What are you currently reading? (part 2)

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby vijayjohn » 2018-01-21, 23:23

linguoboy wrote:
vijayjohn wrote:The same is true of "war bread," "hostility cake," and "story-telling blanket" even in English. It's just that in English, we happen to not formally consider any of these to be words.

Who's "we"?

The set of native speakers of English. What I meant was not that none of us consider them to be words, but rather simply that they are not, for example, (currently) listed as separate entries in any English-language dictionary. (I'm not explaining myself very well. I get the impression that a lot of English-speakers seem to think that if one set of characters and another are separated by a space, then and only then, the two sets of characters are separate words. I'm trying to say this seems to be essentially what Linguaphile is saying, too).

So basically, I've been floundering to say this:
linguoboy wrote:For some arbitrary reason, the linguistic authorities of our day have determined to separate the elements orthographically in one case but not the other.

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby Linguaphile » 2018-01-22, 1:00

linguoboy wrote:Are you seriously not recognising the fact that not all grammatically compound words in English are written as single orthographic words? I expect that kind of error from the average Joe; I don't expect it from someone with any sort of background in linguistics.

No, I didn't mean we can't have two-word compounds. Ice cream, anyone? :D But words like "ice cream" are frozen (no pun intended... well, maybe intended) set phrases, not nonce compounds. The two parts have meaning as a word separate from its parts ("ice cream" is neither ice nor cream) because we already know what it means when those parts are used together. I tend to consider those types of words, where the meaning of the compound is quite different from the meaning of its parts, to be English words while I consider the other type - where the first part just describes or modifies the second - not to actually be "words" in that sense. And what you're calling nonce compounds here tend to be that latter type in English (a noun with a modifier). Not always, but often.

linguoboy wrote:Did you actually Google those examples to see how they are used?

If you mean your English examples, yes. I still haven't figured out what a hostility cake is in English though, but you've made me realize the Estonian words were poor examples for explaining how it can be different from English. For example, until I googled it, it hadn't dawned on me that "war bread" in English was an actual type of bread made during the war. In Estonian the meaning is a bit different, as in this song: Sõjaleiba sõtkutakse, vaenukakku vaalitakse. Kes see meilt sõtta läheb? = "They're kneading war bread, they're rolling out hostility cake. Who among us will go off to war?" It's a way of saying the powers that be are preparing for war and loved ones are about to be conscripted, and as far as I know both words are only used in this folksong (although it's a well-known one that has many regional variations in various dialects). And since I was thinking of that meaning earlier, my initial thought was "a word like that wouldn't happen in English." It wouldn't be used that way, but you're right, we do use the same pair of words in English.

linguoboy wrote:In any case, if you do get around to reading it, I'll be very interested to hear what your reaction is.

I'll let you know when I do!

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby Yasna » 2018-01-22, 2:29

Language Log just had a post on the topic.

The quasi-compositionality of English compounds
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby Linguaphile » 2018-01-22, 3:48

Yasna wrote:Language Log just had a post on the topic.

The quasi-compositionality of English compounds

Thanks for the link! The Liberman and Sproats article linked at the bottom of your link is good too. By the way, while looking for a better-scanned version of that article, I came across this one, too:
When is a sequence of two nouns a compound in English? - Laurie Bauer
Linguoboy, you'll be pleased to know Bauer seems to agree with your side of that debate. But he discusses the other view of it as well. It's a good read.

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby Osias » 2018-01-22, 10:46

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2017 est l'année du (fr) et de l'(de) pour moi. Parle avec moi en eux, s'il te plait.

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby Linguaphile » 2018-01-22, 14:14

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby linguoboy » 2018-01-22, 15:43

Linguaphile wrote:I tend to consider those types of words, where the meaning of the compound is quite different from the meaning of its parts, to be English words while I consider the other type - where the first part just describes or modifies the second - not to actually be "words" in that sense. And what you're calling nonce compounds here tend to be that latter type in English (a noun with a modifier). Not always, but often.

Well that's exactly how I feel about your examples. How is sõjaleiba really any different from sõja leiba? It could equally well be translated into English either as "war bread" or "bread of war" depending on what poetic effect the translator was aiming for.

However you look at it, you have a cline here from 100% transparency of meaning to 100% idiomaticity. I wouldn't particularly care at one point you drew a definitional line across it to distinguish "actual words" from "nouns with modifiers" except that you seem to be drawing it one place for English and another for Estonian in order to argue for the exceptionality of the latter.

Linguaphile wrote:I still haven't figured out what a hostility cake is in English though

This is interesting because the different examples show different usages. An image search shows cakes with hostile messages, which seems to embody the kind of nonce compound "where the first part just describes or modifies the second" that you think is more typical of English. But the example from the games discussion is more complex. Near as I can tell, "hostility" is a game mechanism meant to indicate the likelihood of two players going to war against each other. A value of 100% hostility seems to indicate imminent conflict. Some players are questioning how a value like that is achieved and someone is explaining this to them using the metaphor of a cake which can be "sliced" into different components--50% "PvP and War Supplies", 35% " Epic Events and OW attacks", and 15% "Mission running". This puts it even further toward the non-transparent end of the cline than vaenukakku, which incorporates a much more straightforward metaphor.

Thanks for the links. I'll try to get around to them later today.
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby vijayjohn » 2018-01-22, 22:41

Back to reading: I also started reading La tentación de lo imposible, Cosecha de mujeres, and a Croatian book apparently on the history of Croatia's movie industry called Uvod u povijest hrvatskog igranog filma by Nikica Gilić. I've also just barely started glancing inside Hrvatski Odisej, an anthology of Croatian poetry about emigration compiled by Ivo Smoljan.

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby Linguaphile » 2018-01-23, 2:29

linguoboy wrote:
Linguaphile wrote:I tend to consider those types of words, where the meaning of the compound is quite different from the meaning of its parts, to be English words while I consider the other type - where the first part just describes or modifies the second - not to actually be "words" in that sense. And what you're calling nonce compounds here tend to be that latter type in English (a noun with a modifier). Not always, but often.

Well that's exactly how I feel about your examples. How is sõjaleiba really any different from sõja leiba?

They mean different things.
sõjaleiba = war bread (descriptive: a type of bread)
sõja leiba = the war's bread (possessive: bread, of any type, that belongs to the war itself)

The difference is not just orthographic because there is a slight difference in pronunciation (stress patterns; I know that English often does this with compounds as well) and they also function differently grammatically.
In a compound, only the final element is declined (with a few exceptions, such as number words, because there are always exceptions in Estonian), and only the first syllable of the whole compound word is stressed. If words are written separately, the meaning changes, both the noun and the modifier are declined, the first syllable of each word is stressed (and it's not a compound word).

Since "the war's bread" (a piece of bread or loaf of bread that belongs to the war itself) is a bit abstract (and because of another reason explained below), here's a different example to show how this works:

suurmees - a great (prominent, important) man
suur mees - a big (large) man

declination:
suurmees (nom. sing.), suurmehe (gen. sing.), suurmeest (part. sing.), suurmehi (part. pl.), suurmehele (all.sing.)
the great/important man, of the great/important man, etc.

suur mees (nom. sing.), suure mehe (gen.sing), suurt meest (part.sing), suuri mehi (part.pl.), suurele mehele (all.sing.)
the large man, of the large man, etc.

It's actually not really possible to fully decline sõja leib that way because "war" (sõda) is a noun. This goes back to the idea that in English, in something like "war bread," the word war is functioning not as a noun but as a modifier of the noun bread. In Estonian the only situations where a noun like sõda can modify another noun like leib is when it's in a compound (in which case it must be written and pronounced as a single word) or when it is a possessive (in which case it can only be in the genitive case, to show possession). So you can have a partitive form like sõjaleiba, where it is written as one word and sõja takes the word-forming genitive case rather than the partitive case before the partitive leiba, but a two-word partitive form like *sõda leiba isn't even possible here.

linguoboy wrote:I wouldn't particularly care at one point you drew a definitional line across it to distinguish "actual words" from "nouns with modifiers" except that you seem to be drawing it one place for English and another for Estonian in order to argue for the exceptionality of the latter.

No, because in Estonian the line is already drawn at "it can only be a compound word if the parts are written together." Or to quote from Eesti keele käsiraamat (Estonian language handbook), "Liitsõna osad kirjutatakse alati kokku, ükskõik mis vormis või ümbruses nad ka ei esineks" (= "The parts of a compound word are always written together, regardless of the form or environment in which they appear.") There are also specific conditions under which a compound word can be created, and the first one is more or less what I was trying to suggest for English: the two words together have to have a meaning that is something different from its parts, not simply one part modifying or describing another. (Others factors can include: it should be written as a compound, i.e. written/pronounced as one word, if the first element never changes from nominative case or from an abbreviated form; if making it a single word clarifies the meaning in an otherwise ambiguous context; or if it has traditionally been written that way [this last one is why there are a few exceptions to the rules, like numbers whose many parts all take case declinations]).

We already tried drawing that same line for English, and we both agreed that it didn't work there. In English it's necessary to move the line from where it is for Estonian, to include English words like "ice cream," that are written as two words. As for just where exactly that line between "actual words" and "nouns with modifiers" should be drawn in English, that's where we don't quite agree, but I think we both agree it can't be in the same place as it is for Estonian. That's sort of my point - the two languages do treat compound word formation differently.

This thread has given me a lot of food for thought, for both languages. Good discussion!

(FWIW, even Estonian has some exceptions to its own rule - Estonian really does have exceptions to everything. For example, some plant names are written as two words: must sõstar "blackcurrant" for example. But words like this are considered exceptions and there aren't many, and also, if you add an additional element to them, then they too have to follow the rule: mustsõstratee, "blackcurrant tea," not *must sõstra tee or *must sõstratee.)

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby Yasna » 2018-01-23, 17:07

I was planning to read Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, but I don't like the idea of reading a book on romance by someone whose conception of sex is drawn straight from porno.
Ein Buch muß die Axt sein für das gefrorene Meer in uns. - Kafka

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby linguoboy » 2018-01-23, 17:26

Yasna wrote:I was planning to read Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, but I don't like the idea of reading a book on romance by someone whose conception of sex is drawn straight from porno.

I dunno, it might be interesting to read what he says in light of what we've learned about his actions. Part of the reason why there was such a strong reaction to that first-person account is that Ansari talks such a good game. (See also: Louis CK.)

On topic, messing around with the Swedish module on Duolingo got me to pick up my copy of Lagom finns bara i Sverige again. I put it down before because--as I told Johanna at the time--it seemed too basic. But this time around it occurred to take a closer look at subjects that wouldn't be given the same treatment in a work aimed at English-speakers. For instance, one of the chapters is "Finlandssvenskar är en sorts finnar men de har lärt sig att prata svenska rätt skapligt" ("Finland-Swedes are a kind of Finn but they've learned to speak pretty decent Swedish"). That's not a myth which I knew existed.
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby vijayjohn » 2018-01-23, 20:44

I started reading Hrvatski Odisej, but I haven't actually read any poetry in it, only a sample of 15th-century Croatian prose with the modern Croatian translation, which I read simultaneously. I'll have to start working again soon, and then I don't think I'll have time to read stuff anymore. :doggy:

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby linguoboy » 2018-01-23, 21:04

Hey, VJ! You'll never guess what they had in the local discount used book store: a volume of short prose pieces by V.K. Madhavan Kutty in English translation. The title is A village before time and it's a collection of vignettes related to his home village of Paruthipully in Palakkad District (on the Bharathappuzha River about 30 km downstream from the district capital).
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby vijayjohn » 2018-01-23, 21:33

At first, I was going to say something like "why is it that every time you find something by a Malayalee author, it's someone I've never heard of? :lol:" Then I asked my dad whether he knew this name, and it turns out that while I don't think I ever met him, I do personally know his brother (and that brother's son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren; IIRC all of them live here in Austin). My dad told me that unlike his brother, Madhavan Kutty wasn't a very good student and was mostly a journalist in Delhi who tended to write in a journalistic style (he wasn't familiar with any of his novels until now).

He reminded me of a story he had told me earlier about Madhavan Kutty that Madhavan Kutty once was on a plane bound for Delhi that crashed, and then he escaped the crash and immediately began filing a report about it. He also told me that after a brief trip to the US, Madhavan Kutty once wrote something about how it's impossible to make a living there without working like a dog. He also wrote that once he was on a bus in the US and a woman who looked like a Bhadrakali got on and sat down (right behind him, I think), but then put on makeup and turned into a beautiful woman by the time she got off. :P

The original title of A village before time in Malayalam is apparently ഓർമ്മകളുടെ വിരുന്ന്‌ (ആത്മകഥാസ്വഭാവമുള്ള കാല്പനിക കഥ) [ˈoːrməgəɭuɖe ʋiˈɾun̪n̪ɯ] ([aːt̪məgəˈt̪ʰaːsʋəbʱaːʋəmuɭɭa ˈkaːlpəniga kəˈt̪ʰa]), which literally means something more like 'Banquet of Memories (Fictional Story in the Style of an Autobiography)'.

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby linguoboy » 2018-01-29, 20:45

So, as reported elsewhere, I saw Call Me By Your Name. I liked it well enough, more for the style of the storytelling than the story itself. (I kept remembering an exchange from one of my favourite gay movies: "Do you know what Proust said?" "Rich people have more fun?") I didn't realise it was based on a novel, let alone that the author was a Francophone Sephardi from Alexandria forced to flee to Italy and then NYC. Now that sounds like a story I'd like to read! And, as luck would have it, he's written it: Out of Egypt. So I bought it today and started reading it. Even as someone who's never read Proust, I can tell it's Proustian.

The movie also made me want to brush up on some Italian so I started reading a short story by Mario Soldati.
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby vijayjohn » 2018-01-29, 21:18

I've been reading a bit of Introductory Russian Grammar and got a few new vocab words from The Development of Russian Verse: Meter and its Meanings by Michael Wachtel, plus the following three Russian books:

Истоки и судьбы русского литературного языка ("The Sources and Destiny of the Russian Literary Language," 1981) by Fedot Petrovich Filin,
Вечно живой ("Forever Alive," 1970), an anthology dedicated posthumously to Lenin and edited by someone named "B. G. Druyan," and
Любить полосатого зверя ("Loving a Striped Animal," 2004), a trilogy of novels by Vladimir Vasilinenko

I only just realized that in all three of these books, the table of contents is at the back of the book instead of the front. (In the first book, it comes just after the index). I also started looking at (and inside) a Bible-sized book in Turkish called Türkçe Bilen Aranıyor (so I guess "looking for those who know Turkish"?) by Nejat Muallimoğlu. I think maybe I'll also try to read from a book called Kızlarıma Mektuplar ("Letters to My Daughters") by Turkish professor Emre Kongar, which I happened to find (along with a German reader called Querschnitt) at a bookstore that seemed to only have books in English and where the people working at the bookstore told me it was in Swedish.

Apart from the first book and (of course) the last, every book in this post was something I bought at some point from Half-Price Books.

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby linguoboy » 2018-01-29, 21:31

vijayjohn wrote:I only just realized that in all three of these books, the table of contents is at the back of the book instead of the front.

Yeah, I think of that as SOP for Romance-language publications. I'd expect this to be the convention in Turkey as well.
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby vijayjohn » 2018-01-29, 21:43

It's at the front in both of the books I have in Turkish. *shrug* It's at the front in my copy of La princesse de Clèves but at the back of my copy of Cyrano de Bergerac, at the back of a Peruvian essay about Victor Hugo (and about Les Misérables) called La tentación de lo imposible, and at the back of the Romanian novel I bought recently and an Italian book I'd bought earlier (basically an account of all the old families in some seemingly random village in Trentino IIRC). Two of the other books in Spanish I bought recently have it at the front, but I think both were published in the US, so no surprise there.

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby Linguaphile » 2018-01-30, 1:16

linguoboy wrote:
vijayjohn wrote:I only just realized that in all three of these books, the table of contents is at the back of the book instead of the front.

Yeah, I think of that as SOP for Romance-language publications. I'd expect this to be the convention in Turkey as well.

It's extremely common for Russian, and, at least for books written during the Soviet period, for the other languages of the former USSR too. Copyright and publishing info was at the back as well (not on the reverse side of the title page where books in English usually have it).
Newer books often follow the same order as books in English, but not always.
For Spanish and French it does seem to depend on where the book was published.

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby Linguaphile » 2018-02-07, 3:10

So, the discussion about The Man Who Spoke Snakish (Mees, kes teadis ussisõnu) got me curious enough about this book and its translation, that I decided not to read my other books first and just dive into this one. I have the book in Estonian and also got the English version on my kindle, so that I can see how it is translated (and so that I can search for certain parts).
linguoboy wrote:In any case, if you do get around to reading it, I'll be very interested to hear what your reaction is.

It seems like there are multiple worlds represented, each one on its own timeline:
    1. Magdaleena's village, sometimes after the fourteenth century; it represents modern influences;
    2. the forest world of Ülgas and Salme, of the late twelfth to early thirteenth century, representing tradition;
    3. the primates' thicket, of a pre-stone-age, pre-Neanderthal time, probably representing origins;
    4. Tolp's island, of the 12th century or earlier, seemingly representative of primal feelings like rage or revenge.
I'm just guestimating on the centuries, but basing it on the details mentioned: the German language, household tools and farming implements of the village, the "stone-throwing machine" that had attacked Tolp (stone-throwing machines are mentioned in Henricus de Lettis's chronical of the late 12th and early 13th centuries), Tolp's island world has parallels with August Mälk's fictionalized 1100s in his Läänemere isandad, and so on. The Frog of the North (Põhja konn) and the wolves that can be milked come from Estonian fairy tales, and the legless Tolp evokes the hero of the Estonian national epic Kalevipoeg, who suffered the same fate.
Leemet moves between these worlds, and so do the snakes. There is therefore no "one" timeline for the novel and the interactions between the worlds are, of course, entirely fiction, but I think it is rather clever to imagine what people (here including the personified primates and snakes) from these different timelines would have thought of each other if they could have met, and how they might have reacted and interacted. This is how I understood the book, and honestly, although I didn't like the amount of violence there was in the book, I thought the interactions of multiple timelines (to me, an allegory related to the influences of the past and the future on the present, and the nature of change) was rather clever.
Religion and folklore are obviously important themes, too. There are tons of twists on familiar folkloric themes: the Frog of the North is usually a feared dragon, who is killed with a magic ring; but in this book, he is an ally, who can be awoken by a ring (sort of; I don't want to give the details away here). The idea that the wolf-sized lice don't realize how big they are and try to scurry into small holes actually made me laugh aloud. Animal-sized insects are common in Estonian folklore; a common one involves horse-sized gadflies that can pull ploughs. But usually no explanation is really given for their existence. Kivirähk gave them both an origin (bred by the primates) and a personality (a bit like dim-witted but friendly dogs) which was kind of endearing.

As for the lexical anachronisms that Linguoboy cited, here goes:
linguoboy wrote: jarring anachronisms (like mediaeval forest dwellers referring to themselves as "Estonians"

Yes, this does seem to be an anachronism. The Estonian version of the book uses the terms eestlane and eesti keel, and those terms weren't used in Estonian itself until around the 1700s. Prior to that, others called them variations on the name "Estonian" and "Estonia" (Estia, Eistland, Estland, Esthonia), but in their own language Estonians themselves would have said maarahva (people of the land), maakeel (language of the land) and maavald (realm/area/territory of the land).
linguoboy wrote: it's odd to say the least for a narrator whose people don't even smelt or sow to be throwing around words like "science"

In Estonian the word used is teadus. In modern Estonian it means "science," but in older Estonian it meant "information" or "knowledge." The context of the book is this: "In this day and age it's silly to go on living in some dark thicket, doing without all the benefits of modern science." (Rumal on ju elada veel meie sajandil kusagil pimedas padrikus ja loobuda kõigist hüvedest, mida pakub tänapäeva teadus.) A more literal translation would be: "It's silly to go on living in our century in some dark thicket and to forsake all the benefits that today's science/knowledge has to offer." Since he is referring here to the primates who live in damp caves and trees instead of the huts that the forest dwellers live in, it makes sense.
linguoboy wrote: "species"

Like the word teadus, the word that was used here (sugu) had a different meaning in the past. Today it means "gender" or "genus," but its earlier meaning was "kind" or "sort". So, "in the millions of years that their species has been running around, they have never learned Snakish" (ega ole kõige nende miljonite aastate jooksul, mil nende sugu ilmas ringi on jooksnud, suutnud ussisõnu selgeks õppida) could also have been translated as "in all the millions of years that their kind has been running around, they haven't managed to really [clearly] learn Snakish." Of course, this begs the question of how they could have known that it had been millions of years, but basically, in the book the snakes are the one creature that has existed in every timeline, so they can know that kind of thing.
linguoboy wrote:"primate"

Primates are inimahvid, as we already discussed (inim- = people, ahv = monkey/ape). Primate is the better translation because ahv is more general than "monkey" or "ape" in English (it can be either one). The general word we have in English for that ("a monkey or an ape") is "primate."
linguoboy wrote:chests of drawers in their homes?

There were no "chests of drawers" at all. What is said was "I started rummaging in chests and drawers" (ma hakkasin kirstudes ning laegastes sorima ). "Drawers" is simply an inaccurate translation, but I can see why Moseley used it. Kirst and laegas are different types of "chests" in Estonian, both of which were used for centuries. They have no drawers; they are wooden boxes shaped like a storage trunk or old clothing chest (well, that's actually exactly what they are). Laegas is smaller. But since both of these are translated into English as "chest" it wouldn't have worked to say "I rummaged around in chests (kirstudes) and in chests (laegastes)" and to say "I rummaged around in chests" doesn't have the same feel as looking through several types of storage units, so I suppose this is why it was translated as "chests and drawers." "Chests and trunks" or "chests and coffers" maybe? "Chests and boxes"?

In any case, there are some anachronisms, but that seems inevitable in a book whose point is the intersection of several different time periods. I thought it was unique and creative and definitely allegorical. Because of the amount of graphic violence it has, I don't think I'd recommend it to many of my bookworm friends. But that's a pity because I otherwise thought the premise was good.


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