Monthly Archives: June 2014

My Independent Bookshop; Independent Booksellers Week 2014

Back in May I told you about a wonderful new initiative where we could all become booksellers in the form of My Independent Bookshop. I promised faithfully that I would update the shop with new stock every month, basically this is a way of me playing at being a bookshop owner whilst also (if you happen to buy books through it) giving money to an indepent bookshop at the same time, clever huh?

Well I got way too busy with work and so when June came, and almost went, there was no update. Shame on me. However when I saw it was Independent Booksellers Week this week I had a brainwave… I should come up with a selection of books to sell in my bookshop for a week that celebrate bookshops and books that will make you go back to bookshops and buy more books.

So that is what I have done HERE. Three books written by bookshop owners (well two are letters but that counts), three books with bookshops very much at their hearts and three books about reading which will make you want to run to your local indie bookshop and buy more books. So have a gander and let me know what you think! Oh, and let me know if you have set up your own My Independent Bookshop!

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Other People’s Bookshelves #45; Lee Goody

Hello and welcome to the latest Other People’s Bookshleves, a series of posts set to feed into the filthy book lust/porn and either give you a fix of other people’s shelves to stave you off going on a buying/borrowing spree, or making you want to run and grab as many more books as you can. This wee we are heading off to Sydney to join another avid reader, Lee Goody, who has kindly offered to tell us more about her books, herself and let us have a nosey round her shelves! Before we do let’s find out more about her…

My name is Lee Goody and I am a book horder, originally from North Yorkshire via Nottingham and have been living in Sydney with my husband Phil for almost 6 years. I work as a Training Consultant and enjoy getting out on my Stand Up Paddle board at the weekends as well as eating my way round the restaurants of Sydney. I am on a constant mission to squeeze more books into limited space in our apartment, much to the dismay of my husband! This hording is only second to our growing wine collection… I like to think of it as a marvellous competition between the two obsessions! (Mmm Books and Wine, does life get any better?!)

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Do you keep all the books you read on your shelves or only your favourites, does a book have to be REALLY good to end up on your shelves or is there a system like one in one out, etc?

I have to be selective with purchases these days as I am seriously running out of space. If I have bought a book new and think I am likely to read it again (however far in the future) I will keep it. If I have bought it new and it’s not one of these pesky Australian larger-size paperbacks which bother me with their over-sized-ness. If I have bought a second-hand version of a book, if it is not in great condition but I love the book, I will hold on to it until I come across a reasonably priced new copy of this book. (This can often be a challenge in Australia).

Do you organise your shelves in a certain way? For example do you have them in alphabetical order of author, or colour coded? Do you have different bookshelves for different books (for example, I have all my read books on one shelf, crime on another and my TBR on even more shelves) or systems of separating them/spreading them out? Do you cull your bookshelves ever?

I tend to keep books by the same author together, as well as books that came as part of a set. I have a dedicated shelf for cooking and another for travel which I think looks nice and makes it look like I have visited lots of places.. The only books that are on display in the apartment are by the door of my apartment. I also house my TBR shelf in the bedroom. All other books are on shelves that are behind cupboard doors, so there lays organised chaos!

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What was the first book you ever bought with your own money and does it reside on your shelves now?

I was a huge Roald Dahl fan as a child and remember school having book catalogues that you ordered from which was massively exciting. I have a small collection of puffin books purchased this way, amongst which are mainly Roald Dahl, Spike Milligan’s silly verse for kids and Alf Proysen’s Little Old Mrs Pepperpot. I seem to have misplaced Ramona Quimby aged 8 which is rather disappointing!

Are there any guilty pleasures on your bookshelves you would be embarrassed people might see, or like me do you have a hidden shelf for those somewhere else in the house?

I have a copy of The Joy of Sex and some Anais Nin novels which I used to hide away when my Mother in Law came round. Now that most of my books are trapped in a cupboard and in laws live 12,000 miles away it’s not too much of a problem anymore! I would feel happy justifying any book on my shelves as it would only stay there if I had enjoyed reading it.

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Which book on the shelves is your most prized, mine would be a collection of Conan Doyle stories my Great Uncle Derrick memorised and retold me on long walks and then gave me when I was older? Which books would you try and save if (heaven forbid) there was a fire?

Not to titillate Simon too much but I do have a rather nice hardback copy of Rebecca on my shelves which I would be gutted to lose. The other book I would have to save would be a hardback copy of The wizard of Oz which my Nana used to sit me on her knee and read to me as a child. I would also make a grab for the complete set of James Herriott books that came from a clear out of my Pop’s house after he passed away.

What is the first ‘grown up’, and I don’t mean in a ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ way, that you remember on your parent’s shelves or at the library, you really wanted to read? Did you ever get around to it and are they on your shelves now?

I devoured the aforementioned James Herriott books lent to me around the age of 15 which really gave me the “bug” for reading… which has never stopped. I had a spate of reading the usual Stephen King novels and a dalliance with Jilly Cooper before feeling like I had to play catch-up on all the books you are “supposed” to read.

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If you love a book but have borrowed the copy do you find you have to then buy the book and have it on your bookshelves or do you just buy every book you want to read?

I very rarely borrow books; I have quite a lot on my shelves that are still in the TBR category. The last time this happened though was getting “The Time Travellers Wife” out of the library but then being so blown away by it that I had to buy myself a copy.

What was the last book that you added to your bookshelves?

I added 2 books to my shelves last week: Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler as inspired by the May episode of the (First Tuesday) Book club on ABC and The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing as I found a cheap copy on a book shop’s bargain table for $6.

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Are there any books that you wish you had on your bookshelves that you don’t currently?

Erm, if there is a book that I want to buy then I tend to just get it. I think I should really have a hardback copy of The Secret History by Donna Tartt to match the hardback editions of the other 2 of her books I own. I would like a complete set of Sue Townsend’s Adrian Mole series.. I will eventually complete my collection of every Ian McEwen work too when I have extra space. I have 119 books on my Amazon wish list at the moment!

What do you think someone perusing your shelves would think of your reading taste, or what would you like them to think?

A bit literary fiction-heavy. I like to try the books that have won awards to see what all the fuss is about. I’m loyal to a few favourite authors: Ian McEwan, Sebastian Faulks, Sarah Waters, Donna Tartt, Jonathan Franzen.

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A huge thanks to Lee for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves. If you would like to catch up with the other posts in the series of Other People’s Bookshelves have a gander here. Don’t forgot if you would like to participate (and I would love you to – hint, hint, hint) in the series then drop me an email to savidgereads@gmail.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance. In the meantime… what do you think of Lee’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that she mentions?

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If You Could Be A Character In A Book, Who Would You Be?

I don’t know if you have been following it on Twitter (some of you might not have Twitter, I would urge you to join as it is far more booky than you might imagine) however #bookadayuk has been a daily joy for me. All through the month of June the folks at Borough Press, a new imprint of Harper Collins, have been asking us to tweet pictures of books that match a certain theme. There have been books we have never finished, the best book we have ever found second hand, the books we think everyone else should have read but haven’t, etc, etc. Today they have asked a question that has had me well and truly stumped… Which character in a book would you want to be?

Worryingly after a day of so or thinking about it I couldn’t come up with a single one. You see whilst there may have been many, many, many books which I wish I had been in (as an additional character or a bystander) there are absolutely no characters that I would want to swap places with because if they were my favourites I would rather hang out with them than trade places.

For example in the case of two of my very favourite characters Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, I wouldn’t want to be either of them but I would give anything and everything to be caught up in an adventure with them physically as I have mentally again and again over the years. The idea of being Holmes (an opium addict who plays my least favourite instrument ever) doesn’t do it to me at all, and neither would being his sidekick, I’ve never wanted to be a doctor and certainly not one in the Victorian period. However, hop into a handsome cab and head through the streets of Victorian London with a game afoot and I would be there with them both in a moment.

It has always been so for me, this isn’t my adult brain trying to be ‘realistic’. As a child I always wanted to be the best friend of Mildred Hubble aka The Worst Witch and share a dorm with her and Tabby. I wanted the Famous Five to be the Stupendous Six. I wanted to live in Whitby and be part of uncovering a gang of witches up to no good. I wanted to befriend Matilda in the library or be Miss Honey’s nephew who would visit. I never wanted to be a character, just join in as I was doing vicariously turning the pages and getting lost in the world.

Today though I am feeling like it is just me as I have seen people over and over mentioning characters they would like to be, so I thought I would share this thought with all of you and see if it is just me that is the freak or if any of you would rather be an addition character in a book rather than trading places with one (if you would like to swap places with a character the don’t be shy and share with us who it is) and being a part of the world the book creates?

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Sometimes You Don’t Want to Read or Blog…

…You just want to take the neighbours dog for a long leisurely walk around the park after a week of being stuck in a balmy hot and bonkers busy office and just take some time out. And that is alright isn’t it?

Walking the Dog

Don’t worry I am not ill. As I was actually walking with Ann and Michael from Books on the Nightstand discussing books in my ears, I also then came home and recorded an episode of The Readers and am now blogging about it – but you know what I mean. Sometimes you need to tear yourself away from what you are reading (even if your book group is only two days a way and you have only read a chapter of the novel) and just sit on a bench out in the real world people watching (while your canine companion is squirrel watching) and just take in life and the fresh air…

Where is your favourite place to take a break from books and the hustle and bustle of the real world?

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Encouraging Young Writers…

If you are someone who loves books and you think about ‘the youth’ out there we almost instantly think about the young readers and how we can make sure that young people are keen to read as much as they can, we recently even did an episode of The Readers podcast all about it. One thing we don’t seem to think of however is about the young writers out there who hopefully will be writing the classics of the future.

Maybe we don’t like to think about it too much as there is that awful thought that by the time they become literary greats or classics we most likely won’t be reading any more as we will, frankly, be dead. (This post gets much more positive I promise.) But without writers of the future then readers of the future might be a little bit stumped, okay they will have the ‘canon’ of authors yet where will be the contemporary writers and then the future, future, future young readers classics come from? It hurts your head doesn’t it?

You may be wondering what has got me pondering on the subject of future writers, well it’s this…

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Candyfloss Clouds is a book written by young writers and, equally brilliant, it is also a book aimed at young readers. How did I hear about it? Well it happens that this is something that the Beard’s sister in law has been working on it with the young enterprise team at her school and so naturally, being rather a booky bloke, they let me get a copy of it. Before you think shameless plug alert, the books are not on sale online or all over England, just a few select shops in the Chester/Wirral/Liverpool area, I just wanted to mention it because I think young writers writing for young readers seems so right…

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…And of course it made me think. What I didn’t realise is that these young enterprise groups in schools do this quite regularly as I discovered when I spoke to my mother, also a teacher as many of you will know, and she reminded me she had done similar things with kids in her schools too. Yet why do we not hear more about them? I mean with the latest furore about Gove’s changes to the national curriculum for English Literature (and only studying books by English authors) we need more stories like this getting out into the wider world don’t we? What is also brilliant and I can plug is that this group of young enterprise champions have now made it to the final down in London, so should any authors or publishers like to say hello then let me know!

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You see it is projects like this that show that writing, reading and books are by no means dead in the water and we should be celebrating this much more openly I think. Kids like to create and they like to escape and if all schools have ventures where their students are writing books for other students then that’s going to encourage kids to read their mates work and then reach for more books. Seems ideal really doesn’t it?

Do let me know if your kids/relatives/friends children have done similar ventures and how it was received, and most importantly tell me about the books they wrote, the titles, and what the storylines were. If Candyfloss Clouds is anything to go buy I am sure they were highly imaginative, creative and quite likely brilliantly bonkers…

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The Raw Shark Texts – Steven Hall

When I first got a review copy of Steven Hall’s debut novel The Raw Shark Texts back in 2007 there was one thing that put me off, I heard it had a conceptual shark in it and at that time in my life I just thought ‘nah!’ Well more fool me because after having read it as one of Rob’s choices on Hear Read This! I have to admit is one of the most entertaining and thought provoking books I have read in some time, one that also takes you on an adventure and feels like a ripping good yarn too. If you are still worried/put off by the conceptual shark leave thoughts of it to one side (those who have read the book will see what I did there) and let me expand on it…

Canongate Books, paperback, 2007, fiction, 448 pages, bought especially for Hear Read This!

As The Raw Shark Texts opens we join a man who has no memories of where he is or why he came to be there. We soon learn, as he does, that he is Eric Sanderson and that the Eric Sanderson he was before (bear with me) has left him some hints and clues as to figure out what has happened, the first being to see Dr Randle both Eric’s therapist. As we may have guessed it appears that Eric has been through a terrible trauma of the death of his girlfriend Clio on a holiday, is this what has caused Eric’s memory loss? It turns out no, it is part of it, but actually what has taken Eric’s memory is something much, much worse.

Slowly, slowly-slowly, the world began to reappear in sickly greens and thumping purples and after maybe a minute, it steadied itself into a shaky-solid kind of balance. I wiped my eyes on my jeans and gave into a last scratchy cough before rubbing out the rest of the tears. Okay. Just breathe, we’re okay. I had no idea who or where I was.

Now if you are thinking that the ‘old amnesiac at the start of a book routine’ has become a little tired or obvious then you might be right, many authors do it. However this amnesia, in the hands of Hall, is a way of creating the start of a much deeper, more intricate and clever mystery which lies at the depths of the book, oh along with a monstrous shark which lives in the ether and is made out of words but if catches you steals all your memories before killing you. Nothing to fear then Eric… From here we follow Eric, and his cat Ian (more of him later because he is brilliant) and through a random meeting the beautiful Scout, as they go in search of the Un-Space Exploration Committee and Dr Trey Fidorous who Eric Sanderson 1.0 thinks will be able to help Eric Sanderson 2.0. Seriously bear with this guys, it feels like you are on a real adventure whilst also making your mind do a work out with the puzzles Eric must solve and the themes the book brings up.

The animal hunting you is a Ludovician. It is an example of one of the many species of purely conceptual fish which swim in the flows of human interaction and the tides of cause and effect. This may sound like madness, but it isn’t. Life is tenacious and determined. The streams, currents and rivers of human knowledge, experience and communication which have grown throughout our short history are now a vast, rich and bountiful environment. Why should we expect these flows to be sterile?

I have to admit initially I struggled with this concept, so I completely understand if you are thinking all this is barking mad. However I was already intrigued enough (and so smitten with Ian the cat) that I couldn’t resist carrying on and then I saw the genius behind this monster that Hall has created. Ludovician’s are one of many such sharks which are created by the throwaway comments, thoughts, texts etc that we humans have on a daily basis. To confuse it you must surround yourself with words be they written or spoken and in a brilliant moment we also learn that the worst ones died out when Latin stopped being spoken. There is also the nod it gives, and ‘back story if you will, to dementia and Alzheimer’s. So clever, such a geek out on the power of words. Yes, this is a book about books and languages at its heart as well as being one about love and loss – the Ludovician also seemed to me a metaphor for grief a feeling that chases you and gets you when you least expect it.

It is also a huge homage to some of the pop culture of the 80’s and 90’s. We have the obvious link to Jaws and I have seen someone somewhere describe it as The Matrix with books. It was this and the adventure element that reminded me very much of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, another book I wasn’t expecting to be completely engrossed in and compelled by, but I was. Shows I should leave my pre-‘conceptual’-conceptions at the door doesn’t it?

What makes it different from other intelligent literary thrillers (sounds like I am creating a new genre but you know what I mean) I hear you ask, and you would be right to because there are some of them about. In part it is the themes I mentioned which add layers to the book and also it is Hall’s sense of humour and fun which, whilst some of the characters occasionally feel slightly two dimensional, transpires at its best with Ian the cat. I haven’t read such a realistic and scene stealing (yet – thankfully – never talking) creature for quite some time. For me it was Ian the themes of loss, the thoughts on the power of words, and, once I got my head around it, the idea of a conceptual thought shark that makes this a thriller with heart and multi-layered concepts.

I knew at some point I’d have to make it up to the cat after our incident earlier in the day. I also knew that when Ian saw we had a new travelling companion he was unlikely to be in a happy or forgiving mood. I could already picture the thundery disgust and disappointment all over his big flat ginger face.

Thinking about it The Raw Shark Texts is also a book about making every word you use matter, and the Steven Hall does just that. He also makes one of those tricky books which once you have read it you find really difficult to explain. If you love books and words and are prepared to let an author take you completely outside your comfort zone (so basically a ‘reader’) then I highly recommend you give this a try. It is an intelligent ‘conceptual’ thriller if ever there was one, and brilliantly written, crafted and plotted at that. Who knew that a 50-page flipbook section of an approaching shark could genuinely scare me?

If you would like to hear more thoughts on The Raw Shark Texts then do head to this episode of Hear Read This! where Rob, Kate, Gavin and I discuss it. Also, as always, if you have read it then let me know your thoughts on how you found it, if you loved it, what you made of the concept and how on earth they are going to make a movie of it?

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Other People’s Bookshelves #44; Jon Morgan

Hello and welcome to a return of Other People’s Bookshleves, a series of posts set to feed into the filthy book lust/porn and either give you a fix of other people’s shelves to stave you off going on a buying/borrowing spree, or making you want to run and grab as many more books as you can. After a small break we are back and visiting Jon Morgan, a Savidge Reader, who has kindly offered to tell us more about his books, himself and let us have a nosey round! Before we do let’s find out more about him…

I am a 52 year old soon-to-be retired London senior police officer (yes some of us can read – the old East German joke – why do the police go around in threes – answer: One who can read one who can write and one to watch the other two dangerous intellectuals) subscribing to Rupert Brooke’s dictum that ‘Life is so flat you can see your tombstone from the other end.’ And Graham Greene: ‘Point me out the happy man and I will point you out either extreme egotism, evil or else an absolute ignorance.’ As well as Baudelaire: ‘Ma jeunesse ne fût qu’un ténèbreux orage, traversé ça et là par de brillants soleils.’ My book interests are eclectic, reflecting early middle and late interests. Philosophy – ‘Even a bad book is a book and is therefore sacred’ and following Erasmus ‘If I have money I will buy books, if I have any leftover I may buy food.’ Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read…’ Arthur Ransome said many wise things (Better drowned than duffers, if not duffers, will not drown) and produced the greatest children’s literature ever. He wrote ‘Any book worth reading by children is also worth reading by adults, but children begin by being omnivorous, to them, the miracle of being able to read, makes any book miraculous. A couple of second rate books can blunt that new-found faculty of reading… A real book becomes part of a reader’s innermost life.’ Genius!

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Do you keep all the books you read on your shelves or only your favourites, does a book have to be REALLY good to end up on your shelves or is there a system like one in one out, etc?

Books deserve to see the light and almost all are on the shelves. Childhood books are unfortunately in the loft WE Johns, CS Forester, CS Lewis etc due to a real and pressing lack of space. I don’t buy book I do not want to read and rarely get rid of them unless I have seriously misjudged.

Do you organise your shelves in a certain way? For example do you have them in alphabetical order of author, or colour coded? Do you have different bookshelves for different books (for example, I have all my read books on one shelf, crime on another and my TBR on even more shelves) or systems of separating them/spreading them out? Do you cull your bookshelves ever?

Usually grouped by author although the system I had in my last place displayed some favouritism. Nowadays all the French books are displayed by era and biogs included with subject author. I prefer some chaos it is more natural….The constant changing of size by publishers is frustrating i.e. paperbacks of a particular author are all the same size until some idiot in the marketing dept. decides to make the new one bigger and the location and shelf space wont comply…. Leads to author separation and a frustrating few minutes when I want to find something – not easy amongst three floors of books and 7000 plus in total. Books to be read i.e. recently bought, used to be on two tottering piles by the bed. They grew to over 6 feet tall and one night I was woken by what seemed and earthquake. Two piles fell over. I managed to squeeze a large bookcase into a small space to accommodate them but the piles gave re-formed. Recently read are on a pile on the other side of the bed….. Cull, what is this cull concept. Books are friends. You do not cull friends.

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What was the first book you ever bought with your own money and does it reside on your shelves now?

Probably a WE Johns ‘Biggles’ book, which are all in the loft. I remember being in hospital as a young teen in central London and sneaking out to Charing Cross Road and buying The Fabulous Mr Wilkes, about the 18th century rake, rebel and politician. I still have it and it is still a good read.

Are there any guilty pleasures on your bookshelves you would be embarrassed people might see, or like me do you have a hidden shelf for those somewhere else in the house?

Never be ashamed of any book you own!

Which book on the shelves is your most prized, mine would be a collection of Conan Doyle stories my Great Uncle Derrick memorised and retold me on long walks and then gave me when I was older? Which books would you try and save if (heaven forbid) there was a fire?

It is a book I used at university and it was so cogent and clear of thought that I determined to buy my own copy after leaving. L.T.T Topsfield’s study of the medieval author Chretien de Troyes. It was a small fortune £45.00 in 1983. The other one is a study of the work of Jean Racine which again I used a college, heavily annotated, It was not until I got it home one holiday that my late father told me the author had taught him at Cambridge in the 50’s Odette De Mourgue’s Jean Racine -The Triumph of Relevance.

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What is the first ‘grown up’, and I don’t mean in a ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ way, that you remember on your parent’s shelves or at the library, you really wanted to read? Did you ever get around to it and are they on your shelves now?

The Railway Navvies – Terry Coleman. Fantastic study of the construction of the railways and of the perilous life of the navvies and their gross exploitation by the boss class

If you love a book but have borrowed the copy do you find you have to then buy the book and have it on your bookshelves or do you just buy every book you want to read?

To my shame, I rarely borrow from the local library, and I know that I am one of those who would shout loudest if it were threatened. Unlike when I was young I can now afford to buy the books I want, ether second-hand or new and sometimes even from the behemoth that is Amazon if my conscience does not overrule my wallet. That is such a privilege. Like Erasmus I would rather go hungry than not buy books!

What was the last book that you added to your bookshelves?

Martin Walker’s latest Bruno, Chief Of Police – the Children of War. A great character set in la France Profonde.

Are there any books that you wish you had on your bookshelves that you don’t currently?

None specifically although no doubt I will think of one after pressing ‘send’!

What do you think someone perusing your shelves would think of your reading taste, or what would you like them to think?

Odd, eclectic, Have you really read all of these? / Not really sure what I would like them to think. Books are, or become, friends. They do reflect my tastes, interest and personality. They are not there for show. They demonstrate a profound love of the book as a human achievement – long may it rule!

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A huge thanks to Jon for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves. If you would like to catch up with the other posts in the series of Other People’s Bookshelves have a gander here. Don’t forgot if you would like to participate (and I would love you to – hint, hint, hint) in the series then drop me an email to savidgereads@gmail.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance. In the meantime… what do you think of Jon’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?

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