Search Results for "dostoevsky manuscripts"

Fyodor Dostoevsky Draws Elaborate Doodles In His Manuscripts

DosteovskyDoodles1

Few would argue against the claim that Fyodor Dostoevsky, author of such bywords for literary weightiness as Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, and The Brothers Karamazov, mastered the novel, even by the formidable standards of 19th-century Russia. But if you look into his papers, you’ll find that he also had an intriguing way with pen and ink outside the realm of letters — or, if you like, deep inside the realm of letters, since to see drawings by Dostoevsky, you actually have to look within the manuscripts of his novels.


Above, we have a page from Crime and Punishment into which a pair of solemn faces (not that their mood will surprise enthusiasts of Russian literature) found their way. Just below, you’ll find examples from the same manuscript of his pen turning toward the ornamental and architectural while he “created his fiction step by step as he lived, read, remembered, reprocessed and wrote,” as the exhibition of “Dostoyevsky’s Doodles” at Columbia University’s Harriman Institute of Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies put it.

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According to the exhibition description, Dostoevsky’s notes to himself “represent that key moment when the accumulated proto-novel crystallized into a text. Like many of us, Dostoevsky doodled hardest when the words came slowest.” Some of Dostoevsky’s character descriptions, argues scholar Konstantin Barsht, “are actually the descriptions of doodled portraits he kept reworking until they were right.” He didn’t just do so during the writing of Crime and Punishment, either; below we have a page of The Devils that combines the human, the architectural, and the calligraphic, apparently the three main avenues through which Dostoevsky pursued the doodler’s art.

Even if you would personally argue against his claim to greatness (and thus side with his countryman, colleague in literature, and fellow part-time artist Vladimir Nabokov, who found him a “mediocre” writer given to “wastelands of literary platitudes”), surely you can enjoy the charge of pure creation you feel from witnessing his textual mind interact with his visual one. Works by Dostoevsky can be found in our Free Audio Books and Free eBooks collections.

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, Asia, film, literature, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on his brand new Facebook page.

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Dostoevsky Draws Doodles of Raskolnikov and Other Characters in the Manuscript of Crime and Punishment

Raskolnikov Svidrigailov

Like many of us, Russian literary great Fyodor Dostoevsky liked to doodle when he was distracted. He left his handiwork in several manuscripts—finely shaded drawings of expressive faces and elaborate architectural features. But Dostoevsky’s doodles were more than just a way to occupy his mind and hands; they were an integral part of his literary method. His novelistic imagination, with all of its grand excesses, was profoundly visual, and architectural.

“Indeed,” writes Dostoevsky scholar Konstantin Barsht, “Dostoevsky was not content to ‘write’ and ‘take notes’ in the process of creative thinking.” Instead, in his work “the meaning and significance of words interact reciprocally with other meanings expressed through visual images.” Barsht calls it “a method of work specific to the writer.” We’ve shared a few of those manuscript pages before, including one with a doodle of Shakespeare.

Crime and Punish Doodles

Now we bring you a few more pages of doodles from the author of Crime and Punishment, a novel that, perhaps more so than any of his others, offers such vivid descriptions of its characters that I can still clearly remember the pictures I had of them in my mind the first time I read it in high school.


My visualizations of the angry, desperate student Raskolnikov and the sleazy sociopathic Svidrigailov do not exactly resemble the faces doodled at the the top of the post, but that is how their author saw them, at least in this early, manuscript stage of the novel.

The other faces here may be those of Sonya, police investigator Porfiry Petrovich, recidivist alcoholic father Semyon Marmelodov, and other characters in the novel, though it’s not clear exactly who’s who.

Crime and Punish Doodles 2

Dostoevsky had much in common with his novel’s protagonist when he began the novel in 1865. Reduced to near-destitution after gambling away his fortune, the writer was also in desperate straits. The story, writes literary critic Joseph Franks, was “originally conceived as a long short story or novella to be written in the first person,” like the feverish novella Notes From the Underground. In Dostoevsky’s manuscript notebooks, “extensive fragments of this original work are to be found here intact.”

Franks quotes scholar Edward Wasiolek, who published a translation of the notebooks in 1967: “They contain drawings, jottings about practical matters, doodling of various sorts, calculations about pressing expenses, sketches, and random remarks.” In short, “Dostoevsky simply flipped his notebooks open any time he wished to write,” or to practice his calligraphy, as he does on many pages.

Crime and Punish Doodles 3

The pages of the Crime and Punishment notebooks resemble all of the manuscript pages of his novels in their ornamental haphazardness. You can see many more examples from novels like The Idiot, The Possessed, and A Raw Youth at the Russian site Culture, including the sketchy self portrait below, next to a few sums that indicate the author’s perpetual preoccupation with his troubled economic affairs.

Dostoevsky Self Portrait

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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The Animated Dostoevsky: Two Finely Crafted Short Films Bring the Russian Novelist’s Work to Life

You can experience Dostoevsky in the original. You can experience Dostoevsky in translation. Or how about an experience of Dostoevsky in animation? Today we’ve rounded up two particularly notable examples of that last, both of which take up their unconventional project of adaptation with suitably unconventional animation techniques. At the top of the post, we have the first part (and just below we have the second) of Dostoevsky’s story “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man,” re-imagined by Russian animator Alexander Petrov.

The animation, as Josh Jones wrote here in 2014, “uses painstakingly hand-painted cells to bring to life the alternate world the narrator finds himself navigating in his dream. From the flickering lamps against the dreary, darkened cityscape of the ridiculous man’s waking life to the shifting, sunlit sands of the dreamworld, each detail of the story is finely rendered with meticulous care.” A haunting visual style for this haunting piece of late Dostoevsky in full-on existentialist mode.


Just below, you can see a longer and more ambitious adaptation of one of Dostoevsky’s much longer, much more ambitious works: Crime and Punishment. This half-hour animated version by Polish filmmaker Piotr Dumala, Mike Springer wrote here in 2012, gets “told expressionistically, without dialogue and with an altered flow of time. The complex and multi-layered novel is pared down to a few central characters and events,” all of them portrayed with a form of labor-intensive “destructive animation” in which Dumala engraved, painted over, and then re-engraved each frame on plaster, a method where “each image exists only long enough to be photographed and then painted over to create a sense of movement.”

If you’d now like to plunge into Dostoevsky’s literary world and find out if it compels you, too, to create strikingly unconventional animations — or any other sort of project inspired by the writer’s epic grappling with life’s greatest, most troubling themes — you can do it for free with our collection of Dostoevsky eBooks and audiobooks.

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Fyodor Dostoevsky Draws Elaborate Doodles In His Manuscripts

Dostoevsky Draws a Picture of Shakespeare: A New Discovery in an Old Manuscript

Colin Marshall writes on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, and the video series The City in CinemaFollow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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Dostoevsky Draws a Picture of Shakespeare: A New Discovery in an Old Manuscript

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Dostoevsky, a doodler? Surely not! Great Russian brow furrowed over the meaning of love and hate and faith and crime, diving into squalid hells, ascending to the heights of spiritual ecstasy, taking a gasp of heavenly air, then back down to the depths again to churn out the pages and hundreds of character arcs—that’s Dostoevsky’s style. Doodles? No. And yet, even Dostoevsky, the acme of literary seriousness, made time for the odd pen and ink caricature amidst his bouts of existential angst, poverty, and ill health. We’ve shown you some of them before—indeed, some very well rendered portraits and architectural drawings in the pages of his manuscripts. Now, just above, see yet another, a recently discovered tiny portrait of Shakespeare in profile, etched in the margins of a page from one of his angstiest novels, The Possessed, available in our collection, 800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices.

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Annie Martirosyan in The Huffington Post points out some family resemblance between the Shakespeare doodle and the famous brooding oil portrait of Dostoevsky himself, by Vasily Perov. She also notes the ring stain and sundry drips over the “hardly legible… scribbles” and “marginalia… scattered naughtily across the page” is from the author’s tea. “Feodor Mikhailovich was an avid tea drinker,” and he would consume his favorite beverage while walking “to and fro in the room and mak[ing] up his characters’ speeches out loud….” Can’t you just see it? Under the drawing (see it closer in the inset)—in one of the many examples of the author’s painstaking handwriting practice—is the name “Atkinson.”

Martirosyan sums up a somewhat complicated academic discussion between Dostoevsky experts Vladimir Zakharov and Boris Tikhomirov about the source of this name. This may be of interest to literary specialists. But perhaps it suffices to say that both scholars “have now confirmed the authenticity of the image as Dostoevsky’s drawing of Shakespeare,” and that the name and drawing may have no conceptual connection. It’s also further proof that Dostoevsky, like many of us, turned to making pictures when, says scholar Konstantin Barsht—whom Colin Marshall quoted in our previous post—“the words came slowest.” In fact, some of the author’s character descriptions, Barsht claims, “are actually the descriptions of doodled portraits he kept reworking until they were right.”

So why Shakespeare? Perhaps it’s simply that the great psychological novelist felt a kinship with the “inventor of the human.” After all, Dostoevsky has been called, in those memorable words from Count Melchoir de Vogue, “the Shakespeare of the lunatic asylum.”

via The Huffington Post

h/t OC reader Nick

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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Why You Should Read The Master and Margarita: An Animated Introduction to Bulgakov’s Rollicking Soviet Satire

Which are the essential Russian novels? Quite a few undeniable contenders come to mind right away: Fathers and SonsCrime and PunishmentWar and PeaceAnna KareninaThe Brothers KaramazovDr. ZhivagoOne Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. But among serious enthusiasts of Russian literature, novels don’t come much less deniable than The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov’s tale of the Devil’s visit to Soviet Moscow in the 1930s. This “surreal blend of political satire, historical fiction, and occult mysticism,” as Alex Gendler describes it in the animated TED-Ed video above, “has earned a legacy as one of the 20th century’s greatest novels — and one of its strangest.”

The Master and Margarita consists of two parallel narratives. In the first, “a meeting between two members of Moscow’s literary elite is interrupted by a strange gentleman named Woland, who presents himself as a foreign scholar invited to give a presentation on black magic.” Then, “as the stranger engages the two companions in a philosophical debate and makes ominous predictions about their fates, the reader is suddenly transported to first-century Jerusalem,” where “a tormented Pontius Pilate reluctantly sentences Jesus of Nazareth to death.”


The novel oscillates between the story of the historical Jesus — though not quite the one the Bible tells — and that of Woland and his entourage, which includes an enormous cat named Behemoth with a taste for chess, vodka, wisecracks, and firearms. Dark humor flows liberally from their antics, as well as from Bulgakov’s depiction of “the USSR at the height of the Stalinist period. There, artists and authors worked under strict censorship, subject to imprisonment, exile, or execution if they were seen as undermining state ideology.”

The devilish Woland plays this overbearing bureaucratic life like a fiddle, and “as heads are separated from bodies and money rains from the sky, the citizens of Moscow react with petty-self interest, illustrating how Soviet society bred greed and cynicism despite its ideals.” Such content would naturally render a book unpublishable at the time, and though Bulgakov’s earlier satire The Heart of a Dog (in which a surgeon transplants human organs into a dog and then insists he behave as a human) circulated in samizdat form, he couldn’t even complete The Master and Margarita before his death in 1940.

“Bulgakov’s experiences with censorship and artistic frustration lend an autobiographical air to the second part of the novel, when we are finally introduced to its namesake,” says Gendler. “The Master is a nameless author who’s worked for years on a novel but burned the manuscript after it was rejected by publishers — just as Bulgakov had done with his own work. Yet the true protagonist is the Master’s mistress Margarita,” whose “devotion to her lover’s abandoned dream bears a strange connection to the diabolical company’s escapades — and carries the story to its surreal climax.”

In the event, a censored version of The Master and Margarita was first published in the 1960s, and an as-complete-as-possible version eventually appeared in 1973. Against the odds, the manuscript that Bulgakov left behind survived him to become a masterpiece that has inspired not just other Russian writers, but creators like the Rolling StonesPatti Smith, and (in a perhaps less than safe-for-work manner) H.R. Giger as well. Perhaps the author himself had some premonition of the book’s potential: manuscripts, as he famously has Woland say to the Master, don’t burn.

Looking for free, professionally-read audio books from Audible.com? (This could include The Master and Margarita.) Here’s a great, no-strings-attached deal. If you start a 30 day free trial with Audible.com, you can download two free audio books of your choice. Get more details on the offer here.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

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Museum Discovers Math Notebook of an 18th-Century English Farm Boy, Adorned with Doodles of Chickens Wearing Pants

We are trained by tradition to think of history as a series of great men’s (and some women’s) lives, of great wars and royal successions, conquests and tragic defeats, revolutions and world-changing discoveries. The ordinary, everyday lives of ordinary, everyday people seem tedious and unremarkable by comparison. But archivists know better. Their jobs are not glamorous, but what they lack in fame or academic sinecures, they make up for with chance discoveries of the kind that we see here—doodles in the 1784 math notebook of one Richard Beale, a 13-year-old farm boy from rural Kent, England.

The archivists at the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) were so excited about this find they made a Twitter thread about it, explaining its provenance in a bundle of eighteenth-century farm diaries, which “are a lot like normal diaries but with more cows.”


The museum’s program manager, Adam Koszary, has a good ear for the medium, tweeting out other witticisms about Richard’s adventures in taking notes: “But, like every teenager, mathematics couldn’t fill the void of Richard’s heart. Richard doodled.” He drew pictures of his dog, incorporated drawings of ships into his equations, and impeccably illustrated his word problems.

One can almost imagine the listicle: “Rural 18th-Century English Folk: They’re Just Like Us!” They think about their pets a lot. They draw when they get bored. They doodle tiny sketches of chickens in pants…Wait what? Yes, a chicken in trousers appears among Richard’s doodles, one of the many charming features that landed MERL’s story in The Guardian and garnered famous fans like JK Rowling. Like seemingly everything on the internet, the chicken in pants has sparked conspiracy theories, such as “Why do the trousers appear to be solid like Wallace’s in The Wrong Trousers?” and “Was Richard Beale acquainted with the town of Hensbroek in the Netherlands?”

These questions, writes Guy Baxter, associate director of archive services at MERL, are only partly tongue-in-cheek. The Dutch town of Hensbroek, does indeed have a coat of arms featuring a chicken in pants that bears a very close resemblance to Richard’s drawing, though it is entirely unlikely that Richard ever traveled to the Netherlands. The arms of Hensbroek “are a famous example of ‘canting’, which uses a pun on a name to inspire the design,” notes Baxter. (Hensbroek literally means “hens pants.”) The origin of Richard’s design is more mysterious. “It is possible that he knew about canting arms,” Baxter admits. “Or maybe he just had a vivid imagination.”

The little story of Richard Beale and his math homework doodles shows us something about our fractured, fragmented world and the anxious, divided lives we seem to lead online, says Ollie Douglas, curator of MERL’s object collections: “Social media is awash with highly personalized engagements and commentaries on the world…. You only need to look through the responses to this single Twitter thread (and that fact that a readymade chicken-in-trousers gif was available for us to shamelessly retweet) to see that the messy complexity of our world is still being shared and that we are all still doodlers at heart.”

Follow the Museum of English Rural Life for updates to this story.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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Hear a BBC Radio Drama of Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov: Streaming Free for a Limited Time

Dostoyevsky - The Brothers Karamazov

A quick heads up: For the next two weeks, you can stream a BBC Radio 4 dramatization of Fyodor Dostoyevsky‘s final novel, The Brothers Karamazov. Published between January 1879 and November 1880, the philosophical novel has influenced generations of readers–certainly me, maybe you, and then some other notable figures like Einstein, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Freud and more. The radio dramatization is truncated, just 5 hours, whereas most complete versions run 34 hours. (Find those in our collection of Free Audio Books. Or get a professionally-read version on Audible.com, by checking out Audible’s 30-day free trial program.) Below, you can find the installments of the BBC radio drama.

  • Episode 1: Russia, 1880: The unpredictable Fyodor Karamazov and his sons are reunited to discuss Dmitry’s inheritance. Stars Roy Marsden.
  • Episode 2: As Alyosha attends to dying Father Zosima, relations between Dmitry and his father turn ever more dangerous. Stars Paul Hilton.
  • Episode 3: Following a violent encounter at the Karamazov home, Dmitry flees the town in search of Grushenka. Stars Paul Hilton.
  • Episode 4: As Dmitry goes on trial for murder, Alyosha desperately seeks proof of his innocence. Stars Paul Hilton and Carl Prekopp.
  • Episode 5: Following Ivan’s dramatic appearance at his brother’s trial, Katerina prepares to deal Dmitry a fatal blow. Stars Paul Hilton.

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Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Life & Literature Introduced in a Monty Python-Style Animation

“You know how earlier we were talking about Dostoyevsky?” asks David Brent, Ricky Gervais’ iconically insecure paper-company middle-manager central to the BBC’s original The Office. “Oh, yeah?” replies Ricky, the junior employee who had earlier that day demonstrated a knowledge of the influential Russian novelist apparently intimidating to his boss. “Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky. Born 1821. Died 1881,” recites Brent. “Just interested in him being exiled in Siberia for four years.” Ricky admits to not knowing much about that period of the writer’s life. “All it is is that he was a member of a secret political party,” Brent continues, drawing upon research clearly performed moments previous, “and they put him in a Siberian labour camp for four years, so, you know…”

We here at Open Culture know that you wouldn’t stoop to such tactics in an attempt to establish intellectual supremacy over your co-workers — nor would you feel any shame in not having yet plunged into the work of that same Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky, born 1821, died 1881, and the author of such much-taught novels as Crime and PunishmentThe Idiot, and The Brothers Karamazov (as well as a prolific doodler). “His first major work,” in the posturing words of David Brent, “was Notes from the Underground, which he wrote in St Petersburg in 1859. Of course, my favorite is The Raw Youth. It’s basically where Dostoyevsky goes on to explain how science can’t really find answers for the deeper human need.”

An intriguing position! To hear it explained with deeper comprehension (but just as entertainingly, and also in an English-accented voice), watch this 14-minute, Monty Python-style animated primer from Alain de Botton’s School of Life and read the accompanying article from The Book of Life. Even apart from those years in Siberia, the man “had a very hard life, but he succeeded in conveying an idea which perhaps he understood more clearly than anyone: in a world that’s very keen on upbeat stories, we will always run up against our limitations as deeply flawed and profoundly muddled creatures,” an attitude “needed more than ever in our naive and sentimental age that so fervently clings to the idea – which this great Russian loathed – that science can save us all and that we may yet be made perfect through technology.”

After The School of Life gets you up to speed on Dostoyevsky, you’ll no doubt find yourself able to more than hold your own in any water-cooler discussion of the man whom James Joyce credited with shattering the Victorian novel, “with its simpering maidens and ordered commonplaces,” whom Virginia Woolf regarded as the most exciting writer other that Shakespeare, and whose work Hermann Hesse tantalizingly described as “a glimpse into the havoc.” You may well also find yourself moved even to open one of Dostoyevsky’s intimidatingly important books themselves, whose assessments of the human condition remain as devastatingly clear-eyed as, well, The Office‘s.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices




Download 800 free eBooks to your Kindle, iPad/iPhone, computer, smart phone or ereader. Collection includes great works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, including works by Asimov, Jane Austen, Philip K. Dick, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Neil Gaiman, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Shakespeare, Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf & James Joyce. Also please see our collection 1,000 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Freewhere you can download more great books to your computer or mp3 player.




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Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov Strikingly Illustrated by Expressionist Painter Alice Neel (1938)

the-brothers-karamazov-1

Images belong to The Estate of Alice Neel.

We all know the reputation of 19th-century Russian novels: long, dense bricks of pure prose, freighted with deep moral concerns and, to the uninitiated, enlivened only by a confusing farrago of patronymics. And sure, while they may have a bit of a learning curve to them, these classic works of literature also, so their advocates assure us, boast plenty to keep them relevant today — just the quality, of course, that makes them classic works of literature in the first place.

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While we should by all means read them, that doesn’t mean we can’t get a taste of these much-discussed books before we heft them and turn to page one by, for example, checking out their illustrations. These vary in quality with the editions, of course, but how much of the art that has ever accompanied, say, Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov has looked quite as evocative as the never-published illustrations here? They come from the hand of the Pennsylvania-born artist Alice Neel, commissioned in the 1930s for an edition of the novel that never saw the printing press.

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The Paris Review‘s Dan Piepenberg, posting eight of Neel’s illustrations, highlights “how attuned these two sensibilities are: it’s the marriage of one kind of darkness to another”; “the black storm cloud of Neel’s pen is well suited to Dostoyevsky’s questions of God, reason, and doubt.” And yet Neel also manages to express the novel’s “madness and comedy,” bringing “a manic bathos to these scenes that lends them both gravity and levity; in every wide, glassy pair of eyes, grave questions of moral certitude are undercut by the absurd.”

You can see all of eight of Neel’s Karamazov illustrations at The Paris Review, not that they provide a substitute for reading the novel itself (which you can find in our collection of Free eBooks). After all, that’s the only way to find out what exactly happens at that bacchanal just above.

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture as well as the video series The City in Cinema and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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