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Saturday, 15 December


Book Review: Twas the Knife Before Christmas by Jacqueline Frost This Is My Truth Now

'Twas the Knife Before Christmas (A Christmas Tree Farm Mystery, #2)Twas the Knife Before Christmas by Jacqueline Frost

My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

Its Christmastime both in my current reality and in Mistletoe, Maine but a whole year has passed since the debut book in the A Christmas Tree Farm Mystery series by Jacqueline Frost. This second book, Twas the Knife Before Christmas, picks up with Hollys eventual settlement back home, a new friendship with reporter Ray, adventures with best friend Caroline, and romance with sorta boyfriend Evan (the sheriff!). Lifes good until Derek, a guy who was too handsy with Caroline, ends up knifed in a candy display. Did Caroline kill him in revenge? Her high-powered father? A stalker crush who seems to want to protect her? Or some colleague of Dereks who thought he was a threat? Holly is determined to protect her bestie but she starts getting threatening notes again just like last time. Are the crimes connected?

I won this book through a cozy giveaway, but I went back and ordered the first one on my own so I could be ready and current on the series. Im thrilled to have stumbled upon it and would definitely recommend the series as a definite holiday read. Holly is a great protagonist who only has a few pushy moments while trying to solve the murder; theyre necessary and make her even more relatable. The town is visibly pictured as a result of Frosts wonderful descriptions and writing style. The little fun factors (Theodore the goat, Cindy Lou Who the cat, Cookie the rich neighbor the list goes on) make it even more enjoyable.

The murder is clever. The list of suspects is believable. The investigation is paced well not too slow, not too fast. The way the criminal is captured is kinda cool. And the resolution to all the stories is a great end to the book. I am thrilled about the character of Libby. She seems like she could really be an asset in the town but also shake it up a little. Only 23 but quite smart and worldly already. Im very excited about this new series but sad Ill have to wait a full year to read the next one. Im also curious if the series will skip a year again or pick up sometime mid-year. Kudos to the author and publisher for providing a copy thru the giveaway contest. 4.25 stars!

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Concrete Semantics with Isabelle/HOL (Nipkow) New Online Books

Concrete Semantics with Isabelle/HOL (2018), by Tobias Nipkow and Gerwin Klein (PDF with commentary at

The Female Quixote, or, The Adventures of Arabella (Lennox) New Online Books

The Female Quixote, or, The Adventures of Arabella (text from an 1810 edition and illustrations from a 1799 edition), by Charlotte Lennox, ed. by Mrs. Barbauld, illust. by Richard Corbould and Thomas Kirk (illustrated HTML with commentary at

Isabelle/HOL (Nipkow) New Online Books

Isabelle/HOL: A Proof Assistant for Higher-Order Logic (2018), by Tobias Nipkow, Lawrence C. Paulson, and Markus Wenzel (PDF in Germany)

Suffolk in 1327 (Great Britain. Exchequer) New Online Books

Suffolk in 1327: Being a Subsidy Return (Suffolk Green Books #9, v. 11; Woodbridge: G. Booth, 1906), by Great Britain Exchequer, ed. by S. H. A. H. (Sydenham Henry Augustus Hervey) (stable link)

The History of Yaballaha III, Nestorian Patriarch, and of His Vicar, Bar Sauma, Mongol Ambassador to the Frankish Courts at the End of the Thirteenth Century, (Montgomery) New Online Books

The History of Yaballaha III, Nestorian Patriarch, and of His Vicar, Bar Sauma, Mongol Ambassador to the Frankish Courts at the End of the Thirteenth Century, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1927), ed. by James A. Montgomery (page images at HathiTrust)

Analecta Pteridographica seu Descriptio et Illustratio Filicum aut Novarum, aut Minus Cognitarum (Kunze) New Online Books

Analecta Pteridographica seu Descriptio et Illustratio Filicum aut Novarum, aut Minus Cognitarum (in Latin; Leipzig: L. Voss, 1837), by Gustav Kunze (page images at HathiTrust)


Vikings Heading for Land, Frank Dicksee, 1873 The Lion of Chaeronea

Vikings Heading for Land, Frank Dicksee, 1873


Steamed Open (A Maine Clambake Mystery #7) Any Good Book

Author:  Barbara Ross
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496717948
Kensington Publishing
304 Pages
$7.99; $6.99 Amazon
December 18, 2018

It's summertime in Busman's Harbor, Maine, and the clamming is easy - or it was until a mysterious new neighbor blocks access to the beach, cutting off the Snowden Family Clambake's supply.  Julia Snowden is just one of many townspeople angered by Bartholomew Frick's decision.  But which one of them was angry enough to kill?  

Beachcombers, lighthouse buffs, and clammers are outraged after Frick puts up a gate in front of his newly inherited mansion.  When Julia urges him to reconsider, she's the last to see him alive - except the person who stabs him in the neck with a clam rake.  As she pores through a long list of suspects, Julia meets disgruntled employees, rival heirs, and a pair of tourists determined to visit every lighthouse in America.  They all have secrets, and Julia will have to work fast to expose the guilty party - or see this season's clam harvest dry up for good.

Julia Snowden runs her family's clambake business, and the end of summer is near.  But one morning everything is delayed for the funeral of a local, Heloise 'Lou' Herrickson, a woman who was generous and loved by all who knew her.  But the funeral takes a turn when Lou's heir, Bartholomew Frick, shows up late and doesn't speak to anyone, then leaves just as quickly when the service is over.

But what really causes problems is when Frick closes off the beach and road access in front of Herrickson House, angering the townspeople.  The beach has been used daily by clammers who make their living, beachcombers, including one who lives in a nearby cottage, and the occasional tourist who stay in a small home next to the lighthouse. 

When Julia goes to talk to Frick she comes across the housekeeper who has quit rather than work for him, and her attempts at getting him to open the beach again are fruitless.  But she learns later that day that Frick has been found dead, murdered, and she might have been one of the last people to se...


Attic janiform red-figure aryballos in the shape of womens... The Lion of Chaeronea

Attic janiform red-figure aryballos in the shape of womens heads, bearing the inscription Epilykos kalos ( Epilykos is handsome/beautiful).  Tentatively attributed to the painter Skythes; ca. 510-500 BCE.  Now in the Louvre.  Photo credit:   Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons.


Staff Picks: Sports, Sontag, and Scheherazade The Paris Review

SLASH. Image courtesy of Emily Allan and Leah Hennessey.

Emily Allan and Leah Hennesseys play SLASH is so enjoyable its like having dessert for two hours with no intermission. One advertisement describes it as an attempt to transcend the banality of identity and the terror of consciousness, but I prefer the Instagram promo with an image of Camille Paglia in mens clothing wielding a switchblade in front of a urinal. Thats much closer to the plays prankish genius. Every dynamic (or adversarial) duo from popular culture whom youve probably been obsessed with at some point appears for a romping ten minutes or so, from Spock and Captain Kirk to Lennon and McCartney to Morrissey and Johnny Marr. The hints of homosexuality in these pairings are the source of a great deal of the comedy: its the most fun meditation on the collaboration eroticism since Wayne Koestenbaums Double Talk. The best bit is probably the one thats getting the most hype, a reenactment of some shade from the early nineties thrown around by Paglia and Susan Sontag, but take my advicewait for the real thing and dont watch the clip of it online from last year. In person, Allan (Paglia) and Hennessey (Sontag) sound so much like their respective muses that if you close your eyes, youll have an opinion on The Volcano Lover again. SLASH runs through Thursday, January 31, at MX Gallery in Chinatown. Ben Shields 

Spotify just informed me that my most listened to song of 2018above even Femmebot by Charli XCXis a floaty, almost half-hour-long drone called Being Here, by a seventy-five-year-old New Age artist named Laraaji. If youre writing or studying in a city like New York, playing this song in your earbuds is like activating a force field. A lot of ambient music makes me feel like Ive woken up in a simulated reality. For me, a defamiliarizing anxiety feels redundant in 2018. But Laraaji...


Book Review: Queens by Patrick Hodges This Is My Truth Now

Queens (Wielders of Arantha, #2)Queens by Patrick Hodges

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When you read the blurb about Queens by Patrick Hodges, it tells you the book is a cosmic game of chess which is a perfect one-liner about the second book in this fantasy / sci-fi series, Wielders of Arantha, published by Creativia. Although this isnt my typical genre, I took a chance on the first book and enjoyed it so much, I took on the second this month. I didnt want to forget anything about the characters, plot, or imaginary world Hodges has created, so it was necessary!

The series focuses on 5 or 6 different groups of people some 700 years in the future on a planet, Elystra, that is most definitely not Earth. Earth, as we know it, really doesnt exist anymore due to an alien species, the Jegg. Each of the groups has their own culture, and theyre battling one another to secure their own safety and to stay true to their god, Arantha, who goes by a few different names. The key storyline that connects everyone besides the quest for freedom or protection is how a tribe of women keep any female children born to them but return male children to the father who helped created them. The women go on a sojourn from time to time to ensure the future of their race, but this time, theres a lot more at stake.

After I finished the first book, I new I was a fan of Hodges writing style and storytelling abilities. Although its definitely a fantasy novel ripe with primary characters ranging in age from 13 to 50, there are major components leaning toward the mysterious, romance, and young adult realms. At the same time, although there are a few somewhat intimate scenes (minor in my opinion), the love is seen through character interactions, voice, and dialog. Women bond to protect their race and a few trustworthy newcomers. Men bond because they know they need to stick together to fight a common enemy. Children rely on strangers to play parental roles when their own have been killed in battle. Friendship crosses species lines. Theres a lot at play in this novel, and in the series as a whole, which make it intense, captivating, and tragic. It has everything I expect in the normal genres I read which makes it a complete surprise and welcome addition to my reading list.

Between the quest to locate all the stones, learning the history of how wielding (ability to cast lightning from your hands okay, its more than that, but you have to read to understand it all)...


Letter to a Stranger The Paris Review

Fans of the surrealist painter Remedios Varo likely wont be surprised that her writing is as wide reaching and imaginative as her work on canvas. She crafted uncanny fables and strange recipes intended to conjure dreams, but perhaps her most significant achievements on the page are her letters. Varo had a habit of writing to strangers, a practice immortalized in her friend Leonora Carringtons novel The Hearing Trumpet, in which the character Carmella Velasquez writes letters all over the world to people she has never met and signs them with all sorts of romantic names, never her own These wonderful letters fly off, in a celestial way, by airmail, in Carmellas delicate handwriting. No one ever replies. Below, read Varos letter to a man whose address she picked at random from the phone book. 

Albert Edelfelt, Dam som skriver brev (Lady Writing a Letter), 1887.

Dear Stranger,

I havent a clue if youre a single man or the head of a household, if youre a shy introvert or a happy extrovert, but whatever the case, perhaps youre bored and want to dive fearlessly into a group of strangers in hopes of hearing something that will interest or amuse you. Whats more, the fact that you feel curiosity and even some discomfort is already an incentive, and so Im proposing that you come and spend New Years Eve at house No. on Street. 

Ive picked your name almost at random from the phone book, I say almost because I looked for the page where those of your profession are to be found, I believe (perhaps mistakenly) that among them theres a greater chance of finding someone with a generous spirit and sense of humor. I should make clear that Im not the owner of the house and that she is completely unaware of this gesture, which shed probably call harebrained. Im merely invited to go there, as are a handful of other people, so in order to attend you should call xxx-xxxx ahead of time and ask for Seora Elena, firmly declare that youve met before, that youre a friend of Edwards, and that, feeling lonely and blue, youd like to go to her house to ring in the New Year. Ill be among the guests and youll have to guess which one of them is me. I believe this could be amusing. If youre a young man under thirty, its probably better not to do anything. Youd probably get...


Saints Lawrence, Christopher, Sebastian, and a Bishop Saint,... The Lion of Chaeronea

Saints Lawrence, Christopher, Sebastian, and a Bishop Saint, Mariotto di Nardo (fl. 1388-1424)


Cooking with Nescio The Paris Review

In Valerie Stiverss Eat Your Words series, she cooks up recipes drawn from the works of various writers.

Nescio is Latin for I dont know and was the pen name of a respectable Holland-Bombay Trading Company director and father of four publishing in Amsterdam between 1909 and 1942. The writer, whose real name was J.H.F. Grnloh (18821961), worked in an office by day and by night sparingly penned not-so-respectable short stories about artistic passion, upper-middle-class sexual longing, and the luminous vistas of his water-soaked city. His minuscule output (two books over forty years) is classic literature in the Netherlands but nearly unknown here. Amsterdam Stories was translated into English for the first time in 2012 and published by NYRB Classics.

The book is a series of interlocking stories about a gang of pals who want to be painters and how they fare over time. Some quickly give up the artistic dreams of their youth for the grind of making money. Others struggle longer against the inevitably conventional middle age. The one who succeeds in the art world is portrayed as a successful businessperson of a different stripe. Japi, a character introduced in the story The Freeloader, is the true artist of the bunch but also antisocial, a sponger, and a jerk. The protagonists mostly wind up with boring office jobs and staid marriages, drowning in the daily details of their lives, as we all do. Of packing lunch for children (the way I begin my morning five days a week), Nescio says, You try slicing bread and making sandwiches for four kids just once, if youre not used to it, the way the unfortunate writer of these pages has done on occasion, itll drive you insane. Yes, it will. Yet even faded souls have stirrings, some vague idea toward art and nature, love and greatness. Much of Nescios charm for the modern reader is in how recognizable the issues he examines are, how little has changed.

Appropriately for a book about the daily grind, people in Amsterdam Stories are frequently seen eating that most office appropriate of meals: the sandwich, sometimes mentioned to be ham but usually unspecified. Sandwiches appear enough in the stories that I wanted to know what they were like in Nescios Netherlands and w...

Friday, 14 December


Figurative Design in Hamlet (Cox) New Online Books

Figurative Design in Hamlet: The Significance of the Dumb Show (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, c1973), by Lee Sheridan Cox (PDF at Ohio State)

For All White-Collar Workers (Opler) New Online Books

For All White-Collar Workers: The Possibilities of Radicalism in New York City's Department Store Unions, 1934-1953 (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, c2007), by Daniel J. Opler (PDF at Ohio State)

A Fatal Drifting Apart (Westhoff) New Online Books

A Fatal Drifting Apart: Democratic Social Knowledge and Chicago Reform (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, c2007), by Laura M. Westhoff (PDF at Ohio State)

Folklore in New World Black Fiction (Akoma) New Online Books

Folklore in New World Black Fiction: Writing and the Oral Traditional Aesthetics (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, c2007), by Chiji Akoma (PDF at Ohio State)

Fallout (Boyer) New Online Books

Fallout: A Historian Reflects on America's Half-Century Encounter with Nuclear Weapons (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, c1998), by Paul S. Boyer (PDF at Ohio State)

For the City as a Whole (Fairbanks) New Online Books

For the City as a Whole: Planning, Politics, and the Public Interest in Dallas, Texas, 1900-1965 (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, c1998), by Robert B. Fairbanks (PDF at Ohio State)

Fact Into Figure (Sussman) New Online Books

Fact Into Figure: Typology in Carlyle, Ruskin, and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, c1979), by Herbert L. Sussman (PDF at Ohio State)

Jornal de Pediatria New Online Books

Jornal de Pediatria (in Portuguese and English; issues online 1994-) (partial serial archives)

Contributions to Zoology New Online Books

Contributions to Zoology (issues online 1997-) (partial serial archives)

Motion Pictures, 1894-1912, Identified From the Records of the United States Copyright Office (Library of Congress. Copyright Office) New Online Books

Motion Pictures, 1894-1912, Identified From the Records of the United States Copyright Office (1953), by Library of Congress Copyright Office, ed. by Howard Lamarr Walls (stable link)

Tropical Diseases (Manson) New Online Books

Tropical Diseases: A Manual of the Diseases of Warm Climates (London et al.: Cassell and Co., 1898), by Patrick Manson (multiple formats at

Tropical Diseases (Manson) New Online Books

Tropical Diseases: A Manual of the Diseases of Warm Climates (6th edition; London et al.: Cassell and Co., 1919), by Patrick Manson (multiple formats at

California Agriculture New Online Books

California Agriculture (1946-) (full serial archives)

The Monitor New Online Books

The Monitor (partial serial archives)

Professional Responsibility (Rine) New Online Books

Professional Responsibility (in English and Cambodian; San Francisco; Community Legal Education Center, 2000), by Nick Rine and Ly U Meny (PDF with commentary at Michigan)

Verdict According to Conscience (Green) New Online Books

Verdict According to Conscience: Perspectives on the English Criminal Trial Jury, 1200-1800 (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1985), by Thomas Andrew Green (PDF with commentary at Michigan)

Debts, Job Choices, and Financial Burden (Chambers) New Online Books

Debts, Job Choices, and Financial Burden: Educational Debts at Nine American Law Schools (Washington: Association of American Law Schools, 1991), by David L. Chambers (PDF with commentary at Michigan)


Village near a Factory, Henri Rousseau, August 1907 The Lion of Chaeronea

Village near a Factory, Henri Rousseau, August 1907


Japanese White-Eyes with Plum Tree and Willow (from Spring Rain... The Lion of Chaeronea

Japanese White-Eyes with Plum Tree and Willow (from Spring Rain Surimono Album), Kubo Shunman, ca. 1810


Yan Lianke Illuminates Contemporary China The Paris Review

Yan Lianke. Photo courtesy of Grove Atlantic.

History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake. James Joyce, Ulysses

Near the beginning of James Joyces 1922 novel Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus famously compares history to a nightmare. It was also in 1922 that Lu Xun penned the preface to his first short-story collection, Call to Arms (published in 1923), in which he asks whether he should try to use his writing to wake up his fellow countrymen still trapped in the proverbial iron house of Chinese feudal values. In these almost simultaneous texts, two of the twentieth centurys leading modernist authors both equated history with sleep and dreams. Whereas Joyces Dedalus wants to awaken from the nightmare that is history, Lu Xun worries that his works might in fact succeed in rousing his blissfully oblivious readers, causing them to awaken to a state of historical awareness for which they would then have no easy remedy.

Nearly a century later, Yan Lianke appeals to a similar set of oneiric metaphors in his novel The Day the Sun Died. Centered on a fourteen-year-old boy named Li Niannian, whose parents run a shop that sells items for funeral rituals and whose uncle runs a crematorium, the story describes a night during which most of the residents of the boys village suddenly start sleepwalkingor, to translate the Chinese term for somnambulism more literally, dreamwalking. The community degenerates into chaos, as many villagers act out the urges that they had kept suppressed during their normal waking state.

Like Ulysses, which famously unfolds over the course of a single day (June 16, 1904), the main narrative of The Day the Sun Died takes place over the course of a single night, beginning at five P.M. on the evening of the sixth day of the sixth lunar month, and concluding early the following morning. The novel is divided into a series of books, each of which opens with a header that notes a temporal interval using the traditional Chinese geng-dian system, and each book is then divided into sections that similarly open with a header that notes the cor...


Book Review: The House at Riverton by Kate Morton This Is My Truth Now

The House at RivertonThe House at Riverton by Kate Morton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kate Morton came into my life just under 3 years ago. I dont remember how, but I picked up one of her books and absolutely fell in love with her writing style, characters, and multi-dimensional storytelling abilities. After almost 3 years, Ive finished reading all 6 of her books; its a tad amusing that the last one I read is actually the first book she wrote The House at Riverton, or The Shifting Fog, as it was previously known. For me, shes the queen of historical fiction when the focus is on ordinary families in a world from ~ a century ago. The House at Riverton is no exception, and while not my favorite of her tomes, is quite a splendid novel very reminiscent of Downtown Abbey.

In this book, Grace is ~100 years old and dying very soon. She has a story and a secret about the past to tell her wayward grandson whos gone missing after his wife died of an aneurysm. Through flashbacks and other POVs, we learn about Graces time as a maid and ladies maid in the Hartford family household. We witness conversations in the current period between Grace and Ursula, a film director telling the story of what happened when a family friend and renowned poet committed suicide in the 1920s at the Hartford estate. We find out who actually loved whom, and which family members shouldnt have been trusted. All set against the gorgeous backdrop of the English countryside, its a powerful and emotional tale about fighting your desires and knowing when its time to give in.

One of the things that made this book so appealing is how similar it was to Downton Abbey. Theres a family torn apart by war. Girls cannot inherit their fathers estate. Love between classes is forbidden. Estates cost too much. A daughter must marry into a wealthy family to survive. But then it goes off on its own path with a murder, an affair, and a past indiscretion connecting two people who never knew until it was too late. Morton can weave the most elaborate stories to warm the heart. I feel such passion and connection with her words and imagery. I can think of no other author who evokes such lyrical enthusiasm and despair in a scene on multiple levels that overwhelm you and excite you at the same time.

While a majority of this book is amazing, there were a few areas that I struggled with hence 4 stars. The beginning is a bit too slow; it takes time to develop ch...


The Labyrinth of Saul Steinberg The Paris Review

All images The Saul Steinberg Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Steinbergs line is the line of a master penman and artist. It is also a linethat is, a kind of organized talk. The pen of this artist-monologuist brings into being pictures that are also words, e.g., the odd birds at a cocktail party. Or they are visualizations of things said, as in the drawings in his book The Labyrinth, where people utter flowers, strings of beads, heraldic decorations.

Both because of his superb penmanship and the complex intellectual nature of his assertions, I think of Steinberg as a kind of writer, though there is only one of his kind. He has worked out an exchange between the verbal and the visual that makes possible all kinds of revelations. For instance, there is a drawing in which a triangle on one end of a scale weighs down an old, patched-up, decrepit question mark on the other. Axiom: A NEAT FORMULA OUTWEIGHS A BANGED-UP PROBLEM.

To build his labyrinth, Steinberg had only to draw a line from A to B on the principle that the truth is the longest distance between two points: the result is an enormous scrawl within which the original two dots appear as the eyes of the Minotaur.

As if the relations between words and objects werent complicated enough, Steinberg has thrust between them the illusions of the drawing paper. There is perhaps no artist alive, E.H. Gombrich testifies in Art and Illusion, who knows more about the philosophy of representation. A long straight line keeps changing its pictorial functionsfirst it represents a table edge, then a railroad trestle, then a laundry line, until it ends up in an abstract flourish. Steinberg is the Houdini of multiple meanings: the line with which he creates his labyrinth and entangles himself in it is also the string that leads him out of it. 




Chair with Pipe, Vincent van Gogh, December 1888 The Lion of Chaeronea

Chair with Pipe, Vincent van Gogh, December 1888


Poetry Rx: Theres No Going Home The Paris Review

In our column Poetry Rx, readers write in with a specific emotion, and our resident poetsSarah Kay, Kaveh Akbar, and Claire Schwartztake turns prescribing the perfect poems to match. This week, Claire Schwartz is on the line.

Ellis Rosen

Dear Poets,

I recently realized I wanted to be a poet. Is there a poem for getting over the fear that my poetry wont be good enough?

A Hopeful Poet

Dear Hopeful Poet,

In a way, every poem answers you. Every poem moves against or in spite of the fear that language is not equal to the task. You call yourself both hopeful and afraid. Perhaps fear and hope are two names for the same destination: the first shaped by a mindfulness of loss and the second by an awareness of presence. Fear, like hope, knows that something that matters is at stake. Fear, then, is not something to get over but might, perhaps, be differently held so that it positions you to move toward your desire.

For you, Ilya Kaminskys Authors Prayer, which moves headfirst into the realm of loss, naming it as the authors site of making:

If I speak for the dead, I must leave
this animal of my body,

I must write the same poem over and over,
for an empty page is the white flag of their surrender.

The impossible taskto speak for the deadforms the condition of the authors imperatives: I must I must Halfway through the poem, the momentum from that original ifthe energy of that conditionalshifts. The poem steadies. The speaker affirms: Yes, I live. Now the sincerity of obligation opens onto the exuberance of possibility: I can cross the streets asking What year is it?/I can dance in my sleep and laugh. And then ability makes way for commitment, can moves to will:

I will praise your madness, and
in a language not mine, speak

of music

When the final line retur...

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