The Storytelling Animal eBook å The Storytelling

The Storytelling Animal eBook å The Storytelling

The Storytelling Animal ❴PDF / Epub❵ ☆ The Storytelling Animal Author Jonathan Gottschall – A NYTimescom Editor's Choice A Los Angeles Times Book Prizes Finalist “A jaunty insightful new book that draws from disparate corners of history and science to celebrate our compulsion to storify A NYTimescom Editor's Choice A Los Angeles Times Book Prizes Finalist “A jaunty insightful The Storytelling PDF/EPUB ² new book that draws from disparate corners of history and science to celebrate our compulsion to storify everything around us”— New York TimesHumans live in landscapes of make believe We spin fantasies We devour novels films and plays Even sporting events and criminal trials unfold as narratives Yet the world of story has long remained an undiscovered and unmapped country Now Jonathan Gottschall offers the first unified theory of storytelling He argues that stories help us navigate life’s complex social problems—just as flight simulators prepare pilots for difficult situations Storytelling has evolved like other behaviors to ensure our survival Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience psychology and evolutionary biology Gottschall tells us what it means to be a storytelling animal and explains how stories can change the world for the better We know we are master shapers of story The Storytelling Animal finally reveals how stories shape us “This is a uite wonderful book It grips the reader with both stories and stories about the telling of stories then pulls it all together to explain why storytelling is a fundamental human instinct”—Edward O Wilson“Charms with anecdotes and examples we have not left nor should we ever leave Neverland”— Cleveland Plain Dealer.

10 thoughts on “The Storytelling Animal

  1. Glenn Russell Glenn Russell says:

    Everybody loves a good story But what about your own story? Years ago someone told me of their experience in a bar Thus my micro fiction ALL IN THE TELLINGI’m feeling lonely depressed really down in the dog I trudge to the closest bar and after a couple of beers proceed to tell the guy sitting on the next bar stool my life story It isn’t pretty but at least it’s mine When I’m all talked out I toss a couple of bucks on the counter in disgust and hit the men’s room But the time I’m back he is retelling my story to the guy next to him I slide into a nearby booth so I can listen to his version without being seen He has most of the facts straight and the way he tells the story makes it sound really interestingWhen he’s done the listener in turn begins telling my story to the guy next to him Not bad He also has the facts straight and his version is even interesting than the first When he’s done I can guess what’s coming and I’m not disappointed Only this next guy telling my story isn’t just good he’s a born storyteller The way he embellishes my life with such pathos and humor you would think I’m a real dashing daredevil cavalierI want to hear the next version firsthand so I move alongside the listener The storyteller finishes pats him on the back and they both have a good hearty laugh But when the storyteller leaves my guy just sits there nursing his beer I try to egg him on “I only heard the very end but wow that was some story” He doesn’t answer After a few moments he sighs and tells me such a flat lackluster boring rendition you would think he knows me better than I know myself

  2. Lisa Lisa says:

    In the beginning there was a word and the word was Storyteller She was very lonely There was nothing in the world but her imagination She decided to create a story for herself to pass the time pleasantly“Let there be colourful flowers and trees and soft grass to sit on” she said A garden appeared instantly before her inner eye The smell of the flowers was intense and she became thirsty“Let there be a well where I can get water” she said And she watched in amazement as a well was built out of thin air There was a bucket to draw water from the deep dark bottom The Storyteller was excited When she hauled up the bucket and drank the sweet water she noticed a green tiny living thing in it“Oh” she said “I didn’t ask for you but you are welcome anyway I will call you frog and you shall be my friend”And she took the frog in her hand and it smiled at her responding to her touch with a loud and clear“uack”“Oh that is very nice” said the Storyteller “It is almost like me making noises that sound like talk”For a while the Storyteller was completely happy and satisfied with her new friend trying to make it uack as much as possible But after some time it became monotonous“I wish it it was a little bit like me a sort of companion” she said But the frog stayed the same it had always been “That is strange” said the Storyteller “So far things have always come to me as soon as I had an idea in my head but now my wish remains unfulfilled I wonder why Maybe I need to apply some magic to make living creatures”And she picked up the frog closed her eyes firmly and touched it gently with her lips while thinking very hard “I want a companion”The frog in her hand stayed the same but all of a sudden there was another one in the grass almost the same She tried to kiss the frog again for another wish to come true but the magic was spent It did not work anyThe Storyteller watched the happy union of the two frogs and felt very sad and lonely“Now they are two of the same kind and I am even alone than before”Resolutely she grabbed the new frog looked at it and said“If the frog made you identical you must be magical as well and I need a new friend And it shall not be tiny and cold and green It shall be bigger and softer and with long hair like me”She closed her eyes kissed it hard and kept it in her trembling hand for a moment not daring to check whether the magic had worked or not When she let the frog go and looked around she saw a majestic creature lying on the ground yellow furry strong with a long wild mane“Oh you are pretty” said the Storyteller “I will call you Lion”And the Storyteller and the lion lived uite contentedly for a while watching the frogs jump around The Storyteller imagined a pond for them and they swam in it to her great delight After a while there were frogs a whole community“I wonder where they are all coming from” said the Storyteller “For it certainly did not work to kiss one frog twice for companions There must be another spell between the two frogs But now I have plenty of new frogs to kiss and I know what I will do I will give my lion a friend for he looks lonely as well And I am going to call her lioness”As the frogs and lions kept multiplying the Storyteller found herself and busy collecting kissable frogs to create new living beings Every being she imagined and made come alive through the magical frog kissing procedure seemed to need something else and her garden grew wilder and wilder and and complicated At first the Storyteller enjoyed the new development for she was never bored and her imagination grew with each new creature that entered the story But so far none of the creatures had responded to her in the way they responded to their own kind There was always a gap between the Storyteller and the story And she felt lonely at night when she was not too tired to thinkOne day she bent over the pond to watch a new fish she had created It swam exuisitely and she was very proud of its colourful design But on the surface of the pond she caught a glimpse of herself and her sad lonely eyes stared back at her and made her want to cry “Oh cheer up little me” she said reassuringly to her face in the pond mirror giving herself an encouraging smile That smile changed her life“I want to have another human being around to talk to and laugh with and to discuss the garden community”She grabbed a fresh frog kissed it rapidly and thought“I want an exact copy of myself” Her hope was to have a companion like the other animals and to be able to create new beings without the intermediate step of the frog kissing magic But her wish had been very specific not for a companion but for a copy And so she welcomed another woman to the garden just as beautiful and lovely as herself and just as full of imaginationThe Storyteller was overjoyed at first and spent days talking about what she had done so far and which were her favourite creatures The two women walked arm in arm like sisters and best friends and loved each other dearly Life finally seemed to be a story with a happy endBut one day the Storyteller noticed something different in the garden There were animals she did not recognise Where did they come from?“I made them” her friend proudly announced expecting praise for her creativity But the Storyteller felt her heart break her stomach turn her head burst“But I am the Storyteller” she screamed “I am the one who is making up the creatures and the stories and the plots and the settings”“I tried with one of the unkissed frogs and it worked just as well for me”“But you have no right to do that This is my story and the frogs are my property”“What do you mean your story? We are both in it”“But I made you up”“And now I am here with the same rights and the same power”The two women were very angry and refused to talk to each other They withdrew into different corners of the garden and began to collect armies of frogs for warfare Whatever they made up was designed to cause pain and disorder in the other woman’s part of the garden It did not take long before the world became unbearably violent and animals were killing and eating each other For each new animal there instantly was a natural counterpart a deadly enemy The women spent all their imagination on creating schemes to destroy each other’s creations and to protect their own Mountainous fortifications grew Deep oceans spread Stormy clouds brought rain that filled raging rivers and flooded the beautiful grassland But as time passed the women grew tired of the war and they began to feel lonely again They missed the company of another human The Storyteller thought of making peace and sharing the immensity of the creation eually After all it was now vast enough for both of them and she was also very curious to discover in detail the stories her sister had invented But she was dreadfully hurt and could not overcome her pride She still thought she was the entitled one while her sister was a usurper“I am going to create another human” she thought “And this time I am not making the same mistake again”She grabbed a frog held it tight kissed it and thought with all her willpower“I want a companion for myself who worships me and my beauty but who is taller and stronger than I am so that I am well protected against that evil witch on the other side of the garden”And she opened her eyes saw a man standing in front of her and was very happy He was tall strong and handsome and he immediately worshipped her and made her feel precious Now her story had a happy ending she thought But she was wrong about that Her story had just begun and there was no end to it at all from now on The Storyteller realised that she had created the curse of human chain reactions when she saw that her enemy had imagined and kissed alive a man for herself to protect and worship her He was even taller and stronger than her own man and she felt envy creep into her heart She wanted one like that as well The Storyteller was about to produce an army of frog kissed men when her imagination all of a sudden made her see the future an eternal war in the making She had to stop the violence of humankind before it destroyed itself and all other creatures She knew what she had to do to save the world She grabbed a frog and kissed it with all the despair of foreboding“I wish that the magic of the frogs shall end From now on we are on our own”She thought that it would be enough to take the magic out of the world She had forgotten that humans now had companions and could reproduce themselves without the frog magicOh how she regretted that she took away the frog power She realised too late that the man she had created as her own companion but taller and stronger than herself and with a ferocious wish to protect her did not need frogs He could take over her position as Creator and Storyteller with the power of his muscles It would take centuries and centuries for woman to remedy the terrible mistake of the loss of the magical frogsWith the loss the era of the fairy tales ended and the era of reality began But many many of the stories from the fairy tale era remained in the world and were told to children as cautionary tales or just to pass the time pleasantly And they varied slightly from Storyteller to Storyteller for from the beginning of time Storytellers have tried to surpass and outwit each other with ever growing imagination

  3. Zack Rock Zack Rock says:

    What a weird book The thrust of the author's arguments could have been stated in a long article Instead he decided to pad his interesting points with needless photographs narrative asides and pointlessly graphic examples he seems to be particularly stuck on the image of an evil elf masturbating in a laundry room This is all in lieu of a satisfying engagement with his primary sources which are too often tacked onto anecdotal examples to grant them additional credence Moreover he tends to wade in the realm of psychiatric and neurological studies disregarding the work of literary critics entirelyI get that this is a popular nonfiction title for a general audience but your readers deserve than a couple of short Steven Pinker uotes when you casually cast away thousands of years of religious traditions and replace it with World of Warcraft A deeper struggle with the subject would have been appreciated

  4. Ryan Ryan says:

    This book was incredibly disappointing The uestion of why humans are so inclined to view the world in narrative terms is fascinating but aside from a handful of interesting scientific studies this book fails to provide a well supported theory as to the answerGottschall is a lecturer in English and he writes very much from a culturalliterary perspective Support for his points mostly comes from popular novels or cultural events This would be fine if Gottschall was merely trying to enumerate the different types of stories that appear in our lives The problem lies in him arguing that he has answers which he in fact does not and those shortcomings become painfully apparent as the book goes onIt reads much like the primitive research papers that my fellow students and I were forced to write in high school A basic thesis is chosen usually a gut feeling about something and any possible references are hauled out no matter if they support the thesis or are just related in some way Yet in the mind of the student the reference are there so the point has been madeThis is a uote from the book that I find typifies the emptiness of its language and argumentsThe characters in fiction are just wiggles of ink on paper or chemical stains on celluloid They are ink people They live in ink houses inside ink towns They work at ink jobs They have inky problems They sweat ink and cry ink and when they are cut they bleed ink And yet ink people press effortlessly through the porous membrane separating their inky world from ours They move through our flesh and blood world and weird real power in it As we have seen this is spectacularly true of sacred fictions The ink people of scripture have a real live presence in our world They shape our behavior and customs and in so doing they transform societies and historiesThe ink people metaphor isn't misleading or dishonest in any way it just doesn't say much of anything Only the last sentence is really saying something concrete and it reads like the thesis of a 10th grade English paper

  5. Audra (Unabridged Chick) Audra (Unabridged Chick) says:

    I loved Gottschall from the first line of this book; I uickly saw he was a book fan geeking out about how awesome fiction is and I cheerfully followed alongI'm always going to fangirl over books on books I can't help it I love readers and I love reading about reading Gottschall takes joy in not just reading but all forms of storytelling from country music songs to commercials and films He examines how fiction storytelling helps us individually and globallyTrivia fans will love this book because it is chock full of tidbits to toss out at your next party or family gathering for example a 2009 study showed people were scarred by scary films than real world horrors like 911 or the Rwandan genocide Gottschall's writing style is casual funny friendly and approachable and he references contemporary and classic fictions He breaks down scientific studies on neurons behavior emotions and offers a trenchant and funny argument in support of fiction in all its formsIn addition to being a great read for anyone who likes fiction and doesn't mind a dip into popular non fiction I think this would make a uniue book club pick Breezy readable this book celebrates what we all love about storytelling and provides great themes and ideas to chew and discuss Gift this book for the bookish college grad in your life or the light reader who needs a nudge to pick up a novel because page 66 offers a very good reason why In one study they researchers found that heavy fiction readers had better social skills as measured by tests of social and empathetic ability than those who mainly read nonfiction Novel readers rejoice we're awesome

  6. Andrea McDowell Andrea McDowell says:

    I always find it humourous when people try to distinguish themselves by claiming that they never waste time reading fiction just non fictionListen ALL animal species communicate non fiction Bees tell each other where the flowers are ants leave pheremone trails to food and mammals birds and amphibians of all varieties advertise mate seeking status warn kin of predators nearby and announce food availability To be sure human non fiction communications are detailed various and knowledgeable but that is a difference in uantity not uality and places us suarely with our evolutionary kin However humans are the only animals that talk about things that never happened to people who never existed As a universal trait that exists in all cultures appears spontaneously in childhood and where parents spontaneously encourage this behaviour by engaging their children in pretend play and story telling one might think that it is an adaptative trait no? that confers evolutionary advantages And one would be right as this book describes Fiction enhances social skills and enables people to practice problem solving skills; it coheres societies around common sets of moral values and principles the author places religion with fiction which he uses as a prime example of this tendency but not the only one; it bonds social groups; and along the way it provides people with a tremendous amount of pleasure although as the author points out this is beyond odd as successful stories are almost always about trauma and trouble Why should that be pleasurable?It's also a very well written entertaining and compulsively readable book one of the first non fiction books in a long time I stayed up late to finish Did you know that exposure to even just one short story or short TV show fiction can alter someone's moral stance on an issue or even alter the person's results on a personality test? Fiction is potent stuff Fun book If you're a big fiction reader or fiction viewer or both read it and the next time someone gives you a hard time for wasting so much of your life on fluff when you could be engaged in serious productive pursuits like reading about the history of braille or baking a loaf of bread or spending the time working so as to make money etc you'll have the perfect riposte Fiction is one of the things that truly sets humans apart from the other animals Without fiction we're beavers or ants running around looking for mates and food and building houses and alliances But fully evolved human beings can generally be found at least sometimes loafing around with a good novel or watching a good movie And that is just as it should be

  7. Michael Michael says:

    Is Jonathan Gottschall padding a portfolio for tenure? That's about the only excuse I can come up with for the waste of paper used in printing this book The many photographs and illustrations poorly reproduced add absolutely nothing to the arguments advanced by the author they merely take up space in in a book that is already as short on pages as it is short on original ideas As far as I can tell the author drew on the works of real scholars augmented his summaries thereof with musings about his daughters at play retellings of his own rather disturbing dreams and fantasies and then larded in enough photographs and illustrations to make his page count I learned nothing from reading this book about how stories make us human and I found the writing sophomoric On the flap Steven Pinker is uoted as saying that Gottschall's writing is unfailingly clear witty and exciting all the attributes lacking in Pinker's prose but I most strongly disagree That it is a popular rather than an academic book is no excuse There are many distinguished scholars who write interesting and informative books for the general public The topic is valid; the execution flawed

  8. Ken Ken says:

    The Storytelling Animal is another in a recent spate of Malcolm Gladwell inspired essay collections learned yet at the same time so breezy that your shirt might lose some starch Middle brow fun these books entertain while they inform In this case Gottschall takes on all angles of story so that you can see that like air narrative is everywhere and everywhere is narrative His thesis Humans are hard wired for story from the oral tradition to the print era and beyond hint beyond euals the virtual borders we have crossed in the technological eraIf you are really interested in story and want to go deep for a hail Mary consider Alberto Manguel's comprehensive A History of Reading By comparison this is of a survey sort of deal with an angle that might leave you hungry for Gottschall talks about the nature of story how a predicament and conflict is necessary how similar all stories are at their fundamental roots Dreams? Stories Memoirs? Stories with accent on the fictional aspect On line video games reenactments on battlefields reality TV shows? Story story story One thing I do like is when Gottschall is willing to take a controversial stand such as he does with video gaming fanatics To him they are not so much escapist nerds as wise people who are simply embracing a palatable world and story at the expense of a boring and despairing one the story that is their lives in the real world I place real in uotation marks because Gottschall claims the line between fictional story and real is blurring by the day For some this comes as good news For others it's further signs of the approaching apocalypse If you're a depth reader and a fan of reading 3 star it and mine what you will If you're a breadth reader and a fan of reading 4 star it and share a few tidbits at the next cocktail party where many stories are unfolding you attend End of story And yes reviews as well as the persona developed by all reviewers constitute yet another story Let's hope in the case of this writer it ends with the words And he lived happily ever after

  9. Stela Stela says:

    Someone complained that Jonathan Gottschall’s The Storytelling Animal is overgrown – that is that all the ideas it contains could have been easily synthetized in a long article I wouldn’t go so far although I also felt sometimes that one point or another was discussed to its outer limits Anyway it was an interesting enough reading even if not very original The premise of the book disclosed by the title uoting Graham Swift’s inspiring definition of mankind given in Waterland “Man – let me offer you a definition – is the storytelling animal” is that the human being is a Homo fictus who makes up stories all his life whether he is an artist or not and the author takes his time in revealing how and why the fiction influences the human life to stress “the major function” of storytelling to shape the very human mind that shaped it in order to prepare it for the everyday problems One of the first arguments concerns the dreams apparently an inexhaustible spring for tales the brain carefully concocts for our protection since dreams are not as Flanagan once believed “brain waste” that is “a useless by product of all the useful work the sleeping brain does” but as Michael Jouvet discovered in the 50s after realizing that the animals experience REM sleep rather a rehearsal to prepare both humans and other beings for the life challenges Recent research suggests that if geese dream – and it is possible that they do – they probably don’t dream of maize They probably dream of foxesStories have also the function to fill in the blanks of bizarre and or unexplained phenomena behavior actions Another celebrated scientist Michael Gazzaniga the pioneer of the split brain neuroscience school discovered that the two sides of the brain have different functions while the right brain specializes in identifying shapes paying attention to details and generally controlling movement images sounds the left one is responsible for speaking and thinking and imagining and he observed that uite often when a subject whose right brain is defective could not offer an explanation for his actions he would rather fabricate a clever story instead of letting the “why” uestion unansweredThe storytelling mind is allergic to uncertainty randomness and coincidence If the storytelling mind cannot find meaningful patterns in the world it will try to impose them In short the storytelling mind is a factory that churns out true stories when it can but will manufacture lies when it can’tHere it is a possible explanation for the fact that not only the fool or the stupid but even the intelligent persons can firmly believe in the most fanciful conspiracy theory the mind needs to be permanently reassured that all experience is meaningful so it looks for plausible explanations that could counteract evilness Conspiracy theories offer ultimate answers to a great mystery of the human condition why are things so bad in the world? for this reason conspiracy theories – no matter how many devils they invoke – are always consoling in their simplicity Bad things do not happen because of a wildly complex swirls of abstract historical and social variables They happen because bad men live to stalk our happiness And you can fight and possibly even defeat bad men If you can read the hidden storyFurther it was proved many times that the stories can inexorably shape our future and sometimes indirectly the future of the others think of Edward Bulwer Lytton’s novel Rienzi which inspired Wagner’s opera which influenced Hitler and which thus changed the world; think of Uncle’s Tom Cabin which made Abraham Lincoln meet Harriet Beecher Stove and say to her the flattering but not without a grain of truth words that her novel provided all the right reasons for the Civil War; or think of Tolstoy who regarded his work as a noble disease that could “infect” people with his ideas and emotionsLast but not least stories and dreams apart from preparing us to live our lives and making us discern between good and evil teach us to live comfortably with ourselves by fogging the memory of our past actions in order to let us be the impeccable heroes of our lives thus keeping us apart from the despair of the nothingnessDepressed people have lost their positive illusions; they rate their personal ualities much plausibly than average They are able to see with terrible clarity that they are not all that special According to the psychologist Shelley Taylor a healthy mind tells itself flattering lies And if it does not lie to itself it is not healthy Why? Because positive illusions keep us from yielding to despairIt was inevitable of course for such a book to argue about the future of literary fiction in a time where the decreasing of reading is a worldwide phenomenon The author is once again optimistic many a work a fiction is published every day so the reader species is still alive and kicking I found it however a little naïve and a bit insulting his belief that songs are poems and anyone who can tell by heart lyrics is a connoisseur of poetryOurs is not the age when poetry died; it is the age when poetry triumphed in the form of song It is the age of American Idol It is the age when people carry around ten or twenty thousand of their favorite poems stored on little white rectangles tucked into their hip pockets It is an age when most of us know hundred of these poems by heartMe too I’d like to think that poetry is not dead But I would prefer it to be dead than to be reduced to Taylor Swift’s lyrics hearted as they are

  10. Gordon Gordon says:

    If I could give a book a six star rating I'd probably give it to this book Written by an Engish professor at Washington and Jefferson College Jonathan Gottschall it's as good as anything you will ever read about stories and how they mold us as individuals and hold our societies together It is I think uite brilliantGottschall romps through a huge range of psychology evolutionary theory anthropology media studies and even the sociology of online multi player gaming communities in spinning his analysis It's often hugely insightful and almost always persuasive More importantly it's a great story Because after all it's stories that persuade us not facts or reason on their ownThe author's foundation belief is that we are as a species addicted to story Even when the body goes to sleep the mind stays up all night telling itself stories In fact he thinks that our species would be aptly called homo fictus fiction man the great ape with the story telling mind He says emphatically that Neverland is your home and before you die you will spend decades there Gottschall observes that anthropologists have yet to find a culture that does not tell stories Moreover these stories are all very similar across cultures and deal with the universal themes of sex love struggle for power good and evil death The plot line always contains some form of Trouble with a capital T The structure of the stories is also near universal following the formula of story character conflict attempted resolution From this set of cultural universals it is tempting to conclude that we are wired for stories That's the theory that Gottschall essentially embraces In particular he embraces the view of David Sloan Wilson in his book Darwin's Cathedral Evolution Religion and the Nature of Society that cultures that tell stories out compete those that don't Stories hold societies together providing them with a set of common shared myths foundation stories religious stories patriotic stories and so forth A cooperative united society kicks ass against the every man for himself society Gottschall does a wonderful job of drawing on the world of story telling to illustrate how life can imitate art on a grand scale Some stories promote greater racial understanding or greater wariness of authoritarianism such as To Kill a Mockingbird or Animal Farm or Darkness at Noon Some on the other hand promote hatred such as DW Griffith's silent classic film Birth of Nation which created a renaissance for the Klu Klux Klan in the early 20th century by painting that organization as the savior of the white race in the post Civil War southern US And at least one book has even triggered a major war Uncle Tom's Cabin increased opposition to slavery but also helped unleash a civil war that slaughtered a good part of an entire generation of young American men A century and a half later the effects of that war still lingerGottschall does not just focus at the societal level At the level of individuals he analyzes the role of our addiction to made up stories in writing the history of our own lives It's a well studied phenomenon that our memories of the actual facts of our lives are notoriously unreliable Even our deeply held conviction that we remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when a disaster occurred 911 the assassination of John F Kennedy turns out to be self delusion The accuracy of our recollection fades but our confidence does not The majority of Americans confidently and precisely remember seeing video of the first plane striking one of the World Trade Centers on the morning of 911 So did George Bush when he described his reactions just three months after the events No such video was available at the time But faulty memories are not necessarily a weakness Since our memories are so unreliable this frees us to write our own improved versions of our lives Happy people write happy stories Happy stories create happy peopleNotoriously we also see patterns in events even where none exists There are thousands of conspiracy sub cultures that have woven together random bits of flotsam and jetsam to assemble simple theories of how the world works We don't like randomness We don't like to believe that shit just happens We don't like to think that four American diplomats got killed in Benghazi in Libya because well bad things do just happen in chaotic war torn countries where lots of people hate the US and where there is no functioning government Instead we see a vast cover up orchestrated from the top It's easier to believe in handful of bad guys hatching a plot than it is to conceive of the real life complex maelstrom of post Gaddhafi LibyaThe last chapter on the future of story telling is particularly good If you've ever heard of World of Warcraft you should read that chapter It almost made me want to play the game Almost

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