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1. At the Breast Clinic

Picture


                                               At the Breast Clinic

The Breast Clinic is a brick and glass structure designed with women

 in mind, from fancy murals of Italy to free herbal teas in the lobby.

As you pass through the revolving doors there’s no need to wonder

which way to turn or where to ask for directions to your doctor’s suite.

The receptionist’s desk juts out and your questions about doctors,

appointments, procedures and payments can be answered quickly.

“Will my wife, Marilyn, get a clean bill of health?” takes longer.

 

When we travel together I sometime pretend that I am “Charles,” her chauffer,

since she comes from a long line of glitz, glamour and royalty. I don’t mind

being her driver and court jester, but we will be at the medical institute waiting

up to three hours for x-rays to hear good news. I didn’t sleep well last night

worrying about the Queen of my life for 41 years. There were omens in the air.

She has been called back before after a routine screening, but this is different.

 

The receptionist insisted on a speedy return and told her that a doctor

would be present in the office. The receptionist didn’t reduce fears saying,

“Oh, we just want to take a few more pictures. We do this all the time.”

With words unspoken Marilyn let me know that these were sinister omens.

She needed me to hold her hand and scare away any menacing thoughts.

That’s why I was with her with a room full of women waiting for exams.

 

I kept thinking: It has to be very good news. It has to be very good news.

It had to be good news because she had a run of bad luck, a series of medical

problems all piling up—a  fall, broken bones, arm, ribs, a sleep disorder, TMJ,

COPD, heart problems, arthritis, and two knee operations—all in one year.

I knew she couldn’t take much more of  new doctors, medicines, blood tests,

 and appointments. Marilyn was centimeters away from breaking.

 

I prayed for her and bargained with God to spare her this time from pain,

medical intervention and frequent thoughts about her own mortality. 

She deserves better. That’s what I thought again and again, as I waited

for the verdict via x-rays and a doctor. It didn’t seem fair that she had

to deal with more doctors and examinations. Yes, I know that life isn’t

fair and when things get tough, the tough get going, but there’s a limit.

 

Ninety minutes later she popped out from behind door number one

with a sparkling smile and waving thumbs up. I hugged and hugged

my queen, while others waited to see how their story would unfold.

I wished them well in my heart of hearts, and escorted my fair lady

out the door as fast as I could beyond false omens. At the Princess Diner

my beloved Queen and I ate a celebratory lunch and thanked the heavens.

~Joe Sottile

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2. Booksellers' Private Beach Reads, Part 1

Hey booksellers! What are you reading on your vacation this summer? In response to last week's Brief History of Beach Reads column, Ellen Stimson, author of Mud Season and the upcoming Good Grief! (Countryman Press, October), suggested: "Now we need a wrap-up of our actual private summer reading. What do booksellers read on the beach?"

So... I asked.

"Every July I drag out my favorite bookish T-shirt with the New Yorker cartoon of a law officer addressing a man reading in a beach chair: 'I'm sorry sir, but Dostoyevsky is not considered summer reading. I'll have to ask you to come with me,' " said Cheryl Krocker McKeon of Book Passage, San Francisco, Calif.

"As a bookseller I often deprive myself of popular titles because these books don't 'need' me, so this summer I think I'll read Gone Girl and Unbroken," she added. "And for sheer fun I'll bring The Best of Connie Willis, because the stories are surprising and thought-provoking, funny and profound, and include the author's afterword to each story, so it's like a bonus of having her as a travel companion! Oh, and Travels with Charley, finally; since I won't see the whole USA I can enjoy 1960 America with Steinbeck and his poodle. I think I am going to run out of vacation hours."

Noting that "a 'beach vacation' sounds nice, but I'm going to be more on the 'days off' end of the spectrum this year," Jeff McCord of Bound to Be Read Books, Atlanta, Ga., said his "vacation is being lived vicariously through the wonderful stories our customers tell me about their vacations (including trips to London, Germany, Sweden, a month-long driving tour of New England, etc.... awesome!).

"I waited to start the Last Policeman trilogy by Ben Winters until the third book was about to be released July 15, and it has been a great summer read. I started last month with The Last Policeman, a murder mystery set in pre-apocalyptic New Hampshire. I'm finished now with book two, Countdown City, and was waiting on my staff to finish the ARC of the third book, World of Trouble, but since it was released last week, I have my own copy now--as do several of our customers who have also jumped on board. It's a great series, with an Edgar Award to recommend it as well. Can't wait to finish it!"

Anne Holman of the King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, Utah, observed that "summer is my time to catch up on the books that all the other booksellers loved and I, somehow, just didn't get to for whatever reason. So my stack for that 'project' includes Atonement, The Shadow of the Wind, A Visit from the Goon Squad and Olive Kitteridge. I don't often read anything twice; too many books, too little time. But The Rosie Project just makes me happy. Open it to any page and read a paragraph and you will laugh out loud, I guarantee. It's not deep; there are no hidden messages to decipher and discuss endlessly. It's simply an invitation to inhabit someone else's life (Don Tillman) who is so different from me and yet not, that it gives me great hope for the human race (and also cocktails)."

Planning for an upcoming vacation, Connie Brooks of Battenkill Books, Cambridge, N.Y., said her "new book" will be The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness: "Anyone who has been reading this wonderful trilogy knows that the third book is highly anticipated. I have two customers--a mother and a daughter--they bought one copy of The Book of Life--and they are both trying to read it at the same time--they keep stealing it back from one another. The Book of Life is my kind of beach read--a large tome that will utterly transport me out of myself!

"I will also be reading The Shadow of the Wind. This is our Book Club pick for next month, and while it might not fit the classic 'beach read' definition, it is summer reading perfection. Dark, atmospheric, scary and erotic--what better for when you actually have time to completely give yourself over to a novel. And, finally, since I have a six-year-old, we have another trilogy ahead of us this summer: the graphic novels Zita the Spacegirl, Legends of Zita the Spacegirl and The Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke. I will also be adding in The Outermost House by Henry Beston. Now in a 75th-anniversary edition, this is considered a classic nature book, and since we will be in Cape Cod soon, it is perfect."

Emily Crowe of the Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, Mass., just returned from her two-week beach vacation "where I spent a lot of time reading. In fact, I spend almost as much time planning my vacation reading as I do planning the vacation. I 'test drive' the first 50 pages to make sure the book is worthy of inclusion in my suitcase. My husband and I take about a dozen physical books between us and I also load up my e-reader with e-galleys. My beach reading reflects my general reading; it's just more concentrated. I was lucky this trip; everything was good, but some of it was outstanding."

More about Emily's favorite vacation reads coming in next week's column, along with warm weather contributions from several other booksellers. As always, you are more than welcome to join the conversation if you'd like to divulge your private beach reads for 2014. --Published by Shelf Awareness, issue #2304.

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3. Poetry Friday: Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."

- Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley



If you can't see the video player above, click here to hear Ozymandias as read by Bryan Cranston from Breaking Bad.

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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4. My Pet Book by Bob Staake

I am a big fan of the work of Bob Staake and I hope you'll take time at the end of this review to explore his other books, many of which I have reviewed here. His newest picture book, My Pet BOOK, perfectly presents Staake's wacky sensibilities and his colorfully crowded world while expressing the joys of books and reading at the same time. Set in Smartytown, we meet a boy who wants a

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5. This Is the Water

Page-turning suspense Yannick Murphy style — always inventive, with gorgeous prose, surprising perspectives, and captivating characters. This Is the Water is a most unusual mystery. Books mentioned in this post This Is the Water (P.S.) Yannick Murphy New Trade Paper $14.99

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6. How the Light Gets In

The Inspector Gamache mystery series is intelligent and addictive — and you don't need to start at the beginning to get in on it. How the Light Gets In, her ninth Gamache novel, is a tour de force of mystery, including subtle and complex characters, beautiful prose, and surprising plot twists. Books mentioned in this [...]

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7. Lucky Us

Amy Bloom's hypnotic and gorgeous new novel displays her trademarks — remarkable narrative skill and richly drawn, evocative characters. Iris and Eva, half-sisters creating a family in World War II-era America, will draw you in and not let go. Perfect summer reading. Books mentioned in this post Lucky Us Amy Bloom Used Hardcover $17.95

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8. Lunch Poems

Most days, I carry a copy of Lunch Poems with me on my bus ride to work. It has been an icebreaker, a talisman, a security blanket, and much more. This 50th anniversary edition is a great opportunity to revisit one of the most celebrated poetry collections of the 20th century, or to discover it [...]

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9. Full Frontal Feminism Revisited

It is arguably the worst and best time to be a feminist. In the years since I first wrote Full Frontal Feminism, we've seen a huge cultural shift in the way feminism is thought of along with the same old nonsense. Decades after feminists fought for access to birth control, against sexual assault and rape [...]

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10. I Am So Brave by Stephen Krensky, illustrated by Sara Gillingham

I Am So Brave! is the newest book from Stephen Krensky and Sara Gillingham and the fourth in their series of board books celebrating the milestones along from toddlerhood to preschooler. I Can Do It Myself! and Now I Am Big! and I Can Do It Myself!. Rather than teaching facts to toddlers like most board books, Krensky's books focus on the things the accomplishments they have already

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11. Montessori Map Work by Bobby and June George, illustrated by Alyssa Nassner

Montessori Map Work is the fourth and my favorite of the Montessori series of board books Abrams Appleseed began publishing in 2012. All of the books by Bobby and June George, founder of the Baan Dek Montessori School in Sioux Falls, North Dakota, are invaluable and Alyssa Nassner's crisp illustrations. As they note in their letter to parents that introduces each book in the series, the

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12. The Florist-Assassins

The three men lit up in my mind's eye, with footnotes. They were converging on me — and on the object I was carrying — in a way that had woken some sort of angry territorial lizard in my head. Something about the pattern of their approach, the vectors and the way they would all [...]

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13. The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara

I was instantly drawn to the illustrations of Kazuno Kohara when I was working as a bookseller and discovered the paperback edition of Ghosts in the House! back in 2010. Ghosts in the House! is the rare Halloween-themed picture book - one that captures the spirit of the holiday while also offering just the right amount of spooky for little listeners. Kohara's book was a joy to read at story

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14. A Brief History of Beach Reads

First, sincere congratulations to CNN as the 2014 award winner (in a very competitive field) for most egregious use of a summer reading pun: "Whatever your definition of 'beach book'--romance, mystery, gripping true-life-tale--you'll find a shore thing here."

As I dutifully pored over all the summer reads recommendation lists released during the past couple of months, I began having sun-addled visions of beach reads from the distant past (sometimes called "hammock reads," I soon learned). After some seasonally appropriate leisurely research in the archives of the New York Times, I now offer for your summer reading pleasure an ever-so-brief history of the American beach read:

1890s: "During the Summer days a table was placed in the doorway and here were displayed a selection of the paper-covered books for 'Summer reading.' For some reason lighter books were considered more suitable to the hot weather."

1897: "The reader of to-day whose knowledge of books goes back twenty years must often have been surprised with the change that has come over books intended for Summer reading.... Society and civilization may take hope from the improved quality of the Summer books.... It truly seems as if all the world were writing novels. With bad ones plentiful enough, how good the best ones are!"

1900: "But if there is one season in which the printed book might be regarded as a questionable intruder it is when the pageant of Summer has attained its full splendor and the most attractive pages of the great book of nature lie open before us.... When he would for a brief period escape the spell of the printed page, break its chain, and rise to a rarer atmosphere, lo, the whole world seems leagued against him, and from a hundred throats he hears the cry, 'Books for Summer Reading!' "

1907: "What I'm trying to discover is whether any one reads in Summer, or whether the bulk of vacation literature is really an unopened contingent.... It isn't necessary to read a book in order to be happy with it. On a steamer or in a hammock you simply have to have the book in your lap or close at hand, with the paper-cutter and pencil."

Cincinnati Public Library bookmobile, 1927
Cincinnati Public Library bookmobile, 1927

1920: "It made us wonder just how Summer Reading has progressed in a world where excitement has been the rule and where nothing has remained as it was.... Gone are the days when the unambitious reader would lie in the grass in a semi-coma and meander blankly through a volume of trashy lovemaking and trashier thrillers."

1928: "What do people read in the summer?... They read, in other words, whatever the tastes and piety of earlier generations of Summer residents have stored for them on the hotel shelves."

1950: "There is, however, one error which is disastrously popular--namely, the assumption that only 'light' books, by which is meant trivial or foolish or badly written books--are suitable for summer. Nothing is actually harder to read than that which is not worth reading, and there is nothing more likely to produce boredom than a too desperate attempt to escape it."

1953: "When an unwished beach picnic is suggested, for example, the necessity of reading a light romantic novel will not stand up as an excuse for not attending. On the other hand, the casual display of the somewhat weightier book will prove at once that even on vacation the thirst for knowledge rises superior to such casual pleasures as picnics."

1968: "There is nothing like the library of a summer house to reverse the tides of literary improvement.... It is wonderful junk--never weeded out, like other junk, because summer people just can't throw any book away, however transient its subject or purple its prose." (William Zinsser)

1971: "The reviewers must have reasoned that as we, book lovers all, packed to head off for vacation, we agonized about how to pack our limited baggage space with the most rewarding material available. Hence 'suggestions for summer reading.' " (Russell Baker)

1985: "A feeling seems to have arisen that summer is the time for light reading. I don't know where anyone got that idea. The truth about summer is this. There are an enormous number of hours in it--slow hours--and yet, before you know it, somehow it is over.... Summer is the time for heavy reading, reading that works up a sweat. I wouldn't be surprised if there were scientific studies showing that the sun's heat melts eye-glaze." (Roy Blount, Jr.)

2014: "For me, being a reader, in summer or at any other time, isn't a 'lifestyle choice.' Rather, I made the choice--if that's what it was--so long ago, it has taken on an inescapable character in my mind.... The beach is one of the few places pathological readers can pass undetected among their civilian cousins." (Zadie Smith in O, The Oprah Magazine)

And, finally, these history-transcending words of summer reading perspective from George R.R. Martin: "Winter is coming." --Published by Shelf Awareness, issue #2299.

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15. Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre, 194 pp, RL 3

I have been getting glimpses of Oliver and the Seawigs, by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre since March of 2013 when they were at the Bologna Children's Book Fair promoting this fantastic book with and amazing array of seawigs, costumes and accoutrements. I've included a few images of the great getups that Reeve and McIntyre don for events, but be sure to check out Sarah's blog entries for

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16. Thank You, Octopus by Darren Farrell

There are SO MANY things I love about Thank You, Octopus by Darren Farrell, but it's clear that the best place to start is with the octopus - a rare but very welcome character in a picture book and not seen with this level of earnest, smart humor since the dynamic duo of Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith brought us Cowboy and Octopus. Farrell's laugh-filled story is exactly the kind that

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17. New Cookbooks for July: All-Things Veggie

July. The deep summer month that brings a belated spring cleaning, picnics, and the beloved abundance of backyard bumper crops (or an abundance of farm-fresh produce from the weekly CSA delivery box). There is a joy in opening a community-supported agriculture box, followed a few days later with, What the heck do I do with [...]

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18. Poetry Friday: There are two things from Finding Ruby Starling by Karen Rivers

There are two things:
True things.
And lies.
When you figure out
which is which
it's like you are on the inside
of the balloon
looking out,
seeing the pin coming toward you
in the sunlight
but not being able
to move away.

Or maybe,
the thing is
that all of us are two people:
the one inside
the balloon.
And the one
holding the pin.

This poem is featured in the epistolary novel Finding Ruby Starling by Karen Rivers. Though the majority of the story is conveyed in letters and emails, one of the characters, Ruth, has a poetry journal hosted on tumblr - which, as of this posting, is not an active account in real life. (Yes, of course I checked!)

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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19. The Queen of the Tearling

For 19 years, Kelsea has lived in the forest, watched over by an older couple. But the time has come for her to be crowned as the realm's queen. Kelsea must learn how to rule her kingdom and find people she can trust to guide her. Books mentioned in this post The Queen of the [...]

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20. The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice

Chock-full of Holt's trademark hilarity and hijinks, The Outsorcerer's Apprentice has overlords, underlings, and an unsuspecting young hero who might just change everything, including reality itself. Books mentioned in this post The Outsorcerer's Apprentice Tom Holt New Trade Paper $14.00

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21. Comics Squad: Recess! edited by Jennifer L. Holm, Matthew Holm and Jarret J. Krosoczka, 136 pp, RL 3

Comics Squad: Recess! is a very promising sign of the times. Graphic novels for kids are finally a strong enough presence with their creators and characters on the verge of being household names that a book like Comics Squad: Recess! can be conceived and created. And it's sure to be a huge seller, especially at the very reasonable price of $7.99! As you may have guessed, the theme of each

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22. Sassy Men with Swords

It all began with a long plane flight. For years my coworker had been enthusiastically recommending Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora, the first book of the Gentleman Bastard series, and I had nodded my head and moved on. Dashing off to the airport, I finally grabbed my copy off a teetering pile of [...]

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23. Welcome Bigfoot Friends

Picture
 

I strive to be a Welcome Ambassador to Everyone I meet. I know that’s a tall order. I sort act like a Walmart greeter on steroids. I smile, open doors, as I shop, make positive comments about team logos that I see on total strangers. I get money from tellers, not ATM machines. I talk to the mailperson, and don’t duck when I see acquaintances and former co-workers in the wilds of the frozen food section of the supermarket. I am a people person, not a robot mechanically going through mundane motions of life.

Now what’s that got to do with Bigfoot, a large hairy-ape like creature between 6.6-9.8 feet tall weighing over 500 pounds, covered with brown or reddish hair? He’s a legend hiding in the forest somewhere.  Over the years there have been many eyewitness reports about him, large footprint tracks of him, handheld film recordings, audio recordings, blood and hair samples. There also have been many hoaxes and pranks related to finding Bigfoot in the wilds.

Okay, now you have the background story. I can proceed with my encounter.

I was waiting for the garage door repairman to fix the runner on my garage door. My wife accidentally caught backing up with the car. I tried to fix the metal runner, but I crinkled the bend worse, making it almost unrepairable.

As the repairman abled out of the truck, I opened the garage door and wondered if he would get the job done without installing expensive new runners, or even if he had late model ones on the truck.  He had a bald head, jeans on, and a dusty bulging black T-shirt. No uniform. No Mr. Goodwrench-look. I know first impressions aren’t always correct, yet I wasn’t impressed. He looked more like a professional wrestler or a man of the mountains.

I said hello and welcomed him to my garage and my problem, adding these words “I decided to get an expert to help me.”

He said, “I am not an expert in this area, but I have fixed a number of doors like this.”

He wrestled with the bent runner and after quite a struggle he bent it back to working form, and shot some oil into the little revolving wheels. He told me that I was all set, good as new.

I asked him if he wanted a bottle of cold water. He said that he had some in the truck.

I wondered what made this man tick; in other words, what he cared about beside his job. I thought that I might be surprised. I was already totally wrong about my first impression.

I asked, “So what do you like to do for fun?”

He eyes arched upward recalling a fun scene and he said, “I hunt for Bigfoot with my son in the mountains.”

As my mouth dropped open, I asked “Do you believe in him?”

He answered, “Well, we have fun looking for him. It’s an adventure. We don’t want to hurt him, just hangout. Maybe take a few photos. We bring fruit, nuts, and cold water to share with him. If he doesn’t show up, we eat the goodies ourselves. My son, Ryan, loves hiking and the outdoors.”

“How old is your son?”

“Well, he’s 12, but he has the mental age of 5. Ryan has a brain disorder. He literally has problems doing things. The nerve endings in his body are mixed up. He has to think things through to do normal things. But he has been getting better and better. That’s what counts. And he loves talking about Bigfoot, looking at pictures of Bigfoot, and learning about big animals. We frequently read together. I work two jobs so that I have enough money to get the best help for him.”

Tears circled in my eyes. I wrote him a check for his services, and said “Wait a second, I have a present for him, and I ran upstairs to get a copy of the poetry book Waiting to See the Principal and Other Poems.

I signed the paperback for Ryan and I said, “There’s lots of lines that are repeated in my poems. Ryan and you will have fun repeating them. After awhile both of you will have them memorized which makes it even more fun to read.”

“Yes, he will love this book! And the pictures in it are funny too—something like Shel Silverstein’s books. Ryan loves all of his books. Thanks so much. I gotta get back on the road. Thanks again.”

“By the way, does Ryan really believe in the existence of Bigfoot?”

‘OH, YEAH! He says Bigfoot is just a good hider.”

And I said to myself: we are all good hiders unless the right questions are asked by an interested person.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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24. The Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda, 292 pp, RL 5

Thanks to a fellow bookseller for introducing me to The Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda! I love a good fantasy story that employs fairy tale or mythological characters, creatures and plots, but don't always love what authors do with them. I read The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan and didn't quite click with his writing style. I gave The Red Pyramid a shot because I wanted to give Riordan

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25. Sassy Men with Swords

It all began with a long plane flight. For years my coworker had been enthusiastically recommending Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora, the first book of the Gentleman Bastard series, and I had nodded my head and moved on. Dashing off to the airport, I finally grabbed my copy off a teetering pile of [...]

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