Category Archives: links


No Caption Needed: "Katherine Cathey had asked if she could sleep next to the body of her husband for one last time. Illuminated by the glow of her laptop, she is listening to songs that reminded her of her beloved . . . "


* A new poll tells us "only half of young people aged 18-24 years old think people will still be using bookshops in 20 years’ time." But it doesn’t say if the youngsters just won’t be buying books at all, or will be buying them online.

* BookMooch. You got books you don’t want, they got books you do.

* We have trouble believing in evolution, yet we can’t stop buying original editions of Copernicus‘s “De revolutionibus orbium coelestium”

* The Internet can’t make authors writer faster, or something like that. I’m not really sure.


* The Village Voice reviews the "Bernhardian" novel Senselessness by Horacio Castellanos Moya, which I just finished and will agree is pretty damn good. I’ll be seeing the author in person at City Lights this evening.

* A review of the the new work of criticism, The Delighted States, which (the review, not the book) starts off promisingly and delivers:

As James Joyce’s H. C. Earwicker — whose dream sets off the associations, disassociations and language acrobatics of “Finnegans Wake” — stands to fiction, Adam Thirlwell stands to literary criticism.


* The KR Blog collages quotes from the daybooks of George Oppenn, "easily one of the most influential poets of the 20th century"

* This week, The New Yorker gives you work from James Wood and John Updike


* A Borges documentary. For free, in English, on the Web.

* How The Wire explains the contemporary world

The Rest

* Splice Today talks with the man who annotated The Recognitions (sadly, his work is no longer in print):

ST: Tell me about the process of writing the Gaddis annotations. Did you correspond with him through that and pick up clues?

I didn’t dare contact him until I was nearly done. I did a first pass
annotating those items that were relatively easy to find, then spent
hundreds of hours in libraries researching more obscure items. (This
was pre-Internet: I first read The Recognitions in 1975, and
began the annotations a year or two later.) A few dissertations and
articles on the novel had already been written by that time, which
provided some information, and I dug up the rest on my own. Identifying
Gaddis’ sources were the key: once I found the particular book he used
for saints’ lives or for alchemy, for example, I could knock out a
number of annotations like bowling pins. It helped that I had already
read some of the same books Gaddis used, like Fraser’s Golden Bough and Graves’s White Goddess,
which is part of the reason I was so attracted to the novel to begin
with, [particularly Gaddis’ fascination with] the modern relevance of
ancient myths. Toward the end, it was like completing a gigantic jigsaw
puzzle, trying to fill in the gaps that were still missing. Only then
did I write to Gaddis and tell him I’d annotated about 90 percent of
it, and wondered if he still had a list of sources that I could use to
finish up. He said he didn’t. I learned later he was very pleased with
the book, and wrote me a six-page letter filling in some of those gaps.
Looking back, it was the greatest intellectual adventure of my life.

* Chad Post raves about the JCO of Belguim

* You greedy fans! Ken Follett’s hands are for writing books, not for signing his name for your grubby pleasure!

* Apologies to The Guardian, but this is about the stupidest teaser I’ve ever read: "Whether it’s adult fiction or children’s stories, celebrity novelists are big business – even if they may not have actually written the words. So, wonders Stephanie Merritt, what drives ‘real’ authors to ghostwrite these bestsellers?"


In the Virginia Quarterly Review, Lawrence Weschler discusses the art of Robert Irwin


* Rejoice squinters! Celebrate, o thee who enjoys scrolling Melville with the tip of your index finger! One day very soon, you will be able to read entire works of fiction on your iPhone.

* Unfortunately, the dreaded entrepreneurs writing about themselves genre seems to be gaining popularity, with an increase from 188 in 2002 to 312 last year. Fortunately, most of them sell poorly.

* Four Robert Walser translators discuss their work.

* Magical realism becomes a current in Egyptian fiction:

Literary history also repeats itself in the return of magical realism
to the contemporary Egyptian novel. The local precedents here are Yahya
Taher Abdullah’s folkloric fiction of the 1970s and Ibrahim Abdel
Meguid’s early novel Distant Train. (Both Distant Train
and a volume of Abdullah’s fiction recently became available in English
translation). Latin American boom writers in Arabic translation have
been so popular here that they too can be considered a local precedent.
The new group of young novelists includes writers who reinvent magical
realist techniques to express the same absurdities that Heliopolis and A Matter of Time
emphasize through their realism. These writers include the medical
doctor-turned-author Atef Suleiman, Adel Asmat—especially in his novel The Naked Man— and Merfet al-’Azuni in her book The Creeping Hills.

* Orhan Pamuk makes the odd assertion that football leads to xenophobia. I suppose you could make that argument for a lot of things.

* Bestselling authors are publishing’s answer to sweat-shop labor. Or something like that. Just click it for the scary James Patterson photo.


* A review of Rivka Galchen’s Atmospheric Disturbances:

Her husband, Dr. Leo Liebenstein, a 51-year-old psychiatrist, has become convinced—almost surely incorrectly— that his wife has been replaced by a fake. Taking recourse in the meteorological studies of a cryptic figure named Tzvi Gal-Chen (who just happens to share a surname with the author), and then in Harvey, one of his own weather-obsessed patients, Liebenstein treks erratically from New York to Patagonia in order to solve the mystery of his wife’s disappearance.

Like the last-woman-on-earth protagonist of David Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress,
Leo frantically examines seemingly unrelated phenomena (a caller with
the wrong number, a cavalcade of menacing dogs, a man—or several men—
named Anatole) for clues as to the stability of his own mental state, a
process he comes to call "the Dopplerganger Effect." Rema—or her
simulacrum—chases after him in confusion and despair.

* Julian Evans hopes his biography, The Semi-Invisible Man, boosts the readership of Norman Lewis. Reviewed in The Guardian:

He was a heartbreakingly brilliant travel writer, one of the finest;
perhaps the finest. Graham Greene considered him among "the best
writers, not of any particular decade, but of our century". The
masterworks include Naples ’44, an idiosyncratic portrait of a valiant
city half wrecked by war, and Voices of the Old Sea, an extended
vignette of a Spanish fishing village about to be wrecked by tourism.
Yet Lewis has never broken through the mysterious barrier that
separates the admired from the famous.

* A review of Blood Kin by Ceridwen Dovey at The Millions:

The book is set in an anonymous country, in the immediate aftermath of
a military coup, through which the President and his closest associates
have been taken captive in the presidential summer retreat by a man
known only as the Commander, a strutting cryptic figure who has usurped
their power.


* Nigel Beale interviews recent Impac award winner Rawi Hage


This is a video novelist Aleksandar Hemon made based on photos taken and research performed in Eastern Europe while researching his latest novel, The Lazarus Project.

The Rest

* Thirteen Ways of Looking at Joseph Brodsky

* An interview with Paul Verhaegen, author of Omega Minor:

For me, the lightning bolt was Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. Which I picked up completely by accident: The university bookstore had a big stack of them, the cover looked interesting, the blurb too, and the first page immediately gripped me. Only when I got home did I realize I had, in fact, not discovered one of that year’s hot new novelists, but an oldie that must have been on some crusty professor’s reading list. I was doing my military service then and I read it in small installments on the early commuter train between Louvain and Ghent at 5:30 in the morning (on the train back, I was too tired and too busy coming to grips with being a soldier to read). I can assure you that there is nothing like reading Pynchon on a rattling hellbound train filled with snoring wage slaves.

* An interview with one of Korea’s leading experimental authors, Ch’oe Yun, discussing her recently translated There a Petal Silently Falls:

The World: Each of the
tales in the book explores the fallout that follows political trauma,
from the 1980s Kwangju Massacre to the silencing of leftist
intellectuals and the pernicious rise of consumer culture in
contemporary Korea. Is a serious writer in Korea inevitably a

Ch’oe Yun: Owing to circumstances of history and
politics there does seem to be this kind of tendency, or fashion even,
in Korea. In some circles it’s an honor to be a dissident. In a country
like Korea, which in certain respects lagged behind Western Europe,
with the result that politics became an obsession to some and
mythologized by others, I’m more interested in absolute truth than in
the relative truth pursued by contemporary politics. This may be
related to my Christian background.

* The Guardian recommends books for your vacations–or staycations, as the case may be. There are some good recs for Uruguayan books (and despite its somewhat lower profile than other parts of Latin America, that country has produced a lot of worthwhile books), as well as books from Turkey and Egypt

* Mac OS X’s dictionary gets political

* The Happening sounds awful, and now I learn it’s Intelligent Design propaganda


Yes, giant wood termites. Marcelo Ballve considers the art of Charles Juhasz-Alvarado.


* Twice as much fiction was published in 2007 as 2002. Of course, many will still be happy to justify shrinking coverage of fiction based on the "reality" of a nonfiction-dominated books industry.

* Philip K. Dick is a sales coup for the Library of America

* B&N continues to ponder swallowing Borders whole. I wonder, in the event this happens, what will become of Borders’ recently built online sales portal. Money down the drain?

* The Economist considers how eBooks and POD technology are transforming the book industry. For a more personal look at similar territory, see Richard Grayson in The Quarterly Conversation.

* Margaret Jull Costa has won the Oxford Weidenfeld prize for her translation of Portuguese classic The Maias. See our review of it here.

* Fools may rush in, but publishers are wasting no time trying to cash in on the mortgage crisis

* Eight years ago, David Foster Wallace followed McCain around on the campaign trail. Now one of France’s leading satirical authors has done the same with French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

* A couple weeks ago Ways of Seeing popped up on YouTube. Now John Berger is publishing a new novel. I don’t think it’s overly suspicious to think these two things are linked.

* There’s now advertising on a British police car. I’m sorry to say that this is an author’s doing.


* Richard Dawkins on Alan Turing


* Matthew Cheney discusses the recent stage adaptation of The Sound and the Fury that doesn’t cut a single word from the text

* Book-in-a-box The Unfortunates is reviewed in the NY Sun


* John Lanchester wonders why he’s completely unable to read Library of America books. That makes 16 volumes of beautifully produced and entirely unread great writing. What is it about these amazingly gorgeous books that makes one not want to read them? He has the same problem with the French Pléiade.

* Did Plato just make Atlantis up?

The Rest

* One of the people I enjoyed meeting at BEA was Albert Mobilio of Bookforum. We actually got to speak for a little while and he seems like a very intelligent person, so have a look at his "critical library" recommendations at Critical Mass.

* Several writers consider who will be tomorrow’s big genre stars.

* This is either going to be really good or really bad

* Whatever it is Jeff Bezos is good at, it’s not selling Kindles


Someone’s trying a little too hard to look like Castro


* You see marginalia Hemingway fans should be ashamed of. A California bookstore owner sees $$$$.

* A thoroughly respectable midlist author pens the new Bond novel. It gets publicized like a woman named J.K. wrote it. And then: Penguin’s fastest-selling hardcover ever.

* 170 books? Is that it? What happened to holding the Library of Babel in your hands? According to The Guardian, Amazon estimates the Kindle’s capacity at 170. That’s not worth $400.

* Dzanc Books is publishing 21 short story collections between 2008 and 2010, an admirable number for a publisher that does a little over 10 books per year. They’re also holding a short story contest.

* Chad Post has some interesting thoughts on how the ongoing demise of Borders could improve the outlook for indie booksellers

* The EU is looking into creating its own fiction prize

* Poetry classes are among the punishments for vandals that broke into Robert Frost’s former home for a kegger


* Louis Menand on Ezra Pound

* Words Without Borders is hosting a discussion of Robert Walser’s The Assistant. There’s already an excellent introduction to the writer penned by Sam Jones, the same man who reviewed The Assistant for The Quarterly Conversation.

* The LRB argues that Nobel-laureate Elfriede Jelinek’s Greed is almost untranslatable

* Triple Canopy has the first English translation of the speech Bolano gave in acceptance of the Romulo Gallegos prize for The Savage Detectives, the award commonly credited with making him a literary superstar. I quote from this speech in my essay on Bolano for HermanoCerdo.


* I managed to pick up a copy of The Unfortunates, B.S. Johnson’s novel in a box, at BEA, and the presentation is really spectacular. Does the book itself live up? QC contributor John Lingan reviews it at Splice Today.

* The Complete Review reviews Vargas Llosa’s new collection of lectures and essays

The Rest

* Paper Tiger has some appropriate thoughts in response to Ian McEwan’s recent comment that he hates comic novels

* What literary/artistic moment would you loved to have witnessed? I’ll step out of the literary realm for a moment and say the premiere of The Rite of Spring.

* A cultural history of airports. Apparently, they used to not be as bad as they are now.

* On creativity in the era of nothing new under the sun


The Economist profiles an ongoing exhibition of artist Gustave Klimt‘s works


* Columbia University Press is offering up to 80% off their books. Buy some!

* Who says Americans are scared of translations? Knopf is printing 100,000 copies (or maybe it’s 25,000 if we’re to discount the typical print-run-inflation multiplier) of a Swedish trilogy

* USA Today reports on Zinio, a new service to let you read magazines digitally

* Granta has its first female editor

* The Million recruits Google to demonstrate the heaps of cliched prose to be found in book reviews

* And now you too can read an excerpt from Nabokov’s still-unburned (final) novel, The Original of Laura


* Caleb Crain takes on a Zogby poll discussed at BEA that means to tell us something about America’s changing reading habits

* Just in time for Bookforum’s cover story on political novels, The Guardian wonders whether political novels are dead

* Ian McEwan considers humankind’s predilection for declaring itself about to end

* Luc Sante gets devoured by books

* The LRB on Lorrie Moore, one of the few American short stories writers to meet with enviable success


* The Guardian reviews Ismail Kadare‘s new novel, The Siege

* Following up on Rushdie’s take on former Pakistani ruler General Zia-ul-Haq (Shame), Mohammed Hanif gives us A Case of Exploding Mangoes, a novel covering Zia’s mysterious death and reviewed in The Guardian

* Quarterly Conversation contributor Scott Byran Wilson reviews All Saints by Christine Schutt for Rain Tazi

The Rest

* Michael Frayn and his new play are profiled at The Guardian

* Kawabata- and Banana Yoshimoto-translator Michael Emmerich is interviewed. Also see our interview with Emmerich.

* Nigel Beale interviews former Philly Inq books editor Frank Wilson

* At The Guardian, Gary Younge asks why the ’70s didn’t produce any lasting novels. I would argue that that decade did, and quite so. First on that list, of course, is Gravity’s Rainbow.

* An Inconvenient Truth continues its run through every form of presentation known to humanity. The latest incarnation is as an opera.

* I would suspect that marketing is behind this. But I’m a bit cynical.

* Everyone who thinks 800 words constitutes a novel say "laughing all the way to the bank"

* The Walrus runs free


Above: the art of light graffiti. More photos and info here.


* No difference between Calvino and Hemingway? Iranian translators do what the hell they want.

* Corporate book retailing is down. So, online book sales is the new panacea.

* Speaking of online book sales, Borders has decided to split from Amazon and go it alone. The homepage is somewhat intense.

* The Telegraph opines that Hay has become a "celebrityfest"

* Are the laws of publishing changing? Strong backlists have always been the bread and butter of long-lasting publishers. In Israel they’re disappearing.

* John Freeman opines that U.S. short story writers have it better than their British counterparts. So I assume something along the lines of hunting via flamethrower is happening to the Brit authors.

* Web 2.0 fails to generate money. Getting cash out of web ads is harder than previously believed, shakeouts are considered likely. Say goodbye to your Facebook.


* Levi discusses narration via we in two recent novels, Ed Park’s Personal Days and Joshua Ferris’s Then We Came to the End


* An Austrian man imprisons his daughter in a cellar for 24 years and has children by her. The TLS explains how Austrian fiction predicted this.

* Jeff Bezos thinks the Kindle can turn us from "information snackers" into information . . . I dunno, information gourmets. That and much else as the WSJ ponders the future of digital books.

The Rest

* Haruki Murakami is interviewed

* Omega Minor author Paul Verhaegen has a top ten list of books

* You would think a renowned poet would have a little better grasp of irony

* A classic mistake that we all have made: taking way too much to read on a trip

* This is a little out of line.

Kureishi, himself a research associate on the creative writing course at Kingston University in London said, "One of the things you notice is that when you switch on the television and a student has gone mad with a machine gun on a campus in America, it’s always a writing student.

"The writing courses, particularly when they have the word ‘creative’ in them, are the new mental hospitals. But the people are very nice."

That’s author Hanif Kureishi at the Hay festival.




* Now you can display online what you’re reading, the exact page you’re on, and even the notes you take along the way

* Coffee House Press is having a moving sale–50% off sales through their website until June 30. Lots of good stuff here, including the Believer Book Award shortlisted Meat and Spirit Plan, Gilbert Sorrentino’s final novel, and a novel about a rat that consumes literature.

* The British are calling for the arrest of John Bolton, who is appearing at the Hay festival

* It’s nice to see the Kenyon Review embracing the potential of the Internet. They now offer an online journal to complement their print one.

* The BBC reports that web users are getting less patient and more selfish

* The Nation publishes its Spring Books issue

* Microsoft officially ends its Google Books knockoff


* Zadie Smith on one of my favorite writers, George Eliot

* Wyatt Mason offers 85,000 reasons why criticism isn’t dead

* The NYRB looks at libraries in the digital age


* Joyce Carol Oates on Salman Rushdie’s newest

* The New York Post offers a review of Estoian author Mati Unt’s most recently translated novel

* The Guardian reviews the "eagerly awaited rambling fantasy-SF-horror-kung-fu novel," The Gone-Away World

* The Guardian on Michael Frayn’s new book on theater, Stage Directions

* TNR on Human Smoke

The Rest

* Rain Taxi interviews Chip Kidd

* The Guardian has an extract from the novel of Columbian author Juan Gabriel Vasquez, The Informers

* High off his ARC of 2666, Chad Post is gleefully happy to receive another galley

* The perils of pictures in novels:

Sebald was a master of this device, but it’s a technique that can scupper otherwise good novels.  The Raw Shark Texts, for example, ends with a still of Bogart and Bacall clinking glasses. You can see what Steven Hall is driving at, but its inclusion comes across as a lame gag, and somewhat cheapens what has gone before it.  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer’s image heavy second novel, also suffers under the weight of its artistic leanings. I’m still undecided as to whether the last pages which depict a man falling from the Twin Towers, are an ambitious attempt to prove that sometimes words are not enough, or whether it’s a final tricksy passage to a book over-stuffed with visual stimuli.

* Why you should read Milton

* The Guardian tries to argue that Christopher Hitchens was "bullying" at Hay, but what they report just sounds pretty lame (i.e. typical Hitchens) to me

* This is child abuse

* Something’s going on at Apple



* One book blog learns the perils of too much traffic, the hard way

* Over at Nigel’s blog, James Wood responds in a post to some blog-based attacks. I’ll give Wood credit–not many a critic in his position would leap into the litblog fray like that.

* The Village Voice on Stefan Zweig:

But Zweig’s popularity came, as the shadow of it still comes, from the
novels, stories, and biographies through which he channeled his vast
knowledge, his painstaking style, and his acutely observant
psychological sense into the romantic dreams of comfy middle-class
readers. Worldwide successes, many of his books have been dramatized or
filmed. It’s a gauge of his astute awareness of his market that the two
achievements by which he’s most widely known today are the movie
versions of his Marie Antoinette (MGM, 1938, with Norma Shearer) and Letter From an Unknown Woman
(Universal, 1948, directed by Max Ophüls), twin demonstrations of
Hollywood’s gift for raising kitsch to the level of the sublime.

* American literature is being enlisted to help Egyptians learn that we aren’t all bad. I guess this isn’t a terrible way for the NEA to be spending its money, but it seems a little cheap to ask the NEA is to put up the cash for this when we already have well-funded government programs whose job it is to promote America’s image abroad.

* Peter Robins discovers that we read Ismail Kadare (when we read him at all) in a double-translation

* Three Percent shows us the virtues of giving those gentle translators freedom of choice:

Göknar read from his award-winning translation of Pamuk’s My Name is Red,
noting how Pamuk plays with “the linguistic genealogy of a 16th-century
novel,” then gave a sneak preview of his translation of Ahmet Hamdi
Tanpınar’s A Mind at Peace, coming in August from Archipelago.
He noted that in the face of numerous inquiries he receives for doing
new translations, Archipelago was the first press to ask him which book
he thought should be translated. Good thing they did. Even the brief
excerpt from the novel, which Pamuk has called “the greatest novel ever
written about Istanbul,” already felt magical and haunting, and it was
cool to have a sneak preview, since Göknar had just noted that Tanpınar
(1901-62) was known more as a poet during his lifetime, his novels
mainly existing in serialized form until after his death. International
film festivals get their snazzy previews — we want our literary ones! 

* David Mitchell writes a book review for Ready Steady Book

* Garth reviews Nazi Literature in the Americas. For the record, I’m about 100 pages in on 2666 and it’s pretty damn good. So far it’s about these profs going around to literary conferences and writing about this mysterious German author (and having lots of sex with each other). Needless to say, that, sans the sex, sounds pretty dull, but Bolano is making it quite worthwhile.

* Random House gets a new boss:

The appointment of Mr. Dohle, 39, an outsider to the publishing industry, is likely to rattle insiders at Random House and comes at a time when both Random House and the wider publishing industry are suffering from a slowdown.

* The Literary Saloon has more

* Marcelo has posted to two lead grafs from his excellent essay on Macedonio Fernandez (aka Borges’s mentor), forthcoming in a couple of weeks on The Quarterly Conversation

* This list of good films made into bad video games is just bizarre. Someone actually tried to "adapt" Reservoir Dogs?



* This unassuming stack of paper is the one Dmitri Nabokov’s trying not to burn

* Susan Sontag’s son on colluding in her fantasy” that she wasn’t dying of cancer

* Two new book blogs from major glossies: Wyatt Mason, whom I identified as a critical alternative to James Wood, is blogging at Sentences. The New Yorker has a group book blog.

* Three Percent is providing write-ups of the 25 Reading the World 2008 books

* Marcelo has some interesting thoughts on the madly prolific Cesar Aira‘s strategy for literary-aesthetic domination:

In other words “genius” is not a quality inherent to the writer or creator, but a result of a patient strategic deployment of effective artistic ideas until they achieve enough resonance to be everywhere and nowhere simultaneously, in other words, simply the state of aesthetic affairs. Once a creator has saturated his time with ideas and sensibilities, the halo-crown of genius descends upon them, but in fact all the time they were hard-headed artistic strategists, like Clausewitzes of literature. It’s an interesting way of turning the usual romantic ideas of inspiration, genius and talent somewhat on their head.

Those looking for more of Marcelo on Aira can read his essay on the author, from The Quarterly Conversation

* Should publishers be the ones to choose which of their books are considered for major book prizes?

* The Economist argues that there’s an inverse relationship between the number of books on climate change and the overall quality thereof

* Ezra Pound in London



* Other folks begin hauling in those 2666 ARCs

* And some are still waiting (well actually, not any more)

* And we all may be waiting a long, long time for Garcia Marquez’s purported new novel. Marcelo has some evidence that there may be no novel after all.

* I’m with the Literary Saloon. Shameless as it may be, if the so-called best of the Booker gets people reading The Siege of Krishnapur, then it can’t be all bad

* The Economist profiles artist Philip Guston, perhaps well-known as the man who joined up with that other, literary Philip to pillory Richard Nixon

* The University of Chicago Press has published a previously untranslated work from the first Latin American to win the Nobel Prize. There’s also audio of a reading from the work.

* Middlebrow mediocrity is the least of it. I just got through wading through the list of authors scheduled to appear at BEA, and the clear majority of the books these people had written simply sounded hilariously bad. It made me long for those earnest, mediocre writers that are blessed with even a tiny bit of good sense.

* Chad points me to the Estonian Literary Magazine

* Winning the Nobel is hard

* Columbia University Press points you to an interview with The Song of Everlasting Sorrow’s translator

* This is ambitious. It’d be cool if an American publisher, or a group of them, tried to do this.

* I pray for a future where I don’t have to read Janet Maslin talking about James Frey "hitting one out of the park"

*  And while I’m down here on my knees, I might as will ask for a future where I don’t have to listen to Cokie Roberts talking about American history


The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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