Ibid: A Life

( 1 )


A life by inference is better than no life at all.

Dunn pushes his propensity for quirky to the limit, creating a full-length novel entirely upon the margins of a fictitious biography of Jonathan Blashette, as three-legged circus performer—cum—entrepreneur and humanitarian. When his editor loses the manuscript of this biography, he offers to publish the only text left: the footnotes.

Dunn holds up a funhouse mirror to the pedestaled residents ...

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IBID: A Life

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A life by inference is better than no life at all.

Dunn pushes his propensity for quirky to the limit, creating a full-length novel entirely upon the margins of a fictitious biography of Jonathan Blashette, as three-legged circus performer—cum—entrepreneur and humanitarian. When his editor loses the manuscript of this biography, he offers to publish the only text left: the footnotes.

Dunn holds up a funhouse mirror to the pedestaled residents of the twentieth century and has a laugh at the expense of the events and luminaries of an era that perhaps took itself just a little too seriously.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Chalk it up to a post-ironic age or a growing impatience with a certain precious experimentalism linked (possibly unfairly but permanently) to the McSweeney's crowd. The bloom is off the rose on certain types of literary exercise, in this case a novel composed entirely of footnotes to a lost biography of the fictitious Jonathan Blashette, a three-legged circus performer and later CEO of Dandy-de-odor-o Inc., a men's deodorant company. Reading Dunn's third novel is rather like being served a dinner consisting entirely of turkey necks: you're starving for the whole bird-in this instance, the biography manuscript, supposedly lost in a soapy bath by Dunn's editor. The footnotes cover a life brimming with historical significance; not only does Blashette serve in WWI, he loses a stepson to WWII and rubs shoulders with, to name a handful, James Joyce, Greta Garbo, Nelson Rockefeller, Rudolph Valentino and Ray Kroc. While Dunn succeeds in affectionately and mischievously portraying history as a live, malleable and ever-developing construct enriched and expanded by its minor players, even the fictitious ones, his sometimes juvenile jokes-e.g. one of his "sources," a collection of letters to a urologist, is subtitled Notes to a Pee Pee Doctor-aren't very funny. And Dunn, like the class clown, can barely keep a straight face even when describing the casualties of war; he also kills off two important characters in freak accidents. The book reads as if Dunn had a brilliant time writing it, but readers may find the going tougher. (Mar.) Forecast: Dunn's Ella Minnow Pea made quite a big splash, but this latest effort is too tricky to enjoy such wide appeal. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Dunn (Ella Minnow Pea) again playfully reinvents the novel, imagining what would happen if an editor destroyed the only copy of his manuscript and offered to publish the remaining footnotes. He breathes joyful, ridiculous life into the fictitious Jonathan Blashette from Pettiville, AR, a three-legged circus performer turned entrepreneur and philanthropist. Blashette soars to great heights in business. But, as high as his business life takes him, he's just as low and unlucky in his love life, losing two fianc es to absurd but deadly freak accidents in Boston. To call this book tongue-in-cheek is the strongest of understatements. Dunn pillories nearly all of the trends, fashions, people, and events he portrays in his book, many of which are ripped from the true history of the first half of the 20th century. He creates a wonderfully quirky bunch of characters in Jonathan's lovers, friends, family, business associates, and employees. A hilarious, triumphant, madcap farce in an unusual narrative format, this book will keep readers laughing out loud from beginning to end. Even though it seems unlikely that a story told in footnotes would flow smoothly, this one does. Highly recommended for public libraries.-Lisa Nussbaum, Dauphin Cty. Lib. Syst., Harrisburg, PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Having an extra leg doesn't mean you can't have a full life. When author Dunn (the fictional one, not the real one who wrote Ella Minnow Pea, 2001) sent the only manuscript copy of his new novel to the editor at MacAdam/Cage, the editor promptly destroyed it (accidentally, in her bath), leaving no choice but to publish the end matter as a book in its own right. This rather daunting idea is made more palatable by the fact that Dunn is not only rather garrulous in his notes, but that his subject, the fictional life of three-legged Jonathan Blashette, is dramatic enough to be told easily in the margins. To nobody's surprise, the Arkansas-born Blashette finds work early in life as a circus freak, with Thaddeus Grund and his Traveling Circus and Wild West Show. It's a marginal existence, being stuck in a second-rate carnival, and three-legged Blashette is made for bigger things. After a stint in WWI, Blashette has a revolutionary idea: men's underarm deodorant. His company, Dandy-de-odor-o, Inc., is bankrolled by J.P. Morgan, whom Blashette met in his circus days (a long story), just one of the many famous people Blashette would claim to have met in his life. There was the cab ride with the man who would become Rudolph Valentino, and drinks with the likes of Leni Riefenstahl, Woody Guthrie, and Betty Ford. Dunn's tale is a sort of anti-E.L. Doctorow one: historical fiction of a sort, covering the 1880s through the 1960s, but refreshingly non-epic, reveling in odd comic details (like the unimpressive Bowery Hotel "Round Table" that Blashette belonged to, sad imitation of the Algonquin) and non sequiturs of the David Foster Wallace school. Humorous, quick like the wind: fiction that peers at animaginary life never head-on but through a multitude of sideways glances, peeking through fingers and intimating stranger things than can be imagined in the light of day.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781931561655
  • Publisher: MacAdam/Cage Publishing, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 2/8/2003
  • Pages: 250
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.16 (h) x 1.11 (d)

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 4, 2012

    Laugh Out Loud

    It's difficult to find a comic novel that can make me laugh out loud. Even so in period. Mark Dunn's book of footnotes (the author includes letters to and from his editor explaining what happens to the manuscript) is as funny and meticulously crafted as "Ella Minnow Pea". Like good actors transforming a clichéd rom-com into something special, Mark Dunn takes a specific literary device and transforms what could be a gimmick into a great book. Anyone sitting next to me was annoyed by how much I kept laughing out loud. I lovde the attention to detail, and how the jokes seemed of the period, and not anachronistic. Any books of footnotes has to be compared to "Infinite Jest", and so, I was hoping that the footnotes would have been at least as epic as those, since they comprised the whole "novel". Still, I was brought back to the times when I first discovered other humorists, and I am glad Mark Dunn is now among them. I think I would have given it five stars if there were more structure. Yes, it's a book of footnotes, but, I think it still could have given you a better sense of the missing book, in order to make it masterful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2004

    the ella minnow peas of ibidville

    Original and witty. Just what we've come to expect from this wonderfully clever author.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

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