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Vanity of Duluoz: An Adventurous Education, 1935-46

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Originally subtitled "An Adventurous Education, 1935-1946," Vanity of Duluoz is a key volume in Jack Kerouac's lifework, the series of autobiographical novels he referred to as The Legend of Duluoz. With the same tender humor and intoxicating wordplay he brought to his masterpieces On the Road and The Dharma Bums, Kerouac takes his alter ego from the football fields of sma Originally subtitled "An Adventurous Education, 1935-1946," Vanity of Duluoz is a key volume in Jack Kerouac's lifework, the series of autobiographical novels he referred to as The Legend of Duluoz. With the same tender humor and intoxicating wordplay he brought to his masterpieces On the Road and The Dharma Bums, Kerouac takes his alter ego from the football fields of small-town New England to the playing fields and classrooms of Horace Mann and Columbia, out to sea on a merchant freighter plying the sub-infested waters of the North Atlantic during World War II, and back to New York, where his friends are the writers who would one day become known as the Beat generation and where he published his first novel. Written in 1967 from the vantage point of the psychedelic sixties, Vanity of Duluoz gives a fascinating portrait of the young Kerouac, dedicated and disciplined in his determination from an early age to be an important American writer.


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Originally subtitled "An Adventurous Education, 1935-1946," Vanity of Duluoz is a key volume in Jack Kerouac's lifework, the series of autobiographical novels he referred to as The Legend of Duluoz. With the same tender humor and intoxicating wordplay he brought to his masterpieces On the Road and The Dharma Bums, Kerouac takes his alter ego from the football fields of sma Originally subtitled "An Adventurous Education, 1935-1946," Vanity of Duluoz is a key volume in Jack Kerouac's lifework, the series of autobiographical novels he referred to as The Legend of Duluoz. With the same tender humor and intoxicating wordplay he brought to his masterpieces On the Road and The Dharma Bums, Kerouac takes his alter ego from the football fields of small-town New England to the playing fields and classrooms of Horace Mann and Columbia, out to sea on a merchant freighter plying the sub-infested waters of the North Atlantic during World War II, and back to New York, where his friends are the writers who would one day become known as the Beat generation and where he published his first novel. Written in 1967 from the vantage point of the psychedelic sixties, Vanity of Duluoz gives a fascinating portrait of the young Kerouac, dedicated and disciplined in his determination from an early age to be an important American writer.

30 review for Vanity of Duluoz: An Adventurous Education, 1935-46

  1. 4 out of 5

    Trevor Jones

    An old man writes of his younger days... Surprisingly to most people, this is my favorite Kerouac volume. I've probably read it at least four or five times now; I'm now deliberately spacing my readings out to where I can forget parts and revisit the ways it's made me felt. The big difference here with Vanity is that Kerouac's explosive writing from the late '40s onward was now at something of an impasse: by the mid-'60s, he had told most of his life story and was running out material. The arch of An old man writes of his younger days... Surprisingly to most people, this is my favorite Kerouac volume. I've probably read it at least four or five times now; I'm now deliberately spacing my readings out to where I can forget parts and revisit the ways it's made me felt. The big difference here with Vanity is that Kerouac's explosive writing from the late '40s onward was now at something of an impasse: by the mid-'60s, he had told most of his life story and was running out material. The arch of the entire "mythologization" stems from "On the Road" into "Dharma Bums" and begins to seriously crest and break with "Big Sur" (the most depressing): with "Vanity" he was able to go back to his days in high school (with little of the "Maggie Cassidy" stuff) and to his days just after the war when he started doing benzendrine and getting really "beat". The result, while nostalgic, has a definite joi de vivre, an element the later books tend to cloud over with alcoholic melancholy and "Buddhist/Catholic" lamentations. Instead, the adventures of young Kerouac breath new life into the beat myth once again for anyone who felt something with "On the Road": Horace Mann school, football at Columbia, his involvement with Lucien Carr's killing of David Kammerer, his family falling apart, his days and eventual discharge in the military on psychiatric grounds, and hanging around and eating steaks and ice cream and feeling the possibility of everything.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Cherie

    A- My first Kerouac My cousin was hitchhiking across the country. "He read Jack Kerouac's On the Road and now he is not wearing a coat but a blanket and thumbing," my aunt told my parents worriedly. "Can I go to the library?" I asked. "Why?" my mom responded. "I want to get a book by Jack Keriowac." "No, I am not taking you for that!" I rode my bike, found out how to spell Kerouac, and On the Road was not in--that's one of the most stolen books from libraries and bookstores. Instead, V of D was in. I A- My first Kerouac My cousin was hitchhiking across the country. "He read Jack Kerouac's On the Road and now he is not wearing a coat but a blanket and thumbing," my aunt told my parents worriedly. "Can I go to the library?" I asked. "Why?" my mom responded. "I want to get a book by Jack Keriowac." "No, I am not taking you for that!" I rode my bike, found out how to spell Kerouac, and On the Road was not in--that's one of the most stolen books from libraries and bookstores. Instead, V of D was in. I got it. Shortly after, I fell in love with another Beat fan. Kerouac glued us together. How could he not?

  3. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Santana

    Kerouac, the man, comes through with shining clarity in this final work. His voice so direct and sharp, it's like he's in the room with me, talking to me. I could imagine him half-drunk, composing these short rough chapters of memory. For fans of Kerouac, the angry, blunt, frank stories and observations in Vanity of Duluoz tumble forth like gifts from a lost world. Despite all his bitterness (and some rather silly football passages), the book rings with truths about our condition as people. It l Kerouac, the man, comes through with shining clarity in this final work. His voice so direct and sharp, it's like he's in the room with me, talking to me. I could imagine him half-drunk, composing these short rough chapters of memory. For fans of Kerouac, the angry, blunt, frank stories and observations in Vanity of Duluoz tumble forth like gifts from a lost world. Despite all his bitterness (and some rather silly football passages), the book rings with truths about our condition as people. It leaves me with an almost religious sense of continuity between generations, across time. Sweet, fucked up humanity. This book is almost as great as On The Road.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Aidaalkhufash

    I can't give Jack (Kerouac) less than 5 stars (even though I find myself being very confused while reading his works, for his -sometimes - too vague and abstract language - 'too' for me), simply because ever since I read 'On the Road', I've noticed that he somehow makes me see the beauty of the world, be aware of it, view it similarly as Jack's protagonists do. This doesn't mean 'copying' them, it means just being influenced and inspired by the words Kerouac said and wanted the world to know, if I can't give Jack (Kerouac) less than 5 stars (even though I find myself being very confused while reading his works, for his -sometimes - too vague and abstract language - 'too' for me), simply because ever since I read 'On the Road', I've noticed that he somehow makes me see the beauty of the world, be aware of it, view it similarly as Jack's protagonists do. This doesn't mean 'copying' them, it means just being influenced and inspired by the words Kerouac said and wanted the world to know, if for the sake of merely getting it out of himself or actually trying to say and teach others something, that I don't know, but for me the important things's that he ALWAYS has some kind of impact on me, smaller or bigger. And so when he made me feel like that once, that just sticks with me, and my admiration for his mind can be reflected in my ratings. Recently, thanks to him, I'm trying to be more specific in my speech, so I can convey my thoughts to words more accurately, thus avoiding, even to a small extent, confusion and misunderstanding. Also, he got me interested in American writers of the first half of the 20th century.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Reid

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I'm "hiding" this cuz I'm just gonna mention some of the bits I thought were interesting. Don’t read this review if you want to read the novel. (This book covers many of the same years and incidents in The Town and the City, which I enjoyed much more.) - His bitterness is the best part of this book, and was surprising to me. The opening cracked me up, partly due to the angry tone, partly because he's feeling sorry for himself! "All right, wifey, maybe I'm a big pain in the you-know-what but after I'm "hiding" this cuz I'm just gonna mention some of the bits I thought were interesting. Don’t read this review if you want to read the novel. (This book covers many of the same years and incidents in The Town and the City, which I enjoyed much more.) - His bitterness is the best part of this book, and was surprising to me. The opening cracked me up, partly due to the angry tone, partly because he's feeling sorry for himself! "All right, wifey, maybe I'm a big pain in the you-know-what but after I've given you a recitation of the troubles I had to go through to make good in America... my particular form of anguish came from being too sensitive to all the lunkheads I had to deal with... washing dishes and scrimmaging till dark and reading Homer's Iliad in three days..." Poor Jack. : ( - He says a few times that "success" (his ironic quotes) is vanity, and, “You kill yourself to get to the grave. Especially you kill yourself to get to grave before you even die, and the name of that grave is “success,” the name of that grave is hullaballoo boomboom horseshit.” - There’s a somewhat touching scene where a boy introduces himself to Jack because he admires what he's heard about him from several mutual friends and wants to converse about literature, etc. This is his Greek friend "Savakis" (I forget his real name at the moment). "Do you read Saroyan? he says. Thomas Wolfe?" "No, who are they?" - There are a couple of scenes of his father’s spirit and participation in Jack’s life, his admiration for Jack, and how Pa joined Jack to dive into a swimming hole three feet deep, and also take a road trip with him to Columbia. - How his older sister taught him “Emily Post” table manners over three years, which came in handy when dining with the Dean at Columbia, who was so impressed that he praised Jack in a letter to Jack’s mother - “She never forgot that.” - How a “great” ex-pro football running back challenged Jack (still a Horace Mann teenage football player) to a race, to encourage the kid: “So you’re the great Dulouse that ran so good at Rutgers. Let’s see how fast you can go.” “What do you mean?” “I’ll race you to the showers...” “ ‘Okay,’ says I and I take off like a little bird. By God I’ve got him by 5 yards as we head for the sidelines...” - Jack stargazing “for the first time in my life... I stared and stared until they stared back at me.” - There are more scenes of his pessimism - he turns bitter and angry again toward the end. A large middle portion of this book just seemed like recitation, without emotion or spirit, and there are many silly sentences (not at all like in the On the Road Scroll) throughout that were not artful or artistic. The best emotional scene, of just a few, was when his family secured a home near the sea and Jack walked directly into the waves, with mixed thoughts of memory, appreciation, and despair, reminding me of a certain Truffaut movie. Hm, I might could rate this 3 instead of 2. It’s just that the middle 150 pages was not very interesting to me. That’s a large proportion of a 280 page book. Why did he cover the same ground as TTaTC? To add it to his Duluoz saga I guess, and express his end of life bitterness, disappointment, and some guilt - partly because he “had goofed throughout entire wartime and this is my confession.”

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mel

    After reading On the Road last month I decided I needed to read everything that Kerouac wrote. This was the next thing I was able to find by him. It was listed as the book about "football, war and murder" and while I'm no big fan of football I figured what the hell and decided to read it anyway. It was written 15 years after On the Road and covers most of Kerouac's life up to that point. He's definitely an older and more bitter writer but he still writes very well and I found I did enjoy it a gr After reading On the Road last month I decided I needed to read everything that Kerouac wrote. This was the next thing I was able to find by him. It was listed as the book about "football, war and murder" and while I'm no big fan of football I figured what the hell and decided to read it anyway. It was written 15 years after On the Road and covers most of Kerouac's life up to that point. He's definitely an older and more bitter writer but he still writes very well and I found I did enjoy it a great deal, though I also did skip through most of the football parts! I felt it was a bit too choppy in places, he seemed to be skimming through his descriptions and all the scenes were too short. I felt like it did get much better once the beats showed up and enjoyed the last third the most, and not just because there was a murder. I have to say the politics around the murder were kind of terrifying. The justice system's whole argument seemed to be, well if a queer hits on you and you ain't queer it's totally acceptable to kill him if he tries it on. Rather terrifying, I think it did come across in the book though that it wasn't because he was a queer but because he was crazy and unstable that he was killed. I did enjoy it, and I'm looking forward to finding more Kerouac in the library and reading that too!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Distress Strauss

    Having written up Exley's Fan's Notes, I thought I'd add another book I'd consider more heroic than successful. I believe this was the last novel Kerouac published during his lifetime, and he had drunk much of his talent away, as well as turned his back on the counterculture that he did much to inspire. Yet his entire sense of self is based in the fact that he's a writer, so he pushes on, delving into archives and memory, dredging up his years at Columbia and the Lucien Carr/David Kammerer stabb Having written up Exley's Fan's Notes, I thought I'd add another book I'd consider more heroic than successful. I believe this was the last novel Kerouac published during his lifetime, and he had drunk much of his talent away, as well as turned his back on the counterculture that he did much to inspire. Yet his entire sense of self is based in the fact that he's a writer, so he pushes on, delving into archives and memory, dredging up his years at Columbia and the Lucien Carr/David Kammerer stabbing (possibly cribbed from And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks?), willing a book into being. It's very moving and, despite its flaws, there's some great stuff in here.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    This book picks up significantly after getting through the play-by-play football game breakdowns. Kerouac's time on different navy ships during WWII is very interesting, and of course the introduction of the other Beats into his world. Quite a charming book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    So much more about American football than I remember from my first read, perhaps because I now understand what he is talking about!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jason Hillenburg

    A painful, bitter account of Kerouac's early years in New York City. Unlike some of Kerouac's work where things don't quite snap into place unless you know the principles behind his gallery of fictional stand-ins, Vanity of Duluoz overcomes that deficiency through the sheer power of Kerouac's garrelous, weary voice. Written near the end of his life as he slipped into the final stages of alcoholism, the book is better than it has any right to be.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Drew

    This was pretty good. Tells of Jack's footballing years, how it wasn't in the cards, and what he did shortly after giving up his footballing dreams. Good for some pretty beat lines interspersed.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nfpendleton

    This is the bitter old Jack, gone all nostalgic. My personal favorite. "Go droppeth a turd," indeed.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    Boring and uninspired. Not the Kerouac I know or love.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Eric Jordan

    I read this 17 years back. Enjoyed it way more this time around. I am 46 now, about Kerouac's age when he wrote it in 1967. It is definitely written to entertain the reader; I laughed throughout. William S. Burroughs once told Kerouac "You really are very funny Jack." And, Kerouac draws on that talent much more in this than I remember from his other works (besides his poems). I lucked into listening to: 'And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks' by Burroughs/Kerouac, 'Junky' by Burroughs, and starte I read this 17 years back. Enjoyed it way more this time around. I am 46 now, about Kerouac's age when he wrote it in 1967. It is definitely written to entertain the reader; I laughed throughout. William S. Burroughs once told Kerouac "You really are very funny Jack." And, Kerouac draws on that talent much more in this than I remember from his other works (besides his poems). I lucked into listening to: 'And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks' by Burroughs/Kerouac, 'Junky' by Burroughs, and started listening to 'The Sea is My Brother' by Kerouac (hoopla app via library), all at the same time. These books all cover material from the same time periods. So, I was able to see a lot of overlap. Especially with the Carr/Kammerer murder the 'Hippos' book centers around, and that the 'Vanity' book focuses about 20% on. Yet, Junky also shows Burroughs just after returning to N.Y. following the murder. And, 'The Sea' book was written during Kerouac's voyaging of the same time period. I felt like I was taking a class in this 'beat' period. At the least, I recommend reading/listening to 'Vanity' and 'Hippos' together. 'Hippos' alternates between Burroughs' and Kerouac's writing (chapter by chapter). 'Hippos' gives you a taste for Burroughs' writing in 'Junky', which follows it (also a heavy drug period for Kerouac, taking benzedrine, while living with Burroughs for part of that time). Kerouac really opens himself up in 'Vanity of Duluoz', showing not only his actions and thoughts, yet also his opinions on: politics, death, and other friends/figures of the time. While this book may not have the ground breaking stuff that made his other works hits, it greatly makes up for it with maturity and wit. Kerouac seems to be done proving himself to anybody, and is just being who he is at this stage of his life, take it or leave it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    A

    If you're interested in The Duluoz Legend, this is the place to start. This covers what is probably the most pivotal time in Kerouac's life. It covers most of the events that are most famous in his life, it introduces many of the most essential characters who will appear in almost every novel that takes place after this (the big exception is he hadn't met Neal Cassady yet,) and it tell about how he became an author and created the Duluoz series itself. There are a lot of back-and-forth perspecti If you're interested in The Duluoz Legend, this is the place to start. This covers what is probably the most pivotal time in Kerouac's life. It covers most of the events that are most famous in his life, it introduces many of the most essential characters who will appear in almost every novel that takes place after this (the big exception is he hadn't met Neal Cassady yet,) and it tell about how he became an author and created the Duluoz series itself. There are a lot of back-and-forth perspectives where he breaks the 4th wall and shifts back and forth between fiction and real life describing the fiction. To me, this is one of the fastest moving and, you might say, action packed books he ever wrote. Everything is essential and there is a lot less of the "bop prosidy" stream of consciousness that many people have trouble with. If anyone is interested in the overall Duluoz Legend but not sure if they want to read the whole thing, I would recommend starting with this book, then read, in order- "On the Road", "Dharma Bums", "Big Sur". That will give you a really good feel for the feel and arc of the series, after which you can expand out and fill in the blanks.

  16. 5 out of 5

    David Rullo

    There are two classifications for Jack Kerouac's novels, journals, poetry, etc.--the very good and the very bad. Generally speaking, most of the early novels are masterpieces. These include On The Road, The Dharma Bums, The Subterraneans, and Desolation Angels. The bad are those later works written in the full grips of alcoholism when Kerouac was convinced of his own genius and no longer interested in having his work edited. He was no longer interested in critical analysis of his manuscripts. So There are two classifications for Jack Kerouac's novels, journals, poetry, etc.--the very good and the very bad. Generally speaking, most of the early novels are masterpieces. These include On The Road, The Dharma Bums, The Subterraneans, and Desolation Angels. The bad are those later works written in the full grips of alcoholism when Kerouac was convinced of his own genius and no longer interested in having his work edited. He was no longer interested in critical analysis of his manuscripts. Some of these works include Visions of Gerard, Maggie Cassidy, and the Vanity of Duluoz. It pains me to write this but Vanity of Duluoz is nearly unreadable. I like the idea of the novel but it is filled with bitterness and poor sentence structure. Convinced of his own genius Kerouac writes as if daring you to hate his writing. When you don't, you can hear him complain that you don't get it, that he's the not the man that wrote On the Road and that the liberal literati don't get him. There are many, many great pieces of writing by Kerouac. This is not one of them.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bertie

    Honest, raw, truthful. This book is Jack not trying to be clever like Dr Sax. Not trying to be a classic like On The Road. Not trying to be anything really other than what it is - a book about Jack's young life with all the quirkiness of his prose (without the 'dashes'). Although a lot of the story covers the same plot from The Town and the City, it's still interesting to find out what parts are true... The football part I found a little tedious considering I have no interest in American footbal Honest, raw, truthful. This book is Jack not trying to be clever like Dr Sax. Not trying to be a classic like On The Road. Not trying to be anything really other than what it is - a book about Jack's young life with all the quirkiness of his prose (without the 'dashes'). Although a lot of the story covers the same plot from The Town and the City, it's still interesting to find out what parts are true... The football part I found a little tedious considering I have no interest in American football and I'm English. To counter that though I really enjoyed the part were Kerouac actually travels to England AND dodges attacks from the German Luftwaffe... Won't say too much. All in all a very enjoyable read especially if like me you are a Kerouac fan to begin with and interested in his life.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Really the last of Kerouac's books, which takes a look back at his football youth in Lowell, his time at Columbia and in the Merchant Marines and with a detour into his life with Burroughs and helping Lucian Carr dispose of a murderous Boy Scout knife on 125th Street. This is an older, slightly more jaded Kerouac, but one who is still capable of pushing forth passages of such ecstatic memory that you will almost miss your subway stop, even in the middle of a pandemic. “Did I come into this world Really the last of Kerouac's books, which takes a look back at his football youth in Lowell, his time at Columbia and in the Merchant Marines and with a detour into his life with Burroughs and helping Lucian Carr dispose of a murderous Boy Scout knife on 125th Street. This is an older, slightly more jaded Kerouac, but one who is still capable of pushing forth passages of such ecstatic memory that you will almost miss your subway stop, even in the middle of a pandemic. “Did I come into this world thru the womb of my mother the earth just so I could talk and write like everybody else?”

  19. 4 out of 5

    Duncan McCurdie

    Kerouac's greatest hits, but written from a more mature and nostalgic viewpoint. It actually reads as a pretty straight autobiography albeit with the usual Kerouac exaggeration and name changes. Less annoying than most Kerouac but maybe less interesting...

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brendan

    Written from the perspective of an aging, jaded Kerouac, this retelling of pivotal years in his life does not have much of the poetic beauty of Visions of Gerard or Maggie Cassidy. Nonetheless, it is a beautiful, engaging work, perhaps my favorite in the Duluoz Legend.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Fletcher

    one of his best

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bradley Mullins

    O Jack!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Isaac

    I would argue it's better to read the whole of the Town & the City, but if you're not up it this is a worthwhile shorter version. I would argue it's better to read the whole of the Town & the City, but if you're not up it this is a worthwhile shorter version.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    A good read, mostly recycled material from his previous works but in the last two chapters there's some new stuff.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Christina M Rau

    I FINALLY FINISHED!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Niclas

    A nice read. It felt strangely familiar to revisit Kerouac's Lowell and New York. Almost as if I'd lived there myself some time ago.

  27. 4 out of 5

    David Russomano

    This is an interesting counterpoint to a few of kerouacs other books but not a great book in and of itself.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kameron Nettleton

    2 stars because the parts about his football career were interesting, but otherwise, yeesh. Vanity is a good word for this one. Maybe I'm just not beatnik enough.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    A classic for the first half, to be sure, particularly when sharing tales out of Lowell, the gridiron, and Columbia University.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mowey Godoyzki

    "Everybody who comes from New Orleans in that group is marked with tragedy." i remember the fever of youth in Jack Kerouac. i remember the carelessness of college days. the hormones acting up and us saying, hey we're so much better than that. i remember breaking out of the box and letting the inner kid in us rule. our endless wanderings. our proclivities to art. our love for reading books. i remember shouting at the top of my lungs when me and my friends get drunk. or eating chocolate sundae fud "Everybody who comes from New Orleans in that group is marked with tragedy." i remember the fever of youth in Jack Kerouac. i remember the carelessness of college days. the hormones acting up and us saying, hey we're so much better than that. i remember breaking out of the box and letting the inner kid in us rule. our endless wanderings. our proclivities to art. our love for reading books. i remember shouting at the top of my lungs when me and my friends get drunk. or eating chocolate sundae fudge on free days. also, i remember our failings and our darknesses as eighteen, nineteen year-olds. this autobiography takes us back to our own youth. it lays out a nostalgic look of our faraway boyhood dreams. what i like about Jack Kerouac is his soul. this total reckless hobo punk who never gave a flying fuck. On The Road is just one colorful fragment of Jack Kerouac's mad life, his endless and inspirational hitch hiking across his beloved America. Vanity Of Duluoz however encapsulates the whole coming of age and relentless badassery of his early adult life. his rise to stardom and ironically, boredom as a football superstar in Columbia University until he suffered this 'void' which made him enlist as a marine and did all this absurdity on board The Dorschester amidst the severity of World War II. until he went back to New York city and the blossoming era of the beat generation. here he was an integral part of a hip clique, with all its energy directed at being recklessly free and intelligent and individualistic. it was also the perfect time to pursue his passion and give up 'rock-ribbing football to turn to Wolfean novels'. and then the drawbacks of freedom and wild abandonment, when all of his friends were caught up in sex and drugs, took its toll as Jack 'Duluoz' Kerouac was involved in the Lucien Carr-David Kammerer murder case which was wildly founded on homosexuality. in so many levels, this is a hipster book with deep philosophy buried in it. it's got everything. verve. hype. soul. heart.

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