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November 21, 2017

Book Notes - Richard F. Thomas "Why Bob Dylan Matters"

Why Bob Dylan Matters

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Richard F. Thomas's Why Bob Dylan Matters is a must-read book for fans of the recent Nobel Laureate, one that examines the legitimacy of Dylan's lyrics as poetry through the eyes of both an academic and fan.

Mary Beard wrote of the book:

"At last an expert classicist gets to grips with Bob Dylan. Richard Thomas takes us from Dylan's high school Latin club to his haunting engagement with Ovid and Homer in recent albums. Thomas carefully argues that Dylan's poetry deserve comparison with Virgi'’s—and Thomas, senior professor of Latin at Harvard and author of some of the most influential modern studies of Virgil, should know!"


In his own words, here is Richard F. Thomas's Book Notes music playlist for his book Why Bob Dylan Matters:



In Why Bob Dylan Matters, which grows out of a freshman seminar I have taught at Harvard University every four years since 2004, and following on the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature, I trace the ways Dylan's art has become the classic of our time, already freed from the periods and events which may have been his songs' original impulses. Dylan was always a part of the old traditions that go back though the folk songs of English, Scottish and American oral traditions. In the last twenty years he has been consciously reworking even older literary themes, getting us back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, to Homer and Virgil, "uncovering these long dead souls from their crumblin' tombs," as he put it in the song "Rollin' and Tumblin" on the 2006 album Modern Times. Those words are themselves stolen from the exiled Roman poet Ovid. Most but not all of my songs are naturally enough Bob Dylan songs. I select some others that bring out the variety in the art of his songwriting.

PS This is not my top fifteen list.


Boots of Spanish Leather
Written while his girlfriend Suze Rotolo was off studying art in Italy in late 1962, this song has an intense personal feel, even though the absent girl of the song is visiting the mountains of Madrid and the coast of Barcelona. But it doesn't matter if you don't know about the ultimate impulse of the song in the life of the young Bob Dylan, moping about in Greenwich Village. What matters here is the timeless art of the song, a back and forth between the singer and the girl he is trying to persuade to come back to him.

Changing of the Guards
Anticipating the born-again Christian phase of Dylan in 1979–80, and looking back to when it all started in the words of the opening verse—"Sixteen years …"—this song gives a glimpse into what was about to happen, as "Eden is burning" in the second-to-last verse. But that would be too simple, and particularly in a draft of the song, Dylan here in 1978 enters into a relationship with the world of the pagan gods of Rome, and its greatest poet Virgil, one of the "souls of previous times" that will stay with him down through the years. The woman in the song who is "torn between Jupiter and Apollo" points to Virgil's Messianic poem that readers through the years saw as predicting the birth of Christ.

Early Roman Kings
Roman history buffs, myself included, were looking forward to hearing Dylan sing about Romulus and the other kings of ancient Rome when the title of this song was announced. Turned out the "sluggers and muggers" of the third verse looked more like the 1960s "Roman Kings," a Latino gang in New York City. But wait a minute! The second verse has them "coming down the mountain, distributing the corn," just like those old Roman kings. Things get weird a verse or two later, when the singer turns into Homer's Odysseus taunting the one-eyed Cyclops he has just blinded. This song, a regular in performance since it came out on the superb 2012 album Tempest, shows Dylan moving across centuries and millennia as he juxtaposes allusions and creates worlds outside of time, going back to the font of Western literature.

Joan Baez, Diamonds and Rust
"You who're so good with words, and at keeping things vague." This song gets us quite close to Dylan, through the eyes of one who shared much with him. Even if some lines in the song ("Yes the Madonna was your for free, the girl on the half-shell") might seem to affirm what Joanie herself reports ("My poetry was lousy you said"), the song is a beautiful record, from the vantage of their more mature 30s, of a relationship of two figures who in their early 20s were giving us so much. Written in November 1974, the year before Baez joined Bob on the Rolling Thunder Revue in 1975-76, the song comes into relief in those memorable performances.

Highlands
"My heart's in the Highlands" begins this long song from the 1979 comeback album, Time Out of Mind—so quoting verbatim the first words of a song by Scottish folksong writer and poet from the eighteenth-century, Robert Burns. The singer then enters the world of the twentieth century, listening to Neil Young, in some restaurant in Boston town, looking for an exit from the rat-race, finally getting to a highlands of the imagination. In performance Dylan juxtaposed the song with the 1975 classic "Tangled Up in Blue," to which it referred, regretting the passage of thirty years as the singer finds himself in a world gone wrong.

Mississippi
Recorded for Time Out of Mind, but wisely held back for four years, this song is one of the strongest on the 2001 album Love and Theft. It is one of those songs that doesn't give too many details about the trouble the singer finds himself in: "Only one thing I did wrong, stayed in Mississippi a day too long." The plaintive, bluesy character that Dylan's voice creates is a thing of beauty.

Workingman's Blues #2
#2 because Merle Haggard, who opened for Dylan in 2005 concerts wrote a song "Workingman's Blues." But that's about it for similarities. Put out the next year, and two years before the 2008 economic crash and global recession, it turns Dylan into a prophet: "The buyin' power of the proletariat's gone down / Money's gettin' shallow and weak … They say low wages are a reality / If we want to compete abroad." After that opening the song starts reworking Roman poet Ovid and US Confederate poet Henry Timrod, as readers soon realized. In performance versions Homer replaced Ovid, a striking case study of how Dylan's visions and revisions go on before, during and after the studio sessions, as his intricate allusions make him look like another T. S. Eliot.

Woody Guthrie, Columbus Stockade
Dylan was singing this, along with other Guthrie songs, in Greenwich Village in 1961 and 1962. He also stole the melody for a song, never recorded, to an early girlfriend who moved to California while he was back in Minnesota at the end of 1961. He seems to have been upset, but not too upset to rewrite the song whose words are in the voice of the prisoner in the stockade whose girl has left him.

Tryin' to Get to Heaven
This song from the 1997 album Time Out of Mind is a virtuoso feat of intertextual genius. Dylan stitches a dozen fragments of other songs from his folk, blues and gospel storehouse. Nobody but Bob Dylan could produce such a beautiful, melancholic and reflective story out of these fragments. The singer, "goin' down the road feeling bad," and "goin' down the river, down to New Orleans," is in a bad way in this song that is brilliantly backed in performance by the outstanding band, that with little turnover has been adding so much to Dylan's songs for the last twenty years.

The Beatles, Norwegian Wood
What did John Lennon think as Dylan played the 1966 sang "Fourth Time Around" to the Beatle in whom Dylan recognized competition while always insistent on his own primacy. That song clearly alludes to, and arguably parodies, this Beatles song, which was put out weeks earlier. "I never asked for your crutch, now don't ask for mine." Such playful parody would continue, particularly in the Basement Tapes, the informal sessions with the Band, as in the hilarious "Clothes Line Saga," a take-off of the popular but in hindsight pretty vapid pop song, "Ode to Billie Joe" by Bobbie Gentry.

Bob Dylan's Dream
One of the fruits of Bob Dylan's first trip out of the US, when he went to act in a BBC TV movie, Madhouse on Castle Street. While that venture was apparently not too successful, it provided Dylan with the opportunity to meet and play with British folk singer Martin Carthy. One of the songs he learned was the nineteenth-century tune "Lady Franklin's Lament" about the loss at sea of Lord Franklin. As he would continue to do in complex ways, Dylan, aged 21 and far from home in the dark London winter, would compose new lyrics about the old friends he's "never seen again."

When I Paint My Masterpiece
"Oh the streets of Rome, they're filled with rubble.' So goes the song that shows Dylan has thought about the city of Rome more than any other, not just the Colisseum, but the city he studied when he took Latin as a sophomore at Hibbing High School and participated in the Latin Club. His first visit there, in January 1963, produced a song, never recorded but long available in a bootleg tape from Gerdes' Folk City in Greenwich Village in the following weeks. The refrain, "Goin' back to Rome, that's where I was born," conveys the spiritual connection he has long felt for the Eternal City.

Desolation Row
Dylan's carnivalesque assortment of camouflaged characters are paraded through this song that shows Dylan was as brilliant creating personas for the people he encountered in the explosive first three or four years of his career. The song should be a warning not to construct too much along autobiographical lines from Dylan's songs, where his imagination is always in the driver's seat: "I had to rearrange their faces and give them all another name." A favorite in recent tours it shows, as do the 1960s classics "Chimes of Freedom" and "Mr. Tambourine Man", how much Dylan was taking from French Symbolist poets, especially Arthur Rimbaud, in these years.

Tin Angel
The ballad has been in Dylan's blood from early on, and his clear-voiced 1962 version of "Barbara Allen," a song known in the seventeenth century, is in stark contrast to some of the gospel and blues material he put out that year on his first album. "Tin Angel" from 2012 provides a good example of how Dylan creates ballad forms. Start with a line from Woody Guthrie—"It was late last night when the boss came home enquiring about his lady"—then let it go where Dylan's imagination takes it, by way of Greek tragedy and Shakespeare.

Chimes of Freedom
In the early 1960s folksinger Dave Van Ronk sang the chorus of "Chimes of Trinity" to Bob Dylan. The sentimental ballad, written in 1895 by M. J. Fitzpatrick, was a favorite of Van Ronk's grandmother, like her grandson a native of New York, and presumably a member of Trinity Church in lower Manhattan. Dylan stole the melody of the chorus and rewrote the lyrics, though the original is recognizable in lines 5–8 of each chorus. He then composed his own words for lines 1–4, and here he seems to have gone to the surreal poetry of Rimbaud's contemptuous poem "Poor People in Church." Dylan's song of empathy utterly transforms this source, creating his own surreal lyrics, a hymn to the "mistreated, mateless mother, the mistitled prostitute," and others in whose cause the chimes of freedom are now tolling.


Richard F. Thomas and Why Bob Dylan Matters links:

the author's Wikipedia entry

Library Journal review
NPR Books review

Gotham essay by the author
Harvard Crimson interview with the author
Maxim list by the author of his favorite Dylan songs


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

Largehearted Boy's 2017 Summer Reading Suggestions

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists






November 21, 2017

"Best Books of 2017" Lists Update - November 21st

For the tenth straight year, I am aggregating every online year-end book list I find As the lists appear online, I will add them to the master list, updating regularly.

Please feel free to e-mail me with a blog, magazine, newspaper, or other online media list I have missed.

Please consider making a donation or leaving a tip to Largehearted Boy to support the website and posts like these.


Today's Update to the Online Year-end "Best of 2017" Book Lists:


Evanston Public Library (great books for kids)
Girl!Reporter (favourite books)
Library Journal (best books)
Library Journal (best Christian fiction)
Library Journal (best e-originals)
Library Journal (best historical fiction)
Library Journal (best mystery fiction)
Library Journal (best romance fiction)
Library Journal (best science fiction and fantasy fiction)
Library Journal (best thrillers)
Marie Claire South Africa (best South African books)
New Statesman (books of the year)
Rachel Renee Reeves (books)
The Scholarly Kitchen (chef's best books)
Sports Illustrated (sports books)
TIME (top nonfiction)
TIME (top novels)
TIME (top young adult and children's books)


also at Largehearted Boy:

updates to the lists of "Best Books of 2017" list

Online "Best Books of 2017" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2016" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2015" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2014" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2013" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2012" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2011" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2010" Lists
Best of the Decade (2000-2009) Online Book Lists
Online "Best Books of 2009" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2008" Lists

2016 Online Year-end Music Lists
2015 Online Year-end Music Lists
2014 Online Year-end Music Lists
2013 Online Year-end Music Lists
2012 Online Year-end Music Lists
2011 Online Year-end Music Lists
2010 Online Year-end Music Lists
Best of the Decade (2000-2009) Online Music Lists
2009 Online Year-end Music Lists
2008 Online Year-end Music Lists
2007 Online Year-end Music Lists
2006 Online Year-end Music Lists
other lists at Largehearted Boy

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (comics recommendations)
Book Notes (authors create music playlists for their book)
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)


Shorties (The 2018 Tournament of Books Longlist, Bjork on Her New Album, and more)

The 2018 Tournament of Books longlist has been released.


Bjork discussed her new album Utopia with NPR Music.


36 year-end book lists were added to Largehearted Boy’s master aggregation of “best books of 2017” lists yesterday (bringing the total to 239) , including Barnes & Noble's best book lists, Kirkus Reviews' best picture books lists, and much more.


Tin House interviewed author Kristen Radtke.


Stream a new Joan as Police Woman song.


NPR Music is streaming the new Sufjan Stevens album The Greatest Gift.


James Baldwin's only children's book is coming back into print.


Stream two new Martha songs (one a Marked Men cover).


Read (and/or watch) Annie Proulx's moving National Book Awards speech.


Parts Unknown interviewed musician Mark Lanegan.


Press Play interviewed cartoonist Roz Chast.


Stream a new Mind Spiders song.


Michael Redhill has been awarded the Giller Prize for his novel Bellevue Square.


Leesa Cross-Smith wrote about singer-songwriter Sturgill Simpson at the Oxford American.


The Guardian Books podcast interviewed authors Jennifer Egan and M John Harrison.


The Current examined the continued relevance of Bruce Springsteen's The Ghost of Tom Joad album.


Margaret Atwood shared how she learned to type at The Walrus.


Paste shared a gift guide for music lovers.


Rolling Stone shared the backstory behind Bloodshot Records new holiday compilation 13 Days of Xmas.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

previous Shorties posts (daily news and links from the worlds of music, books, and pop culture)

Atomic Books Comics Preview (the week's best new comics and graphic novels)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
weekly music release lists


November 20, 2017

"Best Books of 2017" Lists Update - November 20th

For the tenth straight year, I am aggregating every online year-end book list I find As the lists appear online, I will add them to the master list, updating regularly.

Please feel free to e-mail me with a blog, magazine, newspaper, or other online media list I have missed.

Please consider making a donation or leaving a tip to Largehearted Boy to support the website and posts like these.


Today's Update to the Online Year-end "Best of 2017" Book Lists:


Barnes and Noble (best art, architecture and photography books)
Barnes and Noble (best bibles and Christianity books)
Barnes and Noble (best biography books)
Barnes and Noble (best current affairs and politics books)
Barnes and Noble (best diet, health, and fitness books)
Barnes and Noble (best fiction)
Barnes and Noble (best history books)
Barnes and Noble (best humor books)
Barnes and Noble (best kids books)
Barnes and Noble (best literature)
Barnes and Noble (best music, film, and performing arts books)
Barnes and Noble (best mystery and crime books)
Barnes and Noble (best new age and alternative beliefs books)
Barnes and Noble (best parenting and family books)
Barnes and Noble (best philosophy books)
Barnes and Noble (best psychology books)
Barnes and Noble (best religion books)
Barnes and Noble (best science and technology books)
Barnes and Noble (best science fiction and fantasy books)
Barnes and Noble (best self-help and relationships books)
Barnes and Noble (best social sciences books)
Barnes and Noble (best sports books)
Barnes and Noble (best teens books)
ColorfoulSoup (recommended books)
iNews (best TV books)
Kids Stop Press (best books for grandparents to read to their grandchildren)
Kirkus (best picture books for animal lovers)
Kirkus (best picture books for budding social-justice warriors)
Kirkus (best picture books for contemplative readers)
Kirkus (best picture books for the littlest readers)
Kirkus (best picture books to bring the global village home)
Kirkus (best picture books to connect kids with nature)
Kirkus (best picture books to give readers strength)
Place Memes (top books)
Rarely Rosie (favourite books)
William Hill Sports Book Of The Year (best sports books)


also at Largehearted Boy:

updates to the lists of "Best Books of 2017" list

Online "Best Books of 2017" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2016" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2015" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2014" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2013" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2012" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2011" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2010" Lists
Best of the Decade (2000-2009) Online Book Lists
Online "Best Books of 2009" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2008" Lists

2016 Online Year-end Music Lists
2015 Online Year-end Music Lists
2014 Online Year-end Music Lists
2013 Online Year-end Music Lists
2012 Online Year-end Music Lists
2011 Online Year-end Music Lists
2010 Online Year-end Music Lists
Best of the Decade (2000-2009) Online Music Lists
2009 Online Year-end Music Lists
2008 Online Year-end Music Lists
2007 Online Year-end Music Lists
2006 Online Year-end Music Lists
other lists at Largehearted Boy

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (comics recommendations)
Book Notes (authors create music playlists for their book)
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)


Shorties (An Interview with Ursula K. Le Guin, Destroyer's Dan Bejar on Creativity, and more)

The Los Angeles Review of Books interviewed author Ursula K. Le Guin.


The Creative Independent interviewed Destroyer frontman Dan Bejar.


26 year-end book lists were added to Largehearted Boy’s master aggregation of “best books of 2017” lists Saturday (bringing the total to 203) , including Maris Kreizman's top books, Bustle's best debut novels by women, and the best and most overrated books of the year as judged by The Spectator's reviewers.


Vol. 1 Brooklyn features new short fiction by Mary Miller.


BuzzFeed recommended music books.


Joanna Scutts talked to Pictorial about her new book The Extra Woman: How Marjorie Hillis Led a Generation of Women to Live Alone and Like It.


Stream a new Emily Wolfe song.


John Banville discussed his new novel Mrs. Osmond with Weekend Edition.


PopMatters interviewed the musical duo Diet Cig.


eBook on sale for $1.99 today: Laline Paull's novel The Bees.


Stream a new St. Vincent video.


Louise Erdrich recommended books "that will transport you."


Daniel Johnston visited Morning Becomes Eclectic for an interview and live performance.


Joe Biden discussed his new memoir Promise Me, Dad, with All Things Considered.


Bookforum recommended five books (and one song) about the Manson family.


Anuk Arudpragasam's novel The Story of a Brief Marriage has been awarded the DSC prize for south Asian literature.


James Wood examined Jon McGregor's writing at the New Yorker.


Stereogum recommended November's best jazz albums.


David France’s How to Survive a Plague was awarded the Baillie Gifford prize for nonfiction.


Emily Mackay, author of the recently published 33 1/3 book on Bjork's Homogenic album, recommended her best albums at The Quietus.


The New York Times profiled Chinese author Xue Yiwei.


Stereogum reconsidered Modest Mouse's The Lonesome Crowded West album on its 20th anniversary.


The Rumpus interviewed author Elizabeth Crane.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

previous Shorties posts (daily news and links from the worlds of music, books, and pop culture)

Atomic Books Comics Preview (the week's best new comics and graphic novels)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
weekly music release lists


November 18, 2017

"Best Books of 2017" Lists Update - November 18th

For the tenth straight year, I am aggregating every online year-end book list I find As the lists appear online, I will add them to the master list, updating regularly.

Please feel free to e-mail me with a blog, magazine, newspaper, or other online media list I have missed.

Please consider making a donation or leaving a tip to Largehearted Boy to support the website and posts like these.


Today's Update to the Online Year-end "Best of 2017" Book Lists:


12Five Capital (best books)
BookBub (best cookbooks)
Bustle (best debut novels by women)
The Canadian Gift Guide (best books for kids)
A Couple of Pages (top books)
Maris Kreizman (top books)
Nicholas Crane (best travel books)
Northern Crime (top crime books)
PopSugar (best books)
Readings (best crime books)
Readings (best fiction books)
Readings (best food & gardening books)
Readings (best junior fiction books)
Readings (best middle fiction books)
Readings (best non-fiction books)
Readings (best picture books)
Simon McDonald (best books)
Sit Tableside (favorite books)
Spectator (reviewers' best & most overrated books)
taliaxrose (favourite books)
Teaching Biology (best museum science books)
Washington Post - Carlos Lozada (most enlightening, irritating, daring and disturbing books)


also at Largehearted Boy:

updates to the lists of "Best Books of 2017" list

Online "Best Books of 2017" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2016" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2015" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2014" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2013" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2012" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2011" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2010" Lists
Best of the Decade (2000-2009) Online Book Lists
Online "Best Books of 2009" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2008" Lists

2016 Online Year-end Music Lists
2015 Online Year-end Music Lists
2014 Online Year-end Music Lists
2013 Online Year-end Music Lists
2012 Online Year-end Music Lists
2011 Online Year-end Music Lists
2010 Online Year-end Music Lists
Best of the Decade (2000-2009) Online Music Lists
2009 Online Year-end Music Lists
2008 Online Year-end Music Lists
2007 Online Year-end Music Lists
2006 Online Year-end Music Lists
other lists at Largehearted Boy

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (comics recommendations)
Book Notes (authors create music playlists for their book)
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)


November 17, 2017

This Week's Interesting Music Releases - November 17, 2017

Charlotte Gainsbourg

Baths' Romaplasm, Charlotte Gainsbourg's Rest, and Sia's Everyday Is Christmas are all new albums I can recommend this week.

Archival releases include vinyl reissues of several Paul McCartney albums (RAM, McCartney, McCartney II, Pipes of Peace, Tug of War, Band On The Run, and At the Speed of Sound) and two Lou Reed releases (Street Hassle and Transformer).

What new releases are you streaming or plan to pick up this week?

This week's interesting music releases:


Barenaked Ladies: Fake Nudes
Baths: Romaplasm
Black Sabbath: The End
The Body & Full Of Hell: Ascending A Mountain Of Heavy Light
The Carpenters: The Collection (12-LP box set) [vinyl]
The Carpenters: The Singles 1969-1973 [vinyl]
Charlotte Gainsbourg: Rest
The Corrs: Jupiter Calling
The Doors: Strange Days 50th Anniversary (Expanded Edition)
Electric Wizard: Wizard Bloody Wizard
Fieldy: Bassically
GBH: Momentum
Ghost Atlas: All Is In Sync And There's Nothing Left To Sing About</a>
Godflesh: Post Self
Green Day: Greatest Hits: God's Favorite Band
Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch: Blade Runner 2049 Soundtrack
Iron Maiden: The Book of Souls: Live Chapter Book
Jim White: Waffles Triangles & Jesus
John Coltrane: Chasing Trane - Original Soundtrack
Katharine McPhee: I Fall In Love Too Easily
King Crimson: Earthbound (40th Anniversary Edition)
King Crimson: Sailors' Tales (27-disc box set)
Lou Reed: Street Hassle (reissue) [vinyl]
Lou Reed: Transformer (reissue) [vinyl]
Mary J. Blige: What's The 411? [vinyl]
Mavis Staples: If All I Was Was Black
Moody Blues: Days Of Future Passed (50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)
Morrissey: Low In High School
Nine Inch Nails: Add Violence EP [vinyl]
Nine Inch Nails: Broken [vinyl]
Nine Inch Nails: Fragile [vinyl]
Paul And Linda McCartney: RAM (reissue) [vinyl]
Paul McCartney: McCartney (reissue) [vinyl]
Paul McCartney: McCartney II (reissue) [vinyl]
Paul McCartney: Pipes of Peace (reissue) [vinyl]
Paul McCartney: Tug of War (reissue) [vinyl]
Paul McCartney and Wings: Band On The Run (reissue) [vinyl]
Pearl Jam: Pearl Jam: Let's Play Two (CD and DVD)
Pharcyde: Bizarre Ride II (reissue) [vinyl]
Pink Floyd: A Collection of Great Dance Songs [vinyl]
Pink Floyd: Delicate Sound of Thunder [vinyl]
Portugal. The Man: Church Mouth [vinyl]
Queen: News Of The World (40th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition) (3-CD box set)
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings: Soul Of A Woman
Sia: Everyday Is Christmas
Sweet: Sensational Sweet: Brian Connolly Years 71-77 (9-CD box set)
SZA: Ctrl [vinyl]
Tim McGraw & Faith Hill: The Rest Of Our Life
Tove Lo: Blue Lips
T-Pain: OBLiViON
Various Artists: Bloodshot Records' 13 Days of Xmas
Various Artists: A Capitol Christmas Vol. 2
Various Artists: Decca Sound: The Piano Edition (55-CD box set)
Various Artists: Guardians Of The Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 [vinyl]
Various Artists: Hello, Dolly! New Broadway Cast Recording [vinyl]
Various Artists: Holidays Rule Volume 2 [vinyl]
Various Artists: Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas Is You Soundtrack
Various Artists: Marshmallow Skies: '60s Pop Stars Flirt with Psychedelia
Various Artists: A Tribute to Dan Fogelberg
Various Artists: Zodiac Songs: From The Motion Picture (reissue) [vinyl]
Vince Guaraldi Trio: A Charlie Brown Christmas (reissue) [vinyl]
Wings: At the Speed of Sound (reissue) [vinyl]


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

weekly music release lists

Book Notes (authors create music playlists for their book)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily book and music news and links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)


Shorties (Books That Changed the World, The Mountain Goats Covered Sisters of Mercy, and more)

Granta listed books that changed the world.


The Mountain Goats covered Sisters of Mercy's "Lucretia My Reflection."

Minneapolis City Pages interviewed the band's frontman John Darnielle.


26 year-end book lists were added to Largehearted Boy’s master aggregation of “best books of 2017” lists Wednesday (bringing the total to 181) , including the Washington Post's best book lists, School Library Journal's best children's book lists, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's best cookbooks.


Beck visited Morning Becomes Eclectic for an interview and live performance.


The Creative Independent interviewed poet Danez Smith.


Stream a new Patrick Watson song.


Jacket Copy interviewed author Louise Erdrich.


The Oxford American shared an essay by singer-songwriter Tift Merritt.


Singer-songwriter Chad VanGaalen talked to The Know.


The Iowa Review interviewed author Carmen Maria Machado.


Stream a mix Bjork shared at Mixmag.


The Quietus shared an essay from the anthology The Digital Critic: Literary Culture Online.


Liz Phair has signed a two book deal with Random House.


The Michigan Quarterly Review interviewed author Anna Prushinskaya.


The Creative Independent interviewed author Scott Esposito.


Rolling Stone on the new Grateful Dead musical.


Signature recommended books for fans of Octavia Butler.


King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard's new album Polygondwanaland is a free download.


The Guardian interviewed author Tessa Hadley.


Pitchfork interviewed Bjork.


The Rumpus interviewed cartoonist Gabrielle Bell.


Undertheradar interviewed singer-songwriter Angel Olsen.


CarolineLeavittville interviewed Gayle Brandeis about her memoir The Art of Misdiagnosis.


Lynn Melnick talked to Literary Hub about her book Landscape with Sex and Violence.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

previous Shorties posts (daily news and links from the worlds of music, books, and pop culture)

Atomic Books Comics Preview (the week's best new comics and graphic novels)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
weekly music release lists


November 16, 2017

Book Notes - Gayle Brandeis "The Art of Misdiagnosis"

The Art of Misdiagnosis

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Gayle Brandeis's memoir The Art of Misdiagnosis is moving and eloquently told.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"A uniquely graceful, gorgeously written and composed collage of grief, misunderstanding, love, and an attempt at familial closure through art and prose."


In her own words, here is Gayle Brandeis's Book Notes music playlist for her memoir The Art of Misdiagnosis:


"Get Me Away from Here, I'm Dying”, Belle & Sebastian

This is the song I associate most with my memoir—both because my oldest son sang it, accompanied by his guitar, the last night we saw my mother alive, and also because my essay with the same title was the first piece I ever published about my mom's suicide. I felt terrified and exposed when "Get Me Away from Here, I'm Dying” appeared on The Rumpus in 2012 but the response was so incredibly generous, it gave me courage to keep pushing forward with the memoir, a project I hadn't been sure I'd ever have the nerve to fully commit to.

"Kids”, MGMT

"Kids” was stuck in my head for days—probably weeks—after my mom's death. I'm not sure what triggered this, but the lines "Making momma so proud/But your voice is too loud” gave me chills—it perfectly encapsulates my relationship with my mom, who was indeed proud of me, but who also silenced me in many ways. Of course the lines "A baby is born/Crying out for attention” felt so resonant, too, since I had given birth a week before my mom took her own life.

For a long time, whenever I heard this song—and I heard it often, in restaurants, in stores, in waiting rooms—I would burst into tears. I sometimes wondered if my mom was making herself known through the song, if she was with me somehow each time it came on. I recently heard the first tooting notes of it on NPR, and they made the hair on my arms prickle; nearly eight years since her death, I still have a visceral reaction to the song.

"Don't Always Look at the Rain”, Howard Jones

A snippet of this song appears in the book, in a moment where my sister and I were finally starting to crawl out of our stints as "sick girls”, both of us having faked serious illness as teenagers:

"I had my Walkman clamped over my ears, my eyes closed, head tipped back against the plush burgundy seat. I was thinking about being in the backseat of another car, with my first serious boyfriend; we had parked behind a theological seminary the night before, Howard Jones crooning, ‘Don't always look at the rain . . .'

Elizabeth must have known. After weeks, months, years of barely touching, I could feel her reach across the gap between us. I could feel her hand hover over my face, could smell the corn-chip dust on her palm. She must have known I was thinking about a kiss. She laid two fingers across my lips—her index finger, her middle finger; she laid them lightly across my lips like she wanted to take me back to that other backseat.

I opened my eyes, startled. She lifted her fingers from my mouth and looked right at me. Her eyes healthy. Her eyes not shadowed by dark circles, her eyes not bloodshot, her eyelids not heavy and oily looking. Her healthy eyes looking into my healthy eyes. Both of us healthy together. Both of us healthy and looking at each other and not sure what to do next. It had been so long since we had known what to do.”

"Let's Go Crazy”, Prince

Prince was instrumental in helping me find my way back into my body after my time as "the sick girl” (I don't include Prince in the memoir, but did write about him in an early essay, "Purple Bananas”).

I am happy to forgive Prince the use of the word "crazy” but I found myself taking it (along with words like "madness”) out of my memoir, other than when such words were used in direct dialogue, because I didn't want to use language that carried any sort of stigma against mental illness. It's important for me to be thoughtful with my words, and I'm learning more all the time about how to do so. I wish I had stumbled upon the Suicide in the Media Twitter page (@suicidemediabot) and its creator, Dese'Rae L. Stage, sooner.

Des opened my eyes in a fresh way to words I've used regularly without second thought, helped me see that the phrase "commit suicide” is problematic because "commit” makes suicide sound criminal, pathological; in fact, the AP Style Guide began to urge reporters to avoid the phrase unless it's in a direct quote in 2015, instead choosing more objective phrases like "died by suicide”. The phrase thankfully only appears once in my memoir, but I wish I had known not to include it at all. "There are so many colorful things that happen in the subconscious when you hear the word ‘commit',” Des said when we spoke by phone. "How are you ever supposed to get people to understand that suicide is a human experience?” Words can help restore that humanity. And Prince, well—so can he. He definitely helped me restore my own humanity, helped me want to be a healthy, sexual being.

"Clair de Lune”, Claude Debussey

It took me a long time to be able to watch my mother's documentary, The Art of Misdiagnosis (source of my memoir's title), after her death. This song is the first to appear in the film and when I first heard it, the music mirrored the emotions that were swelling inside me, a rush of grief and fear and love. Those piano notes still feel so connected with my decision to transcribe the film and weave it in to my book.

"Tod und Verklärung {Death and Transfiguration}”, Richard Strauss

I only have one of my mom's paintings in my home, one titled "Death and Transfiguration”, named for Strauss' 1888-1889 "tone poem” which chronicles a man's journey from illness through death and beyond. The canvas is widely swathed with glossy black paint. Stenciled letters across the top of the piece, painted a mustardy yellow, represent the initials of my mom's seven dead siblings (HLASLDR); another letter, E, to the left of these letters, represents the love of my mom's life, her sister's married psychiatrist, the one who gave her sister electroshock treatments, the one who introduced her to opera, the one she fell in love with when she was 16 and was in a relationship with until his death ten years later. All of the letters, aside from this E, are connected by lines of red—bloodlines—to a G and B lower on the canvas. My initials, yes, but also her parents', Gertrude and Benjamin. It took me a while to realize that the G is not painted the same yellow as the rest of the letters—it shimmers with gold. Most of my mom's paintings make me cringe for one reason or another, but I like having this one around, even though it's steeped in pain and death. When she talks about this painting in her documentary, which also includes a bit of Strauss' composition, she says "I think it's crucial to pay attention to these spirits that came to me to tell this story and it's, I think it's the hour of the moment of my life to be able to do this.” I felt the same way about writing this memoir—not that spirits of dead family members told me to write it, but it felt crucial; it felt like "the hour of the moment of my life to be able to do this.”

"Lake Shore Drive”, The Innocence Mission

I heard this song for the first time recently when a friend shared it on Facebook, and I thought it captured grief so vividly (plus it's set in Chicago, where I was born, where my parents were both born, so it spoke to me in that way, too). These lyrics hit me in the gut, in the heart:

"I'm going down to Lake Shore Drive
I think I see your face
Now I'm looking for you every place
yes I, yes I, yes I am.
yes I, yes I, yes I am.”

I also was moved by these lines:

"In me will you shine,
shine, shine, will you shine.
shine, will you shine”

As I wrote this memoir, I started to feel my mom shine inside of me, similarly to how her own mother's initial shines golden from her painting. I came to appreciate my mom in a way that I didn't when she was alive, came to see what a remarkable woman she truly was. As complicated as our relationship had been, I'm grateful to claim a spark of her in me now; I hope to use its glimmer well.

Gayle Brandeis and The Art of Misdiagnosis links:

the author's website
the uthor's Wikipedia entry
excerpt from the book
video trailer for the book

Foreword review
Kirkus review

Fiction Advocate interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for My Life with the Lincolns
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for Self Storage
The Rumpus interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

Largehearted Boy's 2017 Summer Reading Suggestions

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists


Shorties (A List of Dystopian Novels by Women for Women, The National's Cover of Cat Power's "Maybe Not," and more)

Literary Hub recommended dystopian novels by and about women.


The National covered Cat Power's "Maybe Not."


26 year-end book lists were added to Largehearted Boy’s master aggregation of “best books of 2017” lists today (bringing the total to 181) , including the Washington Post's best book lists, School Library Journal's best children's book lists, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's best cookbooks.


Longreads features a new essay by Aaron Gilbreath on music and addiction.


eBooks on sale in November.


Secret Shine broke down their new album track-by-track at Drowned in Sound.


The New Yorker has a new Victor LaValle essay.


Stream a new song by The Oh Hellos.


The 2017 National Book Award winners have been announced.


PopMatters interviewed Mac Quale, who scores the television series Mr. Robot.


Manuel Gonzales, Diane Cook, Rachel Khong, and Maggie Shipstead shared dark short stories at BuzzFeed.


Harper's Bazaar listed the year's best new Christmas song.


Bookworm interviewed author Mark Danielewski.


Stream a new Loma song.


Happy birthday, Chinua Achebe.


Rolling Stone profiled My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields.


Signature recommended books on Myanmar.


Stream a new Palehound song.


Marilynne Robinson reflected on Trump's first year in office at the New York Review of Books.


Rolling Stone listed the top 50 pop punk albums of all time.


Margaret Atwood interviewed Louise Erdrich at Elle.


Stream a new Hovvdy song.


Ivy Pochoda talked to BookPage about her novel Wonder Valley.


Stream a new Anna Burch song.


Book Riot recommended great Asian Canadian and Asian American YA books.


Stream a new Hater song.



also at Largehearted Boy:

Support Largehearted Boy

previous Shorties posts (daily news and links from the worlds of music, books, and pop culture)

Atomic Books Comics Preview (the week's best new comics and graphic novels)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
weekly music release lists


November 15, 2017

Book Notes - Jessica Keener "Strangers in Budapest"

Strangers in Budapest

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Jessica Keener's Strangers in Budapest is a lyrical and captivating literary thriller.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Keener immerses the reader in Budapest's postcommunist period in all its tumultuous glory. As the Gordons get in over their heads in their new city, the author combines strong characters and a riveting plot to craft a memorable novel."


In her own words, here is Jessica Keener's Book Notes music playlist for her novel Strangers in Budapest:



Much like the main character, Annie Gordon, in Strangers in Budapest, I lived in Budapest for a year in the mid-1990s with my husband and infant son. It was a fascinating time to be there. The Russians had left Hungary after occupying it for 50 years. In the wake of this major cultural shift, Budapest was riding on an influx of new ideas, people, and ways of doing things. Americans and Europeans were pouring in, seeking opportunities to make fast money. Everyone was charmed by the city’s decrepit quaintness and potential. Yet, it was impossible not to experience the restless undercurrent of the country’s dark, convoluted past. All the characters in the novel are restless too, struggling with unresolved questions.

Running through the middle of the city (and my novel) the Danube is a constant presence that serves as a reflective symbol of both nightmares and dreams. It also sets the stage for my story in the opening paragraph: But, like all things in this city, the river that glittered at night concealed a darker surface under the day’s harsh sun.

In assembling this playlist, the iconic Talking Heads song, “Take Me To the River” (written by Al Green and Teenie Hodges) became the obvious first choice to lead things off.

Talking Heads - “Take Me to the River” refers to the scene in the opening chapter, where Annie and Will Gordon are crossing a bridge over the Danube in Budapest. On a mission to fulfill a neighbor’s urgent and unsettling request, they have no clue that they are about to walk into a nest of terrible trouble.

“Magical Mystery Tour” by the Beatles, mixes glitter and fantasy with a dash of uneasiness. In the novel, Annie tries to stay upbeat and positive. Living as an expat in Budapest, she is captured by the sparkle of the city’s visual beauty. Yet, the city is foreign and mysterious, which heightens her feeling of “otherness” and of being untethered and in danger of floating away.

“Budapest” by George Ezra – This upbeat pop song mirrors the culture’s whimsical side. Hungarians have a light and subversive sense of humor. As the song says, Budapest is a hidden treasure. There is much to discover in its alleyways, corner markets, and wide boulevards.

Liszt piano concerto no. 1 in e flat – played by virtuoso pianist Martha Argerich, and written by the famous Hungarian composer, Franz Liszt, is a tempestuous, moody, delicate, and theatrical work. I chose this to reveal the temperament of Annie’s relationship with Edward Weiss, an elderly and ailing American who has come to Budapest to find the man he believes murdered his daughter.

“The Whipping Post” by the Allman Brothers is a pounding rock instrumental that pairs perfectly with Edward Weiss’s personality. Edward is in his seventies who spends much of his day lashing himself with self-loathing, regret, and rage about his daughter’s untimely death.

“Can’t Find My Way Home” sung by Bonnie Raitt (written by Steve Winwood) is a good accompaniment to Annie’s own muddled journey to find her center and emotional home. Drawn to helping others, her biggest challenge is helping herself discover what she has been avoiding and running from.

“Walk the Dog & Light the Light” by Laura Nyro is an uptempo song about everyday life, about living and loving, and hoping, which is what Annie and Will are trying to do with their own unsettled lives in a foreign country. Even though Annie feels estranged in a strange land, she is still part of the stream of humanity filling Budapest’s crowded sidewalks and streets. I also picked this song to honor one of the greatest songwriters and singers of the 20th century—whose musical intelligence and heart embraces every aspect of life and rises above the confines of any country.

“Willows” by Vanessa Carlton (from her Liberman album) has a line in it that says: “But memories they don’t stay behind us.” For Annie and all the main characters in the novel, as well as Budapest, the past intrudes into the present. Budapest is scarred by its historic failures, including the decimation of 800,000 Jews during WW2. Annie is unable to ignore the memory flashes of a tragic childhood accident.

“White Rabbit” sung by Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane points to the novel’s underlying questions about reality. At the center of Strangers in Budapest is Annie’s pursuit to learn what is or isn’t true. Who is or isn’t lying? And to discern how her emotions and fears may or may not be distorting her perceptions of reality.

“The Creator Has A Master Plan” written by and featuring Pharoah Sanders, jazz saxophonist extraordinaire, underscores my own belief that life’s confusions and conflicts, its cross currents of emotional and spiritual ambiguities can coalesce into something universally forgiving and loving. For Annie, this means searching for higher meaning for herself and others, despite tragedy and loss.


Jessica Keener and Strangers in Budapest links:

the author's website

Publishers Weekly review

HuffPost interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for Night Swim
Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for Women in Bed


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

Largehearted Boy's 2017 Summer Reading Suggestions

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists


"Best Books of 2017" Lists Update - November 15th

For the tenth straight year, I am aggregating every online year-end book list I find As the lists appear online, I will add them to the master list, updating regularly.

Please feel free to e-mail me with a blog, magazine, newspaper, or other online media list I have missed.

Please consider making a donation or leaving a tip to Largehearted Boy to support the website and posts like these.


Today's Update to the Online Year-end "Best of 2017" Book Lists:


Book Riot (best literary-related TED talks)
Conversations (top books for young readers)
Conversations (top fiction books)
Library Journal (indie ebooks)
Michael Magras (favorite books)
Natalie Castle (top books)
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (best cookbooks)
Rainy Day Ramblings (favorite surprise books)
The Sapling (best YA books)
School Library Journal (best chapter books)
School Library Journal (best middle grade books)
School Library Journal (best nonfiction books)
School Library Journal (best picture books)
School Library Journal (best young adult books)
Washington Post (best audiobooks)
Washington Post (best books)
Washington Post (best children's books)
Washington Post (best graphic novels)
Washington Post (best memoirs)
Washington Post (best mysteries and thrillers)
Washington Post (best poetry collections)
Washington Post (best romance novels)
Washington Post (best science fiction and fantasy novels)
Washington Post (notable fiction)
Washington Post (notable nonfiction)
While She Naps (fantastic craft books)


also at Largehearted Boy:

updates to the lists of "Best Books of 2017" list

Online "Best Books of 2017" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2016" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2015" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2014" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2013" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2012" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2011" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2010" Lists
Best of the Decade (2000-2009) Online Book Lists
Online "Best Books of 2009" Lists
Online "Best Books of 2008" Lists

2016 Online Year-end Music Lists
2015 Online Year-end Music Lists
2014 Online Year-end Music Lists
2013 Online Year-end Music Lists
2012 Online Year-end Music Lists
2011 Online Year-end Music Lists
2010 Online Year-end Music Lists
Best of the Decade (2000-2009) Online Music Lists
2009 Online Year-end Music Lists
2008 Online Year-end Music Lists
2007 Online Year-end Music Lists
2006 Online Year-end Music Lists
other lists at Largehearted Boy

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (comics recommendations)
Book Notes (authors create music playlists for their book)
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)


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