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Palimpsest: Novel vs. Show

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Not sure if this is the right place to mention this, but since I just re-read the book earlier this week in anticipation of the series (and dammit now we're going to have to re-subscribe to Hulu), does anyone else find the casting of Joseph Fiennes as the Commander kind of weird? (Not to mention Yvonne Strahovski as Serena Joy, who I always envision for some reason as a slightly younger Shelley Winters) 

Having, basically, a major hot guy as the Commander seems to be ... unexpected. And I thought both he and Serena Joy are supposed to be older. (Not sure about her, but assumed at least mid-late 40s if not 50s, and he's specifically described as older, gray-haired and out of shape). 

(Mods, if this belongs in a different folder/thread, please feel free to move it! Thanks!)

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Not sure if this is the right place to mention this, but since I just re-read the book earlier this week in anticipation of the series (and dammit now we're going to have to re-subscribe to Hulu), does anyone else find the casting of Joseph Fiennes as the Commander kind of weird? (Not to mention Yvonne Strahovski as Serena Joy, who I always envision for some reason as a slightly younger Shelley Winters) 

Having, basically, a major hot guy as the Commander seems to be ... unexpected. And I thought both he and Serena Joy are supposed to be older. (Not sure about her, but assumed at least mid-late 40s if not 50s, and he's specifically described as older, gray-haired and out of shape). 

I don't think you are wrong.  I always pictured both characters as older, given the way they are described.  It's an interesting situation in terms of casting.  I think it gives the story a new dimension if Offred and Serena Joy are about the same age.  However, on the flip side, one of the ironies of the character in the book was that in the pre-Gilead world she had a long career and fame due to her advocating that women return to a more domestic, tradition-bound life.  She had then turned bitter over being given what she had supposedly "wanted."  I think some of that is lost when the character is in her mid-30s (presuming Serena Joy is close in age to the actress portraying her), as opposed to being in her late-40s or 50s.         

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From the quick glance, the person playing Serena Joy looks kind of like I pictured her; tired, blonde.  Now Joseph Fiennes...no. The commander should be someone like....Liam Neeson would be good

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I always pictured Ofglen as plump for some reason so I'm not too keen on Alexis Bledel.   Plus I don't really care for her acting (based solely on Gilmore Girls/Traveling Pants so take that consideration with a grain of salt)

 

eta:  I saw on the Media post that Ofglen has been confirmed as a lesbian.   Was that in the book?

Edited by LBS
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eta:  I saw on the Media post that Ofglen has been confirmed as a lesbian.   Was that in the book?

In the book, Moira is a lesbian.  I don't think the book delves into Ofglen's sexuality. 

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Just watched the teaser.  Seems like they made Offred's daughter a son instead.   Seems like a young boy in the beach scene and she calls out "Bobby!" in the woods scene.

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On ‎1‎/‎6‎/‎2017 at 9:29 AM, LBS said:

I always pictured Ofglen as plump for some reason so I'm not too keen on Alexis Bledel.   Plus I don't really care for her acting (based solely on Gilmore Girls/Traveling Pants so take that consideration with a grain of salt)

Even as a GG fan I'm skeptical of Alexis Bledel in such a seemingly adult, possibly complex role. She hasn't had much range in anything I've seen her in. I hope they don't expect her to carry too much of any of the story. I'm pretty sure she will be easily outclassed by the pretty amazing collection of actors and actresses around her.

I was really excited to see Samira Wiley show up in the trailer. I loved her in Orange is the New Black, and she is really talented. I hope they give her some decent material to work with.

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I am displeased with the casting of the Gilmore Girls actress. I'm hoping she won't take away from the rest of the performances, because so far I think the rest of the cast is solid, though I agree with the age issues associated with the Commander and Serena Joy.

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Even as a GG fan I'm skeptical of Alexis Bledel in such a seemingly adult, possibly complex role. She hasn't had much range in anything I've seen her in. I hope they don't expect her to carry too much of any of the story. I'm pretty sure she will be easily outclassed by the pretty amazing collection of actors and actresses around her.

This is my concern as well.  I'm not sure if she is right for the role based on what else I've seen her in.  I didn't think she did a great job handling a more serious role on Mad Men, and depending on how this character is handled, she may indeed be a bad choice.   

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On 1/6/2017 at 8:29 AM, LBS said:

I always pictured Ofglen as plump for some reason so I'm not too keen on Alexis Bledel.

IIRC, Offred describes Ofglen's face as round, and Alexis does have a roundish face. I don't think any of the Handmaids were overweight since they were pre-selected based on their physical health and were kept on a strict diet.

I'm cautiously optimistic that Alexis will be able to handle the role; my take on Ofglen was that she was pretty much a non-entity until she revealed that she was part of the resistance, and even after that I imagined her as acting very subdued because she and Offred only talked to each other in public.

On 1/3/2017 at 3:45 AM, txhorns79 said:

I always pictured both characters as older, given the way they are described.  It's an interesting situation in terms of casting.  I think it gives the story a new dimension if Offred and Serena Joy are about the same age.  However, on the flip side, one of the ironies of the character in the book was that in the pre-Gilead world she had a long career and fame due to her advocating that women return to a more domestic, tradition-bound life.  She had then turned bitter over being given what she had supposedly "wanted."  I think some of that is lost when the character is in her mid-30s (presuming Serena Joy is close in age to the actress portraying her), as opposed to being in her late-40s or 50s.         

Yes, I thought the most interesting thing about Serena Joy was her pre-Gilead life as a pop star and anti-feminist "activist". I hope the show will still find a way to incorporate that.

@txhorns79 posted an article in the media thread where the executive producer explains the reasoning behind the deviations from the book. I'm a bit disappointed that they are choosing not to acknowledge the white supremacist aspect of Gilead ideology. The EP is claiming it's because "the evangelical movement has gotten a lot more integrated", but I think it would be especially poignant to include that aspect in light of the current political climate. On the other hand, the show would have probably caught a lot of flak if they had an all-white cast, so they were between a rock and a hard place in that regard.

The EP is also saying that he' hopes the show will have multiple seasons. Which means they'd have to start making up stuff that wasn't in the book. If that's the case I hope they keep Margaret Atwood on as a consultant, so that the new material has her stamp on it.

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On January 9, 2017 at 10:59 AM, wonderandawe said:

Just watched the teaser.  Seems like they made Offred's daughter a son instead.   Seems like a young boy in the beach scene and she calls out "Bobby!" in the woods scene.

That makes me wonder about the imdb then ... the cast members are in no particular order but they show both Luke (who, in this version, is African-American) and a little girl named Hannah, also African-American, which made me assume Hannah was Offred's daughter. Could she have had two children?

On January 10, 2017 at 9:29 PM, HeySandyStrange said:

Even as a GG fan I'm skeptical of Alexis Bledel in such a seemingly adult, possibly complex role. She hasn't had much range in anything I've seen her in. I hope they don't expect her to carry too much of any of the story. I'm pretty sure she will be easily outclassed by the pretty amazing collection of actors and actresses around her.

I was really excited to see Samira Wiley show up in the trailer. I loved her in Orange is the New Black, and she is really talented. I hope they give her some decent material to work with.

Apologies if I'm misremembering but aren't there two Ofglens? Maybe she's the second one? 

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25 minutes ago, PamelaMaeSnap said:

Apologies if I'm misremembering but aren't there two Ofglens? Maybe she's the second one? 

The second Ofglen only appears once in the book and has no other purpose than to show that the original Ofglen has been replaced. I'm pretty sure Alexis Bledel is playing the first Ofglen.

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15 minutes ago, chocolatine said:

The second Ofglen only appears once in the book and has no other purpose than to show that the original Ofglen has been replaced. I'm pretty sure Alexis Bledel is playing the first Ofglen.

That makes the most sense, of course ... I just wasn't sure how many liberties they were going to be taking! 

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3 minutes ago, PamelaMaeSnap said:

That makes the most sense, of course ... I just wasn't sure how many liberties they were going to be taking! 

If anything, I think the show will keep the first Ofglen alive for longer, especially if there are multiple seasons. In the book Offred was told that Ofglen killed herself when she saw the van coming for her, but she didn't see it happen, so the show could spin it that Ofglen didn't really die but went underground. I do hope that if there are multiple seasons, the show fleshes out the Underground Femaleroad and all the other things that were referred to in passing in the last chapter.

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I hope so too. It's an interesting story to make a TV show out of, because there is soooooooo much that was hinted at or alluded to or left deliberately vague in the book, so there are all kinds of avenues to pursue. On one hand, I liked that the book left so much out, but on the other hand, I'm also entirely on board to find out more. I also fully agree with the hope that Margaret Atwood provides plenty of input into any additional material they create.

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I read this book at least 25-30 years ago so I don't remember anything, except that it was a favorite book.

Do you recommend reading again, or just waiting for the show to play out?

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Read it again!  I've read it 20 years ago for high-school AP English, again in college, and then several more times as I matured.  I just re-read it again last summer.  It still resonates as deeply as it did 20 years ago.

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Do you recommend reading again, or just waiting for the show to play out?

I'd read it again.  It's a good read, and will serve as a nice foundation for the series. 

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On 12/31/2016 at 6:29 PM, PamelaMaeSnap said:

Not sure if this is the right place to mention this, but since I just re-read the book earlier this week in anticipation of the series (and dammit now we're going to have to re-subscribe to Hulu), does anyone else find the casting of Joseph Fiennes as the Commander kind of weird? (Not to mention Yvonne Strahovski as Serena Joy, who I always envision for some reason as a slightly younger Shelley Winters) 

Having, basically, a major hot guy as the Commander seems to be ... unexpected. And I thought both he and Serena Joy are supposed to be older. (Not sure about her, but assumed at least mid-late 40s if not 50s, and he's specifically described as older, gray-haired and out of shape). 

(Mods, if this belongs in a different folder/thread, please feel free to move it! Thanks!)

I thought that too about their choice of Commander. Too young and good looking. I did read that they made Serena Joy younger than in the book to "directly compete" with Offred for the Commander, so I guess that's why? Although they wouldn't have had to, neccesarily, plenty of older men have younger wives.

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According to IMDB, Joseph Fiennes was born in May 1970. So he's almost 47. I have to admit, I think he's an interesting casting choice.

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I was surprised at how young Serena Joy is as well. Didn't she have a cane or something in the book? But I am willing to see where it goes.

I love Gilmore Girls, but am v nervous about her playing Ofglen. A critic on a podcast I listen to said she was actually really good though, so maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised? Here's hoping.

I looked over imdb, and was surprised that they seem to have cut Janine. I thought she was really compelling character. I wonder if they'll divvy up her experiences among the other characters?

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I'm trying to reserve judgment on the decision to de-age Serena Joy and the Commander until I see it, although I have my misgivings about Joseph Fiennes for the role.  Mostly because I've always found him a very attractive man and on my recent reread/reskim I was struck by how needy the Commander seems to be in wanting something resembling a normal sort of extramarital relationship with Offred that she obviously just can't give.   It takes a whole different tone if she's attracted to him in any way, which in the book she's so clearly not.

IMBd lists Janine for two episodes.  I would have expected more than that as she's the ultimate example of how the new system uses up these women and breaks them.

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I have read the book and really if a show is made from a book do they ever get the casting absolutely correct? I highly doubt it. I am a huge Gilmore Girls fan and feel Alexis Bledel in that show was acting the way she was directed to act. The dialog in the GG was so different than most and delivered so differently some loved it like myself and others hated it. I however think she is a good actress. I am anticipating the show.

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As a whole it will be hard to compare to the book as most films are always hard for me to fairly compare to what is put on the screen. I just love using my imagination that the book allows me to do so freely while with films and shows pretty much gives me all of that itself. If it sticks closely to the book I certainly will enjoy it and right now that is all I can hope for.

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I'm re-reading it this week to prepare. Trying to convince my 16 year old (son) to read it too. He likes sci fi/dystopian books, and I think he would really enjoy it.

The thing that amuses me this time around is the references to "old fashioned" things like film strips and clothing trends from the '70s and '80s that now are REALLY old fashioned but in 1985, not so much.

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I am SO excited about this (yeah, I have no life ... but I only watch a few shows religiously and one just ended, Feud, and this season's American Crime and The Americans are almost over). 

Staying as unspoiled as possible but did read an interesting article about this yesterday (I think in the WaPo) about how, since it's a series instead of a film, they're exploring a lot of subplots more extensively, PLUS it's not from the single POV of Offred, so there are storylines that can be explored separately without her having to have witnessed them.

I remembered that when my daughter graduated college and moved to LA, where she was living in a studio and focusing on her music and didn't know many people--plus, didn't want to spend the money on a full cable plan or buy a TV so ONLY had Hulu and her laptop LOL--I bought her, as one of her housewarming gifts, a stack of what I called MY version of the "great books series" -- books I thought she really should read and would enjoy (she was never a big reader but she'd have time on her hands and solitude). I remembered one of them was Handmaid's Tale. Talked to her yesterday and of course she still hadn't read it but I strongly urged her to do so before watching the series (which I know she's going to watch). 

Do you think I made a mistake? Should she be watching it "unspoiled"? I'm thinking, from my own perspective, that having read the book (four or five times now, to be honest) will make viewing how they handle it as a series even more compelling rather than already spoiled. 

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So I am the only one that stayed up to watch?  Great start.  I thought they may stretch it out a bit before getting into Offred actually talking to OfGlen and her catching Nick's attention.  It has been a while since I read the book and I don't recall that at the very beginning.  This seems to be an alternate reality 2017.  I noticed the birth rate chart shown at the Red Center started steadily declining from 1985 through 2015.  Yet gay marriage still became legal in this world.

So, in the book all of the black people were exiled to the colonies to die.  The producers have discussed in various interviews why they changed this.  I'm just a bit stuck on whether one of Offred and Luke's problems was they are an interracial couple.  It is pretty hard to conceive that a society like Gilead is okay with that.  I'm curious how they will handle race period.  It would be ridiculous to ignore it.  This society is so oppressive in every other aspect that them being tolerant here kind of strains credibility to me.

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I was one of the people bothered by Serena (and the Commander) being cast as younger than in the book, but I must say it's working for me. You get a whole other level of this young beautiful woman probably used to getting everything she wants in her former life, but forced to "share" her husband this way. I don't recall the book mentioning if they had a regular sex life, or just procreation ceremonies, but it seems like something they'd explore with younger characters.

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Will be sitting down to watch it shortly, but in the book the Commander pulls the old "my wife doesn't understand me," we don't spend any time together anymore in one of the few times Offred gets brave enough to even raise the question.  I suppose you can read into that what you will about their private life.  I took it as a darkly ironic nod that even in completely upending society as they had some of these men hadn't really changed much.

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I also read this in high school in the 80's. At the time, I "understood" it, but didn't like it.  This is a very good, yet rushed adaptation. It really hits home and makes me want to read it again. 

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The scene where they kill the rapist is in the book and I felt it was perfectly portrayed, albeit creepy as hell. I remember being so jarred by the scene in the book.  

I loved Offred spitting the cookie out.  

Is this just 3 episodes? The book was so intense, I expected more. I've not seen episode 3 yet.  

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Why do you think they moved the placement of the Salvaging in the show? In the book, it's much, much later. I didn't like it so early. I didn't think it explained anything that we couldn't have gotten through the voice over. I also wish they had shown the mayday conversation before they got into the friendship between Ofglen and Offred. It's also jarring to me that there's so much free conversation going on between the Handmaids (between themselves)  and between them and the household members. That said, I think they're doing a good job of it so far.

edited to add, maybe this should belong in the episode 1 thread but I'm responding to a comment in this thread about that scene. I can't seem to quote it.

Edited by Eureka
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You get a whole other level of this young beautiful woman probably used to getting everything she wants in her former life, but forced to "share" her husband this way. I don't recall the book mentioning if they had a regular sex life, or just procreation ceremonies, but it seems like something they'd explore with younger characters.

I think in the book it was suggested they led separate lives.  Serena spent most of her time doing things around the house, visiting other Wives or just generally being bitter about the state of her life. 

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I really like how the show weaves in the extra details that weren't in the book, especially for Ofglen's character. It feels very organic to the story, almost like that's how Margaret Atwood would have written it if she had written the book in the present day.

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I've seen some interesting commentary about race in this universe. In the book, black women were shipped off to the colonies, but my understanding is that they've changed that on the show in order to have a more diverse cast. While I think it's great that they wanted to avoid a lily white universe, it seems that instead of making a significant change to the world-building and devising an alternate explanation for why women of all races are handmaidens, they're just ignoring it and going with a "color-blind" casting approach. That's problematic on its own, because it necessitates ignoring structural and systemic racism in a universe that is supposed to closely mimic our own. I wonder if this will be addressed in the show at some point.

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I must say I accept Joseph Fiennes as the Commander and Elisabeth Moss is perfect as Offred. The only complaint I have right now is the casting choice for Nick. I always imagined him ruggedly handsome, kind of roguish in appearance and Max Minghella is too baby-faced for my tastes. 

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One subtext from the book they're managing to capture really well is how much nobody really likes Gilead, even the people who want it. The wives, whom we can imagine were mostly reasonably educated women, are bored as fuck not allowed to do anything but sit around and wait for other people to have babies, the handmaidens aren't allowed to do much other then shop, be raped, and be terrified, the Marthas are pretty much house slaves, and the commanders...well now that sex has been reduced to its basic biological function, they have to live with weird missionary sex once a month (well not exactly, but we'll get into that later). Reading is largely forbidden as are movies, tv, music, socializing. Everyone is scared and paranoid and bored as fuck. In the book there are hints dropped that once the ruling class got what they wanted they didn't exactly have a great plan to live in it long term. It is one of the things (one among many) that makes this book so great. You see the very early days of a nightmare society. When the book picks up Gilead is 3, maybe 4 years old at the most. It's not explicitly stated, but you do get a sense that there is a messy undercurrent of what to actually do with this new world now that they have it.

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The guy playing Nick doesn't do it for me either.  Joseph Fiennes is capturing the lost feeling the commander gives off very well.

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Not sure if I should spoiler tag this so I will just in case. 

Spoiler

For me, one major difference between the series and book is how Offred is portrayed. In the novel, she seems somewhat passive, both pre- and post-Gilead (reflected, I think, in the very detached, almost dream-like narration). Only briefly does she show flashes of outright rebellion, when Ofglen tries to recruit her for Mayday. After Ofglen is arrested—which happens much, much later down the line—and she thinks she may be pregnant by Nick those flashes seem to disappear. Post-Gilead, her passivity was based in self-preservation. Pre-Gilead, I think a lot it arose from her feelings about her radical-feminist mother, who's completely absent here. Offred is much more rebellious in the series, right from the start, so it makes sense that they'd have to eliminate the element of her mother from the story.

Edited by Margo Leadbetter
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I was just realizing the mother isn't in it at all. I'd rather have that part than the new stuff that they've created for Ofglen. That part just isn't doing it for me. Nothing to do with the storyline itself, but just that they've added it. I liked the eventual friendship, if you can call it that, between Offred and Ofglen and the slow burn about the resistance group that we got in the book.

Other random thoughts: I wasn't sure how I'd like making the commander and Serena Joy younger but it's working for me. I'm surprised they didn't keep the reveal about Serena Joy's previous career and that Offred recognizes her, but maybe that loses something with a younger woman.

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16 hours ago, ElectricBoogaloo said:

The first generation will chafe against the regime more because they remember what it was like to be free, but the next generation will accept things more readily because they've never known anything else.

 
 

In the book it says " still they'll remember. And the ones after them will, for three or four or five years; but after that they won't. They'll always have been in white, in groups of girls; they'll always have been silent."

Brr.

16 hours ago, ElectricBoogaloo said:

d. What caused the low fertility rate and the low survival rate? Was it environmental?

I believe in the center one of Aunts says "they polluted the water and destroyed the land" or something like that, so I had assumed it was basically things becoming toxic after industrial progress.

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(i think women of colour in the book were sent to the same place moira was sent in the show)

 

Just to keep from spoiling anyone about the book's plot I will put this under a spoiler tag:

Spoiler

in the book it is explained that those of African American descent are renamed and called "The children of Ham", another twisted biblical reference used to subjugate and persecute, and are "resettled" in the Midwest.

The colonies are areas where people they wish to kill quickly, and terribly, are sent for punishment, to clean up deadly toxic waste.

If a woman is labeled as a "unwoman", which is pretty much a woman who cannot be used for breeding stock, so older women, gay women who are infertile,  resistance members, educators, etc, that is where she often will be sent, which is where it's implied Moira has ended up as punishment for trying to run away, since she was already what they call a "gender traitor".

Now in the book Moira's story is never completed,

Spoiler

 when we last hear about her she is still alive, plucky, resourceful duck that she is,, and working in a whorehouse as she opted for that instead of being shipped to the colonies

, so I guess we will have to wait and see what direction the show takes with her now. Ofglen was spared death but obviously paid an unspeakable price at the same time anyway.

Edited by AnswersWanted
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