (A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, ugh!… but it seems to be working for her. Bad ideas work sometimes).
* Stephen King is writing a sequel to The Shining (the sequel and the idea behind the sequel both seem like bad ideas to me, but he’s Stephen King, and I’m not).
*Madonna writes children’s books.
*Ernest Hemingway supposedly wrote a six-word short story on a napkin. A six-word short story is a great idea, but writing a story on a napkin is not.
But the worst idea ever in literature was Gadsby: A Lipogram Novel by Ernest Vincent Wright in 1939. The bad idea behind the book? 50,000 words without the letter “E.” That’s it.
Writing anything without the letter E is difficult. Even Hemingway’s mythical(?) six-word story (“For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.”) had a bunch of Es. Ernest Vincent Wright’s name had a few Es in it (that didn’t count, he claimed, and I agree with him on that). “E” is the most commonly used letter in the alphabet, (according to the Oxford Dictionary ) used 57 times more than the least used letters “J” or “Q.” I was expecting “Z” to be the least used letter, but I’m not going to argue with Oxford.
Gadsby: A Lipogram Novel or (Gadsby: Champion of Youth ) is not the WORST BOOK EVER! It’s just the worst idea. Since Wright wrote 50,000 words without using E, I’ll give him some credit. If he had slipped up and accidentally used an E, then it would have been worst book. If he had gone insane and had pages filled with “EEEEE I can’t take it anymore!! EEEEEEE!” then his book might have been WORST BOOK EVER! But he was successful. And I’ll give an author credit for successfully completing the WORST IDEA ever.
Writing without any Es is the ultimate literary gimmick. Literary gimmicks, however, should add something to the piece of literature. If a book is consumed by the gimmick, then the piece of literature is… gimmicky? And Gadsby was definitely consumed by the gimmick (and consumed by a fire too. Most copies of Gadsby burned in a warehouse fire in 1939, so original copies of the book are very rare.).
Even without the gimmick, Gadsby probably wouldn’t have been for me. Gadsby is about youth. I don’t care for kids all that much. I love my own kids, but I’m not really interested in the “Champion of Youth.” To read a 50,000 words book (with or without Es), I have to be interested in the topic, and even then there’s no guarantee that I’ll finish the book.
When reading the prose of Gadsby: Champion of Youth, I was always aware of the lack of an “e.” I couldn’t get into the story (if I ever got to it, I’m not sure) because I was too aware of the e-lessness of the text.
I’ll give Ernest Wright credit for a couple things. He’s achieved something nobody else has done. I’m pretty sure nobody is going to write a 50,000+ word book without an E. Then again, some people will do anything for attention. Wright also created a book that people should know about. Even if this book was a really bad idea, people should at least be aware of its existence. And flip through a few pages (probably e-pages). And then laugh (or nod) and move on to something else.
ONE SENTENCE WITHOUT AN E
Writing without that most common word symbol is fun as a brain building opportunity, but analyzing the words is not amusing and it hurts the mind.
Writing without an E is fun as a challenge, but reading the results can be a chore.
I don’t know if a 50,000 word book without Es is really the worst book idea ever because I haven’t heard every single book idea ever. So if you’ve heard of a worse idea, feel free to let me know.
Maybe I shouldn’t speak badly about a book with no letter “e.” My own ebook is about a story that I wrote in high school (a YA romance) and some weird stuff that happened to me after people read it.
Like I said, it might have been a bad idea, but I used every single letter in the alphabet.