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Who is Ernest Vincent Wright?

Matthew F.
Matthew F.

Ernest Vincent Wright was an author who wrote one of the most unique works of American fiction of the 20th century. His book Gadsby was a story of over 50,000 words and 267 pages without using the letter “e.”

Ernest Vincent Wright died in 1939, the same year Gadsby was published. Gadsby, his most famous work, is the longest work of fiction written without the letter “e.” This method of writing, called constrained writing, is very difficult and gained Wright some notoriety after the book’s publication. The form of writing is called a lipogram, which consists of the avoidance of the use of a letter or group of letters. Ernest Vincent Wright avoided the letter “e,” the most common letter in the English language.

Woman standing behind a stack of books
Woman standing behind a stack of books

Gadsby, subtitled Champion of Youth, was called by its author “a story of over 50,000 words.” Containing 50,100 words, Gadsby is Ernest Vincent Wright's story of a fictional city after its administration and government are handed over to a youth organization. The interbellum city, Branton Hills, was handed over by John Gadsby, the protagonist. Gadsby is told by an anonymous narrator, and includes a long host of characters, none of whom are ever referred to as “he,” “she,” or “they” due to the constrictions of the lipogram.

Gadsby has been credited as a fluid and engaging piece of fiction, without many of the breaks and momentum losses of similar pieces. Ernest Vincent Wright wrote the entire book with correct grammar, and added to his challenge by making the entire book in past tense. The book drew inspiration from Wright’s discovering of a lipogram poem, and from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and its protagonist, Jay Gatsby.

Ernest Vincent Wright was born in 1873. He published three books prior to Gadsby, titled The Wonderful Fairies of the Sun (1896), The Fairies That Run the World and How They Do It (1903), and Thoughts and Reveries of an American Bluejacket (1918). Wright, who was a retired naval musician, wrote Gadsby and found a publisher for it while in a military nursing home in the eight months before he died. He is also the author of “When Father Carves the Duck,” a humorous, short poem, and a Thanksgiving favorite in many homes.

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      Woman standing behind a stack of books