Sadly, I read little “for fun” these days.
This is not to say that I don’t read a lot — or that when I do read, it’s not fun.
In fact, I read a lot, and, almost always, that reading is entertaining, educational and fun.
But I don’t read “for fun”—that is, for relaxation and just for the pure enjoyment of it.
I am a freelance editor/proofreader, so I read a lot. But when you’re reading specifically to find errors, the act of reading is not exactly relaxing.
Because I read so much for my job, I generally relax in ways other than reading. Lately, though, I’ve actually been reading a particular book for fun: “Ella Minnow Pea” by Mark Dunn.
To be truthful, I didn’t start out reading it for fun. I didn’t suddenly realize that life was passing me by and that I needed to take time for something as inherently enjoyable as reading for fun.
Rather, I started reading the book out of a sense of duty. Yep, that’s right — a sense of duty. My sister sent it to me with a note on the front that said it belonged to her daughter, Rachel, and that Rachel had lent it to her and she was now lending it to me because she knew I would love it — but that Rachel wanted it back.
Naturally, that put me in a spot. I not only “had” to read it, but I couldn’t put it on my bookshelf and forget about it for the next 10 years. I had to read it in a timely fashion. I decided to finish it in time to put it in a box of Christmas gifts for my sister and her family.
It’s not a long book, coming in at just over 200 pages. And some of those pages are short because the story unfolds via a series of letters between the characters.
The essence of the story — which is fictional — is that there is a town called Nollopton, named for the man who created the sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” In the town is a cenotaph with alphabetic tiles, each containing one letter of the famous sentence.
As the story progresses, the tiles fall, one by one. The town council attributes this to a beyond-the-grave wish from Nollop that people stop using each letter that falls to the ground. Thus, one by one, the council issues edicts forbidding the townspeople to use the fallen letters. The library is forced to close as all of the books contain forbidden letters. Mail is censored, and people are punished for using the banned letters (townspeople turn on each other and turn each other in for violations).
Many townspeople agree with the council members; others believe, correctly, that the tiles are falling simply because the glue holding them has become old and ineffectual, and they start a secret society to save language.
American Education Week is the week of Nov. 15, so it seems like an appropriate time to mull over the importance of linguistic basics and how censorship affects expression.
I haven’t finished the book yet, but almost. I look forward to my time spent with the Nollopians and, as with any good book, am already mourning reaching the end. What began as a sense of duty has turned into something way above and beyond the call of duty.
“Ella Minnow Pea” is not a new book: The print date is 2002. So, you may have already read it. If not, you might want to consider reading it — for fun.
Readers may contact Sybrant at firstname.lastname@example.org or 45092 859th Road, Bassett, NE 68714.