Gadsby is a novel by Ernest Vincent Wright written as a lipogram , which does not include words that contain the letter E. The plot revolves around the dying fictional city of Branton Hills, which is revitalized as a result of the efforts of protagonist John Gadsby and a youth organizer. Though vanity published and little noticed in its time, the book has since become a favorite of fans of constrained writing and is a sought-after rarity among some book collectors. Later editions of the book have sometimes carried the alternative subtitle 50, Word Novel Without the Letter "E".
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Gadsby is a novel by Ernest Vincent Wright written as a lipogram , which does not include words that contain the letter E. The plot revolves around the dying fictional city of Branton Hills, which is revitalized as a result of the efforts of protagonist John Gadsby and a youth organizer. Though vanity published and little noticed in its time, the book has since become a favorite of fans of constrained writing and is a sought-after rarity among some book collectors.
Later editions of the book have sometimes carried the alternative subtitle 50, Word Novel Without the Letter "E". Despite Wright's claim, published versions of the book may contain a handful of uses of the letter "e". The version on Project Gutenberg , for example, contains "the" three times and "officers" once. In the introduction to the book which, not being part of the story, does contain the letter 'e' Wright says his primary difficulty was avoiding the "-ed" suffix for past tense verbs.
He made extensive use of verbs that do not take the -ed suffix and constructions with "do" for instance "did walk" instead of "walked". Scarcity of word options also drastically limited discussion involving quantity, pronouns, and many common words.
Wright was unable to talk about any quantity between six and thirty. An article in the linguistic periodical Word Ways said that of the most commonly used words in English were still available to Wright despite the omission of words with e. Wright uses abbreviations on occasion, but only if the full form is similarly lipogrammatic, i.
Wright also turns famous sayings into lipogrammatic form. Instead of William Congreve 's original line, "Music has charms to soothe a savage breast", Wright writes that music "hath charms to calm a wild bosom. Fifty-year-old John Gadsby is alarmed by the decline of his hometown, Branton Hills, and rallies the city's youth to form an "Organization of Youth" to build civic spirit and improve living standards.
Gadsby and his youthful army, despite some opposition, transform Branton Hills from a stagnant municipality into a bustling, thriving city. Toward the conclusion of the book, the members of Gadsby's organization receive diplomas in honor of their work. Gadsby becomes mayor and helps increase Branton Hills' population from 2, to 60, Harding 's administration. Gadsby is divided into two parts: the first, about a quarter of the book's total length, is strictly a history of the city of Branton Hills and John Gadsby's place in it, while the second part of the book fleshes out the book's main characters.
The novel is written from the point of view of an anonymous narrator, who continually complains about his poor writing skills and often uses circumlocution.
The book's opening two paragraphs are: . 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. Up to about its primary school days a child thinks, naturally, only of play. But many a form of play contains disciplinary factors.
Now, if, throughout childhood, a brain has no opposition, it is plain that it will attain a position of "status quo," as with our ordinary animals.
Man knows not why a cow, dog or lion was not born with a brain on a par with ours; why such animals cannot add, subtract, or obtain from books and schooling, that paramount position which Man holds today. Wright appears to have worked on the manuscript for a number of years. Though its official publication date is , references in newspaper humor columns are made to his manuscript of a book without an "e" years earlier.
Prior to publication he occasionally referred to his manuscript as Champion of Youth. The paper turned him down. Wright struggled to find a publisher for the book, and eventually used Wetzel Publishing Co. A post on the Bookride blog about rare books says a warehouse holding copies of Gadsby burned shortly after the book was printed, destroying "most copies of the ill fated novel". The blog post says the book was never reviewed "and only kept alive by the efforts of a few avant garde French intellos and assorted connoisseurs of the odd, weird and zany".
Wright died the same year of publication, In , Wright said writing the book was a challenge and the author of an article on his efforts in The Oshkosh Daily recommended composing lipograms for insomnia sufferers. He said he tied down the "e" key on his typewriter while completing the final manuscript. An article in the Oshkosh Daily in wrote lipogrammatically that the manuscript was "amazingly smooth.
No halting parts. A continuity of plot and almost classic clarity obtains". Author Ed Park jokingly aped Wright's style "Lipogram aficionados—folks who lash words and alas!
What about J. La Disparition A Void is a lipogrammatic French novel partly inspired by Gadsby  that likewise omits the letter "e" and is 50, words long. Wright",  a tutor to protagonist Anton Voyl; in addition, a composition attributed to Voyl in La Disparition is actually a quotation from Gadsby. Trevor Kitson, writing in New Zealand's Manawatu Standard in , said he was prompted to write a short lipogram after seeing Wright's book. The attempt gave him an appreciation for how difficult Wright's task was, but he was less impressed with the end result.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Novel by Ernest Vincent Wright that did not use the letter "e". Not to be confused with The Great Gatsby. University Press of America.
Ernest Vincent Wright's Machine Dreams". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on August 17, Retrieved The Evening Independent. A Story of Over Bookride blog. Rulon-Miller Books. Archived from the original on March 25, The Oskhosh Daily. Perseus Books Group. Abish, Walter March 12, , "Vanishing Act. X11, archived from the original on October 20, , The history of the lipogram dates back to the ancient Greeks.
Its many more recent practitioners include Mallarme, Rimbaud, Thomas Hood and an American, Ernest Vincent Wright, who omitted the letter "e" from his novel Gadsby, published in Indeed, Wright may have served as a model for Perec, for he is referred to a number of times in A Void as "The Boss" to highlight his significance.
Bookride , "Gadsby. Eckler, Albert Ross, ed. Hofstadter, Douglas R. Autobiographical Lipogram , Stanford , retrieved Categories : American novels Lipograms Self-published books. Hidden categories: Wikipedia articles needing page number citations from September CS1 maint: archived copy as title CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown Articles with short description.
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A 50,000-Word Novel Without the Letter 'E'
The biographical details of his life are unclear. A article in the Village Voice by Ed Park said he might have been English by birth but was more probably American. The article said he might have served in the navy and that he has been incorrectly called a graduate of MIT. The article says that he attended a vocational high school attached to MIT in but there is no record that he graduated. Park said rumors that Wright died within hours of Gadsby being published are untrue. In the letter, he boasted of the quality of Gadsby.
Ernest Vincent Wright
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For instance, about half of the top most commonly used words in English were still available to him to use. He wrote the book in just under six months starting in and finishing in February of But gradually as they saw me writing on and on, without even noticing them, they grew uneasy; and, with excited whisperings amongst themselves, began hopping up and riding on my pen, looking down constantly for a chance to drop off into some word; for all the world like seabirds perched, watching for a passing fish! Why, man! This is the first time we ever were shut out! He was unable to find a publishing house willing to publish Gadsby, so after two years, he sought out a vanity publisher to self-publish it, settling on Wetzel Publishing Co.
Sales of the Wetzel version numbered only 50, out of a few hundred printed. The remainder of its stock was lost to a warehouse fire, making it incredibly rare. Reprints of the work have surfaced since Wetzel Publishing Co.