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The letters in this treasure-trove date from September 1630 - when John Winthrop, newly ensconced as governor of Massachusetts, wrote to his wife in England - to August 1996, when a young adopted woman named Michelle Song addressed a moving letter to her yet-undiscovered birth mother. In between are more than 200 other epistles - written by the celebrated and the obscure, The letters in this treasure-trove date from September 1630 - when John Winthrop, newly ensconced as governor of Massachusetts, wrote to his wife in England - to August 1996, when a young adopted woman named Michelle Song addressed a moving letter to her yet-undiscovered birth mother. In between are more than 200 other epistles - written by the celebrated and the obscure, the powerful and the powerless - that in aggregate paint a revealing portrait of the United States. The collection's range is enormous - from Groucho Marx's hilarious 1947 tirade to Warner Brothers, which was trying to block him from using 'A Night in Casablanca' as a movie title, to a June 1744 letter from "The Indians of the Six Nations" to William & Mary College, politely declining an offer to educate some of their young (and noting that some previous white-educated Indians "were bad Runners, ignorant of every means of living in the Woods, unable to bear either Cold or Hunger, knew neither how to build a Cabin, take a Deer, or kill an Enemy, spoke our language imperfectly, were therefore neither fit for Hunters, Warriors, or Counsellors.") Whenever possible, editor Andrew Carroll presents the letters in their original form, complete with capitalization and spelling quirks (including misspellings), which adds to their vividness. His brief introductions tell just enough about each letter without overshadowing their subjects. This splendidly presented piece of research offers a revealing, eminently readable window onto America's past. RUNNING TIME ➱ 17hrs. and 13mins. ©1997 Kodansha America, Inc. (P)2013 Audible, inc.


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The letters in this treasure-trove date from September 1630 - when John Winthrop, newly ensconced as governor of Massachusetts, wrote to his wife in England - to August 1996, when a young adopted woman named Michelle Song addressed a moving letter to her yet-undiscovered birth mother. In between are more than 200 other epistles - written by the celebrated and the obscure, The letters in this treasure-trove date from September 1630 - when John Winthrop, newly ensconced as governor of Massachusetts, wrote to his wife in England - to August 1996, when a young adopted woman named Michelle Song addressed a moving letter to her yet-undiscovered birth mother. In between are more than 200 other epistles - written by the celebrated and the obscure, the powerful and the powerless - that in aggregate paint a revealing portrait of the United States. The collection's range is enormous - from Groucho Marx's hilarious 1947 tirade to Warner Brothers, which was trying to block him from using 'A Night in Casablanca' as a movie title, to a June 1744 letter from "The Indians of the Six Nations" to William & Mary College, politely declining an offer to educate some of their young (and noting that some previous white-educated Indians "were bad Runners, ignorant of every means of living in the Woods, unable to bear either Cold or Hunger, knew neither how to build a Cabin, take a Deer, or kill an Enemy, spoke our language imperfectly, were therefore neither fit for Hunters, Warriors, or Counsellors.") Whenever possible, editor Andrew Carroll presents the letters in their original form, complete with capitalization and spelling quirks (including misspellings), which adds to their vividness. His brief introductions tell just enough about each letter without overshadowing their subjects. This splendidly presented piece of research offers a revealing, eminently readable window onto America's past. RUNNING TIME ➱ 17hrs. and 13mins. ©1997 Kodansha America, Inc. (P)2013 Audible, inc.

30 review for Letters of a Nation

  1. 4 out of 5

    Deyanne

    This book is subtitled: "Collections of Extraordinary American Letters" and it was. I appreciated the diversity. There were letters from political leaders, writers, and from obscure people - all honest and insightful. Long a fan of primary documents, I enjoyed "selecting" those letters that called to me to share in a book group. I regret not reading an entire section: social concern, letters of war, letters of slavery, humor, etc. because I think I would have had an even better overview of this This book is subtitled: "Collections of Extraordinary American Letters" and it was. I appreciated the diversity. There were letters from political leaders, writers, and from obscure people - all honest and insightful. Long a fan of primary documents, I enjoyed "selecting" those letters that called to me to share in a book group. I regret not reading an entire section: social concern, letters of war, letters of slavery, humor, etc. because I think I would have had an even better overview of this collection. Great discussion. Good book for a book group.

  2. 4 out of 5

    David

    I skimmed through this book again earlier today, in an effort to figure out why Thomas Mallon's "Yours Ever" was such a damp squib (down to its nondescript title). Mallon would have done well to pay attention to the (relatively simple) elements that make this book so terrific: 1. Andrew Carroll includes entire letters, not just snippets. 2. The quality and variety of the letters included are phenomenal. 3. Carroll keeps his own editorializing to a minimum. His 8-page introduction is eloquent and su I skimmed through this book again earlier today, in an effort to figure out why Thomas Mallon's "Yours Ever" was such a damp squib (down to its nondescript title). Mallon would have done well to pay attention to the (relatively simple) elements that make this book so terrific: 1. Andrew Carroll includes entire letters, not just snippets. 2. The quality and variety of the letters included are phenomenal. 3. Carroll keeps his own editorializing to a minimum. His 8-page introduction is eloquent and succinct, infinitely preferable to Thomas Mallon's repeated, rambling interruptions. Expanding a little on the second point - a major part of the book's charm stems from the inclusion of letters from people in all walks of life, famous and unknown, rich and poor. Carroll is an exemplary editor - almost every letter included in this book packs a punch. The usual suspects are here, certainly (Groucho, Winston Churchill, Mark Twain, Flannery O' Connor, "Yes, Virginia"). But how refreshing that the letter from John Cheever is a hilarious update to a friend whose pet the Cheevers were catsitting (it didn't go well), or to read F. Scott Fitzgerald's letter to his daughter Scottie. The collection is also a stark reminder of the general deterioration in writing standards across the generations. Sherman's explanation of his refusal to spare Atlanta to the city's residents is a masterpiece. But one can find the same eloquence in letters from soldiers in the ranks to their families. Letters in the book are grouped into the following categories: Letters of arrival, expansion, and exploration Letters of a new nation letters of slavery and the civil war Letters of war Letters of social concern, struggle, and contempt Letters of humor and personal contempt Letters of love and friendship Letters of family Letters of death and dying Letters of faith and hope A foreword by Marian Wright Edelman introduces this outstanding collection.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kim Dennis

    Most of this book was really interesting. There were some letters I found to be somewhat less interesting than others, but that is to be expected. Some of the letters I would like to find a way to work into my US History class. Some would be nice to do that with, although it isn't really feasible. Overall, a very easy and enjoyable read. Most of this book was really interesting. There were some letters I found to be somewhat less interesting than others, but that is to be expected. Some of the letters I would like to find a way to work into my US History class. Some would be nice to do that with, although it isn't really feasible. Overall, a very easy and enjoyable read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Such a lovely and inspiring collection of letters, and Carroll is so brilliant at prefacing them with very short, succinct introductions. I also really appreciate that Carroll included letters from ALL types of Americans - white, black, Latino, Asian, men, women, rich, poor, Northern, Southern, conservative, liberal, etc. I took off a star because he could have included a few more from women, but generally he was really excellent about including letters from diverse writers. It's a wonderful col Such a lovely and inspiring collection of letters, and Carroll is so brilliant at prefacing them with very short, succinct introductions. I also really appreciate that Carroll included letters from ALL types of Americans - white, black, Latino, Asian, men, women, rich, poor, Northern, Southern, conservative, liberal, etc. I took off a star because he could have included a few more from women, but generally he was really excellent about including letters from diverse writers. It's a wonderful collection, and if you have any interest in American history or letters, I would strongly recommend this book. I took a chance and bought it (usually I rent books from the library), and I'm so glad I did. Next I'll be reading Carroll's other book, War Letters...I'm excited for it!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    It isn't often that I read non-fiction, but I picked this up in the National Post Office Museum in Washington DC. These are letters collected from all walks of American life, grouped together by letters of war, family, love, hope and faith. I was particularly entertained by several of Benjamin Franklin's letters, especially one on why young men should look to be with older women, and one that he wrote on death and grieving. This is also where you can find those very moving letters sent by Civil It isn't often that I read non-fiction, but I picked this up in the National Post Office Museum in Washington DC. These are letters collected from all walks of American life, grouped together by letters of war, family, love, hope and faith. I was particularly entertained by several of Benjamin Franklin's letters, especially one on why young men should look to be with older women, and one that he wrote on death and grieving. This is also where you can find those very moving letters sent by Civil War soldiers to their loved ones that Ken Burns used in his Civil War series. I recommend this book to anyone who likes learning about our history, but not through history books.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Luis

    Mr. Carroll has done a phenonmenal job collecting some of the most riveting and well-written letters in American history. From the famous to the obscure, "Letters of a Nation" takes you on a fascinating literary journey across our national landscape with themes like love and loss, war and peace, slavery and freedom, darkness and light... This anthology is one for your bookshelf and assuredly is one you'll refer to time and time again. Mr. Carroll has done a phenonmenal job collecting some of the most riveting and well-written letters in American history. From the famous to the obscure, "Letters of a Nation" takes you on a fascinating literary journey across our national landscape with themes like love and loss, war and peace, slavery and freedom, darkness and light... This anthology is one for your bookshelf and assuredly is one you'll refer to time and time again.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    Quotable: Letters are sacred. From impassioned declarations of love to furious bursts of rage, they expose the most heartfelt emotions stirring within a person’s soul. To me, homesteading is the solution of all poverty’s problems, but I realize that temperament has much to do with success in any undertaking, and persons afraid of coyotes and work and loneliness had better let ranching alone. –Elinore Rupert Stewart Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderne Quotable: Letters are sacred. From impassioned declarations of love to furious bursts of rage, they expose the most heartfelt emotions stirring within a person’s soul. To me, homesteading is the solution of all poverty’s problems, but I realize that temperament has much to do with success in any undertaking, and persons afraid of coyotes and work and loneliness had better let ranching alone. –Elinore Rupert Stewart Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed; if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases; if we drive the few remaining members of the wild species into zoos or to extinction; if we pollute the last clear air and dirty the last clear streams and push our paved roads through the last of the silence, so that never again will Americans be free in their own country from the noise, the exhausts, the stinks of human and automotive waste. –Wallace Stegner I have sometimes been ready to think that the passion for Liberty cannot be Eaquelly Stong in the Breasts of those who have been accustomed to deprive their fellow Creatures of theirs. –Abigail Adams Peace is best preserved by giving energy to the government, or information to the people. This last is the most certain, and the most legitimate engine of government. Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. Enable them to see that it is their interest to preserve peace and order, and they will preserve them… If they approve the proposed constitution in all its pats, I shall concur in it cheerfully, in hopes they will amend it, whenever they shall find it works wrong. –Thomas Jefferson I am myself; you are yourself; we are two distinct persons, equal persons. What you are, I am. You are a man, and so am I. God created both, and made us separate beings. I am not by nature bond to you, or you to me. Nature does not make your existence depend upon me, or mine depend upon yours. I cannot walk upon your legs, or you upon mine. I cannot breathe for you, or you for me; I must breathe for myself, and you for yourself. We are distinct persons, and are each equally provided with faculties necessary to our individual existence. In leaving you, I took nothing but what belonged to me, and in no way lessened your means for obtaining an honest living. –Frederick Douglass to his former master Ignorance is a cure for nothing. Get the very best training possible & the doors of opportunity will fly open before you as they are flying before thousands of your fellows. –W.E.B. Du Bois We, all of us, do quite a lot of ceremonial oath-taking on many important occasions of life as an act of faith, a public testimony of honorable intention, and it is the mere truth that an oath binds only those persons who meant to keep their promises anyway, with or without an oath. The others cannot be touched or controlled in any such way. –Katherine Anne Porter My many family branches helped to make this country. My feeling about my country and its history is as tender and intimate as about my own parents, and I really suffer to have them violated by the irresponsible acts of cheap politicians who prey on public fears in times of trouble and force their betters into undignified positions. –Katherine Anne Porter

  8. 5 out of 5

    Larraine

    It took me a while to finish this book. I started it at the end of January this year and just finished it today, the 29th of March. It's an interesting book. I have a list of my favorite letters. One of my favorites is that letter that was featured in the first episode of The Civil War series that was on PBS, the letter from Sullivan Ballou to his wife, Sarah. It never fails to move me. This line always brings me to tears: "But Oh, Sarah! if the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen a It took me a while to finish this book. I started it at the end of January this year and just finished it today, the 29th of March. It's an interesting book. I have a list of my favorite letters. One of my favorites is that letter that was featured in the first episode of The Civil War series that was on PBS, the letter from Sullivan Ballou to his wife, Sarah. It never fails to move me. This line always brings me to tears: "But Oh, Sarah! if the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you..." He must have been quite a wonderful man. It's probably one of the most beautiful letters I've ever read. Sarah was, in many respects, a very lucky woman, although I'm sure she would have rather had her husband returned to her. Tragically he died not long after he sent the letter. There are a number of interesting letters including a letter from a woman to her birth mother and more. There are funny letters including one from Groucho Marx writing to complain that the studio that filmed Casablanca is trying to stop him from doing a Marx brothers version called "A Night In Casablanca." He was really a very smart and witty man. Some might disagree, but the Marx Brothers movies are full of wit, not just slapstick. He was also the host of "You Bet Your Life" which, for some reason, I watched faithfully as a very little girl. Obviously I understood something about it. I just remember he was funny. A letter to Eddie who died in Vietnam was left at the wall. That brought me to tears. This is really an excellent book. It was worth taking the time to read at my leisure. I took a lot of notes as well. I'll go back to it one of these days...hopefully!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ann Otto

    The subtitle is 'A Collection of Extraordinary American Letters', and it is. The book is arranged in themed sections instead of by date, and includes letters among famous individuals, and also common citizens, often writing to those individuals. Among the over 200 letters are Abraham Lincoln's humorous one to a friend about a lady he nearly married before Mary, and Martin Luther King's lengthy 1963 letter to Southern clergymen who were not supporting his approach to ending segregation. Any avid The subtitle is 'A Collection of Extraordinary American Letters', and it is. The book is arranged in themed sections instead of by date, and includes letters among famous individuals, and also common citizens, often writing to those individuals. Among the over 200 letters are Abraham Lincoln's humorous one to a friend about a lady he nearly married before Mary, and Martin Luther King's lengthy 1963 letter to Southern clergymen who were not supporting his approach to ending segregation. Any avid reader of history will learn much from these letters.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Amy VanGundy

    A fascinating collection of American letters, written by people of all walks of life: presidents, social movement leaders, authors, journalists, soldiers, mothers, fathers, friends, etc. My final thought was how sad it is that we don’t write letters much anymore. What will future generations be reading of ours? Our emails and texts?

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    I didn't have time to read all the letters as it's a longer book than I realized when I got it from the library. The letters I did read were quite interesting and gave a different perspective reading about history from a letter vs a textbook. I didn't have time to read all the letters as it's a longer book than I realized when I got it from the library. The letters I did read were quite interesting and gave a different perspective reading about history from a letter vs a textbook.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Oscar Lilley

    It took me 20 years and at least 3 attempts to read this book. I'm so glad I did. We are a diverse nation and we have a voice filled with wisdom when we take the time to look for it. This book brought me to tears more than once. A very fulfilling read. It took me 20 years and at least 3 attempts to read this book. I'm so glad I did. We are a diverse nation and we have a voice filled with wisdom when we take the time to look for it. This book brought me to tears more than once. A very fulfilling read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    A collection of letters written by Americans through history and for different reasons. Very interesting collection. If you like history, you will like it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lee Barry

    He should do diaries of a nation.

  15. 5 out of 5

    John

    Who would have thought that reading people's mail could be largely boring? There are some good letters, but a lot of dull ones. Who would have thought that reading people's mail could be largely boring? There are some good letters, but a lot of dull ones.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jada Randall

    Letters of a Nation, Andrew Carroll Letters of a Nation by Andrew Carroll is a book that most history lovers will enjoy. It focuses on 203 Famous Americans letters, and why the wrote them. The letters are broken down by time, era, and category. Some people could call this non-fiction novel but I’d refer to it as a historic novel. The begging letters are the letters of arrival, expansion, and exploration. John Winthrop, while on the Mayflower wrote a letter to his wife Margret back in England d Letters of a Nation, Andrew Carroll Letters of a Nation by Andrew Carroll is a book that most history lovers will enjoy. It focuses on 203 Famous Americans letters, and why the wrote them. The letters are broken down by time, era, and category. Some people could call this non-fiction novel but I’d refer to it as a historic novel. The begging letters are the letters of arrival, expansion, and exploration. John Winthrop, while on the Mayflower wrote a letter to his wife Margret back in England describing how the trip was “passing through hell to get to heaven.” The next section is titled Letters of a New Nation, James Madison wrote a letter to George Washington, describing what would happen at the creation of the declaration of independence, after the articles of confederation failed. The book also dedicated a chapter to the letters of slavery and the civil war, long after her death, Fredrick Douglass wrote a letter to his future grandchildren describing what a great person Harriet Tubman was, and how she was one of the greatest abolitionist. Letters of Humor was a great edition to the book, it featured the very humorous letter Elvis Presley wrote to President Richard Nixon, explaining to the president why he wanted to help the fight on drug use in America. I enjoyed reading this book because the letters were so emotionally appealing. I could understand why the author arranged them in the categories that he did. The books letters left me with a large range of emotions from stand to happy, even patriotic. If you like historic books, or books about letters the you should read this book. I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars because the information I learn was unbelievable, the authenticity of the letters made me want to keep reading. I do hope the author does another book containing more letters.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jason Logue

    This is a fantastic book that I'm sad I put off reading for so long. Mr. Carroll did an excellent job of collecting such a diverse selection of letters covering all of the American experience from the first puritans to rock stars; war veterans to conscientious objectors; feminists and civil rights leaders, and many others. I think we have a tendency to look at history as this vast sea of movements, institutions, revolutions, and themes, but this book provides incredibly personal and intimate loo This is a fantastic book that I'm sad I put off reading for so long. Mr. Carroll did an excellent job of collecting such a diverse selection of letters covering all of the American experience from the first puritans to rock stars; war veterans to conscientious objectors; feminists and civil rights leaders, and many others. I think we have a tendency to look at history as this vast sea of movements, institutions, revolutions, and themes, but this book provides incredibly personal and intimate look at all of these events. This is one of the books I honestly felt like I was Sam Beckett from Quantum Leap surfacing inside of each author of the letter as it is being written, empathizing and feeling the emotions they felt. And as I finished each letter, I found myself wanting to know more about the author and their motivations. Just a great book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Osterwisch

    My family used to cringe when every Fourth of July I pulled out this book and requested that each person select a letter to share with the family. Cringe, but occasionally they went along… It is a great way to generate conversations about who we are as a nation, where we've come from, how our collective identity was and continues to be formed by the diverse make-up of our citizens. It bears remembering, though, that to be included here one must have had an education, access to writing material, My family used to cringe when every Fourth of July I pulled out this book and requested that each person select a letter to share with the family. Cringe, but occasionally they went along… It is a great way to generate conversations about who we are as a nation, where we've come from, how our collective identity was and continues to be formed by the diverse make-up of our citizens. It bears remembering, though, that to be included here one must have had an education, access to writing material, and the foresight or good fortune to save correspondence. Because of this, not every type of voice is included. Although there are a number of letters from women and minorities, the majority are not. This point can also be a relevant topic for discussion.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    This is a wonderful collection of letters that I received for my high school graduation. They include some very famous letters, including the complete text of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail and General Sherman's letter to the people of Atlanta, to funny notes that but for a whim, might have been relegated to the dustbin of history, like Mark Twain's letter to the gas company complaining about their bad service, or a letter from Henry Truman to a local theater critic, c This is a wonderful collection of letters that I received for my high school graduation. They include some very famous letters, including the complete text of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail and General Sherman's letter to the people of Atlanta, to funny notes that but for a whim, might have been relegated to the dustbin of history, like Mark Twain's letter to the gas company complaining about their bad service, or a letter from Henry Truman to a local theater critic, condemning him for giving Truman's daughter's voice recital a bad review. Highly, highly recommended.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Doug

    Haven't finished it yet, but enjoying it very much. It's much like reading old newspapers and magazines......reading history as it happens, rather than from the point of view of knowing how everything turned out....they didn't know what would happen. It really puts events of today and how we look at them in perspective......finished. It is a wonderful book, interesting, funny, sad.....a good read. Haven't finished it yet, but enjoying it very much. It's much like reading old newspapers and magazines......reading history as it happens, rather than from the point of view of knowing how everything turned out....they didn't know what would happen. It really puts events of today and how we look at them in perspective......finished. It is a wonderful book, interesting, funny, sad.....a good read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mindy

    This is a collection of letters to and/or from Americans from the beginning of the nation until late in the 20th century. There are different themes throughout the book. The most entertaining section is the humor portion. Some of those letters are a riot!! This is a great primary source of information about the history of the United States.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    Very, very interesting. This has compiled letters from various individuals throughout history. Some are well-known people; others are strangers. There is everything from John Adams to Saddam Hussein to Bill Clinton. I highly recommend it, as it adds a whole new dimension to historical events and figures

  23. 5 out of 5

    Pete

    History at its finest. When you can visualise people and place them in the events of time, when you can glimpse what they were feeling in their hearts and minds, then you can glimpse history at its best. I still pick it up from time to time and read some of these stirring letters. My favourite is Nathaniel Hawthornes love letter to his wife, heart melting.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    The fact that it took me almost 4 weeks to finish is in no way an indication of this book's value. I learned more in these 400 pages than in any American History class. Ever. Real people, real words, real letters from the heart. Fascinating historical accounts and humorous, endearing love letters -- this book has them all. The fact that it took me almost 4 weeks to finish is in no way an indication of this book's value. I learned more in these 400 pages than in any American History class. Ever. Real people, real words, real letters from the heart. Fascinating historical accounts and humorous, endearing love letters -- this book has them all.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    If you like American history then this book is for you. The book is divided into five sections: arrival, expansion, and exploration; a new nation; slavery and the civil war; war; and social concern, struggle and contempt. Carroll has done intensive research which is evident throughout the book. Each page made me wish I'd decided on history as a major. This book is good for fun or gift. If you like American history then this book is for you. The book is divided into five sections: arrival, expansion, and exploration; a new nation; slavery and the civil war; war; and social concern, struggle and contempt. Carroll has done intensive research which is evident throughout the book. Each page made me wish I'd decided on history as a major. This book is good for fun or gift.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Graceann

    Andrew Carroll compiles some of the most moving letters ever written in this indispensable volume. I raced through it, not able to turn the pages quickly enough, then returned to my favorite letters in order to savor them. Highly recommended.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Just starting reading but it is an awesome anthology! I had heard a review of it on NPR years ago and had to have it in my own library! Excellent! One of those books you can pull off your shelf whenever you need an enjoyable, educational & often insightful read!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    I often pick this up when I'm most frustrated with the US/Western countries. The perspective is humbling and the foresight inspiring. I often pick this up when I'm most frustrated with the US/Western countries. The perspective is humbling and the foresight inspiring.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    I adore this book and can go back to it time and time again. This would make a perfect gift for someone who likes reading and enjoys history.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    the front cover of the original hardback says; "A collection of Extraordinary American letters," and that about covers it the front cover of the original hardback says; "A collection of Extraordinary American letters," and that about covers it

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