Dictionary of the Khazars ~ BookRing ~

by Milorad Pavic | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 8673466288 Global Overview for this book
Registered by zzz of Rakovica, City of Belgrade Serbia on 10/31/2005
Buy from one of these Booksellers:
Amazon.com | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon IT | Bol.com
12 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by zzz from Rakovica, City of Belgrade Serbia on Monday, October 31, 2005
Belgrade Book Fair 2005

This copy is a replacement of the First copy of the Dictionary

Pavic is one of the greatest Serbian writers and my favorite. Because of that I'll put what others say about "Khazars":

A national bestseller, Dictionary of the Khazars was cited by The New York Times Book Review as one of the best books of the year. Written in two versions, male and female, which are identical save for seventeen crucial lines, Dictionary is the imaginary book of knowledge of the Khazars, a people who flourished somewhere beyond Transylvania between the seventh and ninth centuries. Eschewing conventional narrative and plot, this lexicon novel combines the dictionaries of the world's three major religions with entries that leap between past and future, featuring three unruly wise men, a book printed in poison ink, suicide by mirrors, a chimerical princess, a sect of priests who can infiltrate one's dreams, romances between the living and the dead, and much more.

"All its delights...the structural novelty and the comic inventiveness of the imagery...[are] an ebullient and generous celebration of the reading experience."
--- The New York Times Book Review

"As with Borges or Garcia Marquez...[Pavic] knows how to support his textual legerdemain with superb portrait miniatures and entrancing anecdotes."
--- Washington Post Book World

"There are books provoking in the reader something like a chemical reaction...Dictionary of The Khazars contains such a "poison""
--- Mainichi Shimbun, Japan

"Pavic is the author of the first book of the XXI century"
--- Paris Match

Here you may see what Amazon tells about this novel:
Amazon about Dictionary of the Khazars
And one more thing; This is the MALE edition but don't worry if you're opposite sex. There is a difference between Male and Female edition but is minor.
If you still have doubts about it please visit this: About Book's sex...

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This is Milorad Pavic!

These are photos from
"Dictionary Of The Khazars"-theatre play
, very ambitious project with best actors, dancers, costume designers, musicians, ...with all bests, which had enormous success.
The scene was in one huge iron cage (observe last photo) and the audience, only 365 - one person for each day in the year, was around that cage in several (cannot remember how many) floors. Seats were part of outside wall of that cage. This was the most unusual and original performance based on some book (including movies). Just as you are watching your own or someone's others (which was freaky too) dreams. One experience which is impossible to describe because I felt unique flavor in my soul's mouth! You would have your own (and you'll find it among the pages) but this one was intended just and only for me, same as the flavor of Dictionary's pages...

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Journal Entry 2 by zzz from Rakovica, City of Belgrade Serbia on Sunday, November 06, 2005

Once again welcome to my FIRST international Book-Ring!

I hope it will satisfy your expectations.



1. concertina8, Viena - Austria (read and released)
2. -BookHaven-, Porto - Portugal (read and released)
3. TonyAlmeida, Coimbra - Portugal<---- Ring Killer!!!

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~Second copy~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

4. CatharinaL, Tampere - Finland (read and released)
5. Koalabare, Surrey - UK (read and released)
6. ziggythecat, Leicestershire - UK (read and released)
7. ScottishHoosier, Westhill - UK (read and released)
8. Semioticghost, Ipswich - UK (read and released)
9. Amanida, Chertsey - UK (read and released)
10. coolboxuk, Chertsey - UK (read and released)
11. zugenia, Arkansas - USA (read and released)
12. icekween01, Missouri - USA (read and released)
13. cordelia-anne, Georgia - USA (read and released)
14. greedyreader, New Jersey - USA <------ Dictionary is here!
15. bartonz, Washington - USA
16. debnance, Texas - USA
17. tantan, Queensland - Australia
18. lizzy-stardust, Manchester - UK
19. Sternschnuppe28, Mainz - Germany

How it works?
- Please make a journal entry when you receive the book, enjoy, and after reading please do share your thoughts about it with others.
- When you're ready to release the book, send a PM to the next person on the list asking for her/his address.
- It would be ideal to keep book no longer than a month-month and a half, but if so please make a journal that Ring is still alive.
- If you are the last person on the list, please PM me for my address.

I hope you'll enjoy in this book/dream as much as I'm enjoying

Once again here is
the link for the first copy of the Dictionary

Journal Entry 3 by CatharinaL from Pirkkala, Pirkanmaa / Birkaland Finland on Monday, December 05, 2005
The book arrived today--I'm so thrilled! Thanks again, Milan!

Please DO NOT read the following until you've finished reading the book! It's not a spoiler, but a set of notes to journal how 'my' Dictionary turned out!


[8 Dec 05: First Reading Session] I love Pavić's postmodernist structures--novels in which the real action takes place in the complex networks of thought processes, evoked by the relations of the elements in the book. They operate on an entirely new level compared to pre- (or exter-) Pavićian literature...

To me, the Dictionary is a meta-level novel about words, language, and construction as much as it is about the Khazars and religion on the story level. It plays with knowledge construction and the methods & paths we take to construct our conceptual models. Reading a "dictionary" is inquiry learning; reading three different and at times contradicting "dictionaries" poses a continual conceptual conflict and change. Writing, erasing, overlapping, replacing. Here and there, the text also self-consciously refers to the constructing and de-constructing processes--of both language and literature. The entries form strata of components on associative fields, like words in a true lexicon. It's not a turnkey encyclopedia, a book of knowledge, but a dictionary, a book of words, to assist in the construction of knowledge. The reader is the key. But, as Pavić is decidedly ambiguous, it is impossible to interpret/construct his work in one way only. In the end, all we're left with are the workings of our own mind: the various interconnected details form a unique model that ultimately complements and completes the work of art.

At this point, I'm tempted to read the history and culture of (particularly southern) Slavic peoples into Pavić's heavy metaphors. Lacking the cultural key, however, it is difficult to decide which details are a) authentic history or legends of the existing traditional lore, that is, true intertexts; b) deliberately formed replicae to resemble and confuse those legends; or c) completely imaginary tales. There must be so much more to discover and to ring a bell for native readers--I envy you for that!

I'm halfway through the book now, and reading on in linear order...


[12 Dec 05: Second Reading Session] Having read 2/3 of the book, I feel like jotting down my second batch of notes. I really enjoy contemplating the Dictionary; it's probably the most challenging book I've ever read.

I don't know what this book will complete itself into! Right now I feel as if I'm shifting from two-dimensional construction to three-dimensional. I'm constructing a 3-D cubic object inside which the internal layers of the story move up or down, left or right, to the front or back. The reader is invited to play a game with the possible three dimensions to form a cube, quite similarly to the organization of words to form knowledge. But which block becomes the floor, which the wall, and which the ceiling? The red, the green, or the yellow? The past, the present, or the future? These thoughts in turn lead to the question of perspective and subjectivity/objectivity.

Objectivity/subjectivity; outside/inside. Inextricable duality seems to be a key theme in 'my' Dictionary. The major religions, as well as several other -isms, seem to be formed around the concept of dichotomy and the resulting symmetry. In creation, construction, everything is said to have its opposite. Following this, the three sources feed on the dualist tradition on the story level, too. But, instead of being either/or pairs, all these thematic sets of two essentially make one, just like the white and the yolk in an egg: awake/asleep, day/night, summer/winter, black/white, vowel/consonant, verb/noun, intent/deed, left/right, truth/lie, good/bad, body/soul, man/creator, inside/outside, lock/unlock, masculine/feminine.

A cube, then, or a locked cage. I peek in through the bars set by my culture, my own frame of reference. They say that thinking must be preceded by, and cannot exist without, a framework of cultural tools/keys, for example language. I, as a reader, remain on the outside, but am still imprisoned by the cultural viewpoint I hold, within which I operate, construct my knowledge, and interpret the world. In drawing a cube, describing all of its dimensions, I need to know my perspective: the vanishing point, the line reduction, the distortion correction from the chosen viewpoint. The perspective is an inextricable part of the construct--so the object and the viewing experience also form an inseparable whole. The mere structure cannot be separately studied, then, and none of my keys fit to enable me to see the whole cube, all of its sides, from any one viewpoint. Also, I cannot study any of the dimensions by using itself as a measure--that would be absurd, and here the words trick me and pose me a problem. How can I analyze language using language itself or any other language, not being able to go beyond language to see it from the outside? How can I analyze culture, religion, or politics, from the inside of my existing knowledge of (my own) culture/religion/politics?

Hmm... I'm tempted to construct the actual contents of my cube in the form of a Rubik's Cube (cf. page 13). The characters on the different layers in relation to the Khazar question form the actual subcubes, and their entries in the three books are represented by the different colours, with the complementary colours adding up to the whole. Only 1-3 colour panels are visible at any given time on each subcube; the rest are hidden inside. Every time some layer of subcubes is rotated, the mosaic on the facets is altered, but the subcubes only change positions according to the internal laws. When the layers are rotated, some facets come to contact with each other on the inside. The internal mechanism controls the events in the book; the characters are bound by the laws and logic of the cube in their waking hours as well as in their sleep. The core cube in the centre represents the hidden truth about the Khazars, with which all the other cubes are directly or indirectly in contact. The vertical and the horizontal axis in which the layers of subcubes can be rotated might represent the spatial and the temporal dimensions. In the edge and corner positions, two or three panels of the same subcube are visible at the same time from a certain angle. Imagine what this means for the characters on the story level... Somehow this model doesn't seem satisfactory, though, and at this point, my Rubik's Cube is in a completely scrambled state anyway :-)

Reading on...

[13 Dec 05: Third Reading Session] My mental model of a Rubik's Cube ended up evolving into Escher's Impossible Staircase (cf. pp. 216-217)! The subcubes on the top side are removed, and the rest of the sides appear to be rather asymmetrical. The height, length, and depth dimensions vary for each side, as there exists a different model of the basic frame in each source religion. The idea is that as I look at each individual part of the construct, I don't see any mistakes, but when the construct is viewed as a whole, several grave problems occur.

Even after the construction of the cube/staircase (=the act of reading/writing the book) is complete, each of its sides remains a multi-coloured mosaic, forever in a scrambled state, because they combine and consist of the untruths from various sources. The classical task of literature has been to correct vice, to fight evil by showing the truth. The comparative method, comparing the notes in the three sources, assists in leading us to construct our 'truth': The truth cannot be understood on its own,-- but only by comparing it with lies (p.258). According to the colour panel, the Khazars are either seen as Non-Christian, Non-Jew, Non-Arab, or their dualist counterparts Jew, Arab, or Greek. What we call 'truth' from our viewpoint is always distorted when seen in the big picture: an Impossible Staircase.

The core cube and the construct surrounding it pair up to make a whole, the ultimate knowledge, the truth--similarly to the way content and form are essential and inseparable for a literary creation, a work of art. Where is it possible to enter such a construct (besides in our imagination and, well, mathematics)? A DREAM. That is the only place where a person has the opportunity to go inside the cube, see beyond impossible angles, to ascend or descend the various surfaces, to bend the laws of hierarchy. The ultimate dream staircase cube is metaphorically likened to the superconstruct 'Adam' made of all men; the inside, the subconscious, is the only location where dreamers and dreamhunters enter, come to contact, and have access to all dimensions at once. But is it possible even there to see and separate the hidden core?

The Dictionary (1) is a dictionary (2) of the dictionaries (3) on the Khazar question (4). The story contains three essential levels (2,3,4), the top levels operating as metalevels, creator levels, to the ones under them. The hierarchy gets scrambled, as the reader starts to assemble the cube and acts as the semi-random rotator, the final creator of the reading level (1). In all of this construction, the Dictionary challenges the traditional roles of Author, Text, and Reader (or in the language of one perspective: Creator, Man, and Matter--or Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost). Which creates which? Obviously, one cannot challenge such fundamental issues of an established literary theory (religion, political system) without appearing dangerously heretical. Ultimately, it's again a dualist problem where the established conceptual model or dogma is being challenged by exterior models or elements. The 'iconoclastic heresy' against the conventional literary tradition is breaking the intentional fallacy, that of the author's God-like status and unaltered original intention. Instead, the new rules state there are as many correct readings/constructs as there are readers.

According to the new rules represented by the form and content of the Dictionary, dualist pairing-up no longer needs to be valued as an either/or dichotomy. The book even manages to disassemble some 'true' dichotomies, such as those of process/product and internal/external! I see a strong anti-iconoclastic message here: even though somebody doesn't agree with me, he is equally justified to his unique opinion. Tyranny of one creates a monster, and we always need more perspectives than one. We also need more perspectives than one and its counterpart. The mosaic of perspectives can only be obtained from others around us, although absolute truth can never be reached. The 'internal and external affairs' in the organization of the subcubes may thus also find their symbolistic counterparts in the political system. On the bottom-line story level, too, as not much information about the original dogma/religion of the Khazars is being filtered to us through the construct of the metalevels, there is no objective way of putting the various rivalling dogmas (the original and the challenging ones) in order of superiority. However, there is a strong moral dilemma concerning the 'devils', the murderers. If all viewpoints are equally valuable, should all hell be let loose in a permissive democracy? How much internal hierarchy is needed, and who is to control the hierarchies? Is a mosaic-like society with sustainable and equal minority/majority relations a utopia; a theory (intent) which becomes intolerable in practice (deed)? The structure leaves all these questions up for the reader to solve, and allows for an infinite number of interpretations and emphasises that can be equally applied to politics/religion/literary theory--not to mention to the ultimate plot of the story :-)

Erm... this must be my longest journal entry ever. I'm sorry--it's just that the Dictionary has been such a joy and source of wacky inspiration. Who would've guessed that construction work could be so much fun! Also, I'm glad I came to think of keeping a 'journal' of my thought processes in the first place--it's been an interesting journey! Although, not nearly all the details added up, and I had to skip certain 'irrelevant' details to be able to keep to my chosen model--but I think admitting the flaws of any one model was necessary to prove the whole point :-) I'm hoping to compare notes with the other readers to see what their individual constructs look like... And Milan: thanks for introducing me to this fabulour author--he's already my favourite!

Journal Entry 4 by CatharinaL from Pirkkala, Pirkanmaa / Birkaland Finland on Thursday, December 15, 2005
The Dictionary is now on its way to Koalabare--I'm hoping for Xmas delivery!

Journal Entry 5 by Koalabare from Fetcham, Surrey United Kingdom on Monday, December 19, 2005
This arrived this morning - thanks for the speedy posting CatherinaL!

I will aim to start this by the end of the week. Looks very interesting...

Journal Entry 6 by Koalabare from Fetcham, Surrey United Kingdom on Thursday, January 05, 2006
Well, I'm very sorry to say that although I loved the idea and concept of this book, when reading it I just couldn't get into it. I'm not sure if this was the style of writing or the subject matter; either way, I found it very hard to connect with - sometimes it was just too surreal, and I found myself getting 'thrown out' of the book just as I was making headway!

This is frustrating, as I'm intrigued that other readers have found so much more in it.

However, rather than persevere and hold up the ring, I'm going to post it to ziggycat and try and find another copy to read again in the future.

zzz - thanks so much for your kindness and endeavours in organising the ring - I'm really glad I got the chance to read this, even if it wasn't my cup of tea! :)

07/01/06 - Posted to ziggythecat this morning

Journal Entry 7 by ziggythecat from Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire United Kingdom on Wednesday, January 11, 2006
This book arrived safely yesterday, thanks koalabare :o)
Gosh the reviews on Amazon suggest its going to be one of those 'love it or hate it' reads, what fun!

Journal Entry 8 by ziggythecat from Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire United Kingdom on Monday, February 27, 2006
I'm going to have to pass on this one I'm afraid zzz, its beyond me what the whole thing is about! I tried, on three occasions, to get into it, even to just read and hope to be carried along by the flow - maybe that was part of the problem, I couldn't find any 'flow' in it.

Please don't be put off next reader - its had great reviews elsewhere.
Thanks zzz it was certaily unlike any book I'd picked up before ;o)

Journal Entry 9 by ziggythecat from Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire United Kingdom on Thursday, March 02, 2006
Off to scottishhoosier today.

Journal Entry 10 by ScottishHoosier on Saturday, March 04, 2006
Oh, I'm excited! I've been looking forward to this for quite some time. I love getting books from zzz. Thank you, ziggythecat!

What a great book day today is! I went to a mini-meetup to see rainbow3, ythan and inver, bought some World Book Day books along the way, picked up a couple of books at the meetup and this came while I was out! As an aside, it has just started to snow again. We've had about 1 1/2 feet of the stuff in the last five days.

Looking forward to the read. It will have to share my attention as I already have a handful of The Cat Who bookring books.

Journal Entry 11 by ScottishHoosier on Friday, April 07, 2006
I don't really know what to write. It is a strange book, and I haven't read it all. I started off reading it cover to cover. It got tough after a while, so I started jumping between the three dictionaries. I eventually gave up and pm'ed for the next address. I wanted to read the two appendixes before sending it on. They were so interesting I went back and read some of the entries which I hadn't read. I supposed I've read up to 7/8 of the book. I don't know what parts I haven't read, and have had the book for just over a month now, so need to send it on.

What is time? What is evil? Are we all reincarnations? Just how many devils are out there? In this book they are not as evil as we would think. Or are they?

There are somethings that just completely went over my head. I wonder if I understood Slavic cultures, would I understand these things?

Journal Entry 12 by ScottishHoosier on Friday, April 21, 2006
Finally, finally, finally I'm sending this book on its way. I'm sorry I've had it so long. Hubby's 40th birthday and Easter got in the way.

I hope you enjoy it, SemioticGhost.

Journal Entry 13 by Semioticghost from Ipswich, Suffolk United Kingdom on Monday, April 24, 2006
found on my return from a week away - thank you very much, ZZZ for starting this and to ScottishHoosier for sendig it on to me. PMing Amanida for her address now, so I've got it ready once I finish this.

Journal Entry 14 by Semioticghost from Ipswich, Suffolk United Kingdom on Friday, May 19, 2006
This books, it seems, wanted to travel so desperately that it left me, on a flight between London and Edinburgh. I was reading it on the plane and when I got to the place where I was staying, it was no longer in my bag...I am very sorry, but quite sure that it will show up again, in one way of the other, as it's not in the airport's lost property!
In any case, I have just ordered a replacement [with a different cover, but still the male edition] and will re-label and get it on its way as soon as I can - I'm only halfway through the Islamic book, so it might be another week, but this is definitely an excellent read.
I apologize to all future ring members for this delay.

I have covered the book in clear sticky plastic to help it last through its coming journey. I've also left a green, a red and a yellow tag in it to allow for easy comparison between entries in the three books.

I've ordered a copy for myself, because there's much I feel I overlooked in the first reading, with twists of myth and multiple layers of symbols giving me something new to discover. I realise Pavic is seen as one of the paragons of modernism, but I feel that a postmodern, post structuralist or psychoanalytic interpretation of the novel would alos yield interesting insights.
I have wanted to give up on this a fair few times, and on each occasion, something amazing on what was to be my final page drew me back in. The complexity of interwoven stories and multiple layers of meaning do not lend themselves easily to the wandering attention of a visually dyslexic reader, but I want to dive into this some more.

Released 14 yrs ago (5/30/2006 UTC) at Postal Release in Postal release, Postal Release -- Controlled Releases



After a soujour for whole-body replacement, this amazing novel is now on its way to Amanida.

Journal Entry 16 by Amanida from Chertsey, Surrey United Kingdom on Thursday, June 01, 2006
Khazars arrived! I'm intrigued.....tbr soon.

Journal Entry 17 by Amanida from Chertsey, Surrey United Kingdom on Sunday, June 04, 2006
The first sentence "The author assures the reader that he will not have to die if he reads this book, as did the user of the 1691 edition..." stuck in my mind for the first few hours that I spent with the book. I was feeling pretty ill with a cold and not managing to make much sense of it. But I persevered, with a mix of jumping from book to book and reading straight through. Today I feel much better and can say that I think it's a really amazing book and I'm going to try and get a copy of the female version of the book for myself.
It's hard to find words to describe this jigsaw puzzle of a novel, so I'll make one more quote from the book, which I particularly like:
"There is a place in Itil, the Khazar capital, where, when two people (who may be quite unknown to each other) cross paths, they assume each other's name and fate, and each lives out the rest of his or herlife in the role of the other, as though they has swapped caps. The most numerous of those waiting in this line to exchange their fate with someone, with anyone, else, are always the Khazars."
I'll be seeing coolboxuk next week, so I'll pass it on then. And maybe re-read a few bits in the meantime.

Journal Entry 18 by rem_XGD-219596 on Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Was passed on to me at today's Chertsey Bookcrossers' Meeting. Unfortunately, I've just had a whole bulk of ring books coming in before (a set of books) and will have to finish them first, so I apologise for a little delay in this ring...

Journal Entry 19 by zugenia from Hamilton, Ontario Canada on Thursday, August 17, 2006
The Dictionary has arrived safely in Arkansas. Looks fascinating -- more soon...

Journal Entry 20 by zugenia from Hamilton, Ontario Canada on Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A kind soul in line for this book just reminded me that I've held onto it for quite a while -- I believe it was lost in a moving shuffle late last summer, and ended up mistakenly packed in a box! I'm so sorry to hold up the ring. I'm away from home for several weeks, but as soon as I return I'll excavate the book and get it moving again. Again, my most sincere apologies!!

Journal Entry 21 by zugenia from Hamilton, Ontario Canada on Monday, October 01, 2007
First, let me apologize AGAIN for holding up this international ring for so long. I've loved sharing books back and forth with zzz, and I'm so glad he included me in his first ring, and am more than a little appalled that I allowed life to intervene in my bookcrossing for a full year. I shall try to realign my BC karma through RABCKs and such over the next few months!

This is a wonderful, difficult, perplexing, and playfully dark piece of literature. It's not a novel but, as the title promises, a dictionary—yet the world it documents is a liminal one, somewhere between the waking life and dream life of human history. Reading it gave me the feeling that those non-nightmares do—those dreams that you realize are frightening in their strangeness, but do not frighten you, for some reason, except in retrospect. Reading this book made me think that history doesn't lead to or shape the present so much as it haunts it.

I found a copy of the female version of the Dictionary at a used bookstore yesterday. I look forward to reading this book for the first time again.

Thanks zzz and everyone for your patience with me. This is off to icekween01 tomorrow morning.

Journal Entry 22 by icekween01 from St. Louis, Missouri USA on Saturday, November 17, 2007
received a couple days ago. sorry for the late journal entry. I tried to start it but could not get into it. will give it another go maybe in a few days and if I still can't get interested will pass it on.

Journal Entry 23 by icekween01 from St. Louis, Missouri USA on Friday, January 11, 2008
Please forgive me for keeping the book so long. I really wanted to read it but found that it was a bit too much for me to get my head around. I just can't get into it. :-(

I have kept it for long enough and will be passing it on to the next in line.

Thank you for sharing your book.

Journal Entry 24 by icekween01 from St. Louis, Missouri USA on Monday, January 14, 2008
sent off to cordelia-anne. ENJOY!!!

Journal Entry 25 by Cordelia-anne from Someplace, Georgia USA on Tuesday, January 22, 2008
At last this long-expected book has arrived! Thank you zzz, icekween01 and all of the readers in between. I just have to note the inscription on the first page:

Here lies the reader
who will never open this book.
He is here forever dead.

Well, that's none of us! Thanks folks for making me alive to the Khazars, Pavic and the pages to come in this book. I'll report back before too long.

Journal Entry 26 by Cordelia-anne from Someplace, Georgia USA on Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Dear Readers,

Forgive me for taking so long with this book. I absolutely adore it! It's so powerful, the sort of book that causes nightmares and visions. I had a difficult time taking it in at times because I had nightmares, terrible ones. But the love and the humor hold all the fearful violence of the world presented within these pages together. I have ordered the female version of the book for myself. This is one I will return to many times. zzz thank you for including me in this bookring. This was but my first reading of Pavic's masterpiece. I will read more of his works after I've fully savored this one again.

Journal Entry 27 by Cordelia-anne at Oakland, New Jersey USA on Monday, October 06, 2008

Released 11 yrs ago (10/6/2008 UTC) at Oakland, New Jersey USA



For greedyreader, a feast of a book. This fairytale will change the way you see things. Take care.

Journal Entry 28 by greedyreader from Oakland, New Jersey USA on Thursday, October 16, 2008
Thanks so much for sending me this book. I will read it after I am done with my current book.

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