A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

July 25, 2016


I saw the film version of this novel a couple of years ago, and I still remember one episode vividly: George and Jim are sitting on the couch, both of them are deeply immersed in their books, but all the while their bodies are touching – casually, naturally, non-sexually – and from their positions, attitudes, light touch it’s obvious that they can talk to each other any minute, and it’s obvious that if one of them starts talking, the other won’t be annoyed.

Isherwood describes this more beautifully than I ever could, and he doesn’t need quite so many explanations, either:

“He pictures the evening he might have spent, snugly at home, fixing the food he has bought, then lying down on the couch beside the bookcase and reading himself slowly sleepy. At first glance, this is an absolutely convincing and charming scene of domestic contentment. Only after a few instants does George notice the omission which makes it meaningless. What is left out of the picture is Jim, lying opposite him at the other end of the couch, also reading; the two of them absorbed in their books yet so completely aware of each other’s presence.”

This is one of the most beautiful and most succinct depictions of intimacy I’ve ever read, and besides its beauty, it also implies everything that happens before two people can exist with each other like this: observing the other and being observed by the other – but not eating up each other; being constanstly aware of the other, even during times of separation; and most importantly: being aware that the other person is another person, not the continuation, supplement, or copy of the first person.

People, in the plural, can be hell – they are all different, they are all others: unknown (all of them – themselves), frightening, with all their different desires. This episode with the couch depicts that state when the other person (not other persons) still – very probably – wants all kinds of things all on his own, and he’s still unknown (and will forever be, being other) – but he’s no longer frightening.

The main character, George loses his partner, Jim – and following this loss everything reverts to its original frightening state. And the way Isherwood writes about this from George’s point of view – condensing everything into the events of a single day – is desperately, heart-breakingly bitter and angry.

But the novel isn’t only about George’s personal loss – it’s also about the state of being a stranger in a frightful world in general, about the ways people try to become less strange, less frightening to one another, and about the realization how random, selfish, ridiculous, and meaningless these experiments in taming other humans can be.

And George is very smart and experienced, and he knows all too well what social interactions mean. He knows that his neighbor doesn’t want to invite him over when she has other guests because she’s afraid the other guests might notice that George is gay. He knows that his eager student at the university only invites him for dinner for the second time because two dinner engagements – according to a weird social code – already signify intimate friendship, and two dinners with George will enable him twenty years later to boast to his university friends: yes, George and I used to be good friends. And he also knows that his friend living next door only requires his company because she needs a manly shoulder to cry on.

Everyone wants all kinds of everything, and – as it often comes up in the novel – everything is symbolic. The relationships, the conversations, the way Americans live – are all symbols for something, but they themselves are not something. At the same time there’s the hope, knowledge, certainty in the novel that finding – or rather: building – something is not impossible. Not impossible – but it takes long. And it’s difficult. And at any moment you might wake up to realize: there won’t be time for it anymore.

Buried Child by Sam Shepard

July 18, 2016


Sam Shepard’s plays, as far as I know them, often deal with the questions of family inheritances/curses, and with the idea that progress is impossible. In Shepard’s world, a family is something you can never get out of, something that will keep pulling you back, no matter how hard you try to get away – an institution where change cannot happen and where the same themes and patterns keep recurring for eternity.

This play is no exception. The characters are the members of a dysfunctional, half-ruined family – each of them unable to communicate and unable to understand the others, all of them kept together by an old family secret/curse (a curse they brought upon themselves).

At the beginning of the drama, the old parents and their two adult sons are merrily indulging in deep family misery: they all lack trust in the others; they don’t listen to each other (it’s a telling detail that a significant percentage of their conversations is conducted in shouts as the conversing parties are usually in different rooms); they casually ignore the reality and needs of the others; they lie all the time – just for the hell of it; and they have serious doubts about both their own, and about the others’ sanity.

Then one day the 20-year old grandson shows up with his girlfriend – the prodigal child is ready to reconcile with his family he abandoned long ago.

According to the traditions of literature, the arrival of outsiders usually signifies a major change, so at this point we might start expecting that suddenly all the family will confess their sins, rebuild their lives from scratch, and so on. How surprising then – though probably not in Shepard’s world – that here all these efforts stop halfway, and no major improvements take place.

The outsiders are not outsiders enough, or not strong or dedicated enough to push any major change through.

After all, the prodigal grandson, Vince just wants to find his proper place in the family again, and he works hard to achieve this goal: he even goes so far as to evoke wild horseplay and childhood tricks, hoping that this way his father and grandfather will recognize and accept him again – the fathers, however, remain silent and are unwilling to embrace Vince. (And again, it’s typical: Vince manages to find his way back to his family when he stops trying, and assumes the irresponsible behavior characteristic of his family – then he becomes instantly recognizable.) All in all, Vince is only interested in the big family reunion, so his presence doesn’t really shake the boat.

The other outsider, Vince’s girlfriend, Shelly is a different matter, though – and she’s quite an exciting and unpredictable character. At first glance, Shelly is a stereotypical dumb California chick, accompanying her boyfriend on a family visit without much enthusiasm, thinking that the great reunion will involve roast turkey and apple pie, a caring granny and a gentle grandpa – but when it turns out that things in the family are not exactly as she imagined, she stands up to the challenge and deals with the less than comfortable situation with admirable presence of mind.

Her foreignness is truly foreign, and she has no interest at all in finding her place in the family, so she really acts as a catalyst: because Shelly is a stranger, her presence doesn’t seem to matter all that much, so everyone goes ahead and tells her about deeds and secrets that have been age-old family taboos. Still – Shelly is only one outsider, all alone against five living and hordes of dead family members – there’s no way she can bring about real change on her own.

In the end, I’m not sure if all this is tragic – because Shepard has a bizarre, wicked sense of humor, and it’s just enough for me not to quickly succumb to deep melancholy. Still, if I think about it for a minute – Shepard’s world is a gloomy and hopeless place.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

July 11, 2016


It took me a long time to get around to this novel. One reason was that I didn’t want to exhaust the life work of Eugenides too quickly, because no matter how much I love re-reading, and no matter how quickly I forget (meaning that after a few months or years I can read something again almost as I were reading it for the first time), I can only really read something for the first time once, and I wanted to wait for the perfect moment for my first reading of this book.

The other reason for my procrastination was that I looked at this novel somewhat suspiciously. I found its topic and the (literary) opportunities dormant in it intriguing, and generally I would be happy to read even the laundry list of a person who can write such a mesmerizing novel as The Virgin Suicides – still, I had my doubts. One of my several phobias is an inexplicable aversion to family sagas, and this is a saga for sure.

The novel follows the lives and times of an inbred Greek family, and starts off with Desdemona and Lefty Stephanides (who are third cousins and siblings, and also married to each other) leaving for America from Smyrna in 1922, and moving in with a relative. As the years go by, children are born both to them, and to their relative, the lesbian Lina (who has a husband), and the children of the new generation, not being aware of their fragile genetic makeup, follow the century-long tradition of marrying their close relations – to the utmost horror of Desdemona, who – understandably – spends her time worrying when a freak will eventually get born into the family.

The years pass, the first grandchild is born, and after still more years, in 1960, the true main character of the novel is finally born. She’s Calliope Stephanides, a beautiful little girl, who apparently has nothing wrong with her. As Calliope enters puberty, though, she notices more and more weird details on and within herself, until a fateful day reveals that Callie is in fact a boy. (I won’t go into the genetic details – Eugenides does that, and that’s enough.)

The extremely detailed, complicated story is told by the now-adult, 40-something Cal (not Calliope anymore), who’s been living as a man since his teenage years. To give you an idea about the detailed quality of the novel, suffice it to say that a few hundred pages pass before the main character is even born. However, Cal – in the thoroughly enjoyable manner of an ironic-omniscient narrator – knows all there’s to know about his forebears, even things they don’t know about themselves – but when it comes to knowing himself, his knowledge is limited since until the age of 14 he doesn’t know himself for who he is, and even as an adult he constantly struggles with the problem that sometimes he feels like a man, and sometimes like a woman – even if both officially (genetically) and according to his own evaluation he is a man.

The main theme of Middlesex is fantastically interesting. Eugenides examines the eternal questions: what makes a person who he is, and what does our definition of our identity depend on? Is it genetics that defines our identity, is it our upbringing, or something else entirely? And what if there’s a conflict between our genetic identity and the identity that came into being through being brought up one way or another? Can we then freely decide which one to keep? Of course Cal’s case is less than ordinary, consequently, he has a hard time deciding what to call his identity.

I won’t go into details as to why, in the end, he decides at the age of 14, blessed with a man’s genetic makeup and a woman’s identity, that he wants to be a man from that point on – it’s enough to say that the process of choosing (or finding) an identity for himself is deeply human and beautiful – I read with nothing but wonder about the stages of Cal’s journey towards himself. Partly because the journey to the self is always exciting (though of course dangerous), and partly because Eugenides – as usual – writes with such tenderness, poignancy and delicacy that all I can do is sigh and be glad that such beautiful things as his books do exist.

Despite all this, I was a bit disappointed upon first finishing the novel, and I felt as if roughly 500 pages were missing from it. After perusing the elaborately detailed backstory and Cal’s first 14 years of life, I felt as if Eugenides had forgot something: namely, to write about one thing I was extremely interested in: what happened to Cal between the ages of 14 and 41. After a while, though, I realized that of course Eugenides knew what he was doing – because whatever happened to Cal after his decision at the age of 14, that already belonged to his adulthood, and not to the period of defining his identity. And that would be an altogether different story. (A story I’d still be deeply interested to read.)

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

July 4, 2016


Saying that Shirley Jackson’s classic horror story is eerie and deeply terrifying doesn’t even come close to describing the real effect of this novel. This novel is so numbing that its chill goes right to the depth of the heart – even if The Haunting of Hill House is not a traditional haunted house-story: it’s more about examining what’s inside the mind and what’s outside, in the so-called reality, and about the way the inside of the mind influences the way the outside world is experienced, and vice versa.

At the beginning of story, we meet Dr. Montague, a determined and naive man, who is fascinated by haunted houses, and wants to spend time exploring them scientifically. Dr. Montague finds the ideal candidate for his explorations in Hill House. Hill House is not exactly an inviting house, the neighbors all talk and think about it with feelings of unease, and it’s been mostly uninhabited in the 80 years that’s passed since its construction because everyone who moved there soon moved out again, feeling that Hill House is just not a place to live in. Naturally, the house has a bit of a dark past, too – but it’s clear from the very first page that Hill House isn’t evil or haunted – contrary to an average haunted house – because people died or dark deeds were done there. No – Hill House was born evil, and it brought misfortune to everyone who had anything to do with its construction or later history.

But Dr. Montague isn’t put off by the bad reputation of the house, he recruits a couple of people and moves in to Hill House with them, with the intention to observe and document anything that might happen. The members of his group: Theodora, a shallow, cute, manipulative young girl; Luke, a relative of the owner of Hill House, a suave, unscrupulous man; and Eleanor, a single woman in her thirties, who spent her youth taking care of her ailing mother, and now, being freed from her decade-long duty, she has no idea how to interact with people because she’s never known anyone and she’s never been wanted by anyone anywhere.

These four people move in to Hill House, and from that moment on they are all exposed to the subversive, mind-corrupting atmosphere of the house, and they start to experience uncanny phenomena, too: doors and windows left wide open close on their own; there’s a spot near the door of the children’s room where the air is strangely cold; and the view from the windows is not the view that should be visible according to the laws of physics.

And this is terrifying enough, but it’s not the main point – the main question is what goes on inside the minds of characters, and what kind of relationships and power/mind games develop among them: how Eleanor, lonely and awkward, tries to win the affection of the others; how Theodora, easy-going and careless, plays with everyone’s emotions; how Dr. Montague tries to create and maintain order and sanity among his guests; and how Luke, ever the womanizer, tries to seduce both women at the same time.

The ominous events scattered here and there among all the psychological battles of the characters are not central and especially: not surprising – because everyone already takes it for granted that something will happen in Hill House. And indeed: the atmosphere of Hill House is extremely oppressive and menacing, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Hill House provided a home to a score of ghosts – but a couple of questions do arise: do the mysterious, inexplicable events happen because the guests are attuned to them? Or do they happen because Hill House is truly evil? Does anything supernatural happen at all? Is it perhaps all just collective paranoia? Or is it that one of the four characters is just playing a cruel game or joke on the others? And if so – who is the master of the game, who is the joker?

I don’t wish to take away the – dark and helluva cold – pleasure of answering these questions during reading, so I won’t go into more details – that’s for sure that Shirley Jackson provides the reader with plenty to think about, while subtly and precisely describing what a – supposedly – haunted house does (can do) to the human mind. And in the end this is much more than a simple-scary horror – this is an impressive, well thought-out and well (what’s more: beautifully) written ghost/insanity story, one which leaves you wondering whether the things that do happen are brought about by a real ghost, or by the lunacy of the characters.

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris

June 27, 2016


Joshua Ferris’ new novel started out well enough, but then I got bored or tired of it. Based on my experience with two of his novels (this being the second one), this tends to be the way I react to his work. (Except for one amazing short story of his, Breeze – I wasn’t bored by that, not even after multiple re-readings. I can draw all kinds of conclusions from this fact – mostly about the length of time I can be mesmerized by Ferris.)

Staying in the realm of wild generalizations: the themes Ferris writes about are interesting and relevant to me, and in the beginning, they always excite my mind – and then my excitement slowly drains away. The same happened this time, even though I started this novel with great expectations. I am easily amused, and if the blurb says that this is an existentialist novel, 21st century style, I immediately become interested and put all my doubts aside.

Perhaps I shouldn’t. Especially not with this novel, as it turns out that the main theme here is exactly that: doubting.

The main character, Paul is an alienated New York dentist, a devout atheist, and an eternal doubter. Paul spends his nights thrashing about in his bed in anguish, afraid that he is the only person awake in the whole world during the godforsaken small hours, and spends his days contemplating the sad situation that entropy only increases, teeth inevitably rot, and we will all die one day – therefore it doesn’t make any sense to enjoy anything in life.

Still, Paul keeps trying. For one thing, he tends to get romantically involved with women who come from strictly religious families, and during his relationships, Paul tends to fall in love with the devout Catholic or devout Jewish families of his girl-friends just as deeply as he falls in love with the women themselves. It seems that Paul is looking for tradition, belief, past, history – but he never finds what he’s looking for, or doesn’t feel at home in what he finds.

Then a mysterious online Paul shows up. He advocates the religion of eternal skepticism, and claims that the real Paul is a descendant of an almost-forgotten ancient nation, a nation who used to follow the religion of doubt. What follows is Paul continuing doubting everything – but this time it’s normal and expected, and he at least feels at home in doubting.

I guess this really is existentialism 21st century style. And it’s not bad, but it doesn’t blow my mind, because this is something I already know, and Ferris doesn’t throw an unexpected light on the thing I already know – he doesn’t make it unknown to me.

Anyway, while I was reading this novel, I dutifully flossed my teeth every night – a practice I tend to neglect because – in full agreement with Paul – I also think that flossing is a pain in the butt, something that’s always easier to start doing tomorrow. But if I did something for a long and joyful life during those few days then it was already worth it, and then I’d be willing to read other 21st century existentialist novels about doubting dentists – if any further such novels exist.

The Invisible Circus by Jennifer Egan

June 20, 2016


I have no idea how Jennifer Egan does this. I can get it if someone has the wonderfully eerie ability to instinctively understand human emotions and tangled relations, and all the ways things can be awesome and things can suck – but this ability combined with the talent to be able to write it all down is something rare and precious. Jennifer Egan is in possession of both the ability to perceive and the ability to put her perceptions to paper – and I’m thoroughly amazed by her.

I have no idea, either, what Egan’s teenage years felt like (she was born in 1962), but I have a strong suspicion that the 70s were quite a memorable period for her. The reason for this suspicion is that – just like in her Pulitzer-winning novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad – the main (almost living) characters of this novel are the 70s and time in general – time wasted, time lost.

The novel explores several other themes but I don’t attempt to write about all of them – I’ll mostly focus on time here. But first – a few words about the story.

The heroine of the novel is 18-year old Phoebe, standing on the brink of adulthood. But Phoebe doesn’t care either about adulthood, or about enjoying her teenage years – all she’s interested in is her late sister, Faith, who died 8 years earlier, who was loved and admired by everyone who knew her, and whose death Phoebe cannot get over. While the rest of her family, and the old friends and old loves of Faith are all more or less living their own lives already, Phoebe still sleeps in her sister’s room, idolizes every small memento left behind by Faith, and devotes her life to understanding (and following in the footsteps of) her sister. The „following” bit is mostly theoretical, though, given the fact that Faith was the quintessential hippy of the end of the 60s, while Phoebe (as she’s well aware) is just an average, screwed-up teenager.

At the beginning of the story, Phoebe decides that the only possible thing for her to do is to travel to Europe and visit the places Faith visited 8 years earlier – from London through Amsterdam through Paris, all the way to a small Italian village, where Faith’s journey ended.

Phoebe is hoping to find peace, hoping to find certainty on her journey, but – of course – her attempt to find Faith is also an attempt to find herself – and Phoebe’s journey towards self-knowledge is a beautiful, unsettling, and very exciting coming-of-age story.

But like I say, this is a multi-layered novel – not a simple coming-of-age story. And it feels to me that the main theme of the novel is not even growing up, or finding ourselves – but the way we exist in time, and the way how most of the time we are not even at that time where we are in reality.

One way the perpetual sense of being at the wrong time is manifested in the novel is the constant nostalgia for events, for selves we had never experienced, had never been. In this case this is the nostalgia for the end of the 1960s: hippies, world peace, and world-shattering changes. Some characters were there then; some were there but were too young to grasp the meaning of what’s happening to them. And in the end it doesn’t really matter because in 1978, the present day of the novel, all of them feel as if they hadn’t been there – as if they had only been looking at those days from the outside, even when they were living right through them.

And the way the novel starts is just perfect: Phoebe is heading to a 60s-revival festival, but it turns out that she’s a day late for the event. And it’s not only her – it turns out that half the posters had the wrong date printed so hardly anyone turned up at the festival. This is typical of the novel: the feeling of being late, and not just the feeling – really being late, which is all the more terrible, all the more frustrating because the characters only realize too late that they are late for something, that they missed something for good.

The other side of being at the wrong time is depicted in the way the characters relate to the present and the future, the way they step from one into the other – for example, they tend to imagine how they will look back at the present moment from the future, when the present will already be past – therefore it will most probably be much more charming than the future present.

It’s often mentioned about Phoebe, for instance, that she doesn’t expect anything from the future and doesn’t even imagine anything about the future – and there’s nothing cynical in this, Phoebe is hardly a cynical teenager – and she lives her present in the past. All this changes – for a while – during her European trip: during that trip, Phoebe really exists when she is. Being in the present never lasts long, though, as made obvious by the following quote (which is one of the most beautiful moments in the novel):

“Phoebe felt herself hurtling forward in time until she was looking back from an imaginary future at these days with Wolf, at this very moment. My time with Wolf, she would think, those first days with Wolf, and pictured even now how the memory would break across her, a longing catch to the throat as she recalled their compulsion and wild tenderness, her worries about fate and whether their affair would last. This vision tumbled over Phoebe with the force of revelation: she would stand somewhere and look back, she would live a life. Until this moment she had never truly believed it.”

And most probably, it will be like this. There will be a life – the conclusion of the novel leaves no doubt about that, and it even gives some hope that after her pilgrimage, Phoebe will finally become Phoebe, and won’t be living as/in the shadow of Faith any longer. As for existing in the present time, though – that’s still doubtful.

First Love, Last Rites by Ian McEwan

June 13, 2016


The first time I read these short stories – some six years ago – I was stunned, but since then I’ve read several other works by McEwan (far from everything, though), and I realized now upon re-reading this collection that this is indeed a first book, with all the usual weaknesses, stylistic imbalances and the occasional awkwardness of first books. (Still, I’d be happy to write such a weak first book as this.)

McEwan’s usual themes are already present here: he writes about the unknown in us and in the others, about the impossibility of growing up, about unexpected violence, and about the dark side of love, sex, and intimacy – but he writes about all this with a lot more subtlety and eloquence in his later books. Here I sometimes feel that his writing is too direct, too coarse – even spoon-feeding.

For example: the main character in one of the stories was pampered by his mother to an unhealthy degree throughout his childhood, and it seems that this character half-consciously wishes to return to the womb. Then one day he gets locked inside a dark and warm place, where he has quite a pleasant time, and from that moment on, his desire to get back to the womb gets even more pronounced. Oh well – this is certainly not the most subtly symbolic piece of writing I’ve ever encountered.

What is already subtle and amazing here though is the way McEwan builds the layers of words, moods and feelings on one another. What I mean is that even though the stories all stand on their own, if you read them one after the other, their individual effects slowly add up, due to the fact that certain themes and motives come up again and again.

For example, several stories feature rivers, channels, and boats of some kind, and it feels to me as if the abandoned boat that starts its slow journey towards the corrupt and violent London at the end of one of the stories were the same as the boat that’s mentioned by another character in another story when he invites an innocent girl for a walk by the channel. In the end it doesn’t matter that the two boats are different – the connection between the two riversides is made, and this way a connection is made between the characters of the two stories, too. Between characters who are innocent, corrupt, lonely, curious, perverted to different degrees – but it’s not as if there was a strict line between innocence and corruption, curiosity and perversion in these stories. It seems as if everything were already present inside everyone, only waiting for a chance to spring to the surface.

Besides riversides and boats, another recurring motif here is role-playing and being forced into unwanted roles, in all kinds of ages and situations: children play adult roles; adults want to force children around them into either the role of the eternal child, or into the role of the miniature adult. And then there’s role-playing onstage (where it’s perverted to do something for real when you’re only supposed to act – to pretend doing it), and at home (where the overly theatrical gestures get oppressive after a while, as they blur the line between acting and reality). This is a rich and intriguing theme, and McEwan examines it from so many aspects in these eight stories that after a while I’m almost scared to do anything for fear that it would turn out to be only acting, turn out to be something that leads to horrible consequences.

So yes – this is a good, eerie, frightening collection – the only thing that bothers me is really only the occasional coarseness.

The Unicorn by Iris Murdoch

June 6, 2016


Long ago a teacher of mine at university said that this is a text that eradicates itself – each paragraph cancels the meaning of the previous one, and no matter how hard you pay attention, in the end you’ll have no idea what’s just happened. And I couldn’t agree more.

I’ve read this novel altogether four times now, and each time I made a solemn resolution that I will pay attention extremely hard, and I’ll remember everything. It doesn’t work like that, though – not with this book. As soon as I reach the end, my memories are erased. In fact, I don’t even have to get to the very end – the last time I read it, I tried to jot down a couple of ideas about the story when I still had around 30 pages to go, and I couldn’t.

I felt like one of the characters, who gets lost one night in the bog, starts sinking slowly, and after a while he ponders the possibility that this is the time and place where he’ll die. And as his sense of self, life, and reality recedes, he experiences a great spiritual enlightenment, and realizes what is God, what is goodness, and what is love. Later on, after making it out alive from his near-death experience, he tries to describe his feelings and new knowledge to others but this turns out to be impossible: the experience doesn’t let itself be contained and shared with others.

This is what this novel is like. While reading, I’m aware of the presence of a great, frightfully beautiful, moral and spiritual something (and feel as if that something were happening to me as well), but the moment I finish reading, I’m unable to formulate the experience. The story closes itself off, and while it’s already rather curious and elusive while I’m in it, it gets utterly unfathomable once I’m out of it, and after a short while I start to wonder: did it really happen? Did I really read this?

This ultimate inscrutability probably has something to do with the main motif of the novel: looking (observing) – which is not coupled with understanding. There’s hardly any synonym of the word „look” which you wouldn’t find in this novel, starting right with the name of the castle where most of the story takes place: Gaze. And the people living in and around the castle hardly do anything else in the story than watch the others, look at each other, steal glances at each other, peer into each other’s eyes, stare at the other, and study and observe each other from all possible angles, standpoints, from near and far, openly and secretly, with desire, with fear, with silent prayer, with suspicion.

All this looking is for a reason – the characters want to understand what happens and why; they want to learn the others’ secrets; and they want to piece together a meaningful story out of all the tragic-melodramatic events going on in the gothic-fantastic Gaze castle, all centered around the evanescent Hannah – an almost mythical, perhaps saintly, perhaps mad, remorseful, self-torturing figure. After all, all looks are directed at her, and she builds and destroys herself and others by feeding on the power of all those gazes – but she only lets others look at her until it suits her needs, and all the while she remains unknowable, unrememberable, forever elusive.

And I – as a reader – am also only an onlooker. And it seems I must forget everything the moment I no longer have anyone or anything to look at on these pages.


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