A 50,000-word novel without the letter 'E'
Imagine writing a 50,000-word novel without using the letter 'e'. That might seem a rather pointless challenge but you can actually read such a book because somebody took the trouble writing it.
Gadsby is a 1939 novel by Ernest Vincent Wright which does not include any words that contain the letter E, the most common letter in English. A work that deliberately avoids certain letters is known as a lipogram. 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 50,000 Word Novel Without the Letter "E".
Apparently, 'e' is the most common letter to cast aside for such challenges and that means the author cannot use words such as 'the', 'he', 'she', 'have', and 'they'. Wright did not use abbreviations, such as Mr., where the full word contains the letter 'e'. He avoided using numerals written as words so there are no numbers between six and thirty. Wright admits the story overuses the word 'said' as 'replied' and 'asked' could not be used. He also avoids the past tense which would require the use of -ed.
Wright struggled to find a publisher for the book, and eventually used Wetzel Publishing Co., a self publishing company. A 2007 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". The book's scarcity and oddness has seen original copies priced at $4,000 to $7,500 by book dealers. Wright died the same year of publication, 1939.
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