Writer Mark Frutkin, Photo: Sandra Russell

 

Books of Mark Frutkin

Fiction

A Message for the Emperor
Fabrizio's Return
Atmospheres Apollinaire
Slow Lightning
Invading Tibet
In the Time of the Angry Queen
The Lion of Venice
The Growing Dawn

NonFiction

Colourless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously (Short Essays and Alternative Versions)
Walking Backwards (Grand Tours, Minor Visitations, Miraculous Journeys and a Few Good Meals)
Erratic North: A Vietnam Draft Resister's Life in the Canadian Bush

Poetry

Hermit Thrush
Iron Mountain
Acts of Light
The Alchemy of Clouds

 

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*FICTION*

A MESSAGE FOR THE EMPEROR
(Vehicule Press)

A Message for the EmperorLi Wen, a landscape painter of the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD), is on a journey to deliver a message to the Chinese Emperor in the far-off capital city of Linan. His teacher has instructed him to paint four landscapes, one for each season, during the year it will take him to travel across China to the Emperor’s Court where he is to present the paintings to the Emperor as a long-life gift. A series of gripping adventures befall Li Wen on his journey, including burial in an ancient tomb and a snowstorm that nearly ends his quest.

A fascinating re-creation of the period and an exploration of an artist’s mind and creative essence, the novel takes the reader right into the heart of the stunning Chinese landscape and the bustling city of Linan. This is a unique novel of old China, the traditional landscape of mountains and rivers without end, and life in an imperial city rife with plots, intrigues, culture, sensuality and wealth.

“I loved A Message for the Emperor. The prose is sleek, restrained, flawless. There’s research in there but you’d never know it. Frutkin seems to have inhaled ancient China and exhaled a parable of the artist.” (Katherine Govier)

“Overflows with the kind of rich detail about time, place and landscape normally found in the very best travel writing. Emperor leaves you dazed from a quick trip to 12th century China.” (Paul Gessell, Montreal Gazette)

“This short, delightful novel is poetic, cinematic, and fable-like.” (Paul Gessell, Quill & Quire

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FABRIZIO'S RETURN
(Knopf Canada)

Fabrizio’s Return won the 2006 Trillium Award for best book in Ontario, and won the 2007 Sunburst Award. It was also a finalist for the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book (Canada/Caribbean Region)

Fabrizio’s Return has also been published in Russia, Poland, and South Korea

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Fabrizio's ReturnA brilliant novel packed with delights: grand romance, alchemical potions, violins to make you weep, Commedia del’Arte theatre, reappearing comets, rambling skeletons, and cracks in time.

***

It is 1682 in Cremona, Italy. With his manservant, an insolent dwarf named Omero, Fabrizio Cambiati, a priest, climbs the town clocktower to await the return of a comet that is said to reappear in the skies every 76 years. He has a new invention called a telescope with which to scour the night. As they await the comet, he scopes the town below and sees the Commedia del’ Arte players setting up in the town square and a Jesuit arriving in a carriage. We later learn that the Jesuit is Michele Archenti, a Devil’s Advocate sent from Rome to investigate the candidacy for sainthood of this same Fabrizio Cambiati -- 76 years later! The novel then begins again, this time in 1758 when Archenti settles himself in the town to assume his investigations. It is his job to find the flaws in Fabrizio’s character. In this attempt, he interviews a number of citizens, including an old duchess who holds a secret about Fabrizio’s life that would ruin the reputation of this priest, who was both a hidden alchemist and healer. The play held in the town square connects the two time periods by reflecting the goings-on in the wider world. We meet the players, as well as the duke, his beautiful daughter, a happy madman roaming the countryside with a skeleton on his back, and a hunchback who lives with his mastiff in a labyrinthine palace that is, like imagination itself, continually mutating.

With enormous assurance and a wonderful affection for his characters, Mark Frutkin has woven a miraculous tale that explores the ambiguous nature of reality and packs joy in the reading on every page.

Praise for Mark Frutkin

“With enough colour and outrage in the characters to please Boccaccio, and enough love, venom and splendour in the proceedings to please Dante, Frutkin’s Fabrizio’s Return is a grand entertainment that will streak across the reader’s imagination, well, like a comet.”
(Yann Martel)

“Woven into the threads of Fabrizio’s universe, where time and space fold with the ease and beauty of a passing storm, is the quest to find one’s true self, and to glimpse the life eternal. Mark Frutkin is a wonderful and generous writer.”
(Madeleine Thien)

“Fabrizio’s Return is a virtuoso performance of music, drama, faith, temptation and love that dazzlingly subverts the boundaries of time, while binding itself to humanity through the streak of a recurring comet.”
(Joan Barfoot)

“Mark Frutkin still hasn’t heard that novels rarely enchant any longer, or that the form can’t match the seductions of the screen. Fabrizio’s Return compliments all the usual Frutkin dares – the stylistic bravura and erudition, the imaginative occupation of distant times and places – with a wit and charm that makes this story his most delightful, and slyly serious, to date.”
(Charles Foran)

“Fabrizio’s Return is a grand novel full of ossuaries and telescopes, gargoyles and magic potions, apocalyptic paintings, angels, comets, violins, of murmurations of starlings, and characters—such characters!—to make you fall in love.”
(Alan Cumyn)

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ATMOSPHERES APOLLINAIRE
(The Porcupine's Quill, Erin, Ont., 1988. Re-issued by Beach Holme (Vancouver) in 1998.)

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Atmospheres ApollinaireA novel based on the life of Guillaume Apollinaire, early 20th century French poet and critic. Finalist for Governor General’s Award for Fiction, finalist for Trillium (Ontario) Book Award, finalist for Ottawa-Carleton Book Award.

***

Paris, the City of Light, was host to the belle époque from 1900 to 1914, drawing painters, poets, writers and composers from across Europe. The one who knew them all and embodied the ecstatic spirit of the age was Guillaume Apollinaire. His contemporaries called him brilliant, mad, whimsical. He was the bastard son of an Italian cavalry officer and a Polish woman addicted to gambling, but he nevertheless let it be rumoured that he was the son of the Pope.

Friend and confidant of Picasso and other painters of the period, Apollinaire invented the terms cubism and surrealism. He re-discovered the works of the Marquis de Sade, wrote pornographic novels and several volumes of dazzling poetry. This sparkling novel recreates the spirit of the man and the age.

Praise for Mark Frutkin

"Atmospheres Apollinaire is remarkable not only because it is something new in Canada; it is an extraordinary act of imaginative immersion in a personality and his times"
(George Woodcock, Ottawa Citizen)

"A gem of a book"
(Alberto Manguel, Morningside, CBC radio)

"...a well-written book, a class act all the way"
(Bronwyn Drainie, The Globe & Mail)

"...a brilliant novel, arresting in its reach, beautiful in its accomplishment. A pleasure to read again and again"
(David Halliday, The Canadian Forum)

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SLOW LIGHTNING
(Raincoast Books, Vancouver, BC, 2001.)

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Slow LightningA novel, set during the Spanish Civil War, which explores the life of an artist bicycling across Spain and hiding in ancient caves.

***

In 1936, escalating violence and unrest in Spain explode into civil war. In Barcelona, Sandro, an engineering student and an artist, is suddenly found guilty by association. Hunted by the police, he seeks refuge with Jorge, a wounded zealot, and Teresa, a revolutionary spy, until he is forced to flee the city alone, posing as a priest along the Saint James Way, the sacred pilgrimage route across northern Spain. With his trusty bicycle, Libertad (Sancho Panza to his Don Quixote), Sandro makes his way to his seaside village of Arcasella, avoiding roadblocks and arrest with the help of a picaresque cast of characters including a leftist partisan from Canada who hides Sandro for a week in the branches of a towering beech tree. Once home, Sandro retreats into a secret cave for several years where he begins to set in motion an elaborate and outrageous deception.

Praise for Mark Frutkin

“Superb inventiveness…at the heart of
Slow Lightning is a clever and spellbinding story…”
(Neil Bissoondath, The Globe & Mail)

“Slow Lightning is a tightly woven novel… Sandro’s journey is breathtaking, the writing smooth and powerful…masterful.”
(Madeleine Thien, National Post)

“Slow Lightning deserves a wider audience because it is both a gripping tale and a beautiful meditation on the nature of art.”
(The Calgary Herald)

“Bizarre, hilarious, by turns madcap and mythical… leaves a vivid impression of the endurance of art in the face of madness…”
(Merilyn Simonds, Montreal Gazette)

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INVADING TIBET
(Random House of Canada, Toronto, Ont., 1991; and Soho Press, New York, NY, USA, 1993.)

Used copies available only. Order through Amazon.ca.

Invading TibetA novel set in 1904 Tibet that follows the experiences of Edmund Candler, a reporter for the London Daily Mail, who accompanied the British invasion by the Younghusband Expedition.

***

In 1904 a force of 2500 British Imperial troops invaded Tibet. Their mission was to march on the fabled capital of Lhasa, seize the Dalai Lama, and compel him to expel foreign provocateurs. All this was but another strategic deployment in the Great Game being played by the major European powers as part of their international one-upmanship and global jousting.

The soldiers are accompanied by Edmund Candler, who reports on the experiences of the invaders. As he notes in his reports to the Daily Mail, the further into the country they march, the odder things get, and the less certain they become of their mission. Candler befriends a Tibetan prisoner named Sarge, who turns out not to be what he appears. Tibet seems a place full of magic and menace, nothing but an awesome emptiness bounded by soaring mountains, yet something ineffable is there in Lhasa, awaiting them.

Praise for Mark Frutkin

“An intriguing idea for a novel…admirable.”
(The New York Times)

"...a shimmering, fragmentary parable"
(Publishers Weekly, USA)

"...an impressive literary performance"
(The Toronto Star)

"Invading Tibet is a novel about a journey, not to be read
for the miles traversed or the mountain ranges crossed, but
for the inner transformation all true travels bring"
(George Woodcock, Ottawa Citizen)

"A wonderful romp of the imagination"
(Alberto Manguel, literary critic on Morningside, CBC Radio)

"...elegant...beautifully written...the narrative shifts
deftly between parallel stories and characters,
weaving a simple but compelling tale"
(Charles Foran, Montreal Gazette)

"Frutkin is a master of visual imagery...Invading
Tibet is well worth reading for its intriguing subject
matter and its many flights of splendid prose"
(Ian Pearson, The Globe and Mail)

"...balances exquisitely between
reality and myth...dazzling"
(Charles Israel, The Fiddlehead)

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IN THE TIME OF THE ANGRY QUEEN
(Random House of Canada, Toronto, Ont., 1993.)

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In the Time of the Angry QueenA novel of art, artists, the history of chess, the joys of wine and the danger of the stock market, set in contemporary Toronto.

***

When Karl Grunfeld wins a competition to paint a huge mural in the Toronto Stock Exchange, he is convinced his career as an artist is taking off. Then the President of the Exchange, Elizabeth Hopwhite, cancels the contract and Karl takes her to court, ably assisted by his lawyer, Divik Chaturdevi, purveyor of divorces to the arts community. Thus begins a battle that turns Karl’s life upside down.

With the same passion he brings to his art, Karl explores the history of chess in his columns for the venerable chess publication, The Angry Queen. As he delves ever deeper into the mythical world of chess, its elegant aesthetics, its brilliant eccentrics, he is branded an enemy of the game by chess fanatics.

As things start to come to a head, and the people in Karl’s life align themselves on one side or the other, we see the classic struggles played out—between men and women, art and high finance, the artist and his world. Told with spirited delirium and endless affection for the joys of the creative act, this novel is a boisterous, rollicking tempest of a book.

Praise for Mark Frutkin

"A rich entertaining novel full
of an appealing 'delight in delight itself'"
(Charles Foran, The Globe & Mail)

"...well-crafted, well-informed...
the story unfolds with grace and precision"
(Montreal Gazette)

"Frutkin is one of the most amusing authors writing in English in the world today. In the Time of the Angry Queen has my nomination for the Governor General's Award anytime."
(Chris Scott, Ottawa Citizen)

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THE LION OF VENICE
(Beach Holme Publishing, Vancouver, BC, 1997.)

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The Lion of VeniceA novel based on the life and travels of Marco Polo as related to a fellow prisoner in the city of Genoa.

***

Set in 13th century Venice and Cathay, this rich novel of intrigue and travel follows Marco Polo as he sets forth on an arduous pilgrimage across the sun-soaked Silk Road to the fabled home of the Kublai Khan. Relentlessly pursued by a vengeful assassin of the Venetian Doge, Marco is eager to reach the promised land of China where he will end up working for the Khan for almost twenty years. Though seduced by the myths of local prophets and palace courtiers, Polo is both haunted and protected by a ghostly winged lion, the embodiment of his home city of Venice.

On his return to Venice, Marco is captured in a naval battle with rival Genoa. In prison, his cellmate, Rusticello, urges the illiterate Marco Polo to recount his fascinating tale so he can write it down.

Praise for Mark Frutkin

“Genuinely transporting…suggestive of the kind
of reality to be found in the most convincing dreams.”
(The Globe & Mail)

“The writing is lyrical and luxurious…
seduces with its elegant prose.”
(Quill & Quire)

“The adventure is compelling and the wonder
stories are satisfyingly otherworldly.”
(Maureen Moore, Vancouver Sun)

“Frutkin brings enthusiasm and a poet’s eye
for mood and setting. A virtuoso performance…”
(John Spencer Hill, Ottawa Citizen)

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THE GROWING DAWN
(Quadrant Editions, Montreal, Quebec, 1984; and Bridges Books (Dutch translation), Amsterdam, Holland, 1988.)

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The Growing DawnA highly original documentary fiction based on the life of Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the radio.

***

In 1901, when Guglielmo Marconi first received the letter ‘S’ in St. John’s, Newfoundland by wireless from England, it is unlikely he ever considered that the letter ‘S’ looks like a wave or that the future would see this event as the dawn of a new mythology.

This novel, set in Italy, England and Newfoundland, tells the story of Marconi’s life and work. It reveals the magic order at the heart of Marconi’s vision, while at the same time relating the fascinating story of a quantum leap in the history of ideas. Like an electromagnetic wave arcing from transmitter to receiver, this story bridges the gap between science and culture.

Praise for Mark Frutkin

"The story of Marconi has been written before but never
quite with the same daring and invention"
(Peter Gzowski, interview on Morningside, CBC radio)

"A rare beauty and a striking originality"
(Geoff Hancock, Toronto Star)

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*NONFICTION*

COLOURLESS GREEN IDEAS SLEEP FURIOUSLY (Short Essays and Alternative Versions)
(Quattro Books)

In the tradition of Kafka’s Parables and Paradoxes and The Book of Embraces by Eduardo Galeano, this small collection of short essays and ‘alternative versions’ is a vivid, perhaps even shocking, reminder that language, self, reality are based on social consensus, an unspoken agreement to see the world in a particular, limited way.

By breaking open these conventions, Colourless Green Ideas reveals the possibilities inherent in the human story.

To ‘sleep furiously’ is to dream. Once we know we are dreaming, we begin to consider the possibility of waking up.

“Frutkin’s tell-it-slant meditations on language, meaning, and life create an argument that is also a dream, an intellectual conversation conducted in poetic diction. More than a collection of aphorisms, this slim book is a manifesto for clear and creative thought.” (Mark Kingwell)

“...thought-provoking meditations, engaging explorations...a book to savour. Completeness, a sense of symmetry, a profundity based in clarity and simplicity; it’s all here.” (Heidi Greco, Prairie Fire Review)

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WALKING BACKWARDS: Grand Tours, Minor Visitations, Miraculous Journeys and a Few Good Meals
(Dundurn Press)

From Istanbul to New Delhi to Boulder, Colorado, through Venice, Paris, Rome and points between...
As travelers, we are always ‘walking backwards’, forever on the verge of stepping into the unknown, never knowing what waits around the next corner.

You could be lost, forget your passport, fall ill. You could be served a bowl of food and not know whether it’s animal, vegetable or mineral. Even flushing the toilet can be an adventure.

You are a child again, innocent and hoping for the best, forced to trust strangers. Quite often this works out. Not always.

Walking Backwards is Mark Frutkin’s return to ten cities and what happened there. Whether inadvertently smuggling ‘cloth’ into Istanbul, reading poetry in New Delhi to a crowd expecting a world-famous pianist, or wandering endlessly through Mantua searching for a non-existent hotel on a street that has fallen off the map, Frutkin is a master at rediscovering the magic at the heart of all travel.

“His innocence is charming, his wit razor sharp. This is a lovely read.” (The Globe and Mail)

“A reminder of the travellers we once were...entertaining.” (Quill & Quire)

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ERRATIC NORTH:
A Vietnam Draft Resister's Life in the Canadian Bush

(Dundurn Press)

Erratic NorthIn geology an erratic is a "boulder or rock formation transported some distance from its original source, as by a glacier." In award-winning novelist Mark Frutkin's case, his movement from his native Cleveland, Ohio, was instigated by his wish to protest and resist the U.S. military draft during the Vietnam War, and his destination was Canada.

An estimated 50,000 to 100,000 American Vietnam War draft resisters sought sanctuary in Canada. Many of these men stayed, became Canadian citizens, and have made significant contributions to the country, including writers such as William Gibson, George Fetherling, Keith Maillard, and Jay Scott; musicians Jesse Winchester and Jim Byrnes; children's performer Eric Nagler; and radio personality Andy Barrie.

Although this first nonfiction work by Mark Frutkin looks back at the circumstances and culture of the late 1960s and early 1970s that prompted the author to relocate to Canada, Erratic North is about many other things. It's also a lyrical meditation about "returning to nature" in the bush country of Quebec and an account of the crucible that forged one writer. Tying everything together, though, is the overarching theme of the book: a contemplation of humanity's embrace of war and violence and the countervailing impulse to resist that embrace, specifically as seen in the experience of Frutkin himself; his grandfather Simon, who escaped Tsarist Russia and its military in the 1890s; and Louis Drouin, the Quebec farmer Frutkin bought his original farm from and who resisted conscription in World War II.

Price: $24.99
ISBN13: 9781550027860
Pages: 240
Format: Paperback

“Fascinating and immensely readable. Mark Frutkin explores his past with candour and tenderness, and the result is a charmed book.”
(Elizabeth Hay, author of the Giller Prize–winning Late Nights on Air)

“In Erratic North, Mark Frutkin has written a spirited, personal meditation on those who reject war and insist on peace. Erratic North is a beautifully written memoir about an American draft dodger who flees to the backwoods of Quebec to escape service in the Vietnam War, and who finds himself — and his true community — in the process. It is part travelogue, part nature writing, part anti-war tract, and entirely magical in its lyricism, soulfulness, and intelligence.”
(Lawrence Hill, author of The Book of Negroes, winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Rogers’ Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize)

“A writer who never fails to provoke and illuminate, Mark Frutkin in Erratic North tells a deeply personal story that is also a portrait of its time — a time when we were ambitious for beauty, when resistance was a matter of pride, when a young man could escape to the wilds of the Gatineau to contemplate the simple pleasures and complicated moralities of modern life.”
(Merilyn Simonds, author of The Convict Lover and The Holding)

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*POETRY*

HERMIT THRUSH
(Quattro Books, Toronto, ON, 2015)

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Hermit ThrushLightness, clarity, freshness, simplicity all can be used to describe this latest collection of poems by Mark Frutkin. Throughout, the poet shines his light on subjects as diverse as the cathedral of Chartres, ancient Chinese poets, the art of listening, and tiny, black beetles that devour books. Poems as thin and sharp as a blade and as sweet as honeysuckle. A unique work that dissolves into the silence of dusk like the lucid, haunting knock of the hermit thrush.

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IRON MOUNTAIN
(Beach Holme Publishing, Vancouver, BC, 2001.)

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Iron MountainDivided into two sections, one inspired by ancient Chinese landscape art, the other limning the ambiguities and incongruities of the contemporary human condition, Iron Mountain presents human beings wandering in the wilderness between two abysses while still appreciating the smell of pines, the softness of the rain, the brilliance of the stars, the hum of the computer, and the jostle of the crowd on the bus.

These are poems of translucent delicacy harbouring hard truths where “A Taoist priest gulps the elixir / of immortality and blows away / in the dust, / a young Chinese girl / bumps me in the crowd / prompting a shiver / like a startled phoenix / dressed in my skin.” In Iron Mountain the entire world is a written landscape that speaks to us of time, of immutability, of radiant emptiness.

Praise for Mark Frutkin

“Iron Mountain…contains a number of real gems.”
(Tim Chamberlain, Victoria Times Colonist)

“His Chinese poems are powerful and quietly affecting.”
(George Fetherling, The Vancouver Sun)

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ACTS OF LIGHT
(Cormorant Books, Dunvegan, Ontario, 1992.)

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Acts of LightRimbaud, Africa, Dante, the oracle of Delphi: these prove to be jumping off points for the luminous poetry of Acts of Light, which attempts to join form and the formless in an entirely new way. In this collection, a primal spinning light radiates from the core of emptiness by which man attempts to harmonize heaven and earth. Full of ritual, naming and the search for meaning in meaning’s absence, these poems address the constant theme of creation and re-creation, birth and re-birth. “The oracle smiles a lover’s smile / Parentheses radiating from the corners of her mouth.”

Praise for Mark Frutkin

"This is brilliant poetry that shimmers in the mind long
after being read"
(Liza Potvin, Event)

"Reading Acts of Light is like playing with a superior
coloring book. Marvelous colors and exotic images are
offered; satisfaction comes from fitting them together
into a clear meaning."
(George Woodcock, Ottawa Citizen)

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THE ALCHEMY OF CLOUDS
(Fiddlehead/Goose Lane Editions, Fredericton, New Brunswick, 1985; and Carcanet Press, Manchester, England, 1985.)

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The Alchemy of CloudsLyrical meditations, deeply-moving narrative poems: The Alchemy of Clouds is both gentle and intense, merging the sacred and secular with imaginative delight. “Flowers float in bowls of unruffled water / at the feet of an eternally calm Buddha. / Incense rises like dreams in a spine.”

 

 

Praise for Mark Frutkin

"Alchemy exists in his ability to
open our eyes to the commonplace"
(Toronto Star)

"Brilliant tight poems"
(Poetry Canada Review)

"...the sense of possibility is exhilaratingly present"
(Martin Dodsworth, The Manchester Guardian)

 

 

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Author's Photo: Sandra Russell

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