Essay in The Rumpus

I am delighted to share this essay, which appears today in The Rumpus.

For my memoir writing students, who struggle mightily with exposing their most hidden truths — this one was very hard for me, especially because I did not want to expose my  family to public scrutiny.

But writers must write, and that’s all there is to it.

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Lies My Mother Never Told Me included in top 15 best for Mothers Day

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Kaylie Jones Publishes First Novel in Ten Years

Akashic Books published Kaylie Jones’ fifth novel Speak Now in 2003. Later that year they reissued A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries, her third novel originally published in 1990 by Bantam Books, which was adapted as a Merchant Ivory film in 1998. She is the editor of Akashic’s Long Island Noir.

Akashic is now the host publisher for Kaylie’s newest endeavor, Kaylie Jones Books, an imprint created to publish writers who bravely address serious issues—historical or contemporary—relevant to society today.

Kaylie Jones has published seven books, including a memoir, Lies My Mother Never Told Me. Her most recent novel, The Anger Meridian is available now from Akashic.


Praise for The Anger Meridian:

“Jones . . . has written a compulsively readable novel about a woman who manages to come into her own. With engaging characters, a compelling story, and a seductive sense of place, this is a literary treat.”
“Jones creates a seething portrait of a narcissistic mother in this story of an adult daughter’s attempt to reconcile the appearance of her prosperous and successful family with the harsh reality of a life built on a series of lies. . . . Jones keeps the action churning . . . but perhaps the novel’s greatest feat is Bibi, an all-too-real toxic monster of a mother.”
Publishers Weekly
“A fast-paced story of a woman who only stops lying to others once she stops lying to herself.”
Kirkus Reviews

Hear Kaylie Jones talk about her new novel

Find Kaylie Jones on Facebook and Twitter 

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From Here to Eternity the Musical

From Here to Eternity, the musical will be coming soon to London. Sir Tim Rice (lyrics), Stuart Brayson (score), Bill Oakes (book), Tamara Harvey (director), yours truly and others, discussing the novel, the musical, and all things in between in this interview.


Click here to see the interview.

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ARCS for the Flagship Publication of Kaylie Jones Books are Here!


A very exciting time for us as Laurie Loewenstein’s novel UNMENTIONABLES, the first of our imprint series, goes into print.


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It’s a New Dawn

Yesterday I drove to Sag Harbor. As I turned onto the sun-drenched blue stretch of Long Beach, I could see a corner of my friend Janine Veto’s old street and I started thinking about the days when I used to drive out to teach at Southampton College with Baby Eyrna in back, in her tiny car seat. We’d stay with Janine because my mother was so drunk I couldn’t safely leave Eyrna with her.

So I was driving and thinking about the past — how Janine has moved away, and my mom is gone and her house is gone, and my godmother Cecile sold her house this year too. Both my parents, and also Buddy, Cecile’s husband, are buried in the Poxabogue Evergreen Cemetery on the corner of Sagg Main and Montauk Highway and I haven’t been to see them in six years. Nina Simone started singing “Feeling Good” in that sorrowful, joyful, deep voice.
“Birds flying high you know how I feel
Sun in the sky you know how I feel
Breeze driftin’ on by you know how I feel”It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
For me
And I’m feeling good”Fish in the sea you know how I feel
River running free you know how I feel
Blossom on the tree you know how I feel”Dragonfly out in the sun you know what I mean, don’t you know
Butterflies all havin’ fun you know what I mean
Sleep in peace when day is done
That’s what I mean”And this old world is a new world
And a bold world
For me”Stars when you shine you know how I feel
Scent of the pine you know how I feel
Oh freedom is mine
And I know how I feel”

It was as if I’d heard a message from the Master Creator himself. When there is nothing left to do but go on, you go on. And every day, it is possible to change one’s attitude and approach to loss. Freedom is mine. Though, I haven’t quite learned how to sleep in peace when day is done.

Thank you, Nina Simone.


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Uncensored GAME OF THRONES Battle Royale

After having a great intellectual and stimulating time at the Akashic party for LONG ISLAND NOIR at Mysterious Book Shop, Kevin and I came home and watched the Season 2 finale of GAME OF THRONES on HBO.

Here is my private, uncensored conversation on Facebook:

Kaylie Jones: Why I do not like GAME OF THRONES: The characters have no will of their own. You can feel them manipulated by the writer, who seems to have little understanding of human nature. Characters do things they absolutely would never do, given their histories, backgrounds, and what they stand for. I find this extremely annoying.

Matthew Koch: I’m going to assume you’re reading the books and not just watching the HBO series, which is clearly only focused on one thing (boobs). I don’t necessarily disagree with some of the points you’re making, but I also think this series has been a game changer for fantasy. So I’m curious – which characters do you think are doing things out of character?

Kelly Munley: Interesting. Example?

Michael Joseph Muller: I haven’t read GAME OF THRONES, but in general it is extremely annoying that crappy, superficial books and even porn become bestsellers while my sterling prose, penetrating insight, and artful storytelling languish.

Annie Paul: hmmm maybe that’s why i haven’t managed to get into it either, in my case i couldn’t stand the blood and gore…

Amanda Green: I’m with you! And I do wish they’d show more boobs.

game-of-thrones-nudity-emilia-clark-nudePatricia Hope: Kaylie, I agree. I tried to watch it once, and found the characters and characterizations to be two-dimensional – ten pounds of makeup in a five-pound bag. The story line was overgrown, like fingernails doubled back on themselves.

Matthew Koch: See, this is always going to be the problem with trying to fit an epic fantasy into 10 episodes of TV. There are so many characters (and they’re leaving out more) that they have to strip down their complexity so they’re more palatable to a television audience. And, while I admit I haven’t seen much of Season 2, I’m not sure they could have fit more boobs into Season 1, something which did not escape the folks at Saturday Night Live:

Game of Thrones Skit on Saturday Night Live
(Why is there so much nudity on Game of Thrones? It’s all due to a 13-year old on set, explains Saturday Night Live in this amazing skit.)

Michael Joseph Muller: Extensive and in depth marketing research has unequivocally demonstrated that audiences and people prefer crap.

Kaylie Jones to ‎Matthew Koch: I read the entire series (almost). I kept waiting to ‘get it’ – so many fantasists I adore love the series. I was so pissed off by the end I threw the book against the wall. (Sorry, Krista Caponigro).

Jz Holden: I just wonder about their use of the word c***. Can’t wait for the return of HOMELAND.

Kaylie Jones: Most of them are extremely foolish. The Stark mother, for example, spend half her life telling her son the new King to put his kingdom first, to sacrifice for the people, then she lets that asshole The KingSlayer go? Give me a break. And Stark, the father, he knows Circe is a backstabbing bitch, yet he goes and tells her that he knows her kids are her brother’s children. What is he, plain stupid? Seems like the man couldn’t run a kindergarten class, forget about an entire section of the kingdom. And forget about the ward that grew up there, in the castle. Maybe if he was retarded I’d believe he got talked into invading Winterfell. I’m sorry, these people are not just stupid, they’re foolish.

Matthew Koch: For me, the series lost some of its thunder after book three. I will say that my mother (an avid reader) picked up the series after seeing the HBO show and constantly complains to me about it. I think the fascination with these books is that they really set a different tone for epic fantasy. Other best-selling series (Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time comes to mind or before him Terry Brooks) owe so much to Tolkien that at best they’re clever clones or retellings of the story he told. Game of Thrones (Song of Ice and Fire) was a series based more in European-style history, combat, and politics that felt like something completely new when it emerged in the 90s.

Kaylie Jones: I absolutely love Patrick Rothfus’ series THE KINGKILLER CHRONICLE. THE WISE MAN’S FEAR (Book II) is phenomenal. Just love those and can’t wait for the third.

Jz Holden: At the bookstore last night Kevin (Heisler), Matt (McGevna) and I were discussing the charm of Downton Abbey, when I interjected it was simply the WASP version of Fiddler on the Roof. Can’t go wrong with that.

Matthew Koch: I think you need to look more at the primary motivations of these characters. For Caitlyn (sp), her primary motivation is her children. She talks a good game about the kingdom, but the second she sees a chance to barter the Kingslayer for Sansa, she does it. She really only wants her kids to be safe. Ned Stark’s motivation is honor above all else. This is what kills him. He thinks the honorable thing to do is tell Cersei her crimes and give her a chance to flee with her children. Cersei (and most of the other characters) don’t play by Ned’s rules, and it costs him his head. I think you’re talking about Theon Greyjoy (the ward of the Starks) for the third example. He’s one of the most tragic characters in my mind. All he wants is to make his family proud (especially his father), but he doesn’t realize this is never going to happen. Then he goes and betrays the only people that have ever truly loved him. Now, I’m not saying some of these motivations are overly-dramatized, but this is fantasy, and Martin’s characters feel far more “real” than a lot of what you get out of fantasy these days.

Robert Ward: My problem with fantasy has always been the whole voice of the genre. Books always start with lines like”Pleethgor picked up his magical ice axe, Zumby, and walked with his wolf, Craysnerd, into the million acre woods.” End of story.

Michael Pokocky: This is an example of what I call “our flatlined culture”. What sells is what appeals. Obviously the mass market. This spills over to the crap I see in eBooks evangilists. Crap is the new normal. I read today over 200,000+ new books published by indie authors looking for fame and wealth. I’m going now to walk to the lake with Hemingway’s short story collection I picked up in someone’s garbage box. It was right at the top so it was clean and the spine was not cracked. Lucky me.

Matthew Koch: Let’s not turn this into an “all fantasy is garbage” argument. I don’t think that’s where Kaylie was going with it. No one is claiming Game of Thrones is War and Peace. Just don’t throw it down into the dumpster with 50 Shades of Grey…

Robert Ward: My son, a brilliant kid, LOVES Game of Thrones and, in fact, I gave it to him because I loved another George RR Martin book The Apocalypse Rag, which is one of the best thrillers I’ve ever read…Also he was a pal of mine for a while when he worked ion The Twilight Zone and i worked on Hill Street Blues just down the hall. I used to see him and Harlan Ellison sitting out on a balcony working away on their stories. Two of my favorite guys. George and I had lunch a few times and I tried to get ‘Rag’ made into a movie. Still think it would make a great one. I strongly suggest anyone get Apocalypse Rag, a novel you cannot put down. I’m just unable to get into fantasy… those names, those owls!

Kaylie Jones to ‎Matthew Koch: Don’t think I haven’t had this discussion before! Everything you say about the characters is logical, but they are still stupid and vapid. I don’t buy it for a second. Bullshit on his sense of justice and honor. You’d think the man hadn’t been ruling the North for seven minutes, he’s so stupid. And the mother, give me a break. And the tragedy of Theon? I would have shot him after thirty second of listening to his whining.

Robert Ward: Kaylie, cut it out, yr. killing me. Beating up these poor fantasy characters!

Kelly Munley: I have to agree on those points! Thank you.

Michael Joseph Muller: I think the underlying issue with fantasy is one of the continuum of emotional maturity. At the low end fantasy is just a primitive expression of childish fantasies about being powerful, loved, and able to act out one’s anger and lust. At the high end it is an allegory expressing more profound truths.

Kelly Munley: What is your take on Aria, Tyrian and that little SOB Jeoffrey?

Matthew Koch: Theon is completely whiny. I’ll also agree that the mother is one of the more disliked characters in the books, especially from female readers (in the discussions I’ve had). Letting Jaime go was probably the single stupidest thing she could have done. I like Ned Stark, though. He represents the naivete of “honor” in the chivalric sense of honor that so many boys grow up with from reading fantasy. By killing Ned, Martin sets the tone for the whole series. One could even argue it made the series so famous. It was shocking. We’re used to someone who does the right thing making it out OK in fantasy, and here’s this guy who represents the ideals of everything it means to be an “honorable” man (yes, in the mind of a 16-year old boy) and he’s just brutally killed off. We know this type of honor can’t exist in the “real” world, but that’s what fantasy is supposed to be – NOT the real world. (You should also know that I once had my first love rip up a copy of The Song of Roland and throw it in my face as she left me, uttering the words “you know this honor stuff is just bullshit and no one cares about it.” And people wonder why one of my favorite poems is Miniver Cheevy…)

Kelly Munley: She is stupid. From a mother’s perspective, I must admit that there is a possibility that I would have done the same thing. I would not want to ever have to make the decision to have to betray one of my children in order to try to save two. Ick.

Michael Pokocky: Let’s turn to something that describes every experience of my 10 year experience on the internet; where this particular post by Kaylie Jones demonstrates that everything is moving toward a dumb herd — I’m referring to my previous comment above: Andrew Keen: ‘Social media is killing our species

Eva Hunter: This should never happen in fiction. We writers have a term for it: “throwing the reader out of the dream.”



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Mothers on the Writing Life

Mothers on the Writing Life
Thursday, May 10
7:00 – 9:00pm

828 Broadway, New York City

Join us for an evening of readings, discussion, book signings
… and a champagne toast for Mothers Day!

The Strand Bookstore has partnered with six talented authors for an honest look and discussion on motherhood, creativity and the writing process. Each author will read a short piece about the intersection between motherhood and writing, followed by a Q&A and open discussion.

A $10 gift card to The Strand or a book by one of the authors must be purchased for entry to this event.

Sheri HolmanSHERI HOLMAN – Sheri Holman has written four award-winning and bestselling novels published by Grove/Atlantic, including The Dress Lodger, a New York Times Notable Book and longlisted for the Dublin IMPAC Award; The Mammoth Cheese, named a Publisher’s Weekly and San Francisco Chronicle Book of the Year and shortlisted for the UK’s Orange Prize, and most recently, Witches on the Road Tonight, a NYTBR Editor’s Choice, winner of the Independent Publisher’s Gold Medal for Literary Fiction, and named a Book of the Year by The Boston Globe, The Toronto Globe and Mail, and PopMatters. Sheri is a founding member of The Moth.

author-novelist-editor-memoirist Kaylie JonesKAYLIE JONES – Kaylie Jones is the author of five novels, including A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries, which was made into a Merchant-Ivory film, and the memoir Lies My Mother Never Told Me. She teaches in the MFA program at SUNY Stony Brook – Southampton, and in the Wilkes University low-residency MFA program in professional writing.

Rebecca Land SoodakREBECCA LAND SOODAK – Rebecca Land Soodak has contributed to Salon, Big Apple Parent, About Our Kids, and The Huffington Post. A former psychotherapist, Land Soodak is also a painter. She lives with her husband and four children in Manhattan and Litchfield, CT. Henny on the Couch (Grand Central Publishing, March 2012) is Rebecca’s debut novel.

author Jillian LaurenJILLIAN LAUREN – Jillian Lauren is the author of the memoir Some Girls: My Life in a Harem and the novel Pretty. Her writing has appeared in The Paris Review Daily, The New York Times, Los Angeles Magazine and Vanity Fair among others. She has performed at spoken word and storytelling events across the country and is co-host with comedian Melinda Hill of the new hit podcast Eat My Podcast.

author Martha-SouthgateMARTHA SOUTHGATE – Martha Southgate is the author of four novels. Her newest, The Taste of Salt, was published by Algonquin Books in September.

author-Rachel-ZuckerRACHEL ZUCKER – Rachel Zucker is the author of three books of poetry including Museum of Accidents which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She co-edited Women Poets on Mentorship, an anthology of essays by younger women poets and co-wrote (with Arielle Greenberg) Home/Birth: a poemic, a non-fiction book about birth, friendship and feminism. She lives in New York City with her husband and three sons. She teaches poetry at NYU and is a certified labor doula.

PRESS CONTACT: Jillian Sanders
[email protected]

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POE ON POETRY By Eyrna Heisler

[I am thrilled with Eyrna’s 9th grade English teacher at Stuyvesant. He allows her to think outside the box and use her creative abilities in her papers. It is so hard for students to appreciate classic literature, with all the other media available to them, and the speed at which entertainment is offered these days. Eyrna and I talk over her assignments. This gives her a chance to think through her feelings about the novels, short stories, and poems, to express her thoughts freely without feeling that there is a right or wrong answer. I am extremely grateful that her English teacher never implies that there is a right, or wrong interpretation.

Here is Eyrna’s final paper for the unit on Poetry:]

To: Board of Directors
GLAD: Grumbling, Lonely, and Depressed Quarterly
(The Magazine for Complainers Who No Longer Have Friends)
From: E. Allan Poe
Re: National Award for Loneliest Poem of the Year

I apologize for having taken so long to reach a decision concerning the First, Second, and Third Prizes for GLAD’S yearly poetry awards for the Loneliest Poem of the Year. Unfortunately, I was locked up in a mental hospital after having completed a short story about a cat getting its eye poked out and its face mutilated by a lunatic. The three finalists are “Sky Diving,” by Nikki Giovanni; “The Guitar,” by Federico Garcia Lorca; and “Desert Places,” by Robert Frost.

Overall, I was disappointed in the lack of sadness in the poems submitted this year. Many of them were so optimistic they were practically glowing with self-confidence. I was up to my ears in morality and happy endings. It basically could have been a fairy tale competition, for all the lack of misery I was forced to endure. However, given the slim pickings, the prizes should be awarded in the following order:

Third Place for Loneliest Poem of the Year is awarded to Nikki Giovanni’s “Sky Diving.” Ms. Giovanni writes elegantly about the lonely journey towards her own death. In a stunning visual image, she states, “I hang on the edge/of this universe” (verses 1, 2). The poem’s formatting is very interesting in that she uses white spaces to depict absences and the coldness of empty space. She also describes in exquisite detail the pain of the experience: “I will spiral/through that Black hole/losing skin [space] limbs/internal organs/searing/my naked soul” (verses 14-18). However, the poet seems much too enthusiastic over her independence and her separation from earthly concerns: “singing off key/talking too loud/embracing myself” (verses 3-5). She also states, about her own death, that “It is not tragic” (verse 12), which undermines the very essence of this competition. Lonely as her journey may be, Nikki Giovanni is much too content in her own skin to win First Place for Loneliest Poem of the Year.

Second Place is awarded to Federico Garcia Lorca’s “The Guitar.” Unfortunately, the poem was sent to me in Spanish, in which I am hardly fluent, and I had to ask my Hispanic orderly in the mental institution to translate it for me. The poem is unquestionably lonely and full of despair, which fits our criteria; however, I could hardly make heads or tails of Lorca’s metaphors. “The glasses of dawn/are broken” (verses 3, 4) is open to many interpretations. Does the poet mean a man has dropped his reading glasses and now can no longer see the dawn? Or, perhaps, the partiers are done for the night and are reluctant to go home? Nevertheless, the visual and auditory imagery of shattering of glass definitely evoke a feeling of sadness and loneliness in the reader. Lorca equates the guitar’s weeping to “the first bird/dead upon the branch” (verses 23, 24). While I cannot say that I fully comprehend his simile, it is indeed a horribly depressing and lonely image, which relieved me, because depressing and lonely imagery was in short supply in many of the poems. My orderly read me the poem in the original Spanish, and I must say the word repetitions and the use of assonance in the “o” and “a” sounds, along with the alliteration of “l” and “ll,” were as melodious as a song.

Robert Frost wins First Prize for his poem “Desert Places.” At first I misread the title and thought the speaker in the poem was writing about places to get the best desserts, which had me terribly concerned. If Robert Frost recovered from his depression, where would his poetry go next? No concerns there, the poem is fabulously depressing and lonely. His careful repetition of the words “lonely” and “loneliness” (verses 8, 9, 10) emphasizes his terrible fear of being alone and filled with despair. The very first line of the poem, a visual image, indicates urgency and worry: “Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast” (verse 1), with the repetitions of the words falling and fast. The poet states that his loneliness “Will be more lonely ere it will be less” (verse 10), which captures the very theme of this competition. While Nikki Giovanni describes her own lonely flight through space without regret, Robert Frost describes his terror of an endless universe that holds no people.

As an expert on the subject of despair and loneliness, I can assuredly state that his closing verses, “I have it in me so much nearer home/To scare myself with my own desert places” (verses 15, 16) come closest to depicting the onset of misery and gloom, and the impending doom of depression.

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"Twelve Angry Men"

Just because a group of people decides something is right does not mean it is. Entire societies have blindly conformed to murderous governments, like Hitler’s or Stalin’s, out of fear for their own lives or out of blind obedience. Some genuinely believed their actions were just, while others did not feel obligated to stick up for what they felt was right. Even in this country some people still believe slavery was justified; in fact, the government of Texas recently ruled to change their school textbooks to not include the word ‘slavery’.

Reginald Rose’s play Twelve Angry Men is an allegory of 1950’s America, before the escalation of the Civil Rights Movement, at the height of the McCarthy Era, when Americans were convinced the Soviet Union was going to take over the world. The entire country was in a panic over the Cold War, and anyone sympathetic to communism was considered an enemy of the state. People turned in their friends, colleagues, and even relatives to avoid losing their jobs or going to prison.

In the play, the jurors consist of twelve white males who are judging whether or not a 16-year-old boy from a minority group killed his father in cold blood. When the jurors first take a vote, eleven of the twelve jurors vote that he is guilty, because society has already thrown the boy in the garbage. It is unimportant to the jurors whether the boy lives or dies. Only Juror Number Eight is willing to stand up against the others. He does not want to condemn a boy to death without conferring about the case first, for he would be unable to live with it on his conscience if the boy was in fact innocent. He says:

“Look, this boy’s been kicked around all his life. You know – living in a slum, his mother dead since he was nine. He spent a year and a half in an orphanage while his father served a jail term for forgery. That’s not a very good head start. He’s had a pretty terrible sixteen years. I think maybe we owe him a few words. That’s all.” (Page 89)

By refusing to go along with the guilty verdict, Juror Number Eight subjects himself to the other jurors’ anger and verbal attacks. This setting is a small, controlled environment, but is an example of what happens every day when someone refuses to conform to society’s views. The other Jurors take Juror Number Eight’s lack of conformity personally, and get bent out of shape because many of them lack substantial evidence to prove their opinions, while eliminating all reasonable doubt. Juror Number Eight, on the other hand, stays calm and levelheaded, presenting the facts of the case with an unbiased perspective. He is able to point out many flaws in the Prosecution’s case, and inconsistencies in the various witnesses’ testimonies.

Slowly but surely, by appealing to the jurors’ own humanity, he manages to convince them one by one that there is a reasonable doubt the boy is innocent. Juror Number Three in particular is loath to admit there is a reasonable doubt the boy is not guilty. But even he eventually succumbs to conformity, because he is standing alone and all the other Jurors wish to acquit the boy. In the end, the jury exonerates the boy, showing that human beings can be persuaded to do the right thing.

Throughout history many leaders have abused their powers and led entire societies into horrible wars, or acts of genocide, but no one dared to speak up. The very few who did were punished severely, because they were contradicting popular belief. However, as Henry David Thoreau said in his magnificent essay, On Civil Disobedience, “Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.”

Most people will put their own needs first, concerned with their own and their immediate family’s survival. Though sometimes, when people thought the best road to take was to keep silent and just accept what was happening, it really was not the best option after all. One Holocaust survivor, Pastor Martin Niemöller, wrote in 1946:

First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Just as recently as the beginning of the Iraq War, the government stated that anyone opposed to the invasion of Iraq was “unpatriotic,” which scared many people into silence, despite the fact that they questioned the government’s reasoning on the necessity of the invasion.

Twelve Angry Men is an allegorical play with a happy ending. Juror Number Eight wins, and justice is served. Americans can once again feel good about themselves and their system of justice. This is one occasion when we learn that taking a stand is the right thing to do, and can effect change.

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