June 11th, 2021
|04:52 pm - Anonymous commenting turned off|
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July 18th, 2018
|01:59 am - Trial by fire|
I am alternating between being
(a) Extremely Pleased with the hotness level of my thesis - even though it as of yet has no genuinely explicit scenes and just one that is meant to be moderately spicy
(b) Extremely Embarrassed because the following people are going to read it: my thesis advisor, the three other men on my thesis committee, my entire cohort of ~10 ppl, and if it gets published then all kinds of friends and relatives and who knows who.
There is a chance that the draft that goes to my thesis defense will just say [[Here THEY HAVE SEX. It is NICE]]
People who've written more fanfic than I have have to deal with this kind of thing all the time, I know; I haven't had that sort of practice.
(Regarding the first third of the novel, which HAS been workshopped, people are telling me to make it sexier unless I actually want to present these characters as asexual - which I don't - but I'm still trying to figure out how much I'm going to tinker with it in revisions; I get awkward when it comes to how much I should write about the sex lives of fictional teenagers, as compared with the sex lives of fictional adults in the latter half of the book.)
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May 31st, 2018
|09:49 pm - Reflections on Quebec nationalism|
1) The thing I needed most to understand about Quebec nationalist / separatist / independentist movements is an analysis I found that separated these movements into three groups:
a) Focused on the survival of Quebecois language and culture
b) Focused on political independence / the creation of Quebec as a capitalist state independent from larger Canada
c) Focused on decolonization / anti-imperialism / liberation more broadly - concerned, among other things, with how the United States was advancing an imperialist capitalist military agenda using Quebec's national resources (e.g. during the Vietnam war).
(c) is absolutely convincing to me, which is why it's a little discouraging that it's hard to find, now, any trace of that left-wing decolonizing fervor. Maybe it's there to a greater extent than I realize - and, on the other hand, I suspect that it wouldn't have had its moment in the sun in the late 60s to early 70s without the tinderbox of the Vietnam War, the American Civil Rights movement / the Paris 1968 unrest, the vast social / economic inequality between Anglophones and Francophones.
2) One of my Big Questions, I think, is whether the xenophobia in Quebec separatist movements is inevitable - whether it's possible to have a separatism that's non-xenophobic or whether that's doomed from the beginning. The nationalist logic is that English is the language of success in Canada as a whole and in North America, so allophone immigrants in Quebec (those who don't speak either English or French) are going to choose to learn English and not French as long as they're not absolutely forced to learn French, so immigration inevitably leads to more people in Quebec who speak English rather than French - and hence who are decreasing the chances for the continuance of a Quebec that's majority-French, the continuance of Quebecois culture, and the movement for an independent state in Quebec.
But that's exactly the same thing that British racists and French racists and Scandinavian racists say about immigrants. So is there a meaningful difference there? Ehhhh. I have much more sympathy for the idea that Quebecois language / culture is in danger of disappearing than the idea that the French language / culture is in danger of disappearing; that's just numbers, plus the fact of living in a majority-Anglophone country and next door to a majority-Anglophone country that has more cultural, economic, and military power than anywhere else in the world. But allophone immigrants in Quebec are required to educate their kids in French, and there are other legal and social measures that I think make the problem much less serious than the fearmongers would suggest. And, more than that, I think a non-racist nationalist movement would have to reckon more seriously with immigrants as people who deserve the same rights as anyone to work, to raise their kids, to try to make good lives for themselves - rather than just as a potential oppositional voting bloc.
3) I'm keeping a tally of how many times I yell "YOU DON'T GET TO ABSOLVE YOURSELF OF BEING COLONIZERS BECAUSE YOU'RE ALSO COLONIZED" into the depths of the McGill Library.
3a) Not really, because the 3rd floor is a zone silent avec collation: silent zone with snacks. (As opposed to the 6th floor, a silent zone without snacks.)
4) There's an aspect to this that kind of feels gross and concern-trolly to me, like, "let me, an Anglophone Quebecker who doesn't even live here anymore, tell you how to do your politics better." It is perhaps slightly ameliorated by the fact that I'm writing a novel and not a polemic. I am never going to 100% feel like a person who is allowed to write this book. But, like, Americans criticize China and Russia and Israel and Venezuela (etc., etc., etc.) all the time! And when I walk down Sherbrooke or St. Laurent I feel so so convinced and passionate about what I love about this city and - if there's anything I want to accomplish politically with this book, it's to make the argument for decolonization-as-in-(c) and multiculturalism not as things that are in conflict with each other but things that are both worth fighting for.
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|12:31 pm - A meme in lieu of actual content|
5 things you'll find in my bag:
1. (Paper) notebook, right now a small red Moleskine AND a thick purple Clairefontaine
2. Tablet for e-books
4. Pencil case
5. Two poems
5 things you'll find in my room:
1. Multiple extreme stacks of library books
2. Many skeins of yarn
3. An in-progress sweater
4. Perfume samples
5 of my favorite things:
1. Weird DIY
3. Drinks with ridiculous or nerdy names
5. Cooking things for other people
5 things I'm currently into:
1. Walking around Montreal
2. The history of nationalist and independentist movements in Quebec
3. Border studies
5. Magic: The Gathering Arena (now that I finally got into the beta).
5 things on my to-do list:
1. Buy a new SIM card for my phone
2. Go up Mount Royal
3. Take architecture reference photos
4. Novel research at the McGill library
5. Meet with the volunteer coordinator about my volunteering
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April 11th, 2018
MFA Sadness is the sadness that you feel when a classmate you genuinely like who genuinely wants to be a good guy writes a story that's kind of misogynistic and you don't want to tell him but you also kind of have to.
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January 2nd, 2018
|09:06 pm - Recent reading!|
John Darnielle, Universal Harvester
Evocative horror-mystery-coming-of-age novel loosely focused on a young man, working at a video store in central Iowa, who finds disturbing things recorded on some of the tapes that get returned to the store. Much less focused on the horror-mystery plot than the character interactions and the physical and cultural details of daily life in central Iowa. Sad and spooky in a way that I liked a lot.
Weike Wang, Chemistry
A graduate student in chemistry goes through a breakup and processes her feelings about love and her unsatisfactory family life and her failure as a graduate student. Nicely written. The ratio of internal monologue and introspection to things actually happening was a little much for me.
Sunil Yapa, Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist
Tight and compelling novel about the WTO riots in Seattle in 1999, centered on a white police chief and his estranged mixed-race son. I liked this a lot, especially in the way that the political parts managed to clearly and strongly advocate for certain values while not pretending to have solved all the problems of non-exploitative economic development in underdeveloped countries. The ending was a little sentimental.
Edward O. Wilson, Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight For Life
Essays on ecology centering on the thesis that we should leave half the earth for the use of nonhuman species - focusing on biological hotspots and large contiguous areas of wilderness. I wish he were a little more interesting as a writer, because I like his ideas. (Although the chapter on novel ecosystems recalled a discussion I had with Nick from my Restoration Ecology class; Nick thought that accepting that there are some ecosystems we're never going to get back to a "pristine" or "undisturbed" state would lead people to be careless about turning land into gravel pits full of battery acid, while I thought that... hey, there are going to be gravel pits full of battery acid; I would rather we tried to do something positive with them than giving up on them entirely).
Phoebe Wagner and Brontë Christopher Wieland, Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation
To be reviewed for Flyway Journal soon. There's a lot of good stuff in here, especially the poetry.
Caitlin R. Kiernan, Agents of Dreamland
A slightly Lovecraftian novella of cults and brain-controlling parasites. I enjoyed this the whole way through but could not tell you what happened. I think I've liked the other Kiernan books I've read a bit better because they've had more room for the characters to unfold - they're kind of ciphers in this one.
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December 30th, 2017
|07:10 pm - My New Year's Resolution|
Is to consciously turn away from Self-Improvement as an ideal.
To read more books I'm excited about reading and fewer books that I feel bound to read by guilt or duty
To make time for cooking because I enjoy it and because I can cook better vegetarian food than any of the restaurants in walking distance
But also - to understand the difference between doing something because I genuinely enjoy it and doing something because I don't have the energy or brainpower to do anything else, and to try to get more genuine joy and less cardboardy joy substitute.
Going along with that, I am trying very hard to say no to all those promises I tend to make to myself right around the end of December about taking more vitamins and moisturizing my skin and having a clean desk. Because first of all, I probably won't. And second of all - I just really need to stop conceptualizing my whole life as a long list of tasks that I am failing to do. It gets in the way of understanding what you really value. It gets in the way of the few things that genuinely matter.
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March 8th, 2017
|03:53 pm - OMG!|
I won the Flyway Home Voices contest!
(Flyway is ISU's literary magazine. Normally students aren't allowed to submit, because we're also editors - the Home Voices contest is the one thing we are allowed to submit to, because it's judged blind by someone who's not a current editor.)
It was with a revision of this poem. *
FUN STORY TIME:
This poem is about a fight I had with my mother, so I felt like I was going to get struck by lightning for having written it, but then Deb Marquart came to our class and talked a lot about having written personal memoiry stuff, and stuff that was very mean about her parents, and said "Well, you can just hide in obscure journals for a while." So, well. Maaaaybe I'll just keep this one slightly under wraps.
*That entry is not public, but I'll link to the new version when it goes up on the Flyway web site at some point.
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March 3rd, 2017
|12:15 am - High Culture in the Lower Midwest|
Alas, I cannot spend this weekend seeing August: Osage County at the Kum & Go Theater in Des Moines.
Because it's in Des Moines.
But I can see Antigone or The Importance of Being Earnest right here in Ames, and will see them both if the weather improves and I don't die of grading Children's Literature midterms.
(This post only exists in order for me to type "the Kum & Go Theater in Des Moines.")
I am, however, considering renting a car and driving up to Minneapolis for a very brief vacation over spring break. King Lear is playing at the Guthrie, as well as a contemporary play or two that I've never heard of but should probably investigate more thoroughly. (I'm not driving all that way just for a play - but I do think I need to get out of Ames for a day or two.) I don't know if it's an awful idea for me to be driving after not having driven for so long, and ideally I wouldn't start with a 3.5-hour one-way trip, but... it IS a very direct trip on the interstate.
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February 27th, 2017
The nice thing about having a relatively close-knit group of classmates in my MFA program is that I don't have to feel alone in things like angrily staring at an essay for four hours without doing any work on it, or having no idea how to complete an assignment correctly, or being continually consumed by fear or self-doubt.
I think I sound sarcastic, but really I'm not. I went all the way through undergrad feeling like the only confused and incompetent and flailing person. I mean, my grades said that I was doing okay, but I assumed that this was pity and grade inflation, and it's only in retrospect that I can see that my pretty good grades were pretty good grades that I actually earned. (This is partly because I spent my sophomore year in Japan and thus went straight from 100-level classes to 400-level classes, straight from Intro to Korean Culture to Let's Talk About Semiotics and Postmodern Theory in Japanese Cinema. Flailing resulted.)
But we are in fact all in this together; we are all trying hard at things that are actually hard; and you have to realize that you can't actually be held to a standard of impossible perfection when so many of your classmates are smart and talented in different ways but not a single one is impossibly perfect.
(The impossibly perfect ones got into Iowa Writers' Workshop.)
The actually cool thing about this, though, is that when you stop thinking of yourself as confused and incompetent and flailing, you start thinking of yourself as somebody who can help out all the other people who are flailing just as much as you are.
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February 21st, 2017
|02:29 pm - The kindness of strangers|
#1 - My debit card slipped out of my pocket as I was riding my bicycle but someone turned it in to the bank.
#2 - A couple of bolts fell off my bike rack, making it too shaky to ride with. Took it into the bike shop and they fixed it FOR FREE.
#3 - I was so occupied with running around here and there and unlocking and locking my bike up that I somehow went into the food co-op without locking my bike up. When I came out it was still sitting there by the bike rack.
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January 23rd, 2017
|02:23 pm - An Adventure|
Sometime around two o'clock this morning, for reasons I don't even understand, my elbow came down hard on the bridge of my glasses, snapping them in twain.
I had a bottle of Gorilla Glue; Gorilla Glue was insufficient for the repair.
I had, I thought, a backup pair; I searched for it for an hour, finally locating the case. The empty case.
The glasses place in Ames was two busses away. (I probably should've just tried Wal-Mart, which is only two busy intersections away from me. I realize that my prejudice against Wal-Mart is partly just classism. On the other hand, if I don't trust them to have a rice cooker that works for more than two weeks before it stops working, do I trust them with my TERRIBLE VISION? I do not.)
I managed to get in for an appointment at the glasses place 2 and a half hours after I arrived.
They gave me a ballpark figure of over $500 for the glasses, which on one hand is not unreasonable (last time I went to a NYC place I paid over $600, even with the tiny bit that my union chipped in - my vision is bad enough that I'd be very sad if I didn't spring for the thin lightweight lenses) but on the other hand is over $500. And they weren't going to be able to get my permanent glasses for at least a week, though they said they'd get a loaner pair for me by the following day. And I decided, therefore, that I was absolutely willing to be without glasses for a week or two just to save (some of) that money, and should just order from Warby Parker. Anyway it wouldn't be THAT bad, I thought; I could get from home to school, and I could ask my friends for help in class.
Of course, I managed to get horribly lost on my way back to class.
Tired and hungry, I finally made it to the student bookstore. The student bookstore has a VERY good art section which includes all sorts of dangerous adhesives, from which I selected a tube of cyanoacrylate. I will not say that my glasses are fixed; the break is obvious, and the mend seems fragile, and I have just ordered a pair of Warby Parkers; but when I was on the bus back to campus I just felt cheap and foolish, and now I feel tough and resourceful.
It must be said: I am not this much of a Harry Potter fan.
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December 31st, 2016
|08:56 pm - "Orbit" up now at Pea River Journal!|
Last week I dreamed that I was back at my old library, but my not-boss from my previous library was there. I went to her with some issue - that the YA nonfiction was being shelved with the YA fiction instead of with the adult nonfiction where it belonged - and she went off on me about how worthless I was. (In real life, in the past, she had been extremely unkind to me, but not that bad - except behind my back.)
It was right after I had gotten the proofs for the journal where my story "Orbit" will be appearing, and just a few days before it went up on their site. I didn't realize the weird synchronicity in that until just now - that it's a story, in part, about failures of leadership, about what happens when you're getting blamed for not knowing how to do the things that no one ever taught you to do. It's a story I couldn't have written if I hadn't worked at that library. (Which is not to say that it was worth it.)
It's happened to me before, and it's always such a strange feeling - that sudden moment of knowing that, somewhere in the process of getting something hard out on the page, it lost its power over you.
(Content note for the story: some hunting-related gore.)
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December 28th, 2016
|05:55 pm - It's so nice to feel listened to|
The email that IHG Rewards Club sent to me after I attempted to impress upon them that I was getting marketing emails from them that were meant for a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT PERSON with the same name as me, that I had NEVER signed up for IHG Rewards Club and never would, and that I had no interest in ever doing business with them (which may be difficult because IHG owns Holiday Inn and various other megachains, but when I make up my mind to do something - !)
Hello Mr. Horner,
Thank you for your e-mail.
Foremost, please accept our apologies for any inconvenience this matter may have caused.
Please know that as a service-oriented company, we are taking your complaint seriously. We understand and appreciate that as a loyal customer, you think highly of our company and so it is our commitment to live up to the high standards of service you have grown accustomed to receive from us.
Your comments have been recorded and we have shared them with the management staff of the IHG Service Center, which will in turn pass them on to our corporate executives that make decisions pertaining to future enhancements of our program.
Thank you for your patience and understanding with this matter. Should you need further assistance, please feel free to contact us directly.
Sunshine E. Dino
As a loyal customer! I think highly of their company! The high standards of service I have grown accustomed to receive from them!
(I do end up staying at Holiday Inns a lot when I'm traveling for family stuff and my dad is paying, because he has loyalty points, but it would be an exaggeration to say that I have grown accustomed to high standards of service from them.)
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December 20th, 2016
My literature term paper was supposed to be the first draft of a publishable journal article, and my professor says that it may be publishable with some more drafts.
I don't know whether publishing literature papers would be good for my career or not. It seems obviously useful, but I can think of so many arguments against it - mostly, it would take time away from writing things I actually care about; but also, my professor pushed it in directions I wasn't very interested in, which made the paper kind of an awkward amalgamation of the things I wanted to talk about and the things she wanted me to talk about. (Also an awkward amalgamation of a literature paper and a sociology paper - "Here is some sociology on how working-class students feel the need to repress their identities in order to fit in at college. This is also what happens to the main character of this book!")
-insert many doubts about the usefulness of academic literary criticism generally-
-insert many doubts about my level of productivity generally-
Well. I will be able to make a better judgment about the paper when I stop feeling angry about some aspects of the class.
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November 3rd, 2016
Yesterday my lit class discussed The Coddling of the American Mind with a totally unexpected amount of millennial-bashing and anger at the very idea of trigger warnings and all those other "university culture war" issues.
I AM THE OLDEST PERSON IN THIS CLASS WHO IS NOT TEACHING IT.
I AM, JUST BARELY, A MILLENNIAL.
I want to shake all of these people and tell them "yes, you may well have found your classmates lazy and incurious; you may well find your students lazy and incurious; this is not a problem with the Youth Of Today. You're the kind of person who is in grad school, so BY DEFINITION, NOT EVERYONE IS AS HUGE A FAN OF SCHOOL AS YOU ARE. DEAL WITH IT."
I really wish I'd been able to speak out more. There's something that happens when you feel like EVERYBODY in the class is on the other side and you feel the burden of representing your own viewpoint in a way that is perfectly clear and articulate and logical lest you become one of those horrible people who's against free speech. :/
But it really does feel like a different thing to be in graduate school in one's mid-thirties versus one's early-to-mid-twenties. When you're that young you're still defending the idea that you're mature enough to be there, and tough enough to be there, and smart enough to be there.
And I'm still scared about all those things but - I am who I am and I feel like there's just as much responsibility on the university as an institution to be a place that's good for its students as there is on me to be good enough for grad school.
I get that there's this perceived conflict between your duty to protect your students and your duty to prepare them for the real world - I get that this is why it's so contentious - I get that we all want to do right by our students - but there's so much that gets lost when we start making fun of people for being too sensitive, for getting their feelings hurt, for not being able to switch to robot logic mode when it comes to issues that are personal in a visceral and deeply felt way.
I can have this debate but I can't have it if the other people in the room think the people they're debating are too silly to be worthy of consideration.
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October 29th, 2016
I biked the mile and a half to Z.'s house in costume. It was a Pikachu costume I'd bought at Target and I was glad for the visibility it lent me in the dark.
The shoes I needed to complete the look were my Italian leather-soled ones. Months earlier I had slipped down half a staircase in those shoes, but I hadn't stopped to consider what it would be like to pedal in them. My shoes slipped against the pedals, slipped off them. At one point I took off my shoes and strapped them to the rack; it was worse, in my socks. So determined was I to keep turning those wheels around that I didn't stop to think I should go home and change. It was only a mile and a half.
"You went to college in Canada, right? Is this what parties were like there?" M. asked me. By this point I had drunk half a cider and a nonalcoholic butterscotch soda.
"The thing is, I had severe social anxiety when I was in undergrad. So I didn't go to any parties."
"Oh, me too," M. said.
Later he marveled at the change of moving from Brooklyn to Ames. People put down Ames, when they do this; but it was rarely enough that I actually felt part of whatever mystique New York City has for outsiders. There are fewer art-house movies and worse vegetarian food. But for a part of me, the big city bustle feels like walking in the Broadway crowd, exhausted and panicky.
"It's like in a 19th century novel," I said, "When a character moves from London to the country to recover from a nervous breakdown."
This wasn't accurate; I was pretty well recovered, by that time. I was well enough to figure out that I might need someplace cheaper, quieter, lower-key, if I was to avoid turning up in the same place again. It felt accurate, to a first approximation.
I worked up the courage to ask Z. a favor. It turned out he wore my shoe size; it turned out he had a pair of sneakers he could lend me until Monday. I put my Italian shoes in the pannier on my bike. It was past eleven and in the good-byes people kept telling me to bike safe. The Saturday before Halloween, people would be drinking. The roads were dark and empty. The borrowed shoes clung fast to my pedals, all the way home.
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September 28th, 2016
|07:45 am - Carol Bly, "Against Workshopping Manuscripts"|
A tiny book I found almost by chance in the university library while searching for books on evaluating student writing.
I like Carol Bly even when I don't agree with her -- which is fairly often -- so I was curious about what she had against workshopping student fiction. Well, it's this:
If a student is workshopping a manuscript with a deeply felt idea or emotion, but that idea or emotion isn't coming through effectively yet, workshoppers will tend to focus on issues of technique, and this will feel, to the writer, like an invalidation -- even in a small way -- of the deeply felt thing at the center of the story. When you reveal a deeply felt thing and it gets ignored, you feel shame. You feel like it was wrong (too personal, too intimate) to say what you said. And the result is that, as a writer, you get subtly dissuaded from writing anything genuine or passionate; you focus on technique when you should be going deeper into the heart of the story.
(Also, workshops are a way of passing the workload in a creative writing class from professors to students.)
It's an interesting thesis and I can't help but thinking about it in connection with fanfiction; I certainly can't characterize fanfic communities as supportive utopias, but I think that on the whole they do tend to validate the hot squishy stuff at the center of the story. And I think that great fanfic is indeed
hotter squishier more intense and passionate than even most very good profic. (I mean, that's also because restraint is explicitly valued in literary fiction...)
The class that I'm in currently actually is explicitly constructed with the aim of recognizing and validating the thematic and emotional content in the piece before we talk about anything technical -- I wonder whether my prof has read Carol Bly or if it's something he got elsewhere -- and at the start of the semester I actually thought it was going to be too nice-at-the-expense-of-honest. But I was wrong. "I can tell you everything that's wrong with your story" doesn't get a person much closer to being a good writer, especially if we want to admit that a BIG PART of being a good writer is being open and vulnerable with your emotions on the page.
(Which doesn't mean writing autobiographically, or melodramatically, or sentimentally. It DOES mean that the most important stuff in your toolbox as a writer is the stuff that is personal to your own mind and your own heart.)
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September 1st, 2016
I have so many questions about this story in the Guardian about the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies being taken to court by his publisher for turning in a manuscript that was not just three years late but also “not original to Smith, but instead is in large part an appropriation of a 120-year-old public-domain work."
Like... isn't Pride and Prejudice and Zombies ITSELF an appropriation of an old public-domain work?
Like... How is it possible to spend three years on a manuscript you're getting paid $4 million for, and turn in a worse book than Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter? I mean, sophomore problems, high expectations, I get this stuff, but we're talking about a bar you can almost just walk right over.
Like... $4 million, really!?
Well, it must be said that there are authors who are having bigger publisher problems than me.
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B: I never knew Evelyn Waugh was a man.
Me: He was actually married to a woman named Evelyn. Their friends would call them He-velyn and She-velyn.
B: Wow! How did you know that, are you really into that period of literature?
I think I read it on Tumblr?
(It is no less true because I learned it on Tumblr!)
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