Category Archives: American

silly Puritanical values

Revisiting: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konisburg

Sorry for the lack of posting lately. I’ve been sick and the Phillies have been taking up a lot of my time.

But happily, I am feeling slightly better, and sadly the Phillies’ season is over, both which mean blogging with be back on track.

In my illness fog, I took the time to reread my favorite book from my childhood. I don’t think From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was ever actually my favorite book. But it definitely hold the honor of being one of my favorite books for the longest.

Two siblings, Claudia and Jamie Kincaid, run away from their suburban life to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Living there a week, the two children initially have the desire to learn everything about everything in the museum, but with the discovery of a special sculpture, Claudia makes the executive decision for the children to learn everything about this sculpture. The sculpture is a new acquisition from one Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, known for her bizarre are eye and hodge-podge collection. Claudia and Jamie learn a lot about art, each other and what is means to have an identity.

As a child, I had a large reverence for museums. This hasn’t changed since I’ve grown up, but it started at a very young age. My family spent a lot of time going to the High Museum to see this painting:

Portrait of Anne, George Bellows, 1915

The little girl in the painting is my grandmother, who passed away before I was born. When we went to the High, we went to go see Grandma Anne. Maybe that is why the concept of  “museum as home” worked so well for me in the book.

Claudia also was the oldest girl in a family that lived in suburbia and all she ever wanted to be different. Plus, though Jamie is younger than Claudia, their relationship always reminded of me and my twin brother. She has the big adventurous plans and he is very practical.

But most of all, the biggest theme in the book is the idea that knowledge makes you special and different. Claudia learns a secret about a piece of art and then she gets to go home different. Though I didn’t know it at the time, this desire is eventually what would lead me to my interests in literature and art. I feel like when I research and study art and literature I find out secrets that aren’t apparent at the first glance.

This is one of only children’s books that I think really holds up for adults as well. It still makes me cry every time I read it.

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twenty by five is a hundred

What WHAT!

Hundredth blog post. Wellllll (please read this like my government teacher from senior would say it. Just say “will” in a really high pitched mouse voice), not on the WordPress blog, but I imported all my “flippeed her lid” posts to keep the archive all nice and chronological and on one URL.

I was going to make a list of hundred things about something but A. I couldn’t decide a theme B. A hundred is a lot for any given theme. C. My talents at coming up with top five lists is too honed and practiced to be wasted a one hundred things list. So I am going to make twenty top five lists. And away we go…

Vampires I like more than Edward Cullen

  1. Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  2. Bill Compton, True Blood
  3. Count von Count, Sesame Street
  4. Vampire Weekend
  5. Carmilla, Carmilla

Careers I would have if talent, time and money were no object

  1. MGM Corps Dancer circa Oklahoma, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Carousel
  2. Member of the Corps of Discovery.
  3. Member of the Council of Trent-I just thinking picking out which Bible books are canonical sounds really fun.
  4. Art nouveau furniture designer
  5. Gilded Age socialite

Corps of Discovery Journey

Favorite Presidents

  1. John Adams
  2. James K. Polk
  3. Thomas Jefferson
  4. Woodrow Wilson
  5. FDR

Adams-he's a funny one

Simon and Garfunkel Songs

  1. “Cecelia”-I think everyone who listens to song goes to the three steps of interpretation. 1. OMG I LOVE DANCING TO THIS SONG, IT IS SO HAPPY 2. Is this song about a prostitute ? Really? Is that what is happening here? 3. I am so hip because I “get” Paul Simon’s allusion to St. Cecelia, the saint of music. Cue continuing of dancing.
  2. “Kathy’s Song”
  3. “April Come She Will”
  4. “Mrs. Robinson”
  5. “At the Zoo”-“the elephants are kindly but/They’re dumb.”

Least favorite: “Bridge over Troubled Water”

Saint Cecelia-sometimes fickle inspiration, but always all-around badass

Inspiration for my chosen major pt. 1

  1. My mom, the greatest English teacher I’ve ever known
  2. Addison and Jill, two camp counselors I had at Great Books Summer Program
  3. Hawkeye Pierce, Natty Bumppo, and their respective Byronic Heroism, for being the subject of the first research paper I ever felt was worth something
  4. Their Eyes Were Watching God because I wanted to understand Janie
  5. The Eyre Affair series, because I wanted to get the jokes

My favorite book cover of all time

Inspiration for my chosen major pt. 2

  1. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
  2. Sister Wendy, specifically her video about The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit
  3. My Great-Grandfather, George Bellows, whose work has insured that my family house is filled with books about art, and that we went to museums a lot when I was growing up
  4. Edouard Manet
  5. Mrs. D, my first nice art teacher ever

Both Members of the Club by George Bellows

Talents I wish I had

  1. Juggling
  2. Whistling
  3. “Live Long and Prosper” Sign
  4. Sewing
  5. Hair Braiding

Favorite Secondary Jane Austen characters

  1. Miss Bates
  2. Mr. Woodhouse-Do you eat that cake? I JUDGE YOU. Now eat some gruel and let me go to sleep.
  3. Mr. Hurst-Really, he could be tertiary because he has nothing to do with the plot. But his character allows for dear Jane to have these little quips “he was an indolent man, who lived only to eat, drink, and play at cards, who, when he found her prefer a plain dish to a ragout” and (after Caroline declares no one wants to play cards) “Mr. Hurst had therefore nothing to do but to stretch himself on one of the sophas and go to sleep.”
  4. Mrs. Jennings-is absolutely ridiculous. And terribly funny.
  5. Augusta Elton-A 3rd character from Emma. But it has the best examples of the great secondary characters that Jane Austen creates. Somehow, Mrs. Elton, though Emma is in the same financial situation, and meddling habits, is somehow made into a wretched woman while Emma is beloved, by readers and the community of Hartfield.

Mrs. Jennings

Actors I would put in any movie I ever produced

  1. Laura Linney
  2. Jeremy Northam
  3. Paul Giamatti
  4. Anjelica Huston
  5. David Boreanaz

I have no idea what this movie is about.

Things I confuse with other things

  1. Farrah Fawcett/Mia Farrow
  2. Pulp Fiction/Fight Club
  3. Hall and Oates/Hootie and the Blowfish
  4. Neil Diamond/Neil Sedaka/Neil Young
  5. I don’t know if this counts, but I always think Susan Sarandon is in Desperately Seeking Susan

"When's the doppelganger thing happen? Where's Ed Norton? What is happening?"

Most Depression Inducing Films/Books/Songs

  1. The First 3/4 of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  2. Mrs. Dalloway
  3. D2: The Mighty Ducks
  4. The entire Les Mis
  5. The Field-Titanic, Love Story, The Notebook are swell cry-fest movies. But The Field, directed by Jim Sheridan, which looks innocent enough, like a normal depressing but morally triumphant Jim Sheridan Irish movie. NO. It is a thousand times more depressing than a normal Irish movie. Watch at your own risk.

RIP Hans

Best Depression Relieving Film/Books/Songs

  1. The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions, by Seu Jorge. David Bowie. In Portuguese.
  2. Xanadu-ONJ & ELO’s best work
  3. Say Anything…
  4. The last 1/4 of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  5. It Happened One Night

XANADUUUU

Movies I would like to live in

  1. A Room with a View-George, Florence and those hats
  2. Out of Africa-Keep the Hats, lose the Syphilis
  3. Sense and Sensibility-Traditionally, I would want both Emma Woodhouse’s charms and man. But, have you seen Margaret’s tree house? Plus Marianne has a really cool hats.
  4. His Girl Friday-Good headlines, better hats
  5. Amelie-If only so I could pull off French girl hair

Honorable Mention to a movie I would never want to live in, but has one of my favorite hats of all time: Goldfinger-Oddjob’s Bowler: My brother loves James Bond movies. And I weirdly always rooted for this round, Asian villain with the bowler. Plus I love the way Shirley Bassey sings “ggoldFINGAHHH”

My laptop background

Words I wish were real

  1. “whuff”-as in “getting a whuff of something.” A combination of wolfing down food and getting a whiff of a smell
  2. “precarious”-but pronounced purh CAR ee us. means the same thing but only related to vehicular precariousness
  3. “foxymoron”
  4. “quppymaroo”
  5. “Gob”-is a word, but I do wish this was an established name like in Arrested Development

George Oscar Bluth II-Gob

Theories I wish were accepted in society

  1. If ya dip it in yogurt, it’s a fruit. If ya did it in ranch, it’s a vegetable.
  2. Always check the elbows.
  3. Jane Austen is about more than hunky men in tight pants and jackets with tails.
  4. David Boreanaz should be in every TV show ever and Laura Linney should be in every movie.
  5. You can tell more about a person from their top five favorite books/albums/films than just about anything else

Still, he IS pretty hunky.

Ice Cream Topping with appropriate Ice Cream Topping

  1. Whipped Cream and Mint Chocolate Chip
  2. Pineapple Pieces and Strawberry Ice Cream
  3. Chocolate Syrup and Dulce de Leche
  4. Corn Flakes and Vanilla Bean
  5. Oreos and anything

Movies that have Photobooths

  1. Amelie-biggest plot involvment
  2. Penelope
  3. The Princess Diaries
  4. The Outside Man
  5. Not a movie, but the Christmas Tree sketch with James Franco from SNL

Best use of Elevators in a movie

  1. Kate and Leopold-“You must be Otis”
  2. Serendipity
  3. Sleepless in Seattle
  4. Double Indemnity
  5. The Royal Tenebaums

Answer me this: Why is that kid in a devil costume during Christmas?

Reasons I went to Agnes

  1. The lamps in the library
  2. The ability to get Starbucks on campus
  3. How awesome my host, Jillian, and her roomie Christen were when I visited
  4. proximity to home
  5. The mascot

These are things they should emphasize in the mailings.

gorgeous

Five Things of which I couldn’t think of five

  1. Least favorite fictional character ever-Mr. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life
  2. The one blonde I like more than her counterpart brunette-Cher from Clueless, I mean I even like Cordelia better than Buffy
  3. The only foreign movie I will sit through with dubbing-Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (This is not because I don’t like foreign movies, it’s because I hate dubbing)
  4. Best fictional portrayal of Bipolar in three parts: Being medicated-the opening scene of Garden State on the plane, the division in feeling between mania and depression-Mrs. Dalloway and Septimus in Mrs. Dalloway and best overall portrayal of bipolar-Hawkeye Pierce from M*A*S*H, the show not the movie
  5. Best movie title-Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death

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Can a movie be better than the book? Part II

Now I want to look at a book that has been adapted for film, but not particularly successfully: Les Miserables. The book is so complex and intricate that a film version could never capture the beauty of Hugo’s words. My single favorite chapter is about the process and history of the beads that M. Madeleine produces in an efficient way to gain his fortune. The entire chapter is just about the beads. How could this be interpreted into film. This is one example of a book that I don’t think ever could have a film that does it justice. The plot alone is so interwoven, but those little bits and pieces in between of beautiful prose.

I see one more category of films/books. When the film surpasses the books cultural importance, then the film really has the potential to be “better” than the books. I felt like I should only use examples of movies and books that I read/viewed both and that’s why I had to use Slumdog Millionaire. During a quick Google search if there were any movies that were usually considered better than the books and most fell under this category. Examples include The Godfather, Psycho, quite a few Steven King based movies. This probably happens a lot because so many movies are based on books/short stories/plays that aren’t considered “great” like the “classics” Pride and Prejudice, The Last of the Mohicans and Les Miserables.

Any opinions? I would love to hear about your experiences with films v. books.

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Can a film version of a book be better than the book?

And what makes a film version good?

Comparing films and books really is like comparing apples and oranges. A film is composite work of multiple people while a novel is usually a single person’s effort. And a film crew and production teams have a lot more available to them concerning sensory perception. That’s probably the number one reason people don’t like the movie as much as the book—because it doesn’t look like their vision of the book. Let’s look at four books and movie pairings; all of which I think give some insight into this question: Pride & Prejudice and its various incarnations, the Last of the Mohicans, Les Miserables and Slumdog Millionaire and its predecessor of a different name Q&A. I’ll mention other pairings that go into the categories I have set up, but these four films and books are going to be the main points.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen has quite a few film adaptations. That happens when you write one of the most beloved novels of all time. I’m going to look at three: 1940 film adaptation with Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson, 1995 television adaptation and the 2005 adaptation with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. In these examples we see a little microcosm of possibilities when adapting a not-too complicated novel (those will be addressed later). The 1940 adaptation is a wonderful film…if you’ve never picked up a Jane Austen novel. While basically following the same plot as the novel, the characterization greatly diverges from that of the novel. It is nothing too drastic, but a modern Janeite would get really annoyed if she had to watch this instead of a more accurate film version. Also the costumes are circa 1820, not Regency, and Lizzie Bennett does not do hoop skirts. Still, all inaccuracies aside, Greer Garson’s Lizzie is wonderfully acted and really captures what her characters. None of the plots strays too far, unlike the most recent Wuthering Heights adaptation from PBS, where Heathcliff shoots himself (I don’t think is a spoiler, but hint: in the book Heathcliff does NOT shoot himself). This adaptation is about as far from the 1995 version as possible which takes a completely different approach. With Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, the BBC version spares no plot whatsoever; the film is basically like watching the book on the screen. But does this make it a good movie? I don’t think so. I may be completely biased because Colin Firth never looked like what I thought Mr. Darcy looked like, but even with a  book I love so much, I’d rather the film makers capture the spirit of the book and the characters every single plot detail. That’s why I prefer the 2005 version with Keira Knightley. It does create composite characters and blends plot together. But after I watch that movie, with its gorgeous cinematography and sweeping soundtrack, I get the closest feeling to what happens after I finish the book. I think with a film adaptation of a book like Pride and Prejudice that so many people read over and over again that spirit is way more important that plot. And Jane Austen’s books aren’t plot driven anyway, they are character driven. So I would rather have the notice of a twinge in Mr. Darcy’s hand than an inclusion of all tertiary characters. At least with books that are so beloved like Pride and Prejudice.

Then there is The Last of the Mohicans. I swear, I’ve read this book. I promise, I promise. And I love it. A lot of people don’t believe me. For anyone who has read Melville and knows that there are long sections about describing things that no one really cares about…that is kind of like the entire Leatherstocking series, but without any action in the middle. Still, I think Natty Bumppo was one of the first American Byronic heroes ever written and if you don’t believe me, I’d be happy to send you my research paper from tenth grade comparing Hawkeye Pierce from M*A*S*H and his namesake. But God, this book is boring. Like rather have teeth pulled than finish it boring during some parts. The movie is anything but. The film adaptation with Daniel Day-Lewis probably is better than book, as in more people enjoy it, and it is more interesting. But in this case, comparing the two is not like comparing apples and oranges—it is more like comparing apples and staplers. While with Pride and Prejudice, a reader and a viewer have the same goal: to hear about the love story of Darcy and Elizabeth with biting wit, and wonderful secondary characters. With The Last of the Mohicans, the reader and the viewer usually have two different goals. My goal reading the book was to hear about the wonderful landscapes, and a tale of heroism against odds and the saving of a ward by the hero. In watching the movie, mostly I wanted to see Daniel Day-Lewis. The movie is really a composite of quite a few Leatherstocking tales and overemphasizes Natty Bumppo’s and Cora’s love. But that is what the viewers wanted. I don’t think this is really a bad thing because I don’t think anyone, ever, in the history of film has wanted to see a textually accurate film of The Last of the Mohicans.

Part II is coming soon. I feel like this blog is quite long…and I like cliffhangers.

but feel free to comment now if you think of any movies that are better than the books.

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instability as a positive/a gateway

The Steeple-Jack by Marianne Moore

Dürer would have seen a reason for living
in a town like this, with eight stranded whales
to look at; with the sweet sea air coming into your house
on a fine day, from water etched
with waves as formal as the scales
on a fish.

One by one in two’s and three’s, the seagulls keep
flying back and forth over the town clock,
or sailing around the lighthouse without moving their wings —
rising steadily with a slight
quiver of the body — or flock
mewing where

a sea the purple of the peacock’s neck is
paled to greenish azure as Dürer changed
the pine green of the Tyrol to peacock blue and guinea
gray. You can see a twenty-five-
pound lobster; and fish nets arranged
to dry. The

whirlwind fife-and-drum of the storm bends the salt
marsh grass, disturbs stars in the sky and the
star on the steeple; it is a privilege to see so
much confusion. Disguised by what
might seem the opposite, the sea-
side flowers and

trees are favored by the fog so that you have
the tropics first hand: the trumpet-vine,
fox-glove, giant snap-dragon, a salpiglossis that has
spots and stripes; morning-glories, gourds,
or moon-vines trained on fishing-twine
at the back door;

cat-tails, flags, blueberries and spiderwort,
striped grass, lichens, sunflowers, asters, daisies —
yellow and crab-claw ragged sailors with green bracts — toad-plant,
petunias, ferns; pink lilies, blue
ones, tigers; poppies; black sweet-peas.
The climate

is not right for the banyan, frangipani, or
jack-fruit trees; or for exotic serpent
life. Ring lizard and snake-skin for the foot, if you see fit;
but here they’ve cats, not cobras, to
keep down the rats. The diffident
little newt

with white pin-dots on black horizontal spaced-
out bands lives here; yet there is nothing that
ambition can buy or take away. The college student
named Ambrose sits on the hillside
with his not-native
books and hat
and sees boats

at sea progress white and rigid as if in
a groove. Liking an elegance of which
the sourch is not bravado, he knows by heart the antique
sugar-bowl shaped summer-house of
interlacing slats, and the pitch
of the church

spire, not true, from which a man in scarlet lets
down a rope as a spider spins a thread;
he might be part of a novel, but on the sidewalk a
sign says C. J. Poole, Steeple Jack,
in black and white; and one in red
and white says

Danger. The church portico has four fluted
columns, each a single piece of stone, made
modester by white-wash. Theis would be a fit haven for
waifs, children, animals, prisoners,
and presidents who have repaid
sin-driven

senators by not thinking about them. The
place has a school-house, a post-office in a
store, fish-houses, hen-houses, a three-masted schooner on
the stocks. The hero, the student,
the steeple-jack, each in his way,
is at home.

It could not be dangerous to be living
in a town like this, of simple people,
who have a steeple-jack placing danger signs by the church
while he is gilding the solid-
pointed star, which on a steeple
stands for hope.

We just read this poem about a New England town with a church that has a crooked steeple in Modern Poetry. I usually link to the poem if I am blogging about it, but I loved this poem so much that I wanted the whole text on here. I would recommend getting a published version though because I believe the indentations are a different, and that’s important! Because Prof. Trousdale brought up the Durer allusion in the poem; and the concept of crookedness as a postive/gateway to human truth because the danger sign put up because of the unstable steeple both removes danger and points it out, I thought about art and architecture that actually has crookedness designed into it, purposefully or not.

Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse-Albrecht Durer

Salome-Aubrey Beardsley Art Nouveau and Contrapposto!

Leaning Tower of Pisa-an oops crookedness

Fred and Ginger House-Post Modern Contrapposto

Fred and Ginger, Postmodern Contrapposto

^^^In Prague! Which is my leading candidate for replacing Barcelona as my study abroad location for junior year! It really does have the coolest architecture, art nouveau/art deco/and this stuff! Everyone I know who has gone has said it is their favorite city ever. and I am always looking for a favorite city!

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books that made me

I may be giving the tomes too much agency. But I think most English majors have the book that made them an English major. So I think it is a logical conclusion that books made me into other things as well.

Well, here they are.

the books that made me:

  1. Emma-by Jane Austen: Probably no other book has edited my personality more. I saw the film adaptation in 1996 because I was five and I was very self-conscious about my name NOT being Emily. I really felt my parents had gypped me because I did not know anyone name Emma. But Gwyneth Paltrow was lovely and fabulous and had great hair and period clothing and from that moment on I was in love with Jane Austen. It also helped that Gwyneth wore a pink ball gown right out of my imagination to the Oscar’s that year. Sometimes I wonder where Emma myself really ends and where Miss Woodhouse begins. But I don’t worry about it too much because though Emma Woodhouse is manipulative, judgmental and catty, she overcomes these faults  to learn to accept other people, though she never changes completely like Lizzie Bennett who has “been so blind” and alters her personality for a man.
  2. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler-E.L Konigsburg: The reason I’m minoring/majoring in Art History. If Emma Woodhouse is who I want to be now, Claudia Kincaid is the 12 year old I wanted to be when I was 8. Unfortunately, when I was 12, I was terribly rude and annoying and co-dependent on my equally annoying group of friends, while Claudia is independent and adventurous. I love the quote when she says “I guess I like complications.”
  3. The Eyre Affair-Jasper Fforde: This book convinced me that there were other people who had literary based humor outside of my family. It is set in an alternate universe where jumping into books is possible.
  4. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn-Betty Smith: Francie Nolan and I could not live more separate lives. I grew up in a little bubble of suburbia and Francie grew up of the slums of Brooklyn. But I could read this a thousand times and I still cry every time. Though I grew up wanting to be Emma Woodhouse, I think I’m really much more like Francie Nolan. And I think this mother-daughter relationships is the most realistic ever written.
  5. Little Women-Louisa May Alcott: I haven’t read this book in years because I thought it was the greatest novel ever for the time I was 7 to about 14 and I’m so afraid I’m going to go back and reading it. I was a vegetarian for eight year because Louisa May Alcott didn’t eat meat, so that’s a pretty big influence. Plus Jo March is probably the reason I’m an English major. This book was the first “classic” I read and after it, I read a ridiculous amount of Victorian novels from both sides of the ocean. Thus I read Austen, Charlotte and Emily Bronte and Dickens a lot earlier than I would have in school. And if you don’t want to be an English major after Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights then I don’t think there is much hope for you.
  6. Bunnicula by I don’t know who-This book did not influence me because it was so good, more because it was so bad. This was the first book I ever was supposed to read for school that I didn’t. And with that, I realized that not all teachers were good and kind and smart. Because when Mrs. Johnson chose this idiotic book, I knew she was not looking for my best interest as a 4th grade student.
  7. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez-When I picked this out I knew it would challenge me. This book is probably the most cited as the greatest book of all time, and I knew I wanted to read but it is flat out hard. But it also opened me up to the world of Magic Realism that I absolutely adore. And after I read this, Garcia’s short stories were a lot less intimidating.
  8. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf: I have a somewhat destructive relationship with Virginia Woolf. If I read her when I’m depressed, I get more depressed. But never has an author so captured what I know bipolar feels like. Except maybe the screenwriters for M*A*S*H. I love Virginia Woolf’s novels so much, but this one is my absolute favorite because I feel all the characters are just different manifestations of a single, bipolar woman. The banner on my blog is actually cropped from the Vanessa Bell (Virginia’s sister) cover of Mrs. Dalloway. And because of this book I love Bloomsbury!
  9. Selected Poems of W.H. Auden by W.H. Auden: The book I carry with me always. I love Auden’s poetry so much, I’m convinced he is completely underrated and in the shadow of T.S. Eliot because he is. I cry just because it is so beautiful.
  10. “Whoso List to Hunt”-Thomas Wyatt: But I wouldn’t have that reaction with this sonnet which we read in my AP Literature class. Before this poem, I was super intimated by poetry except for like lyric, Romantic stuff that is full of pretty simple images, like Wordsworth. This poem no one in my class could figure out, including me, but I looked at the text and looked at the words and I figured it out. And I think that feeling of figuring out what an author has down in a novel or a poem is the greatest in the world, and that’s probably why I am an English major because I am always chasing that “a-ha” feeling I get when I find something new in a book or a poem.

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