Tag Archives: American Psycho

Changes …

I suppose I should have probably put this in the ‘Inane Thoughts’ category, but it really does have … something … to do with writing. Obviously, I’ve been making a lot of changes to this place recently, and I’ve been through a lot of changes in the past nine months or so as well.  I don’t really know how relevant any of that is. But the more I look back at old pieces, the more I’m starting to consider whether these changes in my life have actually been reflected in my writing.

I’ll start with style and tense, though, because to me, this is the most obvious change. Upon looking back at things written pre-2012 I’ve noticed mostly that it was almost impossible to tear me away from third person past tense. I wrote everything in third, I guess because it was comfortable, because it was what I had been used to reading and it was comfortable enough for me to write in.

Now, I just can’t stand it.

I don’t mean for this to be insulting to anyone who writes in third person past, because I don’t mean I hate this type of narration. I’m just not comfortable writing in it anymore. And for me, this is more than a little strange because it’s all I wrote in for nearly a decade. Like I said, it was comfortable. It was straightforward. I liked that as much as anything else.

Really, I couldn’t tell you what my issue with it is now. I feel slightly out of my comfort zone when I try to revert to it, not that I wouldn’t like to try, and as though there’s something missing. There’s a connection I’m not making because of the way I’m writing the story. And I start to consider how each story could have been so different if it was just written in a different way; I mean, there are some that probably wouldn’t have worked, but a number that would have, and these seem a little like missed opportunities to me. I also feel as though there’s something I’m not quite reaching or tapping into that I desperately want to, and that the narration is important in relation to this.

Anyway, self-indulgence over for the time being, I suppose what I’m really getting at is how much does narration and style really govern? As I’ve stated above, there are times when I feel as though the direction of an entire story hinges upon it. But then, are there novels that would remain almost the same regardless of how they’re told? I’ll use a very well-known example here; how different would the Harry Potter novels have been if they’d have been written in first person? Considering J.K. Rowling followed Harry for the most part (and yes, I did read these, even though they’re not my usual ‘bag’, but it was quite a while ago now, so the details are probably off anyway), how much would this have impacted the story? Then, on the other hand, we have a favourite of mine, American Psycho, which would not be the same novel if written from a different perspective, and there is no way around this. If Tim Price was telling the story, it would have been impossibly different. It probably wouldn’t have been titled American Psycho either, though, because in Price’s mind, Patrick Bateman doesn’t butcher women in his apartment. Price just doesn’t know anything about this. 

I digress (if only slightly). The easiest answer to the question would be that it depends entirely on the novel, and to some degree, it does, but I do think it also depends on the writer. There are certain hallmarks we come to associate with certain writers; so it’s not too far-fetched to guess that this is also the case from a more personal standpoint. Part of writing, in and of itself is, after all, establishing your own voice as a writer, as well as allowing your characters to establish theirs. I would guess that this has a little something to do with knowing yourself before getting to know anyone else; knowing yourself as a writer before getting to know the people you’re writing about. Because no matter which voice you use, it’s never entirely possible to shake the feeling that you’re still telling someone else’s story. You’re writing  about them, not  as them. (Oh, look, I switched into second for a while, there).

And I have to wonder, is this really anything more than drunken rambling?But it’s been bothering me for a while now. So I suppose I just had to get it out there.

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I Can’t Help You With That Embarrassing Problem, I’m Afraid

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Last month’s Teens Can Write, Too! Blog Chain was excellent, very fun, and I couldn’t wait  for this month’s. Yesterday’s post was by Miriam Joy at A Farewell To Sanity and before that, Kirsten at Kirsten Writes! Both of whom have written really entertaining posts with some hilarious, and sometimes baffling search terms involved.

So, I am afraid to say that I don’t have nearly as many entertaining search terms. Mostly anyone who finds my blog via a search engine seems to type in entries such as ‘eat sleep write repeat’ or ‘felicity-zara stewart wordpress’, which all in all are pretty likely to redirect here somewhere along the line. Yet because of this, when strange search terms do come along, I tend to notice it quite quickly.

The first strange term was quite an early one, and while it does make sense in context, it’s far more entertaining out of it. One visitor in particular wanted to find details on;

‘Patrick Bateman lifestyle’ 

Now, I’m not suggesting for a moment that my blog is a handy all-in-one guide on how to live life as a psychopathic Yuppie who does unmentionable things to women by way of starving rats. But if it was, then I can certainly see why this search would yield results.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), my blog isn’t an all-in-one guide on how to live like a psychopathic Yuppie at all. It is but a humble writing blog, you won’t find that much torture and misogyny here (or at least not intentionally). My apologies to whoever managed to find my blog while obviously searching for something much more visceral, though; I have a feeling that reading about the writing pursuits of a certain 19-year-old aspiring author isn’t exactly what they were going for with that one. This review might prove useful, though.

The next is more than a little odd, and possibly inappropriate, too. Cover your eyes, kiddies;

‘Balls sleeping accidentally exposed’

I …  don’t have anything witty to say about this one off the top of my head, as every time I read it, it seems to make less sense. I just don’t understand this search term.

What I mean to say is; dear visitor, I am very sorry to hear about your embarrassing predicament, even though I can quite honestly say I have never found myself in such a position. This is primarily because I lack male genitalia, but also … well, no, actually, it is just because I’m a girl.

The strangest part about this search term, however, is that I really have no idea how it relates to my blog. I’ve never posted tips on how to avoid this issue, having never suffered from it myself, and in living memory, I’ve never written about anything dealing with it, either. Until today, I can’t even remember whether the word ‘balls’ appears on this blog (maybe in a quote, I’m not sure). Okay, so that book review might have had something to do with it … somewhere along the line? Very, very vaguely connecting point A (the search term) to point B (the review) is the underlining fact that the book in question is ‘about’ the porn industry. That said, I doubt exposure is a worry in said industry. More the whole point.

Next up, we have;

‘Nanowrimo cannibalism’

I swear, you couldn’t make these up.

I mean, what in the heck is NaNoWriMo cannibalism? Oh, yes, today I decided that I was going to live on a healthy, and somewhat sustainable diet of human body parts while writing like a maniac. Is that it? Or … the … you know what? I just can’t get my head around this one at all. It pains me to say this, but I’m not writing about cannibalism for this year’s NaNoWriMo (at least not yet), although I have encountered a few characters who have made cannibalism a part of their lifestyle.

And finally,

‘M love a’

Probably the most baffling one yet. As in, I don’t even have a book review (because, yes, my oddest search terms have all related to my book reviews) to link this one to, or understand what it is that this person was actually trying to ask, let alone what they were trying to find.

Honestly. I don’t think I could even guess at what m loving a actually pertains to, unless it’s some kind of special code, or initials. Could be that ‘Mia love Anthony’ … or ‘meerkat love ants’? Yes. This search term is really that strange to me.

So my take on this? The people who reach my blog via search engine are either psychopaths, people with extremely obtrusive genitals or cannibals.

I also have a feeling that several of my visitors were sorely disappointed when they searched for ‘Jannah Reid’ most likely in the hope of hitting on one of the websites included in the 90% that are porn sites. Don’t ask how I know that. It could be why I’ve been getting some rather strange notifications on my computer as of late, though …

These are probably the most notable results I’ve … well … noticed, but some worthy mentions go to;

‘Where do jackals sleep’ – I couldn’t honestly tell you. I might be able to tell you where they lie, though. My apologies, that was absolutely terrible … this blog isn’t ideal for nature enthusiasts.

‘Hunter S. Thompson sleep’ –   not really sure what they were getting at with this one, not surprised they ended up here, though.

‘Eat write or die’ – well, that’s quite an interesting form of self discipline. I don’t doubt that it gets results.

‘Writing and droning’ – how nice of you to point out that this is what I do most of the time.

‘4 storey freefall’ – something I can help you with, dear visitor! I’m not sure how the 4 storey part relates, though. But if you want to know about someone falling at least 1,000 feet, I’m your girl.

So, there you have it; the weird and sometimes wonderful world of my stats page. As a part of the blog chain this month, a quick NaNoWriMo update;

I hit 50k late on Thursday evening. I’m nowhere near done with my story, though. Actually, I don’t want to be done with it; I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been struggling to even get 14k done over the weekend, but this has much more to do with time than it does my novel. So right now, I’m sitting on 66k and barely halfway through, in love with even the characters who are despicable human beings, and not looking forward to the end because … damn it, I just don’t want to say goodbye. I guess that’s what editing is for, though …

So that’s me punching in and out for the month! I urge you all to check out the following blogs, as they’ll all be coming up with some excellent posts, with far more interesting and amusing search terms than mine, throughout the course of this month!

November 5th —http://kirstenwrites.wordpress.com/– Kirsten Writes!

November 6th — http://delorfinde.wordpress.com – A Farewell To Sanity

[You Are Here] November 7th — https://thelitjunkie.wordpress.com – Eat, Sleep, Write, Repeat

November 8th — http://alohathemuse.wordpress.com – Embracing Insanity

November 9th — http://noveljourneys.wordpress.com/ – Novel Journeys

November 10th —- http://greatlakessocialist.wordpress.com/ – Red Herring Online

November 11th — http://taystapeinc.wordpress.com – Tay’s Tape

November 12th — http://herebefaries.wordpress.com/ – The Land of Man-Eating Pixies

November 13th – http://randominmind.wordpress.com – Random On My Mind!

November 14th – http://insideliamsbrain.wordpress.com/ – This Page Intentionally Left Blank

November 15th — http://herestous.wordpress.com – Here’s To Us

November 16th— http://incessantdroningofaboredwriter.wordpress.com –  The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer

November 17th — http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com – Teens Can Write Too! (We will be announcing the topic for the next month’s chain)

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American Psycho: A Supposed Book Review

I’m not ignorant of the press that American Psycho has received, in spite of the fact that such press was, generally speaking, before my time. I’m not ignorant of the fact that it may seem horrific, to some, that I actually managed to read it, but then, what does that say for my psyche anyway? It would be a different matter if I sat and laughed through every page. I did not.

As with any abrupt change, the initial shift into following Bret Easton Ellis’ style was a little difficult at first, if only because I picked this up without truly knowing what to expect. In fact, my knowledge of the concept of this book was limited to begin with, and what was already there was purely superficial; I found one of Patrick Bateman’s monologues from the film adaptation five or six years ago and was both intrigued and confused by it, because of this I vaguely knew that Genesis would be referenced (and then I only knew of Genesis after picking up a copy of Disturbed’s Album ‘Ten Thousand Fists’), and after watching The Prestige, I was aware that Christian Bale played Patrick Bateman. None of this prepared me at all for what I found within the book, although reading the iconic line ‘abandon all hope, ye who enter here’ from The Divine Comedy as an opener should have given me an idea. It may only be scrawled across a wall here, but the link to Dante Alighieri’s version of Hell is blatant.

That said, there is nothing more to be said on the subject after this, and the references are, of course, brought heavily back into consumerism and yuppie culture; after all, this is essentially what American Psycho is satirizing. Even this initial literary reference seems to have little business being here, because we are in no way, shape or form supposed to believe that there is anything profound about Patrick Bateman’s lifestyle.

It is easy enough to think that this is, quite simply, just another novel about a serial killer. The brutal murder scenes are nothing short of what one might expect to experience in only the most gruesome horror, but it should not be judged on the basis of this alone; we are more than a hundred pages in before the first murder truly takes place, anyway. Women are more commonly given the blood-drenched descriptions than men, and every instance of violence is then interspersed with what one might call a version of normalcy. It is easy enough to pick the book up and flick to the first chapter that makes any reference to killing at all, looking for the ‘best bits’, but there is no point in doing so; to omit the rest of the novel would be to ignore its message in its entirety, and you would not so much be reading it as selecting the most shocking scenes one can find for personal enjoyment, and that is in essence, an insult to the novel as a whole. I feel it is also an immature way in which to handle the content, and can only lead to views formulated entirely around everything that shocks, disgusts and terrified through its explicit nature than around what should shock, disgust and terrify us for what it says about a contemporary society or sub-culture.

Ironically, these very scenes of torture and slaughter are the only ones that ever seem to be truly dragged to the forefront of the media; lines that stand out in my mind are ones like ‘a how-to manual on the torture and dismemberment of women’ and ‘people who like this book should ask themselves why they want to read pages and pages of descriptions of hacking and chopping up women (with the occasional man thrown in, but all the lavish descriptions with rats and nail guns and so on are just for the ladies)’. To me, these come across as comments born of tunnel-vision reading during which the author only took into account the black and the white; no gray shades involved. In truth, it is easy to see where such opinions can be formed – the descriptions of violence towards women are, as mentioned, much more graphic and, for lack of a better word, imaginative than those towards men for example – but of course, for people to enjoy, or simply read to begin with, there has to be something more substantial than ‘pages and pages of slaughter’. Enjoy, of course, may be rather the wrong word to use to begin with. As I mentioned before, I don’t think that these scenes were ever designed to be enjoyed.

Admittedly, the above comments riled me somewhat, not for what they say about me as a reader, but for what they say about the person that wrote them to begin with. I have asked myself why I ‘liked’ this book, although I think the correct phrasing is why I found myself intrigued or gripped by it. The fact remains that it is such a hyperbolic parallel to the culture it is satirizing that, in turn, it becomes riveting. How does Bateman survive? Contrast the visceral murders to dinner at Barcadia, and it does become more than mindless torture. It is not immediately apparent how everybody seems to overlook this one, seemingly insignificant, trait of Bateman’s because he fits in so well with the mould. I am not suggesting for one moment that anyone actually considers him a psychopath in his day-to-day life, but the slightest slips of the tongue –  ‘mergers and acquisitions’ becoming ‘murders and executions’, for example – go unnoticed because nobody around him is willing to hear it as such. There is no real difference between Patrick Bateman and Timothy Price aside from the Ralph Lauren shirt, perhaps.

Easton Ellis’ prose has already been summed up as ‘cool and unflinching’. It is, for the most part, distant and uncaring, because why would a homicidal killer care about another human being after all? When you add into the fact that Bateman has, essentially,  been conditioned to be a shallow human being to begin with, even without the homicidal tendencies, it makes even more sense. The lack of emotional engagement does not go amiss. It goes without saying that the more graphic the prose, the more prevalent Bateman’s blood lust; a chapter simply entitled Girl and involving the aforementioned rat, is one that may well have dissolved into such an explicit scene that it would have been nigh on impossible to finish is instead cut short by Bateman’s own ambivalence towards what he is doing. He admits that he grows bored of the spectacle, and as such, the scene dips away from intense brutality. Whether or not this is a bad thing is arguable; it does not give a sense that Easton Ellis is suddenly shying away from what has been present for the past two hundred pages or so – he has already established, by now, that he is not in the habit of doing so, that taming beastly scenes is not something that is going to happen – as much as we do, genuinely feel that even slaughter has gotten somewhat boring and empty.

Interestingly enough, it is the scenes where such brutality is conspicuously absent that drew my attention. Throughout the first hundred pages or so, I will openly admit that I found myself getting a little lost amidst a volley of names – Van Pattens, McDermotts, Carruthers and so on – with conversations occasionally taking a somewhat chaotic turn. This may have been down to my own shortcomings, and yet, I could not help but feel that it painted a more accurate picture than I even knew at the time. Bateman is constantly mistaken for a Marcus Halberstam by Paul Owen, and there is almost a note within these dinner-table conversations that encourages the reader to mistake Craig for Luis, who is then mistaken for David … the point being that identity is fragile, useless unless one is comparing the lettering on a business card. It is a point that in Bateman’s case, like almost everything else in the book, is taken to the extreme – while the fact that one of his early victims, Paul Owen, is supposed to have lunched with Bateman’s lawyer in London a matter of months after his disappearance could be Bateman’s saving grace, it is instead something of a sentence to eternal damnation. The final, capitalized line, ‘this is not an exit’ makes this abundantly clear.

If you’ve read far enough without dismissing this as ‘all about slicing and dicing’, and throwing it away, to notice the emphasis Bateman himself places on his appearance then I applaud you. As an amateur, I’m still aware of terms such as ‘Gary Stu’ that pop up on writing forums everywhere and anywhere, a nice enough compass to work by, but I feel the need to embellish this point. With Bateman, the good looks and charisma are taken to the same extreme as the psychopathy. It could be said that there is a prominent danger of Patrick Bateman being too good looking, too successful, too rich. He has all the elements of a character we should, then, envy, or feel is disproportionate within his own world. Not so. Everyone around Patrick Bateman is good looking, successful and rich, most of them summer in the Hamptons, have designer wardrobes and pay in excess of three hundred dollars for lunch. That danger of his character being over-saturated, then, is lost and his psychopathy, most likely does become more of a distinguishing feature than his tan body and worked muscles ever could. There is little inclination to want to know why he engages in such behaviour, either because it has already been established that there is nothing else there, or because we simply do not want to understand him. To do that would be to admit that people like him really do exist, after all. In a way, this could have contributed heavily to the initial reception of the book. Admitting, not that the content was too graphic for anyone to read, but instead that Easton Ellis was not simply inventing. That somewhere in the world, some woman had been murdered in a similar way.

The fact that this novel is ‘unfinishable except by adolescents and sociopaths’ is, again, arguable. I do not feel qualified to entirely disagree with this point – I’m nineteen, make of that what you will, I assume I am still an adolescent – although it paints a more extreme picture than is entirely necessary. Those who know me well will know that I have a fairly strong stomach when it comes to graphic depictions of violence and gore; I pin this on psychology rather than a mental deficiency of my own, after all, why should I be labelled a sociopath for simply not being that squeamish? Yet here there were more than a few moments that caused my stomach to turn. I don’t doubt that this will be the case for many more the world over, and have read a fair number of accounts that have verified this.

This, in turn, brings up a debate on whether reading American Psycho will have more of an effect on women than men. Unsurprisingly, the ‘morning after’ descriptions of Christie and Elizabeth’s mangled bodies (which provides a surprisingly accurate depiction of how they both died) and the later chapter, Girl (undoubtedly due to unsavoury use of a rat) had more of an effect on me than anything has in the past six or seven years (in terms of entertainment and media). This, and the fact that I didn’t eat cheese for a week. Not unfinishable, no, because I am not one to throw a book into a corner on the basis of one or two difficult scenes, but there is a certain degree of reason in where the above statement can be derived. If anyone has not dared to read this yet, then take it as fair warning that it is an explicit book, a fact that is unavoidable; different scenes will trigger different reactions. If you thought you had an iron stomach, or will, before this, think twice. I wouldn’t recommend this for anyone who will simply look at the brutality and torture and read it based on that, or pick up a copy and revel in the bloodletting. There is a lot more to this novel that far too many reviewers, I feel, have missed, opting instead to focus on what stares them directly in the face than what triggered such events to begin with. Thank goodness, then, for the number that read between the lines before casting their final judgements, regardless of what those judgements might be.

The Final Summary:

Enticing to some for all the wrong reasons, and not to be taken lightly no matter what the first hundred pages might suggest. This is an adult book in every sense of the word, not just for explicit content, but for looking past the explicit content. Where some books are difficult to put down for one reason, this is difficult to put down for another reason entirely; it quickly becomes difficult to tear one’s eyes away from the page in spite of the horror. Adversely, the first murder will cause a knee-jerk reaction that sees this book locked away for ever more. Regardless, this extremely well written and true-to-form, if you can stomach the sex and gore – an interesting and most definitely unconventional take on summer reading.

Oh, and a little, useless fact? I was asked for my ID when buying this book.

A Few Links:

American Psycho on Goodreads
American Psycho on Amazon
Bret Easton Ellis on Amazon
American Psycho Article on EW.com

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Writing For Who?

First of all, it’s been a chaotic few days. I’ve hardly even had the time to sit down and write, let alone write a blog post. So, to make up for that lovely blank space I’m sure you’ve been staring at, wondering whether or not a blog post will ever materialize in it, I have an essay.

I’ve been reading American Psycho. This is, of course, not the point of this post but it has everything to do with its conception. As with most things I tend to fixate on for any given period of time, I went a little further than simply reading the novel (although I admit, that part was gruelling at times. Not quite as gruelling as reading an excerpt from Twilight, and not quite in the same way, but nonetheless, I haven’t had to struggle with reading a book for a long time). This is where I start commenting on how the Internet really is a wonderful tool, and the amount of book reviews I found. Not necessarily read through, but found.

Something that stayed with me after reading one review in particular, was a comment the author made about how Bret Easton Ellis was clearly writing for himself. I’m still not sure if this is a fair evaluation, as it then throws Easton Ellis’ sanity into question, but of course, it wasn’t quite so black and white.

I like to think that I write for myself. It is rare that I have a target audience in mind when I first start plotting through an idea, or even when I start writing those first few words on the page. I could hazard a guess at the demographic most likely to pick up something I have written and read it (and there it is, self indulgence at its finest. I’m not so presumptuous as to assume my work is even readable to begin with), but there is never any set target age or audience. Similarly, I am almost always aware of the fact that there are elements, maybe more than I would be willing to admit, that would most likely be distasteful to some, or that others would never agree with.

But then, isn’t this a part of being a writer in itself? Isn’t this a part of creating, in general? With the exception of some fields, there is always going to be someone who doesn’t get, or disagrees with the  message you are trying to send, which ultimately ends in several scenarios; the two I have picked out are being labelled as mentally unstable by anyone from readers to publishers and anyone in between, and somehow becoming an atheist, racist, sexist, satanist, or anything in between in the public eye. I don’t have time to list all of the possible outcomes. Someone is always going to be critical of your work, and someone is always going to tear it to shreds, no matter how heavily you have considered your 12 – 17-year-old female demographic through every chapter, on every page, every line, every damn letter. No matter how frivolous you have been in including content that might otherwise not make it past censors, because first and foremost, you were writing for yourself.

The thing is, regardless of how you consider your manuscript that first time through, it is still yours and it is still possible to enjoy that first outing regardless of content, grammar, spelling, capital letters and punctuation. For all intents and purposes right now, I am focusing solely on content. So what if your antagonist cannibalizes the protagonist’s girlfriend in the first chapter? It fits with the rest of the narrative, doesn’t it?

I find it a complete put-off to get bogged down in censorship details the first time around; what will come will come. Censoring too early on can completely ruin the flow of the story, even if I do take out the serial killer’s perspective later on down the line (I’m not a fan of changing perspectives too regularly anyway. Not any longer, at least), it was still there to begin with. Arguably, a lengthy, detailed, character sheet can be a surefire way to get to the bottom of his psyche, but what about knowing the exact way in which the murder took place? Won’t that help your hard-boiled detective along his way, so you can gradually drop clues into the narrative to find the solution that you, of course, knew all along. Maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about, but this is most certainly the way in which I prefer to look at it.

I am well aware that the only form of ‘explicit content’ included in this post at present are a couple of mentioned of serial killers and a little cannibalism. This is not limited to just violence, of course, although it does seem to be the thing that people get particularly up in arms about, though graphic sexual scenarios come a close second. I’ll save some time and not go on about how, perhaps, these are only construed as wrong in most cases because of the correlation between sex and porn, and skip straight ahead.

The bottom line is, first time out, I will write how I want to write, but I do question the safety of allowing this to continue through the second, third, fourth drafts, and beyond. I write for pleasure, and so why shouldn’t it be pleasurable to write?  However, somewhere along the line, and I am not going to lie, audience plays a part. If you market a book towards 30-year-old males, then chances are it’s not going to be a romance, or at the very least, not a gushy one. A high-octane thriller is less likely to appeal to middle-aged women (although I like to think that I’ll still have a similar taste in literature when I’m in my 40s!) than the aforementioned gushy romance. This is, of course, a very stereotypical way to go about things; I want to believe the lines are being blurred more and more.

I don’t think Easton Ellis was unstable for putting American Psycho out there, because of reasons that have been stated time and time again in some of the other reviews I have read. It is not a book that can be censored, in all fairness … he wasn’t entirely writing for himself, though, either. Contrary to opinion, I believe that he was indeed writing for the masses; enough about that, though, I will repeat that this is not a review or analytic look at American Psycho in any way, shape, or form.

I think, more than anything, I have digressed from my original point; whether or not I write for myself. Instead, it has become something of a sad comment on how we are still too quick to judge, maybe. Or how intense, graphic imagery somehow becomes wrong, somewhere along the line; and this is not to say that it is always right to include it. Just that it can be used to great effect … it depends entirely on whether or not it is done correctly.

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