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  • Jeff Somers 3:00 pm on 2017/10/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , answered prayers, , anthony trollope, behind the scenes, , , , , , , , , j. g. ballard, , joan weigall, , , , , , , , , the adventures of huckleberry finn, the macdermots of ballycloran, , , , , through the looking glass, , why I want to f*ck ronald reagan   

    15 of the Most Infamous Deleted Chapters in History 

    Revision is a vital aspect of creation; all authors delete, re-write, and occasionally burn entire manuscripts with tears streaming down their faces. Most of the time, deleted chapters occur so early in the writing process that they’re not relevant—or interesting. They’re just the cost of doing literary business. Sometimes, though, the story behind excised material is almost as interesting as the finished version of the book it comes from. The fifteen chapters listed here didn’t make it into the published version of the book—but that hasn’t stopped them from being part of the conversation.

    Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
    Heller’s classic 1961 novel, one of the funniest, darkest, and most complex ever written, took about eight years to write—and remains the defining work of Heller’s career. Put simply, if you’re discussing Joseph Heller, you’re discussing Catch-22, and even Heller seemed to accept this towards the end of his life. Much of his late output was directly connected to his first novel, and in 2003 he published the collection Catch as Catch Can which contained two deleted chapters from Catch-22: “Love, Dad” and “Yossarian Survives” (both of which had been previously published). The chapters provide some background on Nately and Yossarian while offering some of Heller’s most savage mockery of the military—and both chapters work perfectly well as standalone stories, making them perhaps the rare examples of chapters deleted from books because they were too good.

    Dracula, by Bram Stoker
    Stoker’s novel is one of the most influential in all of history, but it originally ended a bit differently from the version you’re familiar with. A deleted chapter detailed Dracula’s castle literally falling apart as he dies. It’s not very long—a grace note, really—and there are several theories as to why Stoker excised it very close to its publication. Some people think he might have been envisioning a sequel and wanted to hedge his bets. Others think he might have worried about being accused of stealing the concept from Edgar Allan Poe. Whatever the reason, reading the chapter does change the tone of the novel just enough to make it significant.

    The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
    Wilde’s only novel originally contained a great deal of homosexual imagery, sexual allusions, and other edgy stuff that made his publisher’s head explode. So his editor forced him to cut a great deal of this “objectionable” material. Even so, the book created a stir upon publication, as it still contained passages that outraged a lot of people, and so Wilde revised the book a second time in an effort to make it acceptable. Wilde’s reward was a novel everyone is still reading and, of course, a few years in jail simply for being a homosexual. In 2011 the uncensored version of the book was finally published with the deleted chapters restored, so you can now read the book in all its dirty glory.

    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl
    In the early versions of Dahl’s beloved book there were actually eight kids brought into Wonka’s factory, and they had some different adventures—including the original chapter 5, which brings the children and their parents into the Vanilla Fudge Room, where a literal mountain of fudge is worked on by Wonka’s servants with picks and hammers, sending boulders of fudge down to the floor where they’re grabbed by cranes and sent on wagons into a hole in the wall. Sounds delightful until two of the kids and their parents ignore Wonka’s warnings and ride the wagons to what they think will be fudge heaven. Instead, Wonka reveals that the fudge is tipped out of the wagons into a machine that pounds it thin then chops it up. Dahl’s publisher thought this was a bit too nasty for kids, and so the chapter was deleted and didn’t see the light of day until 2014.

    The Martian, by Andy Weir
    The Martian by Andy Weir went through a lot of revision. The original version posted on Weir’s website—still available online if you know where to look—is very different from the final version. A few years ago Weir went on Reddit for an unannounced, secret “Ask Me Anything” session and revealed the original epilogue of the story, which featured Mark Watney cursing at a child who asks him if he’d return to Mars if they asked him. It’s actually kind of a delightful ending, and one we wish they would have included in the movie.

    Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
    The original ending of Dickens’ famous novel was kind of dark and sad: Pip and Estella meet years after the events of the novel, but instead of a bittersweet moment implying a future for the two, both are simply bitter, and they part on savage terms. Dickens liked this ending because he thought it was unexpected and original, but his Beta Readers disagreed, so he changed the chapter to the version we’re all familiar with. After publication he went back and revised the final line, coming up with the perfect “I saw no shadow of another parting from her.”

    Why I Want to F*ck Ronald Reagan, by J. G. Ballard
    In the late 1960s, Ronald Reagan was something new: one of the first “media politicians” who knew that how you said something was more important than what you said, as well as one of the first “far right” politicians in mainstream politics. Although a decade and a half from the presidency, he made an impact that J.G. Ballard found interesting, and he wrote a short work styled as an academic paper describing bizarre experiments to measure Reagan’s sexual appeal. It was meant to be challenging and confrontational—and it sure was. It was originally included in Ballard’s collection The Atrocity Exhibition, but the American publisher of the book actually destroyed the entire printing rather than let it loose on the country. Let that sink in: the publisher destroyed every copy of the book rather than publish this. If there’s a better reason to read it, we’re unaware.

    A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
    It’s well-known that the last chapter of Burgess’ novel was deleted before it was published in the United States; the publisher thought the “softer” ending in which Alex starts to mature and see that his behavior in the earlier portions of the book was wrong would turn off American readers. Indeed, many still prefer the way the book ended in the truncated version, which is also the beat Stanley Kubrick’s classic film version ends on: Alex dreaming of violence, thinking “I was cured all right.”

    The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
    Wells’ novel about a man who invents a time machine established not just one of the sturdiest sci-fi tropes of all time, but a template for the modern speculative novel. Wells’ publisher insisted he add a section showing mankind’s ultimate evolutionary fate, and Wells obliged under protest, writing a chapter in which the time traveler escapes the Morlocks by traveling into the distant future, where he encounters small mammals which he determines are the descendants of humanity. Wells never liked it and had it removed as soon as he was able, and while the story, which you can read under the standalone title “The Grey Man,” is interesting, the book is much better without it.

    Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll
    Lewis Carroll’s sequel to Alice in Wonderland is more Alice than Alice in many ways. The illustrator working on the book sent Carroll a note saying he wasn’t inspired by the “wasp chapter”, and suggested none-too-subtly that if Carroll were looking to cut the book down a bit, the Wasp part would be the place to start. No one knew what he was referring to, however—until 1976 when the missing “Wasp in a Wig” chapter was put up for auction. One problem, however: no one has ever been able to verify that this was actually written by Carroll. Reading it, the reason people have doubts is pretty clear: it’s awful. Either Carroll cut the one example of bad writing he ever managed…or he didn’t write it.

    Picnic at Hanging Rock, by Joan Weigall
    Weigall’s 1967 novel was a sensation at the time, despite the fact that it literally had no ending. The story of college students who disappear while visiting Hanging Rock in Australia was originally ended with a pretty crazy explanation of everything that happened, but Weigall’s publisher suggested the book might do better without the, um, crazy part and so the final chapter was deleted (you can read it here if you want), meaning that the story just stops, and no explanation is offered at all for the mystery. This actually fueled the book’s success, making it into a “must read” at the time. If the Internet had existed in 1967, this book would have broken it.

    The MacDermots of Ballycloran, by Anthony Trollope
    Trollope had very low expectations for his first novel, and these were borne out when it didn’t do very well. Although the novel has gained in reputation since its initial lackluster publication, you have to be careful to get the original 1847 version, because Trollope later hacked his book to death in an effort to…improve it, we guess? He deleted three chapters and changed a great deal of what makes the original novel interesting (mainly the Irish dialects, politics, and the character flaws). The revised version isn’t nearly as good, and the three missing chapters are, ironically, some of the best writing in the book.

    Answered Prayers, by Truman Capote
    Capote’s transformation from brilliant writer to alcoholic gadfly took about twenty years, and in that time he continuously accepted advances and signed contracts for Answered Prayers, a novel he never got around to finishing. Four chapters were published in magazines (the first, “La Côte Basque 1965,” was so obviously based on his real-life friends and acquaintances Capote pretty much lost every friend he had) and they’re pretty hefty, amounting to a novel’s worth of text if put together. But several other chapters have been referenced in Capote’s correspondence—and he claimed he’d written the final chapter first so he’d know where he was going—that have yet to turn up anywhere.

    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
    Twain, never one to be typical, wasn’t satisfied to delete a mere chapter, instead opting to delete 665 manuscript pages, essentially an entire shadow version of his all-time classic novel. Twain paused work on the book for three years, and scholars have long argued over where exactly he broke off and what he changed when he returned to the book. The deleted chapters contain plenty of material not present in the final book, and have proved invaluable in trying to determine Twain’s intentions and process.

    Persuasion, by Jane Austen
    Austen was one of the most meticulous writers of all time, and put a lot of effort into revising her novels. Persuasion is one of the few in which we can compare early drafts to see how the novel developed, and Austen’s deleted chapters show a ruthless approach to improving the pacing of the plot and the creation of her characters. Assembling earlier versions of the novel show what her original inspiration was, how her ideas changed as she worked, and cast some light on the sausage-making underneath the charming and compelling narratives Austen created.

    Did we miss any famous deleted chapters?

    The post 15 of the Most Infamous Deleted Chapters in History appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 3:00 pm on 2016/03/14 Permalink
    Tags: behind the curtain, behind the scenes, , , ,   

    5 Books That Pull Back the Curtain on the Publishing World 

    The contrast between reality and fiction is never more pronounced than when a particular profession is assigned to a fictional character. It’s one of the few times books and other media like movies and TV shows have very similar approaches; as a rule any specific job assigned to a character will be much more glamorous than it actually is. And that goes double for jobs in the publishing industry. In books and movies, editors and publishers are always super clever, well-dressed, powerful, and plugged in.

    Reality is a little more like…well, like any other job, with all the associated joys and horrors. Every now and then a novel comes along that pulls back the curtain a little on the industry that gives us such great stories year in and year out, usually with surprising—often hilarious, sometimes disturbing—revelations about the entire industry. If you’re wondering about the reality of the publishing world, here are five novels that offer a glimpse of the gritty truth. Hold onto your bookmarks.

    The Nest, by Cynthia Daprix Sweeney
    As much a study of a certain economic and social strata of tony Manhattanites as a glimpse into the world of publishing, Sweeney’s novel introduces the four Plumb siblings, two daughters and two sons who have been waiting impatiently for the trust fund set up by their late father—which they refer to as “the nest”—to finally become available. Although the nest has grown far beyond their father’s humble expectations for a bit of midlife financial security for his children, all four siblings have looming financial disasters making it crucial to their survival—then brother Leo has had to raid it to deal with a personal situation, enraging everyone else. The Plumbs are deeply plugged into the publishing industry, dating literary agents, writing books, returning advances on books they can’t finish, and generally illuminating the often ruthless nature of an industry that has a constantly churning front list.

    Three Martini Lunch, by Suzanne Rindell
    Set in the vibrant, Beatnik-infused world of 1950s New York and San Francisco, Rindell tells the story of three people with intense literary ambitions. Cliff sees himself as a bold novelist, but enjoys living the lifestyle more than actually writing. Eden wants to shed her Midwest Nice and become Holly Golightly, seeking a job as an editor but finding a secretarial position—and Cliff—instead. And Miles, both black and gay in the 1950s, struggles to find inspiration for his own writing. As the three characters’ lives become increasingly intertwined, the bygone era of midcentury New York publishing is explored to fascinating effect, detailing the often unspoken price of pursuing literary dreams but never losing sight of the fact that it is human beings who write, edit, and ultimately publish the books we love.

    The Accident, by Chris Pavone
    Any novel that can make a character a “subsidiary-rights director” without boring the pants off the reader is a great achievement—but Pavone, who surely lost a friend or two in the publishing industry with this thriller, pulls it off and much more. Literary agent Isabel Reed receives an anonymous manuscript called The Accident that reveals dirt on a powerful media magnate, and finds herself at the center of a ruthless effort to keep the book from being published—efforts that include killing Isabel herself, if necessary. Throughout the tense, fast-moving plot, Pavone sprinkles in wonderful observations and revelations about publishing clearly sourced from his own experiences. This not only lends the book an aura of realism that serves the thriller plotting well, it makes it a secret guidebook to modern publishing.

    The Man on the Third Floor, by Anne Bernays
    Another novel that explores the fascinating world of book publishing from the remove of several decades, Bernays’ 10th novel is set in the New York publishing world of the 1950s, where closeted Walter Samson is an ideal man: a successful book editor for a respected publisher, discoverer of a bestselling right-wing author, and family man. When Walter meets the blue collar Barry, also closeted, he hires him on as live-in handyman and chauffeur, and the two begin a covert affair. Although Walter knows his relationship with Barry is the most satisfying of his life, slowly but surely his world falls apart as a direct result of their relationship. Through it all the world of publishing is shown to be as cutthroat as any other industry, adding an extra layer of tension and drama as Walter fights for his professional as well as personal survival in an intolerant time.

    Cyberbooks, by Ben Bova
    Bova has published more than 120 books, but as is the case for many science fiction authors, some of those books have aged better than others. His 1990 novel Cyberbooks hasn’t aged well in terms of technology, but Bova’s clear writing style and inventive plotting keep the book fresh even in the modern age—and the fact that much of the story’s inspiration comes from his own direct experience in book publishing makes it a fascinating glimpse into an author-point-of-view of the industry. Tracing the fate of a terrible but provocative horror novel, a sincere but editorially shredded memoir of a war veteran, and a literary novel that gets no response from editors, Bova offers a glimpse at the often grim reality of publishing as a business, making Cyberbooks an interesting read even today.

  • Jenny Kawecki 8:00 pm on 2015/08/25 Permalink
    Tags: behind the scenes, , blue nights, , the last love song, tracey daugherty, tracy daugherty   

    10 Reasons Everyone Should Read Joan Didion’s New Biography, The Last Love Song 

    At 80, Joan Didion has had a long life in the publishing world. And since her novels, memoirs, and essays have a very personal tone, it’s easy to feel like you know the woman behind the pen—until you realize you only know as much as Didion wants you to. In The Last Love Song, Tracy Daugherty lays out Didion’s life so far, filling in the mysterious gaps and blank spaces Didion writes around. It’s not just an in-depth look into the life of a brilliant author; Daugherty’s biography is a fascinating read for all book-lovers. Here are just 10 of the many reasons why:

    1. The Last Love Song will make you want to read every single thing she’s ever written.
    Over the course of her life, Didion’s writing has covered a wide variety of topics in a number of different styles. From fashion, to politics, to grief, Didion has pretty much done it all—and gained a loyal and enthusiastic following in the process. But if, say, you’ve only read Blue Nightsor an essay or two in a college writing class, The Last Love Song will make you want to devour all of her writing from start to finish. Even those old Vogue ads she used to write.

    2. Author Tracy Daugherty has really done his work.
    It can’t be an easy task to write a biography of a still-living person who lived a (surprisingly) private life without that person’s involvement, but Daugherty has not only managed to do it—he’s gathered over 700 pages worth of information. It’s not just a biography; it’s an engaging narrative crafted out of Didion’s long and eventful life.

    3. Joan Didion has been through it all.
    This may be a biography, but thanks to Didion’s fascinating and epic life, it reads like an HBO drama (complete with a few ridiculously hideous moments of gore). Whatever type of story usually floats your boat (family drama, history, political intrigue, romance), you’ll find it in these pages.

    4. If you’re facing a rough patch in your professional life, Joan Didion can help.
    Okay, well, maybe not personally help. But if you’ve hit a period in your life where you feel like you’re never going to accomplish what you set out to do; as though all of your dreams are going nowhere, well, Didion has been there. From the years of working an undesirable job, through the years of fake-it-til-you-make-it freelancing, to those years of final, satisfying success, The Last Love Song will remind you that you never know when you’re really going to hit it big—so don’t give up.

    5. Noel Parmentel is The Last Love Song‘s very own bad boy.
    Admit it: no one can resist a bad boy. And even though we know she had a long, loving marriage with fellow author John Gregory Dunne, it’s somehow nice to know that even Didion in her youth couldn’t resist the draw of that hard-t0-pin-down personality. Noel Parmentel pops up throughout Daugherty’s biography as the passionate romance of Didion’s younger days, often wearing a white tux.

    6. You will celebrate your introversion.
    We book nerds often tend toward introversion, and it’s all too commonly seen as a negative trait. But instead of apologizing for or trying to change her private nature, Didion embraces it. She brings it up consistently throughout her writing, often emphasizing it, and through Daugherty’s writing we see that although she was withdrawn—she was still completely engaged in a circle of friends and in her work. You don’t have to change.

    7. Learn about the 60s and 70s from a mostly detached perspective.
    One of the most fascinating (and impressive) characteristics of Didion’s writing, especially her political writing of the action-packed decades of the 60s and 70s, is her ability to leave her essays open-ended. With blunt descriptions and anecdotes, she lets you draw your own conclusions; the same goes for Daugherty’s presentation of her work. Both he and Didion give you a (rare) mostly unbiased look at time that often seems overly full of opinions.

    8. Get ready to be really impressed with what it takes to be a writer.
    We all dream about being professional writers, but reading about all of the sacrifices—both personal and financial—that Didion and Dunne had to make to pursue a life of writing is both terrifying and impressive. And the answer to the question of whether or not you’ll ever feel like you’re a real author, no matter how much you get published? A resounding no.

    9. Go between the lines of Didion’s own autobiographical writing.
    As previously mentioned, Didion tends to leave a lot of holes in her autobiographical writing, especially concerning her daughter Quintana. What exactly happened to Quintana? Who are the mysterious characters Didion references in her personal essays but doesn’t reveal? What was really going on? It’s exciting to actually gain some insight into those behind-the-scenes moments.

    10. Harrison Ford makes a few brief, unexpected appearances.
    Didion spent much of her adult life living in and around Hollywood, interacting with studios and producers and celebrities—including, sometimes, celebrities (before they were celebrities). Which means, much to our delight, that Harrison Ford (and some other famous individuals) show up in print every now and then. If you didn’t want to be Joan Didion before, you should now.

  • Nicole Hill 3:30 pm on 2014/10/17 Permalink
    Tags: , , behind the scenes, , , , , , , , , ,   

    5 Facts About The Princess Bride We Learned From As You Wish 

    Cary Elwes's As You WishIf there is a universal cultural touchstone in this fractured world, it is, perhaps, The Princess Bride. Between the ever-quotable Rob Reiner movie and the equally beloved book by William Goldman, at this point, only a very few particularly isolated tribal peoples are unaware of the twue wuv story of Westley and Buttercup, as well as the swashbuckling adventures of their hangers on (Fezzik, Inigo Montoya, Miracle Max…).

    Because sometimes good things happen, Westley himself (i.e., actor Cary Elwes) has released a memoir of sorts, As You Wish: The Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride, that details his experience of making one of the most memorable and adored film adaptations of the last half century. It’s chock full of cute on-set anecdotes and includes inserts from several of its movers and shakers, including Reiner, Billy Crystal, Robin Wright, and Christopher Guest. Basically, besides eating a mutton, lettuce, and tomato sandwich (when the mutton is nice and lean) on a picnic at the Cliffs of Insanity, there is no better way to spend a day than reliving the elaborate sword fights, daring battles of wit, and “kissing parts” of The Princess Bride in this compendium of behind-the-scenes tales. Below, just a few nuggets we learned from Elwes. Have fun storming the castle!

    Alternative castings!
    As is so obvious from the finished product, the cast of this film is perfect, from beginning to end. But it wasn’t always such a sure bet. Elwes hints that among the actors considered for Westley were none other than the dashing Mr. Darcy, also known as Colin Firth. Joining him could have been Sting as the fiendish Prince Humperdinck, Danny DeVito as the Sicilian mastermind Vizzini, and, drumroll please, Arnold Schwarzenegger as friendly giant Fezzik. I can’t imagine the peanut rhyme would have come off as well with the Terminator, but it’s fun to wonder.

    Bill Cosby impersonations!
    Apparently, besides his dashing resemblance to Errol Flynn, Elwes won his leading role as farmboy-turned-pirate thanks to his expert impersonation of…Fat Albert. Lesson: when you have to prove you have a sense of humor, always go with Cosby.

    Errant wind and other Andre the Giant hilarities!
    Among the absolutely funniest stories from the set related here involves Andre the Giant, a mostly dead Westley, and a monumental gastric anomaly outside Humperdinck’s castle. The scene is too giggle-worthy to say more, though its amusement is rivaled by the other irregularities recounted about working with the gentle gargantuan actor (who used to be chauffeured by Samuel Beckett, for your obscure trivia needs).

    Jangled author nerves!
    Goldman has long stated that The Princess Bride is the work nearest and dearest to his heart, and this fondness for the base material made him a nervous wreck during filming—so much so that his incessant praying and fretting interrupted it. Clearly, looking back, he had nothing to worry about, for both Reiner and Elwes wear their fanboy passions freely on their sleeves.

    Ad libs!
    Not that this comes as any great surprise, but outside of the brilliant Goldman dialogue, there was quite a bit of improvisation (see: basically the entire Miracle Max scene). Even part of the Greatest Swordfight in Modern Times was thrown together last minute, and executed near flawlessly. Of all those moments of genius, only some of them were planned.

    So, to reiterate…no, there’s too much, let me sum up: life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something, and in this case, it’s an entertaining look at one of the greatest stories ever told. Please consider it as an alternative to suicide.

    As You Wish is on sale now.

  • Molly Schoemann-McCann 3:30 pm on 2014/09/02 Permalink
    Tags: back channel, behind the scenes, douglas brinkley, john w. dean, luke nichter, , , , , ronald kessler, stephen l. carter, ,   

    4 New Books that Take You Behind the Scenes 

    The Nixon TapesIt’s rare these days to catch a public servant in even a moment of spontaneity; their events and appearances are too carefully choreographed. (Even so-called “reality” shows featuring private citizens are often scripted to the point where unrehearsed moments are few and far between.) At least books are coming to the rescue, as usual! Here are 4 great new reads that peel back the curtain and show us a little bit of what’s going on behind the scenes in the lives of some of our most interesting public figures:

    The Nixon Tapes, by Douglas Brinkley and Luke Nichter
    Although it’s well known that President Nixon installed voice-activated recording equipment throughout the Oval Office and other key rooms in the White House, less than 5 percent of the contents of those tapes (3,700 hours in all) has ever been transcribed and published—until now. Nichter’s transcriptions and digitized recordings give readers and historians an unprecedented glimpse into the life and mind of a highly complex and polarizing figure in American history. Finally we can read and hear Nixon’s own words, and from them, gain new insight into his actions during one of the most politically tumultuous periods of history.

    The Nixon Defense, by John W. Dean
    Former White House Counsel Dean takes the Nixon tapes a step further by using them, along with transcripts of nearly a thousand conversations of his own, and countless documents in the National Archives and the Nixon Library, to put together a captivating and convincing analysis of Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate scandal. The Nixon Defense offers a sound and well-argued answer to the enormous question of what Nixon knew, and when. It is crucial to learn as much as possible about the past in order to avoid repeating it, and Dean’s deeply fascinating and disturbing account of one of the worst political scandals in American history will shed new light on the actions of all involved, particularly those of former President Nixon.

    Back Channel, by Stephen L. Carter
    When America was on the brink of nuclear war in the fall of 1962, open negotiations between Kennedy and Khrushchev, who were locked in a deadly face-off, were all but impossible—necessitating the creation of a “back channel” through which clandestine communications could be carried out. Carter’s audacious fictionalized, “what if?” version of events involves a nail-biting undercover mission to Russia by a clever 19-year-old college student and a young chess champion. A masterful blend of fact and fiction, this enthralling, suspense-filled retelling of the Cuban Missile Crisis manages to keep you on the edge of your seat, even though it involves an historical incident with a known outcome—which is an impressive feat in itself.

    The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents, by Ronald Kessler
    The author of the bestselling book In the President’s Secret Service is back with an even more intimate look at the lives of our public officials, as observed by those serving closest to them. After all, when you get down to it, who would know more about you than your Secret Service agents? This is one of the many reasons why I, personally, don’t have any. Kessler’s new book even goes beyond the White House, following the lives of past presidents and their families after they’ve left office and are out of the spotlight, giving readers an even more authentic glimpse into the real personalities (and proclivities) of our leaders.

    What famous figures would you like to know more about?

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