Aug 15

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

Megan Hunter’s very slim novel (it’s really a novelette, but who’s counting) The End We Start From beautifully marries together a world-wide environmental collapse with the difficulties of giving birth and rearing children when the normal support mechanisms no longer exist.

Hunter’s prose is poetic but sparse. Characters are not given names, just initials. Tonally it has an almost detached quality. And yet somehow the book manages to be a powerful reading experience. Partly this is because it is so short, it would have been difficult to sustain this style for longer than the 17,000 words that comprise the book. And partly Hunter’s careful attention to word choice (I can’t provide a specific example because I left my hard-copy… yes I READ A HARD COPY!… at home, but trust me) which brilliantly intertwines a mother’s sense of uncertainty and fear with her complete devotion to her child born into a world that has abruptly changed forever.

While we can read this book as a commentary on the environmental crisis that we all face, and how it will affect those who lack agency, our protagonist’s journey can easily be overlaid against the current refugees crisis in Syria and other parts of the world less talked about. This book reminds us that becoming a refugee is not a lifestyle choice but something imposed by forces outside of most people’s control. The fact that we turn mother’s and children away or lock them up in detention centers is a disgrace.

As a book about motherhood it’s interesting to compare The End We Start From with Cormac McCarthy’s The Road which is about fatherhood and has a much bleaker outlook. Could motherhood have an inherent quality of hope that fatherhood lacks? Or is that just a whole load of gender essentialist clap-trap? I’m probably not the person to best answer that but it’s refreshing to have motherhood so front and centre in a sub-genre (the dystopian, the post-apocalyptic) that generally doesn’t give this stage of life much consideration.

I highly recommend The End We Start From. I also highly recommend buying the hardcopy, beautifully packaged by Picador.

Aug 14

The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch

Lidia Yuknavitch’s post apocalyptic novel The Book of Joan opens on an orbital platform known as CIEL floating above a mostly radioactive Earth. The event that devastated the planet also fucked with humanities morphology leaving people pale, hairless and without sex. Christine is one of these people, and like the thousands of other survivors who escaped to CIEL, her* life is monitored and regulated by the insane Jean de Men and his followers. Christine, though, doesn’t take well to subservience and in an act of rebellion has started grafting her story and the story of Joan on her skin. It’s an account she hopes to share to others on CIEL. Who was Joan? Well she was the “child-warrior” who fought a final, epic and apocalyptic battle against Jean de Men’s forces. The very battle that destroyed the majority of life on Earth…

The Book of Joan is at its best when it’s exploring Christine’s world up on the orbital platform, in particular the desire to be loved and take part in the act of love even if the appropriate equipment is missing. That last bit in particular is a major taboo on CIEL where –

 

Chief among the CIEL offenses are any acts resembling the act of sex, the idea of sex, the physical indicators of sexuality. All sex is restricted to textual, and all texts are grafts. Our bodies are meant to be read and consumed, debated, exchanged, or transformed only cerebrally. Any version of the act itself is an affront to social order, not to mention a brutal reminder of our impotency as a nonprocreating group.

When Christine and her loved-one, Trinculo, are caught in the process of simulating copulation, the authorities jail them and hand Trinculo a death sentence. This sparks Christine to push forward with her rebellion, bringing on others to share the story of Joan through etched words on their skin. It’s angry, powerful stuff and if the whole novel had been about this, had been focused entirely on Christine’s rebellion, her resurrection of a dead hero through skin and story, her embrace of sex and sexuality I’d have been a happy reader. But the introduction of Joan and particularly the over the top grotesqueries of Jean de Men interrupt the flow.

Joan’s back story is interesting enough, but when it’s revealed that she escaped her own death sentence and is scrabbling a life with her paramour (and bodyguard) Leone on what remains of Earth, the narrative becomes less interesting. Partly it’s because I found it hard to feel sorry for a woman who burnt the entire planet – whatever the motivation – and partly it’s that Joan never felt like an actual person but rather a plot device, bestowed magic gifts at a young age that are employed when required by the plot. Finally, though, with our actual planet on an environmental precipice, one that’s going to require a shitload of work from responsible Governments and citizens, the idea that a single person has the power to replenish the Earth – once she can get over her guilt and angst – felt like wish fulfillment and right now I’m not the audience for that sort of handwavium.

What also undermines Christine’s story are the monstrous machinations of Jean de Men. I don’t mind some gore with a grand guignol flair, but de Men is so unbelievable, trying to rear his own race of humans by literally cutting people open so he can recreate a vagina and reproductive system, it’s hard not to laugh (and be repulsed, Yuknavitch doesn’t shy away from being graphic).

The Book of Joan has lofty ambitions. It has profound things to say about love, gender, sex, and renewal. But I never found myself on Yuknavitch’s wavelength, confused and bewildered by a wish fulfillment heroine and a villain who’d have been more believable if he’d actually twirled his mustache.

* I should note that although sexless Christine identifies as female.

Aug 10

Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane

Since We Fell is not one of Dennis Lehane’s better novels. Like all his work it’s compulsively readable, there was never a point when I didn’t want to turn the page. But it’s most certainly a novel of two halves, where the first half, tonally and in terms of content, exists in a separate reality to the rest of the novel.

The plot goes something like this. Rachel is a broadcast journalist who is sent to Haiti following the countries catastrophic earthquake in 2010. Embedded in the country Rachel witnesses anarchy and lawlessness where women and young girls are prey to marauding men. At one point Rachel tries to intervene which doesn’t end well for the Haitian girl she was hoping to save. On return to America – reluctantly I might add – she finds herself on the outer with her network and then out of a job when she has a mental breakdown on-air. Rachel becomes a shut-in, frightened to venture out of her house. And while her husband, Brian, is loving and sympathetic Rachel is even beginning to doubt whether he can be trusted.

The first half dealing with Rachel’s search for her biological father (a subplot that loses steam at the halfway mark), her evolution as a journalist, her experience in Haiti and her eventual breakdown is fantastic stuff. Lehane’s depiction of Rachel, her refusal to ignore or just observe injustice and her post traumatic stress, is believable and sympathetic. He also nails the experience of suffering a panic attack*:

It started with a tickle in the center of her chest. The tickle quickly became a piston. Her mouth would turn Saharan. The piston would transform into the sparrow, imprisoned and panicked. It would flap its wings – whomph, whomph, whomph, whomph – in the hollowed-out core of her, and sweat would sluice down the sides of her neck and pop on her forehead. Breathing would feel like a luxury with an expiration date.

That first half is so good that my mental Goodreads – as distinct from the one on the interwebs – had penciled in Since We Fell for a five-star rating. But as the second half kicks into gear what was a story about a woman dealing with PTSD becomes a convoluted pot boiler involving a dead husband and a gold mine in Papua New Guinea. To be fair Brian’s death comes as no surprise, given Rachel shoots him on the first page of the book (in one of those annoying prologues that foreshadows events to come). I should have been tipped off** that shenanigans would, eventually, ensue, but I was so caught up in Rachel’s story that I trusted Lehane to integrate this moment of violence seamlessly into her character arc. Not so much. Rachel goes from a strong woman dealing as best she can with significant mental health issue to a noir heroine running away from psychotic bad-guys as she tries to piece together what’s going on. Lehane makes an attempt to marry together these two Rachel’s with on-the-nose memories of the girl killed in Haiti and the awful sentiment that spying on her husband and escaping from gun wielding killers has cured her of her PTSD (or at least her agoraphobia). It falls flatter than a poorly baked soufflé.

Reading Since We Fell makes me wonder whether Lehane believed he couldn’t get away with a serious novel about PTSD, that to meet the needs of his fans he had to inject some noir into the narrative. This does feel like a book that doesn’t have the full courage of its convictions, which – as a long time devotee of Lehane’s work – is something I never expected to say about one of his books.

* Based on my experience, obviously.

** Having now looked at the cover that should have been a tip-off as well.

Aug 08

Borne by Jeff Vandermeer

There are very few writers who could pull off a short-story – let alone a novel – that features a three-storey flying bear with a rapacious appetite for human flesh. Unfortunately Jeff Vandermeer isn’t one of them. Kidding. Of course he bloody well is. This is a man with an imagination so fertile, so fecund, it’s a miracle his brain hasn’t sprouted an apple tree.

With Borne, Vandermeer applies his prodigious faculty for creativity to the post-apocalypse genre. In a nameless and ruined city we are told by Rachel, our first person protagonist, that the bear, his name is Mord, is a product of genetic experimentation conducted by an organisation known only as the Company. Mord was never meant to be that tall or destructive, but now he essentially rules what’s left of the city and the Company headquarters. Rachel is a scavenger who follows Mord not because she has a death wish but because when he’s on the move, rampaging through the ruins, he often leaves behind bits of Company bio-tech. Rachel shares this valuable detritus with her boyfriend Wick who once worked for the Company and now spends his time mixing up a brew of choice narcotics that, when ingested (or stuck in your ear) make you forget your past or, better, yet, how fucked up things truly are. It’s on one of these scavenger hunts that Rachel plucks a green lump of matter from Mord’s fur. Clearly alive – it hums and abruptly transitions from sea anemone to squid to something else entirely – she names it Borne. When she brings her discovery back to Wick he wants to dissect it. Rachel stops him, she’s attracted to Borne’s oddness, the sense that it might do more than just ripple its flesh and change shape. She’s proven correct because over a short period Borne begins to grow and evolve, quickly learning how to communicate.

As Borne develops, as it becomes more intrigued with its environment, Rachel finds herself acting as both mother and teacher. Educator and nurturer. At one point she observes that:

“Borne was always trying to be a person because I wanted him to be one, because he thought that was right. We all just want to be people, and none of us know what that really means.”

The use of the word “person” rather than “human” is, in my view, deliberate. When we talk about the question of what it is to be human, especially in a science fictional context, it’s often a discussion as to whether a robot or piece of software is sentient and self-aware. There’s an element of that inquiry in Borne but what’s more important, at least from Rachel’s point of view, is whether Borne has the capacity to be a moral and responsible being. While Rachel suggests that defining personhood isn’t clear-cut she does have her own personal frame-work and as Borne presents as a blank slate she initially believes she can mould its personality. But then Borne’s nature kicks in (I’m making an effort to avoid spoilers) and Rachel has to reconsider her own sense of morality. It’s complicated and difficult with Vandermeer refusing to provide a straight-forward answer. Yet the novel’s gonzo climax (again no spoilers) does suggest that nature vs nurture aside, love – giving it and receiving it – is a critical part of what it is to be a person.

As vibrant and insane as it is – and there are moments that are laugh out loud funny for their sheer audaciousness – Borne is a novel that considers the question of humanity and personhood with a great deal of heart and compassion. And love.

Aug 07

The Silent Invasion by James Bradley

James Bradley is a mate so it’s certainly possible that my thoughts about The Silent Invasion are biased. Except I know that’s not the case. I didn’t love the book because James wrote it, I loved the book because it’s an intense, exciting and politically aware young adult novel about the possible end of the world – at least as we know it.

Set in the near future the human race is facing extinction as large swathes of both humans and animals have been infected by spores from space. Once infected the human, or animal, goes through a change, one that… well, it’s not made clear, at least in this book, what the end-state is, but the suggestion is that they become part of a hive-mind, an alien intelligence. When our protagonist, Callie, discovers that her sister, Gracie, has been infected by the spores she decides that she’d rather run away with Gracie than have her taken away (and probably killed and dissected) by the authorities. Their destination is the Zone, a quarantined place that has been subsumed (we believe) by the spores.

Generally, flee-capture-escape-flee type narratives bore me to tears. Bradley gets away with it partly because The Silent Invasion is a short novel, which mitigates the possibility for boredom – Bradley maintains the tension from go to woe and it’s no certain bet that any of our heroes will survive – and partly because Bradley regularly injects a dose of world-building and politics throughout the proceedings. Some of that world-building has to do with the nature of the spores and how they infect humans, but much of it has to do with changes to society, how this invasion – bereft of the usual Hollywood pyrotechnics – has made us suspicious and fearful of the people we love and specifically those from outside the community. And while it’s made clear that there’s a good reason to be afraid – these spores are transforming everything they touch – the response from the authorities, mostly supported by the populace, is to become insular, close ranks, establish rules that undermine basic freedoms rather than attempt to comprehend what’s going on. This death of wonder and discovery, replaced by panic and anxiety, is beautifully outlined by Callie in one of the books rare quieter moments:

“Sometime deep in the night the moon rose, and for a time I lay staring up at it and the great girdle of the Milky Way. Its brightness stretched from horizon to horizon, and I imagined myself falling upwards, leaving all of this behind and losing myself in its light. Once we had dreamed of travelling to the stars, of becoming explorers; now we scrabbled and fought to survive. What else lay out there, I found myself wondering. Were there other worlds, other possibilities? Or was this all there was, this chaos and fear and sense we were running from something we could not outrun? At some point I realised I was crying; surprised at myself, I tried to wipe my face, but the tears kept coming.”

We might not be facing civilisation ending spores, but that same sense of the inevitable – whether it be climate change, the rise of isolationism and the alt-right or a move away from science and rationality – has me often considering whether we’ve already lost. That’s a depressing note to end this review on, but then Bradley doesn’t sugar coat. This is young adult fiction that’s astutely honest about the world we live in. Roll on book two.

Jul 20

Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

It’s astonishing how much detail, plot and character development Vivek Shanbhag packs into his novella Ghachar Ghochar. Published for the first time in English and beautifully translated from Kannada by Srinath Perur, the book is an epic family saga told in less than 30,000 words. On the surface it’s a rags to riches tales as a family just surviving in the suburbs of Bangalore suddenly comes into money after one of the brothers establishes a successful spice company. Almost overnight they go from an ant-infested shack – as aptly described in the blurb – to a mansion which they fill with all sorts of mismatched, but expensive, furniture. This whip-lash transition from poverty to wealth leads our narrator – the younger son – to observe:

It’s true what they say—it’s not we who control money, it’s the money that controls us. When there’s only a little, it behaves meekly; when it grows, it becomes brash and has its way with us.

Dig a little deeper and the book is a meditation on self worth. For the younger son, who has never had much in the sense of ambition or lofty dreams, this influx of cash is both a blessing – he can sleep in and wallow in his laziness – and a curse – when he marries his wife, Anita, she expects him to get up and go to work. Our narrator is therefore required to face his own sense of value, a difficult proposition when his family questions his purpose. When they were poor he at least could help in the slaughtering of ants that were overwhelming the house. Our narrator, therefore, looks for self worth in his relationship with his wife. The day he gets married to Anita is filled with anticipation, excitement and lust. And yet what becomes clear is that our narrator isn’t just in it for the sex, though that’s certainly appreciated. What he’s looking for, what he desires, what he feels will give his life meaning is having someone outside his family who loves him unreservedly. In one of the many moments of reflection afforded to our narrator, Shanbhag expresses this in the most gorgeous, eloquent prose:

A woman I didn’t know had chosen to accept me, in body and mind. Perhaps it is this instant that forms the basis of traditional marriage—a complete stranger is suddenly mine. And then, I am hers, too; I must offer her my all. I want her to wield her power over me as an acknowledgment of my love. The rush of these feelings all at once is too much to describe. Language communicates in terms of what is already known; it chokes up when asked to deal with the entirely unprecedented. Similar feelings must have welled up in her, too. Her face was buried in my chest. Her arms tightened around me. I could feel the bangles on her arms pressing into my back. Through touch, through the giving, yielding closeness of our embrace, this unknown woman began to be known to me. I’ve often longed for a comparable experience, but there seems to be none. That sense of strangeness, surrender, dependence, compassion, entitlement, and a hundred other sentiments bundled together cannot possibly be relived. I held her tighter still, then relaxed. I raised her face and through her lips gained my first taste of her world.

I don’t want to spoil the novella, but suffice it to say that our narrator discovers that closeness and intimacy is not enough. At least not for his wife who, above anyone else in the book, understands that wealth is a means, not an end.

The near universal praise afforded to this novella by critics is deserved. Assuming its eligible – sometimes it can be difficult to tell with translated works – I’d be stunned if Ghachar Ghochar is not at least long-listed for the National Book Award and next year’s Man Booker International Prize.

Jul 19

New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

While Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140 could have done with a haircut – to the worth of 30,000 or so words – that doesn’t change the fact that it’s both enormously entertaining and has something to say.

Set in a partly flooded Manhattan, with flashbacks to the boroughs of New York, KSR tells a story of climate change and adaptability and resilience where the global market (capitalism) is the villain and the people take a stand against corporate greed. It’s told through the varied perspectives of 10 characters including a tough, female cop, two hackers, a rakish hedge fund manager, a grouchy citizen(s), the font of all knowledge, and two precocious and mostly homeless waifs who get up to all sorts of mischief. And it’s this variety of voice that is both the book’s great strength and it’s weakness. Because as the stories of each character begin to intertwine – whether coincidence or fate they mostly all reside in the same building – there’s a great deal of repetition. Also as the plot heats up, as certain characters grow in importance, the compulsion to keep telling the story from each perspective means that people like Amelia – a documentarian and YouTube star – are given greater exposure than what’s probably warranted by the plot. But all that aside, I appreciated the novel’s structure, how it brings out KSR’s playful, experimental side.

While KSR doesn’t flinch from the tragedy that will be wrought from the affects of climate change – his almost technical description of how flooding across the world comes about is fascinating and terrifying and sadly less a cautionary tale and more a probabilistic model of what’s going to happen – the novels overall tone of optimism is actually a breath fresh air in a market saturated with books where global warming has us living in caves and murdering each other for resources. If there’s a sour note, it’s that implicit in the novel’s philosophy is that true social and economic change can only happen after the shit hits the fan (although I’m sure KSR is hoping we come to our senses before then). Having said that it’s good to read a novel that wears its politics on its sleeves and actually proposes – whether practical, possible or not – an alternative to the status quo.

Yes New York 2140 didn’t need to be as long as it is, but it’s size shouldn’t get in the way of its importance, of the optimistic and political message it screams out to anyone who might be listening. The sort of novel that you hope transcends the echo chamber of like-minded people.

Jul 10

Swimmer Among The Stars by Kanishk Tharoor

Swimmer Among The Stars by Kanishk Tharoor is a very strong and erudite collection of short fiction.

There’s a real sense of range and diversity to the stories that feature in the book. A piece recounting the final days of a city on the cusp of being razed to the ground by the khan’s armies is coupled with a lovely story about an elephant sent from India to Morocco to please a princess. There’s a very funny piece about that time the United Nations found itself in space and there’s a fascinating and exciting retelling of the Alexander Romance, apocryphal tales about Alexander The Great. It’s a collection that mixes a deep interest in language and history with science fiction and mythology. And just to top it all off the final story, which came close to being my favourite, uses the freezing in of a Russian icebreaker in the Antarctic to tell a story about collaboration and the sharing of cultures.

Highly recommended.

Jul 06

An Uncertain Grace by Krissy Kneen

Krissy Kneen’s An Uncertain Grace is a marvelous book, the sort of marvelous book that deserves the type of in-depth analysis that I don’t have time to provide. It’s a toss-up between this novel and Jane Rawson’s From The Wreck as to which is my favourite book (so far) for the year. While I might struggle to pick between the two, what I do know is that Australian women are currently producing some top-flight science fiction.

The novel is a story-suite (quickly becoming my preferred form of narrative structure) with five novella sized pieces linked together by Liv, a woman with an interest in the limits of identity, sexuality, consciousness and sentience. When we first meet Liv we do so, literally, through the eyes of Caspar, a university lecturer who gets a thrill from seducing his female students. One day he receives a memory stick from Liv – a previous conquest – that, when hooked up with a virtual reality suit, allows Caspar to experience his seduction of Liv from her perspective. Caspar’s erotic memories of the short relationship, especially the joys of the chase, are tainted by Liv’s repulsion as she is drawn… coerced into fucking this obese older man – who happens to be him. For those of us who’ve read plenty of science fiction – or watched episodes of Black Mirror – there’s a familiarity to the shape of the plot, in the set-up and resolution. But that’s not the point. What becomes evident throughout the whole novel is how Kneen uses language to elicit a mix of repugnance and eroticism. Caspar can’t look away, even when he stops watching he inevitably goes back for more.

This push and pull – repulsion and attraction – is evident in the next story told from the perspective of a pedophile and Liv’s experiments with consciousness to possibly alleviate this man from his base desires. And it’s there in the following piece – my favourite in the book – about a synthetic boy, Cameron, designed by a team headed by Liv, to love men who love boys – to provide those men with a “safer” outlet. At one point in that story the boy meets a barely teenage girl in a playground, and in a secluded spot she pressures him to fuck her. As he’s fucking her… this fabricated sex toy for pedophiles… Cameron thinks:

Children are to be protected from their sensuality. Children are to be protected from sex. I remember the feel of her soft bottom bouncing up and down in my lap and I feel the blood rushing to my cheeks.

It’s a brilliant, powerful summation of the effect Kneen is striving for.

Sexuality and sexual perversion are not the only themes of the novel. As noted this is a book that’s fascinated in identity (especially gender) and sentience and the complexity of the human (and non human) mind. And it’s also a book that explores the nature of story-telling, a topic that particularly interests Liv as shown in the memory stick she sent to Caspar and her work with Cameron the synthetic boy and in the reconstruction of her own identity later in the book – though to say more would be a spoiler.

The point is that An Uncertain Grace is a layered and complex and beautifully written novel that never flinches from the difficult topics it tackles.

Jul 03

The Idiot by Elif Batuman

When literary blogs and the book section of newspapers published their list of novels to look forward to in 2017, Elif Batuman’s The Idiot was listed frequently. Her previous book, The Possessed, a collection of Batuman’s pieces on the topic of Russian literature garnered a great deal of praise and while that was six years ago clearly Batuman left an indelible impression on literary critics. Hearing Batuman discuss The Idiot on the New York Times Book Review podcast – and read a small excerpt – had me all hyped up for the novel. And for a moment that hype was justified because The Idiot is a book with a super-strong first half, full of wit and sparkle. Sadly it also has a bloated, ponderous, yawn-inducing second half that makes you wonder where all the joy went.

The Idiot is set in 1995, which as Batuman notes in her afterword – and on the podcast – makes it a historical novel, especially when you consider the state of email and the internet in the mid 90s. Our protagonist, Selin, who has just set-up her first email account with AOL has arrived at Harvard for her freshman year. She signs up for a range of classes ranging from the conventional – learning Russian – to the niche – a class called Constructed World embodying a post modern mix of art and pop culture and meets a licorice all sorts of students, such as the intense Svetlana and the aloof, enigmatic and sexy (probably) Ivan. Selin’s adventure at Harvard makes up the first half of the book. Batuman, with a great deal of humour and charm, captures the chaos of University, the off-beat teachers, the strong friendships, the gradual formation of a personality – replete with opinions and attitude – independent of your parents. And if the novel had stopped at the end of Selin’s school year, I’d be singing its praises.

But following the end of that school year Selin heads off to the Hungarian countryside via Paris. She makes the journey, ostensibly, to spend more time with Ivan who is living with his family in Budapest. It’s at this point where the The Idiot takes a nosedive into the mundane and dull with the focus centering squarely on Selin’s relationship with Ivan. Throughout the novel there’s this feeling of unrequited (almost) love on Selin’s part as she tussles with Ivan’s frankly prickish attitude toward her – his fervent, lengthy emails (almost but not quite love letters) while he continues to date other women. It’s much the same in Hungary, except there’s more face to face and less emailing. Neither Ivan or Selin adequately communicate their intentions, which is fine, I appreciate that not all relationships work to a specific schedule, but when the novel is over 400 pages long and it’s hard to understand what Selin sees in Ivan in the first place – given he’s a moody pretentious bastard – by the time they make it to Hungary I was over it.

But it’s more than just Selin and Ivan. What was potentially interesting about this novel was providing a 21st perspective on the late 20th Century – a time that truly was more innocent (at least in retrospect). The joke is that when she started the novel in the early oughts it was a contemporary piece of fiction. Batuman, though, doesn’t take advantage of that slippage in time. I’m not sure if she reworked the first half – but that sense of history, of early conversations via email and a world that still feels large and disconnected, doesn’t come across in the novel. In fact the strength of the book, the fun Batuman pokes at the courses offered at Harvard and their eccentric professors, is universal. What’s also missing is a sense of identity. At times Selin’s background is highlighted – the daughter of Turkish immigrants – and there are parallels made between Hungarian and Turkish, but Selin’s cultural baggage, which drops in and out of the novel, is for the most part muted by her relationship with Ivan.

It’s all so disappointing because a book that promised so much before it was published, that seemed to be delivering at least for the first half, becomes flat and tired and a chore to finish by the end. I can speculate on whether Batuman should have published just the first half the book, or whether a novel that percolates in author’s head for over 15 years might become a case of diminishing returns. In the end though it all adds up the same – The Idiot didn’t work for me at all.

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