Sunday, March 30, 2014

What Was #Nabokov's Best Sentence?

An interesting article, instantly pounced upon by the good folks at NPR, claims to identify the unidentifiable: The ten finest sentences in English literature. The editors at The American Scholar came up with some doozies, including this fine one from my hero Vladimir Nabokov:

"There is nothing more atrociously cruel than an adored child." (LOLITA)

I admit that sentence is a certifiable jaw-dropper, but when I saw it on the list, my own American Scholar fought back with a fierce counterpoint:  "There are at least a dozen other sentences from LOLITA that could have, should have eclipsed that." (The article was attempting to generate such intense responses, I think.)

This sudden, righteous impulse led me to a question: If I were assembling such a list, what would Nabokov's entry have been in my article?

This is the kind of thing that keeps me up at night. I found I couldn't come up with just one. Something within me began whispering, "Blog post, blog post."

Fine. Below, a bouquet of charmed sentences from the Pre-Eminent Dead Twentieth-Century Writer of Fiction in English, according to your humble obedient correspondent. Each of these cast a spell on me far deeper than the one The American Scholar quoted. With some difficulty, I have limited myself to ten perennials.

"Nature had once produced an Englishman whose domed head had been a hive of words; a man who had only to breathe on any particle of his stupendous vocabulary to have that particle live and expand and throw out tremulous tentacles until it became a complex image with a pulsing brain and correlated limbs." (BEND SINISTER)

“And she was mine, she was mine, the key was in my fist, my fist was in my pocket, she was mine.” (LOLITA)

"It suddenly occurred to me that I was demented and about to do something stupid." (LOLITA)

"And I catch myself thinking today that our long journey had only defiled with a sinuous trail of slime the lovely, trustful, dreamy, enormous country that by then, in retrospect, was no more to us than a collection of dog-eared maps, ruined tour books, old tires, and her sobs in the night -- every night -- the moment I feigned sleep." (LOLITA)

"If I correctly understand the sense of this succinct observation, our poet suggests here that human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece." (PALE FIRE)

"And he absolutely had to find her at once to tell her that he adored her, but the large audience before him separated him from the door, and the notes reaching him through a succession of hands said that she was not available; that she was inaugurating a fire; that she had married an American businessman; that she had become a character in a novel; that she was dead." (PALE FIRE) 

"The accumulation of consecutive rooms in his memory now resembled those displays of grouped elbow chairs on show, and beds, and lamps, and inglebooks which, ignoring all space-time distinctions, commingle in the soft light of a furniture store beyond which it snows, and the dusk deepens, and nobody really loves anybody." (PNIN)

"Time is rhythm: the insect rhythm of a warm humid night, brain ripple, breathing, the drum in my temple—these are our faithful timekeepers; and reason corrects the feverish beat." (ADA)

"In other more deeply moral worlds than this pellet of muck, there might exist restraints, principles, transcendental consolations, and even a certain pride in making happy someone one does not really love; but on this planet, Lucettes are doomed." (ADA) (Note from YT: Lucette has committed suicide.)

"I hastened to quench a thirst that had been burning a hole in the mixed metaphor of my life ever since I had fondled a quite different Dolly thirteen years earlier."(LOOK AT THE HARLEQUINS!)

And here's a bonus Nabokov sentence that didn't come from a novel, and thus, I suspect, would not have been eligible for consideration, but still rocks my world every time I read it. As happens so often in his epic sentences, this one cheats by means of a semicolon. You and I can't get away with such stuff.

“Literature was not born the day when a boy crying 'wolf, wolf' came running out of the Neanderthal valley with a big gray wolf at his heels; literature was born on the day when a boy came crying 'wolf, wolf' and there was no wolf behind him.” (LECTURES ON LITERATURE)

Another bonus is in order for all my fellow Nabokov freaks who made it this far. (Hi +Adella Wright , hi +Nina MJ , hi +Ksenia Anske, hi +Dave Toropov !) Here's a great contemporary interview with Nabokov on LOLITA, which simultaneously enraged and hypnotized Eisenhower's America.

If you've read great sentences from Nabokov, Joyce, Faulkner, A.S. Byatt, Joan Didion or anyone else that floored you, and somehow didn't show up on The American Scholar's list, I'd love to hear what they are.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Join me on Goodreads!

Click here so we can connect on Goodreads. I'd love to see what you're reading.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

#Hemingway said, "Write Drunk, Edit Sober."

But I'm a Muslim, so that doesn't fly for me.

With apologies to Papa, I've adapted this rule to fit my own unique writing process.

Write when the voices are talking, edit when they quiet down.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Seven Secrets for Being Remarkable #LANDMARKFORUM

I didn't write this, and I can't claim to follow it 24/7, but I do read it every day. 

For me, Landmark Forum was the great pivot-point. Before Landmark, I was in possession of a five-year-old novel I couldn't seem to finish. After Landmark, I finished it and started another one.


Rape culture means you get a reprimand and a fine, but no jail time, if you are a rapist who happens to be a general.

For the latest sickening details confirming the rape culture of the US military (as though any more evidence were necessary), read this Washington Post piece.

Then read this:

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Islamophobia as McCarthyism 2.0

Islamophobia is not a new phenomenon. It has a long and craven pedigree.

Those promoting Islamophobia compete with each other in their willingness to turn a blind eye to the desecration of civil liberties. They do this in the name of national security. This is what McCarthy did.

Those engaging in Islamophobia strive to secure domestic political advantage by making an Other where none exists. This is what McCarthy did.

Those in the mainstream media who are profiting from Islamophobia create an open-ended, paranoiac ideology that is free-floating, as McCarthy's was. They tend to define "extremism" as "anything upon which Muslims are about to agree."

The reality that there are
mass-murdering Christians in Norway, the reality that there are mass-murdering Jews in Palestine -- these realities have never made us launch national campaigns to identify the pernicious influence of Christianity or Judaism in this country. Nor should they.

The Muslim community in the US is a peaceful community, its members less likely than the average citizen to brandish guns, and more likely than the average citizen to promote civic engagement. We respect and abide by the laws of this country, and we vigorously defend Constitutional safeguards protecting freedom of conscience and expression. Senator McCarthy, alive and well in his 21st-century progeny, views that very defense of the Constitution as evidence of subversion.


For an excerpt from my novel JIHADI, click here.

Friday, March 21, 2014

#JIHADI: The Beta Readers Speak

Over the past two years, I've gotten great insights and invaluable encouragement from a circle I have labeled Best Beta Readers On Earth. Here's some of what they've had to say about +JIHADI (novel by Brandon Toropov) .

So here is the scoop. This week, JIHADI made it into the second round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest. Originally, there were 10,000 entrants. On April 15, the 2000 remaining novels will magically become 400. Eventually, if JIHADI jumps through enough hoops, you will get to join the ranks of my beta readers, read the complete novel, and perhaps vote for it on Amazon. 

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

#EthanHawke gets #LITERARYJIHADI striving quote of the week

“Don't you find it odd," she continued, "that when you're a kid, everyone, all the world, encourages you to follow your dreams. But when you're older, somehow they act offended if you even try.”

― Ethan Hawke, The Hottest State

(Yes, he's a writer, too.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

#JIHADI has made the second round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (#ABNA) contest. #Alhamdulillah

Well, THIS made my day.

When that post showed up this morning on, I got confirmation that my novel +JIHADI (novel by Brandon Toropov) had successfully jumped through the first and scariest of the hoops in the big ABNA contest. Alhamdulillah. Cue the theme from ROCKY, please!

JIHADI: A LOVE STORY is a novel about an American Muslim accused of terrorism.

Today has been a wild and happy day, the most wonderful day in some time. I get the sense deep in my bones now that the book is on its way to finding a big audience. That may be wishful thinking, but given the nice reviews I've gotten recently from my council of beta readers, I don't think so.

In a future post, I'll thank all of the gifted and patient beta readers who midwifed this novel (there were over a dozen) ... but one gifted, patient beta reader in particular stands out here and must be recognized today. +Mary Cain not only read and critiqued the book multiple times, but also accepted the daunting professional challenge of writing a synopsis for this sprawling, complex story. Without her clear eye and her gift for concise summary, the book would not have made it this far. That's just reality. The first thank-you of all, then, must go to Miss Riley Akers ( +Mary Cain's pen name). Watch for Riley's novels PAPER CUTS and SOMETHING LIKE THAT, both of which will, I predict, rock their genre.

This first round of ABNA was based solely on the synopsis. That was pretty scary, given my inborn inability to summarize my own work. For the record, my own first attempt at a synopsis for this 116,000-word novel read as follows: "I've been working on the (expletive) thing for six years. So read it."

Not quite up to par, according to Riley. Glad I followed her lead: This book is now one of 2,000 left standing, out of an initial field of 10,000. You could do worse than to ask her to help you craft a query letter.

Stay tuned for updates on how the novel fares in the next rounds. To see me reading an excerpt from Chapter One of JIHADI: A LOVE STORY, click here.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Total Civilian Deaths due to #US #Drone strikes in #Pakistan

A major new international poll from WIN/Gallup (below) shows that the USA, not Russia, not Iran, not China, is perceived as the greatest threat to world peace.

This after five years of a President whose foreign policy was supposed to be all about "change." Below, the best available information on Obama's (and America's) current image abroad, according to a survey of over 60,000 global respondents -- a survey that the State Department folks will likely say represents a perception problem.

Hang on. Perhaps there has been "change" since 2009.

Has there ever been a Nobel Peace Prize winner whose name has been so strongly associated abroad with mass murder and war crimes?

If you object to the terms "mass murder" and "war crimes," and many do, let's take a moment to identify an alternate term to describe what happens when (for instance) you use drones to target a wedding party and kill civilians -- not once, but on two separate occasions. By the way, we did the same bomb-the-wedding-party thing on George Bush's watch, which makes three times. Details on those attacks can be found here.

We have also used drones to blast a grandmother to bits as her granddaughter watched. You can read about that here.

We call other people "terrorists" when they do these kinds of things. Is "terrorism" an acceptable alternate term?

Here's an easier question: Is it really all that surprising that we are now viewed as the world's leading threat to peace?

We've even used drones to kill, without trial, an innocent US citizen whose only "crime" was being related to a terrorist. Details here. That doesn't count as a violation of our Constitutional protections, though, because ... well, you'll have to wait, because the the Obama administration is still thinking over the best way to end that sentence.
We have ignored international law ... we have violated the borders of sovereign nations as we saw fit .. and we have used our drone programs to kill, by extremely conservative estimates, 2400 people in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan. (source) The most optimistic assessments have confirmed only 58 known militant leaders killed in Pakistan, representing only two percent of the deaths there.(source) US officials have consistently lied about the frequency and/or existence of civilian casualties in these attacks. Credible external research efforts have turned up evidence for alarmingly high civilian death percentages: between 416 and 951 in Pakistan alone, of whom between 168 and 200 were children. (source) The actual numbers are almost certainly higher.
So. How could we possibly turn this "perception problem" around?

Suppose we made reparations to the civilians whose families we destroyed?

Suppose we STOPPED invading the airspace of sovereign nations?

Suppose we STOPPED blowing people up with killer robots?

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Left-Brain/Right-Brain Thing Is Absurd

"Logical and analytic? That happens on the left side of your brain. Creative and intuitive? That happens on the right side of your brain." You've heard that for years, right? And the optional variation that the "sides" are reversed for left-handed people?

Actually, the brain is far more complex than that, says this cool HuffPost article -- not least because there are many different kinds of creativity. The article goes on to outline eighteen habits of highly creative people. (Yay, I do all of them! I'm validated as a person.) Well worth a read. 

I remember seeing teaching materials for elementary school kids based on this misguided left-brain/right-brain pseudo-science. (I spent four years teaching elementary and middle school English and social studies.) Though this familiar nonsense is easy to remember and easy to repeat, it is decades behind current brain science. File under: Nope.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Almost as Cool As Their #Cats // #Pinterest

I make no apologies for my love of cats, or for my appreciation of good photographs of cats. One of my Pinterest indulgences is a board I call ALMOST AS COOL AS THEIR CATS.

In it, I compile photographs of people I admire (Lennon, Twain, Dylan, Hemingway, Ginsberg, Hesse, Bradbury, and on and on) posing for photos with the cats who have assumed ownership of them.

You can check it out -- and suggest additions -- by clicking here.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Five Reasons #RingoStarr Was the Most Important #Beatle

Across the decades, I've noticed a popular tendency to minimize the drummer's accomplishments within the Beatles ensemble. Perhaps this is because because he wrote the fewest songs and drew the fewest headlines. Here are five factors to take into account before dismissing Richard Starkey, aka Ringo Starr, as "one of history's most charming bit players." (One book on my shelf uses those words!)

1) Starr gave the Beatles something to shoot for when the band was not very good. Only the historians remember it now, but the Beatles were, for some time, playing catch-up to Liverpool's real band, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. Their drummer? Starr, who reminisces as follows: "I met the Beatles while we were playing in Germany. We'd seen them in Liverpool, but they were a nothing little band then, just putting it together. In fact, they weren't really a band at all." Of the same period, Harrison recalled: "Ringo seemed to us to be cocky. Relative to what we were like at the time, the band he was with were very professional.... (Our manager told us,) 'You'd better pull your socks up because Rory Storm and the Hurricanes are coming in, and you know how good they are. They are going to knock you for six." The two bands played epic all-night sets in competition with each other in Hamburg.

2) The Beatles did not explode until Starr replaced Pete Best. And once he did, the band became a national phenomenon in Britain. To compare the relative drumming skills of each, consult the first Anthology disc. No contest. Before Ringo Starr joined, the Beatles were an interesting local act. After Ringo Starr, they were a national phenomenon. The impeccable backbeat with which he propelled their numbers just happens to have preceded their breakthrough in the UK.

3) Starr was the most popular Beatle in the United States at the time of their breakthrough here.  People tend to forget this. In the critical year of 1964, Ringo fans easily outnumbered fans of the other three. Ringo-themed merchandise vastly outsold John-, Paul-, and George-themed merchandise in the US.

4) Starr was the only one of the four capable of holding down the lead role in a film.  To be blunt, he was the best, and perhaps the only, actor in the group. Whether or not he was ever going to win an Oscar is beside the point. A Hard Day's Night (the film) consolidated the band's global dominance, and in it, Ringo Starr delivers a charming comic performance. Thus, at yet another critical point in the band's career, Starr took center stage, leaving one to wonder once again what the band's trajectory would have looked like without his contribution. (He repeated the trick in Help!)

5) Alone among the four, he revolutionized his instrument. Steve Smith, best known as the drummer for Journey, may have put it best: "Before Ringo, drum stars were measured by their soloing ability and virtuosity. Ringo's popularity brought forth a new paradigm ... we started to see the drummer as an equal participant in the compositional aspect ... His parts are so signature to the songs that you can listen to a Ringo drum part without the rest of the music and still identify the song."

I suppose I should say here that I'm assessing Starr's importance to the group's career, not his impact as a songwriter. Regardless -- give the man his due.

Monday, March 3, 2014

#JIHADI is my entry in the 2014 #ABNA contest


As near as I could make out, the biggest of all the find-the-great-undiscovered-novelist competitions was the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, or ABNA. She knew that.

In 2011, with my novel JIHADI several hundred light years away from being finished, I muttered to myself that I had to, had to, had to complete the novel and submit it to the contest. The mandatory one-sentence pitch goes here: JIHADI is a novel about an American citizen who is accused of terrorism. 

Entering the contest was a therapeutic as well as a literary goal. I'd been working on the first thirty or forty pages since 2007. Dark whispers abounded that I would never complete the book. This wasn't anyone else talking, mind you, but the eager, demonic voices within my own addled skull. 

I logged on as a first-time participant in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) frenzy, with the aim of creating an editable first draft of the book. Although I generated the necessary 50,000 words to become a NaNoWriMo "winner," I found, upon further review, that something like 30,000 of those words were total crap. 

Worse: That busy November, I only got to about the 25% point of the plot. The book was still messing with me, just as it had been messing with me for the past five years. The whispers accelerated and intensified. I did, however, take a major victory from NaNoWriMo. I now had a daily writing regimen in place: 500 words a day minimum. I kept that up. Just to show the book who was boss.

Undaunted by my novel's failure to materialize, I set a new goal: getting the manuscript complete for the next ABNA contest deadline. I muttered to the novel again, darker this time: This had to, had to, had to wrap up by February. Did it understand that? Hmm? Did it?

Daily word count or no daily word count, that didn't happen, either. 

Mind you, I loved where the book was going, and I got great feedback on the first half of the novel from my endlessly patient stable of beta readers. Yet there was something wrong. The ABNA goal was in jeopardy yet again, and one bleary dawn, I understood why. The manuscript that had taken over so many of my early-morning hours was, I realized at last, something of a prima donna. 

It froze up at key moments when it knew full well that forward progress was essential. Having reached the halfway point of the plot, it permitted me to generate only unreadable, practical-joke-level garbage text, stuff that I refused to believe had anything to do with my keyboard. These waves of sewage flowed in and out for days. It occurred to me that they were not accidents, not parts of a cycle I could ride out. They were deliberate sabotage.

My book steadfastly refused to cooperate with clearly stated deadlines, and its intransigence seemed limitless. 

By hand, I wrote the book a little note, which I left next to my computer: "I don't know what I'm doing wrong. Help."

I kept flinging my 500 or so words a day at the refrigerator, and despite all the treason, all the passive aggressive obstruction, some of those words stuck.

Illegally, I entered the 2013 NaNoWriMo party, expanding the exact same book I had been working on the previous year. (Ssh. They may still send a hit squad after me for that one.) I told the book we would work on whatever she wanted to work on, in whatever order she chose. That appeared to improve the mood swings and the antisocial behavior. 

I hit my 50,000 new-word total that time around, too, but with far less crap in the various files than the previous year. I didn't quite wrap the book by December 1, though. If you're keeping score at home, I was looking at a manuscript well north of 80,000 words. And I wasn't done.

They were good words. Beta readers kept cheering me on. The end was in sight. Maybe. 

Assuming that there were no more temper tantrums, no more fits of pique or pained silence from the book, I felt that I, at least, knew how to fill all the remaining holes. The only question was: Would the novel cooperate?

By now, I had stopped muttering to her about what had to, had to, had to happen. Instead, I took the book out to lunch, ordered her a nice lobster salad, complimented her attire, and begged my novel to tell me what the hell she wanted me to do. 

She didn't have to enter any stupid contest if she didn't want to. That was out of my control. I knew that. But wouldn't she please, please, take a moment to think about whether we were destined to be locked in the delivery room together for the rest of our freaking lives?

A lengthy silence followed, during which much lobster was consumed and many glasses of sparkling water were silently reordered, via my novel's sudden, vigorous, silent glance at a passing waiter. Finally, the book dabbed its pretty lips with a napkin, gestured for me to pay the check, nodded twice as though to say, "Let's get to work," and took pity on me.

We finished the first pass on the manuscript in December of 2013. I hesitated to call what I now had in my hands a "first draft," since by that point I'd been doing research, taking reams of notes on scenes, and writing scores of abortive initial drafts for six years or so. Yes, I know this is not the way you're supposed to write a novel, and I don't think I'd ever recommend it to anyone, but it's what I did.

In late December, I set about editing her. She was bloated, inclining dangerously toward 125,000 words, the ABNA upper limit. Glory and praise to Allah the creator and sustainer of all things, she cooperated when I proposed a daily workout-and-diet routine. 

By the time the 2014 ABNA contest period opened in mid-February, the novel had undergone a complete makeover, lost 9,000 words, picked up a come-hither gleam in her eyes that I didn't recall seeing before, and begun issuing terse orders about certain essential revisions to the denouement. 

These orders came from my novel with a briskness and a sense of vigorous purpose that made me think bitter thoughts I dared not speak aloud, and even now cannot bring myself to type in their original form. My unspoken musings concerned whether the timing for this period of unreserved, complete, vaguely fascistic engagement might have been adjusted to accommodate a target date of, say, late 2009. I didn't dare push my luck, though, so I let all that go. 

Glad I did, because she rocked my world. The book, having demonstrated that she, and not I, was the final authority, permitted me to circulate a February draft that the beta readers greeted with enthusiasm. 

We crossed the finish line together, the book and I, despite all our past differences. I uploaded everything to the ABNA site well ahead of the deadline. 

There are certain relationships in life from which you grow, and to which you do not wish to return under any circumstances.

All of this is, I suspect, more information than you wanted about my personal entanglement with this moody, tempestuous, exhilarating woman (as you've gathered by now, she seems like a woman to me, though I don't recall her starting out that way). She presented herself, at last, in the form of 116,508 joyous and/or bitterly negotiated words. That weird gleam was still in her eyes when I hit SAVE.

I had to set down all I went through with her over those six long years, not for you but for me. Now that JIHADI is finally in the hands of the Amazon judges, she is on her own. 

My cat Paprika, who permits me to work in a room that I like to call my study but that is actually her home, saw me through all of the darker discussions with the novel, all the trauma and dysfunction and glory that preceded that long-awaited, satisfying ABNA upload. To Paprika I am most grateful. To the novel I bid a fond farewell.

Update! JIHADI: A LOVE STORY has just made third round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition.
You can read an excerpt from the novel here.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

#LandmarkForum Takeaway #3

At any given moment, we are either creating DRAMA or creating POSSIBILITY.

Within each COMPLAINT is something else we can choose to stand for.

That "something" can transform the SOAP OPERA of our Story (the complaint) into a POSSIBILITY so powerful that we can enroll someone else in it ... doing so in a way that leaves him or her touched, moved, and inspired.

You are tuned to @LiteraryJihadi

LITERARY JIHADI: Peaceful striving that reclaims the voice beyond the static. Founded 2007.

Yes, I was born here. I like books you have to read twice. Disagree with civility, please. Happily married. You can email me here.

For an excerpt from my novel #JIHADI, on which I have been working for six years, click here. As of February 2014, it's finished. I have a nonfiction agent, but no fiction agent yet. I'm not self-publishing it.

To learn more about me, click here.

For my twitter feed @LiteraryJihadi, click here.

To follow me on Google+ click here.

I follow back on all accounts, but unfollow in the case of incivility.

"I been so weird it woulda killed a normal man."

(There comes a point in life when it occurs to you that you're not everyone's cup of tea, and that is okay. I didn't write the lyrics below, but I lived them. "I" is a shark, it's not who you really are, and maybe you can't stop it, but you can observe it and learn to predict its moves and eventually take responsibility for it.)

I been obnoxious, I been unconscious,

I been all kind of things that are hard to spell.

I been unruly, speaking truly,

I been so cool I couldn't hardly even stand myself.

I been a monster without a sponsor,

I been Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

I been a goner, I been a loner,

And when my mixture was right,

I’m a nice bunch of guys...

I am what I am, cause I ain’t what I used to be.

'Cause it is what it is, but it ain’t what it used to be.

I been a mover, I was a shaker,

He had a girlfriend, I tried to snake her.

I been mysterious, I been delirious,

I been so weird it woulda killed a normal man.

I wanted money, I wanted power,

I want a monument kinda like the Eiffel Tower.

I been lost at sea, I been lost in space,

And when I fall in love I fall all over the place...

I am what I am cause I ain’t what I used to be.

Cause it is what it is, but it ain’t what it used to be.

And you can go on forever and make the same mistakes,
Or you can stand up on your hind legs and change your ways.

Go on and do it till you finally see,

What it is that it was that you don't want to be.

I was an outlaw, I was an in-law,

I was a scapegoat, that was the last straw.

I hit the highway, singin' my way,

But it wound up sounding like 'You’ll never walk alone.'

I got a story, reflected glory,

Is the way that I been seeing for most of my life.

I heard the laughter, up in the rafters,

But I never ever thought that the joke was on me.

I am what I am cause I ain’t what I used to be.
(Well, maybe just a little.)

Cause it is what it is but it ain’t what it used to be.

-- The Highwaymen, It Is What It Is (author: Jimmy Webb)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Writer's group today

In real time, with actual people, in a room together. I'll be sharing what might be the opening of my new novel FREED, which appears to be about, among other things, my father Yuri Toropov.

Literary Jihadi

That's me. Here's an excerpt from my novel JIHADI.

And here's the last chapter.