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The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 31 October 2011

21 October: 1Q84 review (revised) | Singapore Writers Festival | Library use | Boris Vian
22 October: Boualem Sansal Q & A | 1Q84 links of the day | Yet another translation of Madame Bovary ?!?? | Janette Turner Hospital profile
23 October: Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs book | The Coetzee archives | Oulipo Laboratory review
24 October: Taban Lo Liyong profile | Iowa Writers' Workshop Q & A | Man Booker Prize judging recap
25 October: DSC Prize for South Asian Literature shortlist | Swallow Editions | Trackers review
26 October: Prix Goncourt short(est) list | Writers' Trust of Canada Prize for Non-Fiction | Korean literature in ... the Netherlands
27 October: Kita Morio (1927-2011) | November-December World Literature Today | Amazon acquisition of Book Depository cleared | Laura Miller Q & A | Delicacy review
28 October: Hisham Matar profile | The Hindu's Lit for Life | آمریکایی کُشی در تهران review
29 October: Donald Keene profile | Jacques Barzun, still reviewing | The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I am review
30 October: Man Asian Literary Prize longlist | F.C.Delius picks up Büchner Prize | Jean Teulé profile
31 October: Translator's challenges | The Hindu Literary Prize | George Szirtes Q & A | Nairobi Heat review

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31 October 2011 - Monday

Translator's challenges | The Hindu Literary Prize
George Szirtes Q & A | Nairobi Heat review

       Translator's challenges

       At Salon Kevin Canfield looks at the tough lot of translators, in How do you say "balls of gold" in French ?
       Among the observations:
"We're lucky if were invisible," said Steven T. Murray
       And Is That a Fish in Your Ear ?-author David Bellos notes:
"It's true in America, but its even truer in Britain, that there is a kind of cloud of disapproval over translators and translations"

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       The Hindu Literary Prize

       They've announced that The Hindu Literary Prize goes to debut novel -- which would be The Sly Company of People Who Care, by Rahul Bhattacharya.
       It's not under review at the complete review, but something I met get to (if I come across a copy ...); see also the publicity pages from Picador and FSG, or get your copy at,, or, in India, at Flipkart.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       George Szirtes Q & A

       In The Oxonian Review Paul Sweeten has An Interview with George Szirtes, the poet and translator.
       See also Szirtes' own weblog.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Nairobi Heat review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Mukoma wa Ngugi's Nairobi Heat, just out in a US edition from Melville House.
       (And, yes, he is the son of Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o.)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

30 October 2011 - Sunday

Man Asian Literary Prize longlist | F.C.Delius picks up Büchner Prize
Jean Teulé profile

       Man Asian Literary Prize longlist

       They've announced the longlist for the Man Asian Literary Prize, and I've reviewed several of the books:
  • The Colonel by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi (which I've long been touting for this prize and figured was a shoe-in for the longlist; it probably belongs on the shortlist, too)

  • 1Q84 by Murakami Haruki (a book you might have heard about recently ...)

  • The Lake by Yoshimoto Banana
       For (brief) additional information about all the longlisted books and authors, see also the official press release (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
       The shortlist is due out in January.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       F.C.Delius picks up Büchner Prize

       Friedrich Christian Delius got to pick up his Georg-Büchner-Preis yesterday, the most prestigious German author prize; see now also Gabriela Schaaf's Q & A with the president of the German Academy for Language and Literature, Klaus Richert, about Delius getting the prize, in Büchner Prize goes to chronicler of German history at Deutsche Welle.

       Peirene brought out Delius' Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman in English last year, and a US edition is due out from FSG early next year; see the Peirene publicity page, or get your copy from, or pre-order from

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Jean Teulé profile

       In the Independent on Sunday Christian House profiles Jean Teulé: And that's just for starters ....
       Not that it has anything to do with his writing, but still interesting to know that he:
is the partner of the celebrated film star Miou-Miou and his oldest friend is Jean Paul Gaultier
       His Eat Him If You Like is just out from Gallic Books; see their publicity page or get your copy from
       He does choose amusing-interesting subjects for his books; the only one under review at the complete review is The Suicide Shop.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

29 October 2011 - Saturday

Donald Keene profile | Jacques Barzun, still reviewing
The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I am review

       Donald Keene profile

       In the Financial Times David Pilling has Lunch with the FT: Donald Keene, who recently emigrated to Japan; oddly enough, they dine in a French restaurant there.
       Scroll down also for Pico Iyers recommended reading re. Japan.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Jacques Barzun, still reviewing

       Jacques Barzun is a month shy of his 104th birthday, but apparently still active enough to churn out the occasional book review: in the Wall Street Journal he tackles Why Trilling Matters by Adam Kirsch -- presumably since it allows him to argue once again that Great Books Matter.
       He opines:
This is an attractive account of a powerful critic. This said, it must be added that what we have is half a book or half a man. For it leaves out of account the genesis of the medium of which he, and by now every writer, philosopher, businessman, thief or street urchin is a constituent part. I refer to culture, our culture.
       Good for him, still fighting the good fight.
       (I can't imagine I'll get to Why Trilling Matters, but see the Yale University Press publicity page, or get your copy at or

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I am review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kjersti Annesdatter Skomsvold's The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I am, just out from Dalkey Archive Press.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

28 October 2011 - Friday

Hisham Matar profile | The Hindu's Lit for Life
آمریکایی کُشی در تهران review

       Hisham Matar profile

       In The National David Lepeska has a lengthy profile of Hisham Matar on Libya's awakening.
       (See also the complete review review of Matar's In the Country of Men.)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       The Hindu's Lit for Life

       The Hindu's Lit for Life conclave hits Chennai this weekend, and in The Hindu R.Krithika previews it, in When literature will be the cynosure of all eyes.
       The schedule is also available here, at Siyahi; scroll down for brief biographies of the participants.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       آمریکایی کُشی در تهران review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Amir Hassan Cheheltan's آمریکایی کُشی در تهران (based on the German translation).
       Cheheltan has had some issues with the regime, living abroad for several years, but most of his books -- this one included -- are published in Iran; however, the German translation of this novel does note that it is the first publication of a version that is uncut and that did not have to take the Iranian censors into account.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

27 October 2011 - Thursday

Kita Morio (1927-2011) | November-December World Literature Today
Amazon acquisition of Book Depository cleared
Laura Miller Q & A | Delicacy review

       Kita Morio (1927-2011)

       Japanese author Kita Morio has passed away; see, for example, Novelist, essayist Morio Kita dies at 84 in The Japanese Times.
       I enjoyed The House of Nire a lot, back in the day; it seems to be out of print now -- try your luck at or -- though a German translation came out recently see the be.bra publicity page.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       November-December World Literature Today

       The November-December issue of World Literature Today -- with a cover feature on 'Post-Soviet Literature: Twenty Years After the Fall' -- is now available, with quite a bit of the material available online.
       Among the articles of interest: several focusing on Zoran Živković (several of whose titles are under review at the complete review -- The Fourth Circle, Hidden Camera -- though I hope to be able to get my hands on more)
       And, of course, there are also the reviews.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Amazon acquisition of Book Depository cleared

       OFT clears Amazon acquisition of the Book Depository: so the official press release from the British Office of Fair Trading.
Evidence received by the OFT during its investigation indicated that Amazon's share of the UK online book market was strong whilst The Book Depository's share of UK sales was small, accounting for between two to four per cent of online retailing of hard-copy books.
       But surely hard-copy books are only part of the online retailing business they're both engaged in ..... (Still, I am surprised that The Book Depository is such a minor player.)
       Odd, too, that the OFT apparently counts Amazon Marketplace sales as direct competition to Amazon, despite Amazon taking a cut from each sale.
       Well, the Amazon-juggernaut appears unstoppable -- though interestingly sales via the links to at this site (for which I earn a commission) have been down markedly since about the time they announced buying the Book Depository (September 2011 sales -- admittedly exceptionally poor -- were a mere third of those in September 2010).
       See also, for example, Lisa Campbell's piece in The Bookseller, OFT gives go-ahead for Amazon/TBD merger.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Laura Miller Q & A

       At The Rumpus Gabrielle Gantz has an Interview with Laura Miller, about reviewing and publishing.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Delicacy review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of David Foenkinos' Delicacy -- the first of this bestselling French author's works to be published in the US.
       And, yes, Audrey Tautou is starring in the film version, due to be released next year.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

26 October 2011 - Wednesday

Prix Goncourt short(est) list | Writers' Trust of Canada Prize for Non-Fiction
Korean literature in ... the Netherlands

       Prix Goncourt short(est) list

       They've announced the 3° Sélection pour le prix Goncourt 2011 -- the final, shortest list of contenders (the Goncourt going through four rounds: a longlist, a shortlist, a shorter list (the stage just reached), and only then announcing the winner (next week).
       Four books are left in the running:
  • L'Art français de la guerre by Alexis Jenni
  • La belle amour humaine by Lyonel Trouillot
  • Du Domaine des Murmures by Carole Martinez
  • Retour à Killybegs by Sorj Chalando
       Haiti Libre is the only place I've found that has a brief description of all four titles in English, in The writer poet, Lyonel Trouillot finalist for the Goncourt 2011 (there is, of course, a great deal of French coverage, in all the papers).
       Compared to last year's will-Houellebecq-finally-get-it excitement there doesn't seem nearly as much heated debate this time around.
       Prix-Litteraires: Le blog have set up a poll where readers can vote, but only 14 had last I checked (with none of the votes going to Trouillot, probably the most familiar name to American readers left in the running).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Writers' Trust of Canada Prize for Non-Fiction

       They've announced the winner of the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust of Canada Prize for Non-Fiction -- and the prize went to Mordecai: The Life & Times, Charles Foran's Mordecai Richler biography.
       Not the first prize he's won with that title -- but this one is apparently Canada's richest for non-fiction, at C$60,000 (which is impressive even in US$ -- just over 59,000).
       Get your copy at or

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Korean literature in ... the Netherlands

       Always interesting to see what moves from one less widespread language to another, and in The Korea Times Choe Chong-dae offers a glimpse of Korean literature in Netherlands.
       I was amused by his observation about the Nobel Prize (and that national obsession with not having won it):
I have come to realize that the main reason why a Korean author has yet to receive this award is the lack of proper translations into foreign languages.
       What he fails to mention is that the Dutch might have a bit more to say on the matter: after all, they, too, have infamously never won the Nobel Prize in Literature -- despite being rather more in the European thick of things (and, on the whole, rather well and extensively translated).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

25 October 2011 - Tuesday

DSC Prize for South Asian Literature shortlist
Swallow Editions | Trackers review

       DSC Prize for South Asian Literature shortlist

       Yes, Shortlist announced for the 2012 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature (though, sigh, not yet at the official site, last I checked ...).
       Two titles in translation made the cut -- and I hope, in particular, to get my hands on Bharathipura, by U.R.Ananthamurthy; see also the Oxford University Press publicity page, or get your copy at or -- or (your best bet) Flipkart - India.
       (The other translated title is A Street in Srinagar by Chandrakanta. see the Zubaan publicity page, or get your copy at or, or Flipkart - India.)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Swallow Editions

       Rafik Schami (see, for example, the complete review review of his The Dark Side of Love) has founded a publishing house dedicated to bringing Arabic fiction to English-reading audiences, Swallow Editions -- and one has to love the editorial approach:
The collection aims to be free of tedium, oil and dictatorship.
       I'm certainly eager to see Always Coca-Cola, by Alexandra Chreiteh -- see their publicity page -- which Interlink is bringing out in the US (see also their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at
       See also Olivia Snaije's report at Publishing Perspectives, Rafik Schami's Swallow Editions Aims to Help Arab Authors Take Flight.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Trackers review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Deon Meyer's Trackers.
       (This thriller seems to have fallen a bit between the cracks, especially as far as US media coverage goes (not that there's been much more in the UK -- though The Independent did just get around to covering it); too bad, it's one of the best crime/thriller titles I've read this year and with it Meyer has solidified his position as one of the best thriller-writers going; he's certainly right up there with the best of the Scandinavians.)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

24 October 2011 - Monday

Taban Lo Liyong profile | Iowa Writers' Workshop Q & A
Man Booker Prize judging recap

       Taban Lo Liyong profile

       In Julius Sigei Saturday Nation Julius Sigei has a long profile of Taban Lo Liyong: Literary icon who delights in ruffling feathers.
       Among his pronouncements:
"Okay, we do have few exceptional Africans. (Chinua) Achebe created popular literature which resonates well with the African way of narrating a story.

"Soyinka showed us what can be done with the big vocabulary; (Kamara) Laye produced classics. But in terms of really understanding what the European mentality is all about, only Ayi Kwei Armah and I have got it right."
       Several of Taban Lo Liyon's books are under review at the complete review; see, for example, Another Last Word. Of course, several of Ayi Kwei Armah's works are as well, such as Two Thousand Seasons.

       There's also a companion piece by Julius Sigei and Ciugu Mwagiru on The mercurial magazine in which Lo Liyong lamented literary barrenness, Transition.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Iowa Writers' Workshop Q & A

       At Salon Curtis Sittenfeld has a Q & A with Iowa Writers' Workshop director Lan Samantha Chang about the IWW and Why critics of MFA programs have it wrong. (I'm not sure that it's really ideal to have IWW alumna Sittenfeld do the asking here, but, hey .....)
       The numbers are pretty staggering 1,200-1,300 applications for the fiction program in 2010 (and close to 500 for poetry), and 29 accepted (in fiction, and about 25 in poetry). All pretty much on the basis of less than a hundred pages of writing sample(s).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Man Booker Prize judging recap

       One of the judges for this years' Man Booker Prize, The Telegraph's 'Head of Books', Gaby Wood, does the official obligatory what-it-was-like-to-be-a-judge story this year, in Man Booker Prize 2011: seven months to read 138 novels.
       Wood notes the ridiculous rules that:
Each imprint is only allowed to send in two books, but -- a new rule this year -- previously shortlisted authors gain automatic entry. None of us can disclose what has been submitted.
       Why there's no transparency I'll never understand -- or rather: I understand it too well: publishers love it, because this way their authors will never know that their books were not, in fact submitted for the prize (and publishers can lie to the authors that they were); what I don't understand is how anyone can take this prize seriously without open knowledge of what is actually in the running for it .....
       In any case, I wish that Wood had at least made mention of the fact that judges can and do call in a few titles every year (very few this time around, but there were a handful) -- and even if she can't name titles it would have been nice to hear how and why those titles were selected: obvious omissions made by the publishers hoping that the judges would feel compelled to call them in ? personal favorites ? a friend's book they thought was worth a look ?

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

23 October 2011 - Sunday

Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs book | The Coetzee archives
Oulipo Laboratory review

       Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs book

       Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs book is coming out this week, overshadowing (and likely far outselling) even 1Q84 .....
       What's particularly impressive is that it is appearing in uniform editions in numerous translation practically at the same time (though note that, as I recently mentioned, you have to wonder about some of these: the German edition, for example, was translated by a team of six (!)).
       So you can get your copy from:        Amazingly, it is already the bestselling book at all these Amazon outlets, even before publication -- except for France, where it only ranks third (one of the books still selling better: Stéphane Hessel's Indignez-vous ! still going strong).
       The first review came out yesterday, Janet Maslin tackling it for The New York Times (the Kakutani presumably being busy with 1Q84 ...), in Making the iBio for Apple's Genius; a flood of reviews is sure to follow. (Me ? I think I'll pass, thanks .....)
       See also the publicity pages at Simon & Schuster and Little, Brown.

       (Updated - 26 October): See now also reviews by Sam Leith (in The Guardian) and Farhad Manjoo (at Slate).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       The Coetzee archives

       As I mentioned a few weeks ago, J.M.Coetzee recently cashed in with his archives, selling them to the Harry Ransom Center in Texas for $1.5 million; see, for example, the official press release.
       Now, in the Mail & Guardian Craig MacKenzie wonders whether the failure of any South African institution to get hold of these (or any of Coetzee's scraps) amounts to Our literary disgrace -- concluding:
In the long run perhaps South Africa's reputation as a breeding ground of talent that it then profligately exports benefits most from this arrangement.
       Regarding Coetzee, he also notes:
I suspect Coetzee was not merely selling to the highest bidder and would never have been amenable to a South African offer anyway. I understand that the University of Cape Town, where he taught from 1972 until his retirement in 2002, has nothing to show for his time there in terms of literary residue.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Oulipo Laboratory review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Texts from the Bibliothèque Oulipienne -- by Raymond Queneau, Italo Calvino, Paul Fournel, Claude Berge, Jacques Jouet, and Harry Mathews -- collected in Oulipo Laboratory.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

22 October 2011 - Saturday

Boualem Sansal Q & A | 1Q84 links of the day
Yet another translation of Madame Bovary ?!?? | Janette Turner Hospital profile

       Boualem Sansal Q & A

       Boualem Sansal picked up the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade a few days ago (see my recent mention), and at The Weekly Standard blog John Rosenthal has a Q & A with him, 'The Arab Spring has Yet to Begin'.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       1Q84 links of the day

       The 1Q84 reviews and links continue to flood in -- there are now links to 55 reviews at my review-page (though by the time you read this there will probably already be more ...).
       Among the more interesting new (non-review) links: Sam Anderson's lengthy profile in the upcoming issue of The New York Times Magazine, The Fierce Imagination of Haruki Murakami.
       My favorite quote from that piece:
"Most near-future fictions are boring," he told me. "Its always dark and always raining, and people are so unhappy. I like what Cormac McCarthy wrote, The Road -- it's very well written .... But still it's boring.
       And at Publishers Weekly Parul Sehgal has Six Questions with Jay Rubin, Haruki Murakami's Translator.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Yet another translation of Madame Bovary ?!??

       Yes, apparently there's yet another translation of Flaubert's Madame Bovary out (at least in the UK) -- by Adam Thorpe. He explains his approach -- and tries to justify the publication of yet another translation of this oft-translated work -- in The Guardian, in Madame Bovary: the Everest of translation.
       His approach ?
I was convinced that, if set back in its own linguistic context, with our awareness of Victorian literature shadow-playing in the background, an English Madame Bovary could seem searingly radical again.
       Yeah, okay .....
       Get your copy at -- and see the complete review review of one of the older translations .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Janette Turner Hospital profile

       In The Australian Stephen Romei profiles Janette Turner Hospital, in Dark matter.
       She has a new book out, Forecast: Turbulence -- but apparently there's no US or UK edition yet. But see the Harper Collins (Australia) publicity page.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

21 October 2011 - Friday

1Q84 review (revised) | Singapore Writers Festival
Library use | Boris Vian

       1Q84 review (revised)

       So I finally got my copy of the US edition of Murakami Haruki's 1Q84 and finally got to find out what happens in volume three (just slightly underwhelming, since for the most part the main story really just continues its course to ... well, where it was destined to go).
       I've now also had a chance to add to my review -- another 900 words or so -- but of course what that page is really useful for is the links to everybody else's coverage, which I seem to be adding to hourly: currently there are quotes from 25 reviews, and links to 47 -- and it's still pre-(US)-publication date ..... (There are only a handful of books which I have 100 review-links for, but this one looks to blast through that level fairly soon.)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Singapore Writers Festival

       The Singapore Writers Festival starts tomorrow and runs through 30 October.
       Among the highlights: the announcement, on the 29th, of the longlist for the Man Asian Literary Prize (and I'll be shocked if The Colonel, by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, doesn't make the cut ...).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Library use

       In The Telegraph John McTernan argues that 'Middle-class liberals are fighting to keep libraries open out of condescension for the less fortunate and guilt that they, like everyone else, no longer use them', in Liberal whingers are wrong -- we should shut our libraries, in one of the most pathetic opinion pieces I have come across in a while.
       He begins his piece:
When did you last go to a public library ? No, really, when ? It's probably a good few years -- and if so, you're not alone.
       That always seems a dangerous gambit -- and, hey, maybe in Britain (or among Telegraph readers ...) he's on safe ground, as he points out that:
From one year to the next, nearly 60 per cent of us don't go to libraries at all. In fact, fewer than one in five adults in England go more than once a month.
       I'm not in England, but this certainly isn't my experience. Despite the fact that publishers send me many of the books I request (and quite a few I don't), and despite the fact that I have ready internet access at home, I still couldn't survive -- or run this site -- without frequent trips to the library: I went the day before yesterday and am going again today; barely a week goes by when I don't visit a library, and usually I visit several (sadly, the public library branches even in New York city are pretty threadbare; reserves can get me specific desired titles, but I'm a browser, so I need to wander the stacks, and the local branch certainly can't satisfy anywhere near all my needs and requirements).
       McTernan argues that public libraries are essentially obsolete -- since:
Take reference services, once the core of the public library's educational role. Access to information has been transformed by the internet. Google a subject and you can become ridiculously well-informed ridiculously quickly. Engrossing lectures from the planet's best minds are freely available on university websites, from the TED conference series, or on BBC iPlayer. Channels such as BBC Four or Sky Arts provide a wide range of high-quality documentaries across a multitude of subjects. We live in an information-rich society -- so we should celebrate its availability, not yearn for a time when you had to go to the central library for it.
       Hey, I celebrate the availability of this 'information' on the internet, and peruse it way too many hours a day -- but day in and day out, in seeking information for this site, I also see how limited and inadequate it is. Despite the fact that it may appear I do everything online, without libraries to rely on, I don't know how I would manage.
       [Since I'm not in Britain and don't neatly fit the demographic or ideological categories he's addressing (though, of course, the label 'whinger' readily applies ...), maybe I shouldn't be commenting -- but, christ, this guy just seems completely off his rocker.]

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Boris Vian

       There's a Boris Vian exhibit at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, and in Lire Tristan Savin reports on that and more, in Où l'on reparle de ... Boris Vian.
       A fascinating character and writer; several of his books are under review at the complete review, including I Spit on Your Graves and To Hell with the Ugly.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

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