The following paragraphs are categorically different from any other paragraphs of their size that you’ve ever read. It’s a chapter beginning taken from p.81 of the first paperback edition of the 50,000-word novel Gadsby by Ernest Vincent Wright (first pub. in 1939). All coloring and boldface is mine (helping you to read faster).

ON A WARM Sunday, Kathlyn and Julius, poking around in Branton Hills’ suburbs, occasionally found an odd formation of fossilization, installing it amidst our Hall of Natural History’s displays. Shortly following such an installation, a famous savant on volcanic activity noting a most propitious rock formation amongst Julius’ groups, thought of cutting into it; for ordinary, most prosaic rocks may contain surprising information; and, upon arriving at Branton Hills’ railway station, ran across old Pat Ryan, czar of its trunk room.

 “Ah, my man! I want to find a lapidary.”

[And “boring” is not the unique thing I’m looking for because I’m sure you’ve read more boring stuff! You’ll never guess the thing I’m looking for unless you’ve already encountered this one-of-a-kind novel. But for MORE you have to use the DOOR.]


There’s one thing this 50,000-word novel DOES NOT CONTAIN: The letter


My reddening of text, in this case, was to trick you away from the answer, rather than lead you to it. Wright spent 5½ months writing this with the “e” key tied down in his typewriter. Soon after his book was published most copies were accidentally burned in a fire, and it’s said that first printing copies have been sold for as much as $4000. Don’t confuse Gadsby by Wright with The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

You can learn from the Internet more about lipograms, which are pieces of writing which exclude using one or more letters from the alphabet.

How hard is this to do?  When you type a letter on a keyboard, about 11% of the time it’s an E, according to one study. One of the hardest things for Earnest Vincent Wright (who has 3 e’s in his name) to do was to find substitutes for “ed” when needing the past tense.


[♠] Hmsch: Believe it or not, playing with ways to express ideas without using certain letters can be quite entertaining, as well as instructive, for some who enjoy finding ways to work around “roadblocks.” This is an example of “constrained writing” of which poetry forms are a distant cousin.

Author: John Knapp

6 thoughts on “#046…LIPOGRAMMATIC LOSS

  1. Cool! But unusual stuff! Is John at a loss for things to do?
    Luv ya Man,
    Dick Borg

    1. Being followed by the creator of the infamous Borgie Awards is an honor! Your question is right on. At the point where we are a daily look in the mirror and a pondering of our days and ways is most appropriate. Keep your quiver full of arrows, and aim and send them.

  2. Did you fail to notice the absence of “E” in my first reply?

    1. [This refers to lipogrammatics, the earlier post.] Sorry, but I–somehow–didn’t get it. Please resend. (You’re as different from spam as anyone I could think of!)

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