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Literature / Gadsby

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Gadsby is a 1939 novel by Ernest Vincent Wright.

This plot follows John Gadsby transforming a tiny town known as Branton Hills. Branton Hills starts off small, without much productivity, but a bunch of youths try to stand up for it and show adults that youths can aid a town in growing into a thriving city. Gadsby, Champion of Youth, assists in this, shaking down rich widows for cash to furnish a library, hospital, night school and so on. This flip-flops, from "Why, our town ought to build a..." to scrambling for funds to build it. Kids go off to war, but show up again without injury. Gadsby winds up as mayor of Branton Hills, watching his kids attain marital bliss, and starts growing his family with grandkids; Mrs. Gadsby also plays a part in Branton Hills' growth.

Notably, Wright took on an arduous task of writing this book without using that fifth glyph commonly found in writings utilizing this script. It was originally put out into this world to display his writing capability. It had a short initial run to an insignificant amount of acclaim, but now has a cult following as Wright won his goal.

Not to be confused with a similarly-titled book about Jay Gatsby.

The Other Wiki has more on the book.

Gadsby contains examples of:

  • Character Title: The One-Word Title of Gadsby is about the exploits of the eponymous John Gadsby.
  • Constrained Writing: The novel is a lipogram, written without any instances of the letter "E", the most common letter in the English language. Especially notable in that the novel is written in past tense, and most past-tense conjugations in English end with "-ed". To get around this, Wright uses verbs whose past tense forms are irregular, such as 'saw' or 'built'. He also uses many 'ing' conjugations or uses a "did [action]" or past-perfect tenses instead of the preterite tense, which is more common. Taking it even further, to avoid the perception of "cheating", Wright even avoids all contractions; even ones that wouldn't "get around" the letter with an apostrophe. For instance, "can't" is always written "cannot".
    • Wright claimed that he tied down the "E" key on his typewriter to avoid making a mistake. But he still used "the" three times and also included the word "officers":
      "Amongst the boys, cast a fond look upon..."
      "And with that big Municipal Band a-booming and blaring, and the crowd of our old Organization girls pushing forward..."
      "...who found Nina frantic from not knowing Virginia's condition, nor why the pair of youths shot madly away without calling anybody."
      "...with a lot of big shouting patrol officers, asking..."
  • Dying Town: This is the state of Branton Hills at the beginning of the novel, but John Gadsby assists in reviving the town.
  • Lemony Narrator: The narrator occasionally lampshades his own roundabout ways of avoiding the letter "E".
  • One-Word Title: Character Title, as its a book about the eponymous John Gadsby.
  • Suddenly Significant City: Branton Hills, which begins the novel as an insignificant little village, grows into a proper, respectable city by the end of the novel.
  • Vanity Publishing: Because of Constrained Writing. One known such book that was actually good.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: It is never specified which state Branton Hills is in. As less than half of them have an E in their name, Wright had plenty to choose from.