Two names for you to consider. Ernest Vincent Wright. George Perec. Ever heard of them? I have to confess I hadn’t, but I did know what links them inextricably.

They’re not the same nationality; Wright was American, Perec was French. They don’t share a birthday. Nothing that obvious. You may need a hint. Both were writers. So what? you ask. Both were also either completely barking or pretentious jerks. I lean towards the latter.

In 1939, Wright released a novel called Gadsby. Some 30 years later, Perec released A Void which has a suitably Gallic sound of existential angst to it, doesn’t it? Both of these books had one thing in common. Neither contained the letter e.

Now you may wonder why they did this, in the process producing works that are known as lipograms. (No, I didn’t know that before I did a scoot round t’internet.) The official story is as an intellectual exercise, but I think it’s nearer to intellectual posturing. It’s a real playground call of, ‘Me!Me! Look how clever I am!’

Wright really went to 11 on this. He even didn’t use abbreviations or contractions if the complete word had an e in it. Hence Dr was allowed, but Mr was beyond the pale.

If by this point you’re going ‘OFFS,’ I have worse to come in the posturing stakes, and it’s another Gaul being a halfwit.

In 2004, Michel Thaler (this was a pseudonym with the emphasis on the pseud) published a work of some 230 odd pages, entitled The Train from Nowhere. He took his approach to titles from Perec it seems. Anyway, this is what’s odd about The Train from Nowhere. It doesn’t contain any verbs Nary a one. Here’s how he justified this.

‘The verb is like a weed in a field of flowers. You have to get rid of it to allow the flowers to grow and flourish.’

It that’s not pretentious jerkery, I don’t know what is.

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