Uncle Fred is one of Wodehouse's most engaging characters. Uncle Fred in the Springtime is one of his best books. And Jonathan Cecil's performance is does full justice to them both.
First, there is Cecil's ability to give each character a distinctive (and appropriate) vocal portrayal. Then there is his consistency in those portrayals. Add his ability to get every nuance out of every line and you have a full hand.
But wait, there's more. This is simply one of the best books in the Wodehouse canon. Start with a plot so tangled it may take a few listens to get it fixed in your mind (fear not; this is a story and a reading that gets better with every hearing). Add those various situations--from a Zulu warrior wedged into a phone booth to a spot of indoor artillery practice--that could only happen in the world according to Wodehouse. And to top it all off, there's Uncle Fred, his jumpy nephew Pongo and the lovely, lissom Polly Pott, crashing the exclusive gates of Blandings Castle posing as...
Well, you'll just have to listen.
Added goose: unlike some of the Wodehouse offered by Audible, this recording is crystal clear.
Back in July Audible presented a selection of books, one of which we were invited to download for free. It was a handsome offer, and the book the piqued my curiosity was Doctor Doolittle. Added goose: Frederick Davidson was the narrator.
Now, after the vast expanses of Don Quixote, I was in the mood for something short and quick. The introduction (by an unnamed author) that praised the book for it’s approach to children’s literature—writing for children rather than about them and eschewing the modern trend to psychologize—seemed right up my particular alley. Here, I thought, was a pleasant romp.
Unfortunately, this is an audiobook that really needs the illustrations. At least that’s my guess. Otherwise, I can’t account for how such a flatly written book could ever have recommended itself to generations of children and Walt Disney, too. Having recently experienced the rich word painting of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan the dullness, the outright ordinariness of Hugh Lofting’s style, was painfully apparent. (I could not recommend Peter Pan too highly, by the way—for both parents and children.)
Yes, I know: Doctor Doolittle was written or children somewhat younger than those for whom Barrie was catering—hence the heavier dependence on illustrations to carry the story. But that introduction really set me up to expect something of a tour de force: parrots that act like parrots, monkeys that act like monkeys. All I heard was a lot of animals that talked exactly like people.
Long ago in my undergrad days I blew by Don Quixote in a survey course. To a mind not very attuned to thick books and partial to any explanation that would make the test easier, believing that Cervantes had penned nothing more than a multi-volume diatribe against those iniquitous chivalric romances was a cinch.
Such an oversimplification served my purposes: first, to identify Cervantes’ proper place on the flowchart of “Those Who Have Contributed to the Creation of the Modern Novel”. Second: to get a passing grade, graduate and get a job and a place of my own.
Over the years, however, I’ve often wondered how any writer, no matter how gifted, could stretch such an indictment over some 900-some-odd pages and still manage to achieve a work that would be reverenced and relished for 400 years. When Audible put Don Quixote on sale in February of 2011, I decided to see—or rather, hear—what Cervantes had really written.
Before I did, however, I decided to immerse myself in the romances that were supposedly Cervantes’ target. I read all of Chretien de Troyes. I read Beroul. And Gotfried von Straussburg’s, Wolfram von Eschenbach and Hartmann von Aue.
I discovered works that were a joy to read. Works that captivated the imagination, that even played with and parodied the very genre they were establishing. So far from finding dusty books worthy of contempt, I found vivid invention and vigorous writing. And in the first dozen minutes of Don Quixote I discovered I had been reading the wrong romances.
Cervantes’ target seems to be the later romances written just before his time, chiefly the Amadis of Gaul and Orlando Furioso. I’ve never read Amadis, but years ago I did get Orlando under my belt and enjoyed the hell out of it. I began to wonder if the whole indictment of chivalric romances was just a device to tell a great story.
No matter what his motivation, we should all be glad he did set pen to paper. I rank Don Quixote with Tom Jones and Pickwick Papers as the three of books I’d choose if cast upon a desert island (not that that’s likely to ever happen). It never ceases to delight. And now that’s it’s over I miss it terribly. Seriously. Most of the credit goes to Cervantes, but the reader Roy McMillan deserves his share as well. His easy tone, light manner and perfect diction make him the ideal travelling companion for this ride.
Oddly enough, the book gives the same kind of pleasure as those romances it lampoons. In this guided tour of life in early 17th Century Spain, you never know what’s going to happen around the next corner. Is the stranger at the inn a villain or a saint? Is the shepherd singing on the hillside a man or a woman? Is the fantastic story they tell true or false? Is the popularity of the first volume of the book, which we find recorded in the second, a tweak at the reading public who consume such improbable works as Amadis of Gaul so avidly?
And of course there’s the ultimate, overarching question that seems to hold the book together: is Don Quixote mad or sane?
Though the book ends with a vigorous diatribe against chivalric romances, the hero (or anti-hero, if you go that way) could not be more sympathetic and likeable. When not smashing puppet shows or liberating condemned cutthroats he is full of good sense and rounded phrases. His “achievements” (battling with windmills and wineskins, for example) make him famous throughout Spain and indeed Europe—not because they are real achievements, of course, but because the book that records those deeds gives such delight.
Maybe that’s why Don Quixote deserves its central place in the “Who-Created-the-Modern-Novel” flow chart: because Cervantes shows us that real life, our ordinary existence, can be as enchanted and improbable as any romance.
The thing about reading—or listening to—Wodehouse is that his characters live such long, complex lives. Bertie Wooster, for example, made his first appearance in 1919 and his last adventure was published in 1974, the year before Wodehouse’s death. Consequently, the happily married man in the novel you just finished reading may have a backstory you know nothing about. Beyond, of course, the arch allusions to his checkered career made by his wife, his relations or the narrator in the novel you just finished reading.
It all adds to the odd realism of Wodehouse. Keen observers like Evelyn Waugh asserted that the England Wodehouse writes about never really existed. Yet the appearance and reappearance of places and characters, the ability to see the same character from several other characters’ viewpoints, the interweaving of characters— for example, Bertie Wooster and Tipton Plimsol both belong to the Drones and therefor must have at least a nodding acquaintance—all contribute to this queer substantiality, making the England of P. G. Wodehouse, Utopian as it is, as solid as Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County.
All of this is by way of explaining why Blandings Castle is such an enjoyable listen. You get the back story of how Freddie Threepwood met and married Niagara “Aggie” Donaldson. You finally understand what a character in one of the later Blandings Castle novels was talking about when he describes Lord Emsworth as being worried about his pumpkin (your natural reaction is to assume it’s a typo; he must have meant “pig”). You discover the surprising family connection between Lord Emsworth and his head gardener. And you get the full story, only alluded to in later books, of the chap from Nebraska.
Beyond these revelations that do so much to illuminate the rest of the Blandings Castle saga, you get “Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend”, probably one of the sweetest stories Wodehouse ever wrote; not saccharine sweet but rather revealing an unsuspected tenderness and solicitude on the part of the ninth earl.
So much for the first six stories in this collection. The other six are a delightful grab bag: one featuring Bobby Whickam, the rest the various nephews and connections of Mr. Mulliner who work in Hollywood. Bobby’s tale is pure Wodehouse lunacy and the last story, “The Castaways” is a writer’s-eye view of Hollywood that should not be missed—especially if you’re a writer.
James Saxon’s performance makes me wish he’d record more Wodehouse. His characters all live as individuals in your ear buds and his vocal range covers every Wodehousian nuance, from the sprightly and brainless to the dark and dubious.
Huxley for writing the book, York for reading it and Audible for making books like this available in their Daily Deals. I would never have bought it had it not been on sale—and I would have missed an amazing work of literature as well as a fine audio performance.
Like many people, Brave New World was always one of those books I meant to read. Whenever a new tech marvel hit the scene or a new question of medical ethics made headlines, a news writer somewhere was sure to make an allusion to the title of Aldous Huxley’s masterpiece. But that’s as far as my understanding of the book went: a nebulous sense that it presented a less-than-savory picture of some indefinite, but very possible, future.
But as Mustapha Mond, the World Controller for Western Europe might say, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
In the interest of full disclosure, you need to know I was born and bred in Detroit. Hence, a good deal of my enjoyment of the book stems from the author’s complete agreement with my own estimate of Henry Ford. Yes, he made America mobile. Yes, that mobility was affordable. But delve into some of the man’s writings, sayings and methods and you understand what Huxley is driving at.
One day Ford was walking through his factory when he noticed a pile of short wooden boards. Upon inquiring about them, he learned they were broken up packing cases that had contained auto parts; they were about to be thrown away. In a flash of ingenuity, he ordered the wood to be used as floorboards for his Model T’s.
It’s a story that appeals to all our recycling instincts (that’s the way we’ve been conditioned, right?) But dig a little deeper. Behind Ford’s idea there lurks a sort of maniacal drive for complete and utter efficiency.
It goes hand in hand with Ford housing his workers in barracks. Yes, they were clean, bright places to live. But they were also places where the workers could be supervised. Drinking was frowned upon for obvious reasons. Dancing was encouraged because Ford had some odd theory about its moral benefits. Random inspections were a normal feature of life.
Then there’s the famous $5 a day wage. Accepted now as a humanitarian measure—so much more, we are told, than what other industrialists were offering the downtrodden proletariat. In actuality, the downtrodden proletariat only got $2.50 an hour—the other $2.50 was held back, to be paid at a later date if the workers’ behavior met Mr. Ford’s exacting standards.
If none of this is giving you the chills, then you may not want to bother with Brave New World.
There’s a photograph of Ford relaxing (if that was possible for him) in his home in Dearborn—incidentally, an architectural monstrosity of conflicting styles. In the background a piece of needlework proclaims: “He who chops his own firewood warms himself twice”. Ok, that’s true as far as it goes. But again there’s that maniacal drive for efficiency, an almost Uber-Puritanical focus on work—a focus that excludes all other considerations.
Ford crystalized that focus with the infamous remark, “History is bunk”. The blowback from those words was so widespread he tried to atone by building Greenfield Village, the open-air museum that is as much a monument to himself and his friend Thomas Edison as homage to the past. Nevertheless, the unguarded remark reveals his true thinking.
In Brave New World, Huxley takes that thinking and follows it out to its extreme, “logical” conclusion. I understand that there’s more underpinning the book than just the wit and wisdom of Henry Ford. For example, I sense a critique of our Declaration of Independence (why did Jefferson include “happiness” among our inalienable rights, rather than keep to the classic Whig triumvirate of life, liberty and property?) It’s a piece of our foundational rhetoric that, taken to its “logical” extreme, can be just as culturally destructive as Ford’s hatred of the past.
So much for the roots of the book. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about how much of what Huxley imagined has actually come to pass.
On top of a masterpiece you also get Michael York’s performance, which is simply extraordinary. And again, big kudos to Audible for making literature like this available at sacrifice prices—and here’s hoping they’ll do it again soon. Many of the blockbusting best sellers that usually make the Daily Deal are, as the Savage would point out if he were here, a far cry from Othello.
Coming out in 1928, between the first collection of Mulliner stories and Summer Lightning in the Wodehouse syllabus, Money for Nothing was written plumb spang in the middle of one of the master’s high tides of comic genius. And it shows.
We are offered free translations of what dogs are really saying when they bark, whine or snuffle. An extended lecture on roberts, and a man named Roberts who kept roberts. And our first look at Ronald Overbury Fish, who will soon figure largely in Summer Lightening (1930) and Heavy Weather (1933).
This first edition of the Last of the Fishes is far more self-assured and intelligent than his later avatar, testimony to Wodehouse’s ability to never let what he’d previously written get in the way of a good story—just look at Lord Emsworth who, we are told in the first of the Blandings Castle novels, was born in the 1860’s (Sunset at Blandings came out in 1977). Or Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge, who manages to get married in two different books and yet pops up again and again in later stories, still single, broke and living in rented rooms or, more often, on his friend Corkie’s sofa.
Though the classically convoluted plot of Money for Nothing involves criminal deeds and nefarious ne’er-do-wells, it’s all good, clean fun. And as usual Wodehouse also displays his uncanny ability to render an awkward, emotionally complex scene in all its complexity—just listen to John and Pat’s midnight boat ride on the moat. Wodehouse is never all about laughs, nor without some startling insights into human nature. And Jonathan Cecil's sensitive, perfectly modulated reading expresses it all perfectly.
The names Professor Shutt has in mind are Thermopylae, Salamis, Plataea and all the other places where the Greeks turned back Persia. Places where primarily Spartan and Athenian forces, fighting against overwhelming odds, ensured that political liberty, the rule of law and free intellectual inquiry were given a chance to flourish and ultimately shape the world in which we live.
This is the best kind of military history, covering organization, commanders, tactics and battles while never losing sight of the cultures that were squaring off or the issues that were at stake. Indeed, Shutt presents those organizations, commanders and tactics as inevitable outcomes of the cultures involved. And he makes it clear that the issues were just as inevitably the result of the differences between those cultures.
Best of all, in presenting the wars that shaped the Western World—the very theme of these lectures must drive the politically correct mad—he never cringes or flinches, as if he were going through someone's dirty laundry basket or cleaning out their refrigerator. Rather, he admires the Greeks and Romans who fought for their way of life and thus shaped and informed our own culture, no matter how hard our leading educational institutions are trying to jettison what those long-dead Greeks and Romans won. As Professor Shutt makes plain in his concluding lecture, the Greco-Roman synthesis forged in these wars was a far more durable, flexible and creative entity than either Greece or Rome could have been on its own.
This is not to say that it’s all glory and cultural self-congratulation. That attitude can lead, as Shutt freely admits, to cultural blindness and for that reason has been, and should be, jettisoned “to a point”. Then he adds, “but only to a point”. Because he understands that the culture that ceases to believe in itself—and ceases to believe itself worth fighting for—is a culture in trouble. As an alternative he offers Leonidas, Themistocles and Scipio Africanus, names which countless generations have used to define what the West is and what the West means, as “touchstones”, as sources of inspiration, for us. Not a bad notion.
There are other refreshing differences between Professor Shutt’s approach and my own school days. In college the Peloponnesian War was taught in terms of Viet Nam—pointless, wasteful, unnecessary. Shutt offers a more astute, illuminating—and less predictable—analyses: perhaps the war was the inevitable conflict between the two sides of the Western character, discipline (Sparta) and imagination (Athens). Athenian overreach had certainly sparked the conflict and Shutt puts this too in the context of its time: the Greek concept of hubris. But, he asks, what of Athens had won? What of it was Athens and not Rome who made the Mediterranean basin its empire? How would that have shaped the Western World? It is a far more fruitful exploration than I—or, I daresay, most undergraduates—have experienced.
Yes, he sometimes says “Athens” when he means “Sparta”, “Rome” when he means “Carthage”. So did your professor when he or she was on a roll at the podium. You loved it then and you’ll love it now; Professor Shutt’s enthusiasm for outlandish personalities (especially Alcibiades) and mind-boggling events (particularly Cannae and Rome’s reaction to that defeat) is infectious. Just pay attention and the little verbal jumbles won’t matter.
Maybe it’s because I’ve seen the 1973 Oliver Reed / Michael York / Frank Findlay / Richard Chamberlain movie repeatedly since high school. Maybe it’s because, unlike The Count of Monte Cristo, this story is set in the more distant past, a past that has been defined and mythologized in the popular imagination (mine included) by this very story. Or maybe it’s just that, for all it has in common with Monte Cristo—opulence, flamboyance, high drama—this is first and foremost an unapologetically adventuresome adventure story. Whatever the reason, I popped in the ear buds, revved up the mower (or stepped on the train home from work, or cleaned the kitchen) and just enjoyed myself. I didn’t expect to be moved mightily and I wasn’t. I didn’t expect to be overawed by a tour-de-force of the writer’s art and I wasn’t. I did expect to be entertained, and I was, handsomely.
This is not to say I didn’t feel a thrill when Athos’ secret was revealed or cringe at the gradual, artful seduction of Lieutenant Felton or feel empathy for d’Artagnan’s grief. If anything, in the original tale the Cardinal and Milady are even more chilling, the father-son relationship between Athos and d’Artagnan even more effecting. But the pity and terror that Aristotle said literature was supposed to produce in us never gets in the way of the plumed, high-booted, hard-charging story. Thank goodness. If anything, the pity and terror the story generates help everything skim along nicely.
As with Sherlock Holmes, it’s hard to say much about a novel that has stood the test of time as well as this one, and which Hollywood never seems to get tired of revisiting (six new versions have appeared since 1973—and at least seventeen before 1973). So I’ll confine myself to this recording, which is excellent. Simon Vance is perfect. For all her beauty, Milady’s voice is always less than beautiful, always tinged with a note of menace and duplicity, even when she’s being nice. The four “inseparables” are pitch-perfect, as is the King, the Cardinal, the Queen, Constance, Kitty. The only disappointment was the executioner of Lille; I don’t know what else Mr. Vance could have done with him, but the deep, rasping note he struck seems a little too stock.
However, that is the only fly—and a miniscule fly—that appears in this ointment. It is boisterous, funny, and every once in a while able to stop you and make you hit the rewind button, as when Planchet, d’Artagnan’s lackey, delivers this bit of encouragement (and my favorite line in the book) to his master:
“Never mistrust the mercy of God.”
...that when you've heard one performance of a work, that becomes "the" performance for you. And when you've heard a book read by the incomparable Frederick Davidson (a.k.a. David Case) that reading becomes "THE" reading. No other performance will do.
Such is the case with this particular recording of Leave It To Psmith. As I listen, I am constantly reminded of how much more juice Davidson got out of that line. And that line, too. And the next one. Golden moments of irony or innuendo are passed up. Sentences seemed rushed through. The character of Psmith--a Wodehouse creation of the first rank, standing with Ukeridge as among his most engaging and unique--simply sits there. His lofty unconcern for his circumstances, his unconquerable gift for persiflage in the face of every challenge, are simply not expressed in Jonathan Cecil's vocal portrayal.
Then there is his diction. Simply put, the ends of words seem to be missing. Final s's are nonexistent. Ending syllables evaporate. There's a fault with Cecil's enunciation or the recording is faulty. Either way, it's annoying and distracting.
It's sad because Leave It To Psmith, though often overlooked or underrated, is really one of Wodehouse's very best efforts.
What to do? The cry goes round the clubs: shall this Psmith be returned to store? Yes indeed. I'm only in the middle of chapter 2 but I give up...and patiently await the day when Audible will be able to give us a wider selection of Frederick Davidson's performances from the Wodehouse shelf.
Over the years my reading has given me an impression of the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s as an era when the writing of well-crafted narrative history flourished. Not too scholarly and yet not popular either (in the sense of “facile”), these writers managed to create biographies and histories that balanced analysis and insight with good old-fashioned storytelling. To the names I’m familiar with—Lloyd Lewis, Bruce Catton, Shelby Foote, Richard M. Ketchum, Marquis James and Robert V. Remini—I now have to include Ernle Bradford.
According to Wikipedia, Bradford (1922-1986) was a noted and prolific historian, his main subject being the Mediterranean, where he served during World War II. His involvement in the siege of Malta during that conflict lead directly to the writing of this book, a lucky thing for those who like their history well-written, well-researched and yet with a novelist’s sense for detail and drama.
While I was listening to The Great Siege I was also reading Roger Crowley’s more recent Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto and the Contest for the Center of the World. This was fortunate for two reasons. First, Crowley’s book has an excellent (if somewhat small) map of the main harbor on Malta that the Knights of St. John used as their base. The peculiar shape of the harbor, the three peninsulas of Birgu and Senglea and Mount Sciberras, are simply too peculiar for Bradford’s prose, limpid as it is, to make clear.
Secondly, Crowley’s book provided an interesting counterpoint to Bradford. Whether because historical thought has evolved over the 47 years that separate these two works, or because no historian will simply echo another’s interpretation of events Crowley disagrees with Bradford on several key points. One example will suffice.
The Ottoman decision to concentrate first on St. Elmo, that hastily and poorly-built bastion of the tip of the Mount Sciberras peninsula, is the cardinal mistake of the siege according to Bradford, a mistake committed because Pyale, the admiral of the Turkish felt, demanded his ships be sheltered in the secure harbor that lay north of St. Elmo, within the range of the fort’s guns. But the place held out far longer than anyone—Ottoman or Christian—expected. By the time it fell much blood and ammunition had been expended by an Ottoman force 800 miles from any source of resupply.
But for Crowley, the reduction of St. Elmo was a natural first step; Pyale’s demand for safe harbor for his fleet—and the intense arguments that demand supposedly ignited in Ottoman counsels—were merely inventions of Christian chroniclers. Is Crowley being too skeptical, even too politically correct in assuming the Christian accounts would be skewed? Or is Bradford being too credulous, going for the details that make a good story without weighing his sources?
That’s what makes reading more than one book on the same historical subject such an adventure.
And Bradford’s is a rocking good story, full of daring, courage, heroism, brilliance, cowardice and treachery on both sides. His style is graceful, even elegant, and the reading by Simon Vance reflects and enhances that. Ultimately, what I found so refreshing was Bradford’s ability to write from an unvarnished Christian, Western perspective. There’s no post-modern roll of the eyes when he describes one wounded knight, refusing succor from his comrades, dragging himself to St. Elmo’s chapel and dying before the altar. Yet the death of the Muslim corsair Dragut, hit in the head by a stone fragment from a cannonball strike, is equally respectful. There was a time when the West could honor and respect the East—sometimes numbering Saladin among the Nine Worthies, for example—and yet still unapologetically prefer its own culture. Ernle Bradford belongs to that time.
By the way, though Crowley’s Empire of the Sea is available through Audible, the book might make for a difficult listening experience. While better written than his 1453, Empires is still prone to those occasional lapses of clarity that make the prose swim a bit before one’s eyes. For example, try this:
“News of his [Don Juan’s] progress swelled across Southern Europe, each landfall amplifying the sense of expectation and crusading zeal. A breathless communiqué to Rome captured the spectacular arrival of Christ’s General there on August 9th.”
If Don Juan had just arrived at Rome, why would anyone need to send a communiqué to Rome, breathless or not, describing his arrival there? Only when I looked 6 lines farther up the page did I realize that Don Juan had actually arrived in Genoa. It’s the sort of semantic tangle that’s easier to undo by flipping pages than hitting the rewind button on your iPod.
“I made a blunder, my dear Watson. Which is, I am afraid, a more common occurrence than anyone would think who only knew me through your memoirs.”
Holmes makes this comment at the beginning of the second series of these marvelous recordings. But it applies to the first series as well, of course. Having only known Holmes at an even farther remove than Watson’s memoirs—via movies and TV—it is a revelation to meet the real Holmes, blunders and all, regardless of his quibbles about the good doctor’s literary efforts.
Like reading Ian Flemming’s Bond novels only after steeping oneself in the movies (yes, I made that mistake too), we discover a far more human, cantankerous and fragile person than is revealed even in Jeremy Brett’s masterful performances. And it was a great treat to finally learn how Holmes and Watson were originally thrown together. Like ham and eggs or rum and Coke, theirs is an association so long established and so seemingly natural that we forget they had to have had a first meeting.
About stories that have stood the test of popular opinion as well as these, leaving the reading public consistently agog since their first appearance 126 years ago, nothing need be said. The character of Holmes seems an apogee of High Victorianism: a complete faith in science, progress and the power of rationalism, totally devoid of that other trait we associate with late 19th Century England, sentimentalism. Against this sheer cliff of cold deduction, we flounder along with Doctor Watson, ensnared in conclusions we leap at too quickly and obvious facts we too blithely overlook and a sentimentalism that leads us to do odd things like fall in love and get married. Watson has his moments too, bringing his specialized medical knowledge to bear on wounds and poisons, but he’s usually as in the dark as you or me. Ultimately, I’d rather be like Watson than Holmes—convenient that, since I already am—but Holmes is still fascinating to watch.
And in these recordings he’s fascinating to listen to as well. Without sounding like Basil Rathbone or Jeremy Brett, Charlton Griffin gives us a distinct and vibrant Holmes. His milder, self-deprecating Watson is perfect, as is all the supporting cast except the female characters. Someone else has mentioned that Griffin’s women sound idiotic. While I wouldn’t go quite that far, they do sound a bit too helpless and simple.
Another quibble: the American side of “A Study in Scarlet”, the second part of which takes place among the Mormons of Utah, is something of a challenge for Griffin. True, Conan Doyle’s writing slips off the track here as well—it sounds as if he’s writing about a country and a people he’s only known through stereotypes and hearsay. But Griffin’s wild-west accents only make it worse.
But these are minor points when set against an otherwise masterful performance. Beginning the second series, I seem to detect the women sounding a little brighter, too. Thanks to Audible for making these available and giving me the chance, as with The Count of Monte Cristo and Don Quixote, to catch up on the classics I sidestepped in my callow youth.
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