A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
And so the locksmith became a lcksmith, and the bootmaker a btmaker, and people whispered like conspirators when they said the names. Love’s Labours Lost and Mother Goose flattened out like a pricked balloon. Books were bks and Robin Hood was Rbinhd. Little Goody Two Shoes lost her Os and so did Goldilocks, and the former became a whisper, and the latter sounded like a key jiggled in a lck. It was impossible to read “cockadoodledoo” aloud, and parents gave up reading to their children, and some gave up reading altogether…
The Wonderful O is the story of the people of Ooroo, who, colonised by the worst sort of moral monster (the pirates Black and Littlejack), are robbed of their Os. Desolate and confused, they can no longer love, worship or adore; commerce, religion and public order are affected for the worse; and our heroine Andrea can be “a lass, or girl, or damsel,” or virgin or spinster, or bride or wife, but certainly not a woman.
The majority labour under their oppression, and an amoral minority collaborate, but in the woods (or forest) Andrea, together with the poet Andreus, conspires with a collection of colleagues, or perhaps comrades, to overthrow the foul rule of Black and Littlejack. And so they do, by a method which is too esoteric, too confusing and altogether too populated with Os for the two hooligans to oppose.
A lovely curiosity, a curious oddity, The Wonderful O is born of its author’s love of words. Thurber has long been a favourite storyteller of mine for his extraordinary joy in the pure sound of words, and this story is a demonstration of his broad and profound vocabulary combined with his idiosyncratic gift for wordplay.
I would recommend this short absorbing book not only to young lovers of words – whose vocabulary promises to grow exponentially before the story’s close – but to those of any age and station who have a child’s imagination.
(And for those who wonder where we would be without the letter O, I believe the answer is: Lost.)
NYR Children’s Collection, ISBN: 978-1590173091