“Eunoia is the shortest word in English containing all five vowels – and it means “beautiful thinking”. It is also the title of Canadian poet Christian Bök’s book of fiction in which each chapter uses only one vowel.”
This came up on my feed reader today. Click on the quote above to get to the BBC article with excerpts from the book – it’s really poetry. There was a great bio of him online with the full text of eunoia but the link is broken now. There’s a pretty flash version of chapter E here. You can hear readings of it here or watch a video of Christian Bök reading excerpts here. Christian Bök also created artificial languages for Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict and Peter Benchley’s Amazon. You can hear an interview with him on CBC here and more at PennSound here. There are links to other works here.
Learned a great new word and began a random search for other examples of arbitrary restrictions in book writing and ended up finding all kinds of neat examples of constrained writing. Whoo hoo wikipedia (and google).
There are additional lipograms. A lipogram is constrained writing consisting of writing in which a particular letter or group of letters is missing. See the wikipedia entry for a number of examples including Gadsby, a novel written without the use of the letter E, which can be read online here and here. (Letter frequencies here; E is the most frequent letter in the English language.)
Another novel that didn’t the letter E is Georges Perec‘s French novel A Void (La Disparition) (1969). E is the most common letter in French as well as English. The neat thing with this one is that the English translation titled “A Void,” also did not use the letter E, and a Spanish translation instead omits the letter A, since it is the most common letter in Spanish. The wikipedia entry includes a summary of the book – it looks like an interesting read.
Perec was a member of group of French authors called Oulipo who used a variety of constraints in their work. Lipograms, Palindromes, N+7 and the Snowball.
Never Again is a novel by Doug Nufer in which no word is used more than once. From amazon.com “it is the story of a gambler who narrates how he set out to avoid the mistakes of his past by doing (and saying) nothing he ever did (or said) before.” He also wrote Negativeland, a novel where every sentence contains a negative. There is a good interview with him here.
Alphabetical Africa by Walter Abish is constrained in the following way – “the first chapter contains only words starting with the letter a, the second chapter only words starting with a or b, etc.; each subsequent chapter adds the next letter in the alphabet to the set of allowed word beginnings. This continues for the first 26 chapters…In the second half of the book, chapters 27 through 52, letters are removed in the reverse order that they were added. Thus, z words disappear in chapter 28, y, in chapter 29, etc.”
Here is an article about a french novel with no verbs. The author sounds like an ass but it might be fun to read in translation.
Dr. Seuss wrote Green Eggs and Ham when his publisher challenged him to write a story with fewer than 50 words. At fiftywords.com a new fifty-word story is posted Monday through Friday.
Haiku, Limericks and Acrostics are examples of constrained writing in poetry which isn’t really focused on in this post because it is standard for established forms of poetry to have constraints. I bring them up because I wanted to post an online dictionary that uses limericks to illustrate definitions.
There’s also this interesting poetry example – an Italian poem and a Hebrew poem that sound identical and both make sense in their respective languages done by Dr. Ghil’ad Zuckermann. He has a fantastic quote by Thomas Paine on the page that could describe this whole post “The sublime and the ridiculous are often so nearly related, that it is difficult to class them separately. One step above the sublime makes the ridiculous; and one step above the ridiculous makes the sublime again.” (The Age of Reason, Part 2: Being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology, London: Daniel Isaac Eaton, 1796, p. 20).
Some writing experiments you can try can be found here and here and here. Confiction.org is an online community for people interested in constrained writing. Their challenges can be found here.
Ernest Hemingway once said his best work was a story he wrote in just six words: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” The Guardian challenged famous authors to write six-word stories in this article. There is a website where you can submit your own started by Smith magazine. There is an interview with the editor here. You can also join the Six Word Story group on flickr by posting photos with a six-word-story title. (Does the photo count as 1000 additional words?). There is also onesentence.org where you can submit true stories told in one sentence.
Another pretty site to get you going is oneword.com. You see one word at the top of the site and you get sixty seconds to write about it. There is a progress bar to illustrate time passing that starts off green and becomes red. There is a ding at the end of the minute. You can have your writing emailed to you or you can just have it deleted. More about the purpose of the site here. There is also a related flickr group that uses the one word as a prompt for taking a picture within 24 hours. I couldn’t remember this site and the fantastic ask.mefi got me a response in 11 minutes.
As for November, National Novel Writing Month starts in two days. I’ll be taking part in National Blog Posting Month instead. For people who can’t commit to writing a 50,000 word novel, you just have to write a blog post every day for a month.