I just completed Mark Dunn’s most recent novel, Ibid: A Life. Dunn is the author of the fabulous little book Ella Minnow Pea, “an epistolary novel set in the fictional island of Nollop situated off the coast of South Carolina and home to the inventor the pangram The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog.” A pangram is a sentence that uses every letter of the alphabet at least once. It’s a witty and funny read. So it was with much delight I dove into Ibid
The premise of Ibid is that the author wrote a biography of Jonathan Blashette, a three-legged businessman who began life as a circus performer. Dunn had only one copy of the manuscript and sent it to his publisher who accidentally destroyed it in an unfortunate bathtub accident. Dunn could not reproduce the manuscript but still had available his voluminous footnotes to the biography (he did not send them with the manuscript). It was then agreed that the footnotes would be published, thus the book Ibid.
In the acknowledgments, Dunn thanks his editors for “allowing this most recent, brazen attempt at redefining the American novel. I’ve always contended that there are a lot of ways to tell a story, and some that are rarely or never even tried. I appreciate this new opportunity to step wide of the narrative box.” I applaud Dunn for coloring outside the lines. As a book of footnotes it works. The sometimes strange nonsequiters are good for a laugh. Still, I like Ella Minnow Pea better because it is a better story. The story of the three legged Jonathan got off to a good start but lost steam somewhere around the time of his breakthrough into big business. Don’t get me wrong though, it is an enjoyable read. I am looking forward to Dunn’s next attempt at redefining the American novel.