Lincoln

( 52 )

Overview

A masterful work by Pulitzer Prize–winning author David Herbert Donald, Lincoln is a stunning portrait of Abraham Lincoln’s life and presidency.

Donald brilliantly depicts Lincoln’s gradual ascent from humble beginnings in rural Kentucky to the ever-expanding political circles in Illinois, and finally to the presidency of a country divided by civil war. Donald goes beyond biography, illuminating the gradual development of Lincoln’s character, chronicling his tremendous capacity ...

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Lincoln

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Overview

A masterful work by Pulitzer Prize–winning author David Herbert Donald, Lincoln is a stunning portrait of Abraham Lincoln’s life and presidency.

Donald brilliantly depicts Lincoln’s gradual ascent from humble beginnings in rural Kentucky to the ever-expanding political circles in Illinois, and finally to the presidency of a country divided by civil war. Donald goes beyond biography, illuminating the gradual development of Lincoln’s character, chronicling his tremendous capacity for evolution and growth, thus illustrating what made it possible for a man so inexperienced and so unprepared for the presidency to become a great moral leader. In the most troubled of times, here was a man who led the country out of slavery and preserved a shattered Union—in short, one of the greatest presidents this country has ever seen.

In the year's most important and compelling biography, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author presents a moving, original portrait of a man who grew into greatness as president. Drawing on Lincoln's personal papers and on the vast, unexplored records of his legal practice, Donald recreates Lincoln's world with immediacy and rich detail. of photos.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. "A grand work—the Lincoln biography for this generation."

Harold Holzer Chicago Tribune "Lincoln immediately takes its place among the best of the genre, and it is unlikely that it will be surpassed in elegance, incisiveness and originality in this century. . . . A book of investigative tenacity, interpretive boldness and almost acrobatic balance."

James M. McPherson The Atlantic Monthly "Eagerly awaited, Lincoln fulfills expectations. Donald writes with lucidity and elegance."

David W. Blight Los Angeles Times "A one-volume study of Lincoln's life that will augment and replace the previous modern standards by Benjamin Thomas (1953) and Stephen Oates (1977). Donald's Lincoln is a scholarly achievement."

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Pulitzer prize winner Donald's biography was a PW bestseller for 11 weeks. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, most recently for Homeward: A Life of Thomas Wolfe (LJ 12/86), Donald proves himself the superb biographer of Lincoln, though two recent biographies, Michael Burlingame's The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln (LJ 4/1/94) and Merrill Peterson's Lincoln in American Memory (LJ 10/1/94), are both important studies. Donald's profile of the 16th president focuses entirely on Lincoln, seldom straying from the subject. It looks primarily at what Lincoln "knew, when he knew it, and why he made his decisions." Donald's Lincoln emerges as ambitious, often defeated, tormented by his married life, but with a remarkable capacity for growthand the nation's greatest president. What really stands out in a lively narrative are Lincoln's abilities to hold together a nation of vastly diverse regional interests during the turmoil and tragedy of the Civil War. Donald's biography will appeal to all readers and will undoubtedly corral its share of book awards. Highly recommended for all libraries.Boyd Childress, Auburn Univ. Lib., Ala.
Harold Holzer
Lincoln immediately takes its place among the best of the genre, and it is unlikely that it will be surpassed in elegance, incisiveness and originality in this century…a book of investigative tenacity, interpretive boldness and almost acrobatic balance.
Chicago Tribune
Jane M. McCherfon
Eagerly awaited, Lincoln fulfills expectations. Donald writes with lucidity and elegance.
The Atlantic Monthly
From Barnes & Noble
Scrupulously researched, rich in detail, and written with style and elegance, this Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of our 16th President is written from Lincoln's view, using the information and ideas available to him. The author seeks to explain rather than judge the self-made man who presided over the restless United States during perhaps its most pivotal time. Here is "...a magisterial work, destined to assume its place with those of Beveridge, Sandburg, Thomas, and Oates as a standard life of Lincoln." --Kirkus Reviews. Includes an extensive listing of sources and notes as well as b&w photos, political cartoons, and illustrations.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684825359
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 11/5/1996
  • Pages: 720
  • Sales rank: 171,448
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 1.40 (h) x 9.10 (d)

Meet the Author

David Herbert Donald

David Herbert Donald is the author of Lincoln, which won the prestigious Lincoln Prize and was on the New York Times bestseller list for fourteen weeks, and of Lincoln at Home. He has twice won the Pulitzer Prize, for Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War, and for Look Homeward: A Life of Thomas Wolfe. He is the Charles Warren Professor of American History and of American Civilization Emeritus at Harvard University and resides in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

Biography

David Herbert Donald is the author of numerous books, including Lincoln's Herndon, Lincoln Reconsidered, and The Civil War and Reconstruction. He has twice won the Pulitzer Prize for biography: in 1961 for Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War and in 1988 for Look Homeward: A Life of Thomas Wolfe.

The Charles Warren Professor of American History at Harvard University, he has also taught at Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Oxford, and Columbia. A native of Mississippi and the past president of the Southern Historical Association, he received his graduate training at the University of Illinois. He lives in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

Author biography courtesy of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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    1. Hometown:
      Lincoln, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 1, 1920
    2. Place of Birth:
      Goodman, Mississippi
    1. Education:
      Holmes Junior College, Millsaps College, 1941; M.A., Ph.D., University of Illinois, 1942, 1946

Read an Excerpt

On the day after the Quincy debate, both Lincoln and Douglas got aboard the City, of Louisiana and sailed down the Mississippi River to Alton, for the final encounter of the campaign. Looking haggard with fatigue, Douglas opened the debate on October 15 in a voice so hoarse that in the early part of the speech he could scarcely be heard. After briefly reviewing the standard arguments over which he and Lincoln had differed since the beginning of the campaign, he made the peculiar decision to devote most of his speech to a detailed defense of his course on Lecompton. He concluded with a rabble-rousing attack on the racial views he attributed to Republicans and an announcement "that the signers of the Declaration of Independence...did not mean negro, nor the savage Indians, nor the Fejee islanders, nor any other barbarous race," when they issued that document.

In his reply Lincoln said he was happy to ignore Douglas's long account of his feud with the Buchanan administration; he felt like the put-upon wife in an old jestbook, who stood by as her husband struggled with a bear, saying, "Go it, husband!-Go it bear!" Once again he went through his standard answers to Douglas's charges against him and the Republican party. Recognizing that at Alton he was addressing "an audience, having strong sympathies southward by relationship, place of birth, and so on," he tried explain why it was so important to keep slavery out of Kansas and other national territories. This was land needed "for an outlet for our surplus., population"; this was land where "white men may find a home"; this was "an outlet for free white people every where, the world over-in which Hans, and Baptiste and Patrick, and all other men from all the world, may find new homes and better conditions in their lives.

And that brought him again to what he perceived as "the real issue in this controversy," which once more he defined as a conflict "on the part of one class that looks upon the institution of slavery as a wrong, and of another class that does not look upon it as a wrong." Rising to the oratorical high point in the entire series of debates, he told the Alton audience: "That is the issue that will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silent. it is the eternal struggle between these two principles—right and wrong—throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time; and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity and the other the divine right of kings."

With a brief rejoinder by Douglas, the debates were ended. After that both candidates made a few more speeches to local rallies, but everybody realized that the campaign was over, and the decision now lay with the voters.

Reading Group Discussion Points

Other Books With Reading Group Guides

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Introduction

Reading Group Discussion Points
  1. Lincoln was essentially a passive man. He was not formally educated. He repeatedly failed when running for various political offices. He was not considered a handsome man, and he was inexperienced and unprepared for the presidency. Yet all this considered, he still became one of the greatest presidents the United States has ever known. To what do you attribute this? How might the elements of Lincoln's character and his time have blended together to create a man so successful in casting off slavery and bringing the Union back together?
  2. How, in many ways, was Lincoln the most American of presidents?
  3. Donald brilliantly explores the development of Lincoln's character. Describe this development and its impact on the outcome of slavery and the Civil War. What in Lincoln's character led him to greatness?
  4. How did Lincoln's growing belief in a Higher Power sustain him through the agony of a country divided?
  5. In April of 1864, Lincoln wrote to Albert G. Hodges: "I claim not to have controlled events but confess plainly that events have controlled me." How is this accurate and not quite true at the same time?
  6. Though Donald's Lincoln is primarily about Lincoln's political life, Donald portrays Lincoln as a family man. Discuss Lincoln as a father and husband. What portrait emerges of Mary Todd Lincoln? How did she ultimately contribute to his political career, and in what ways might she have detracted from it?
  7. In reading Donald's Lincoln, we view in great detail the political machine of the mid 1800s. How has the political process in this countryremained the same? How has it changed? What role did the media play then, as opposed to now?
  8. From the time he was a boy, Lincoln was opposed to slavery. Even so, his policy and position on slavery developed very slowly over time, beginning with a hands-off approach and culminating in his eventual, stated belief that the slaves must be given their freedom. Trace the growth of Lincoln's attitude and actions regarding slavery. Estimate the impact the Emancipation Proclamation had on the people of its day. How is the impact still felt in our times?
  9. Donald's Lincoln forces the reader to confront slavery. We come to understand that racism meant something very different in Lincoln's time, manifesting itself in ways distinct to that era. Discuss the gains we've made over the past one hundred and thirty years.
  10. Lincoln never wavered in his belief that the Union must be preserved. Even in the face of enormous casualties for both the North and the South, Lincoln did not falter in his resolve. Do you believe, as Lincoln did, that it was of the utmost importance to preserve the Union? If so, why? If not, why not?
  11. Although Lincoln lived over a hundred and thirty years ago, and many presidents have come and gone, we are still fascinated by him. Why is he remembered more than any other president? What about him is so enduring and immortal? Why do you think his place in history is so secure?
Recommended Readings

Abraham Lincoln: The War Years

Carl Sandburg

Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution, James M. McPherson

The Civil War, Ken Burns (VHS tape)

The Civil War: A Narrative, Shelby Foote

The Civil War: An Illustrated History, Geoffrey C. Ward

The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Roy P. Basler, ED.

The Face of Lincoln, James Mellon

The Killer Angels, Michael Shaara

Lincoln: A Novel, Gore Vidal

Lincoln: A Photobiography, Russell Freedman

Mary Todd Lincoln, Her Life and Letters, Justin G. Turner

Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch

The Portable Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Delbanco

The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Discussion Points
  1. Lincoln was essentially a passive man. He was not formally educated. He repeatedly failed when running for various political offices. He was not considered a handsome man, and he was inexperienced and unprepared for the presidency. Yet all this considered, he still became one of the greatest presidents the United States has ever known. To what do you attribute this? How might the elements of Lincoln's character and his time have blended together to create a man so successful in casting off slavery and bringing the Union back together?
  2. How, in many ways, was Lincoln the most American of presidents?
  3. Donald brilliantly explores the development of Lincoln's character. Describe this development and its impact on the outcome of slavery and the Civil War. What in Lincoln's character led him to greatness?
  4. How did Lincoln's growing belief in a Higher Power sustain him through the agony of a country divided?
  5. In April of 1864, Lincoln wrote to Albert G. Hodges: "I claim not to have controlled events but confess plainly that events have controlled me." How is this accurate and not quite true at the same time?
  6. Though Donald's Lincoln is primarily about Lincoln's political life, Donald portrays Lincoln as a family man. Discuss Lincoln as a father and husband. What portrait emerges of Mary Todd Lincoln? How did she ultimately contribute to his political career, and in what ways might she have detracted from it?
  7. In reading Donald's Lincoln, we view in great detail the political machine of the mid 1800s. How has the political process in this country remained the same? How has it changed? What role did the media play then, as opposed to now?
  8. From the time he was a boy, Lincoln was opposed to slavery. Even so, his policy and position on slavery developed very slowly over time, beginning with a hands-off approach and culminating in his eventual, stated belief that the slaves must be given their freedom. Trace the growth of Lincoln's attitude and actions regarding slavery. Estimate the impact the Emancipation Proclamation had on the people of its day. How is the impact still felt in our times?
  9. Donald's Lincoln forces the reader to confront slavery. We come to understand that racism meant something very different in Lincoln's time, manifesting itself in ways distinct to that era. Discuss the gains we've made over the past one hundred and thirty years.
  10. Lincoln never wavered in his belief that the Union must be preserved. Even in the face of enormous casualties for both the North and the South, Lincoln did not falter in his resolve. Do you believe, as Lincoln did, that it was of the utmost importance to preserve the Union? If so, why? If not, why not?
  11. Although Lincoln lived over a hundred and thirty years ago, and many presidents have come and gone, we are still fascinated by him. Why is he remembered more than any other president? What about him is so enduring and immortal? Why do you think his place in history is so secure?
Recommended Readings

Abraham Lincoln: The War Years

Carl Sandburg

Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution, James M. McPherson

The Civil War, Ken Burns (VHS tape)

The Civil War: A Narrative, Shelby Foote

The Civil War: An Illustrated History, Geoffrey C. Ward

The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Roy P. Basler, ED.

The Face of Lincoln, James Mellon

The Killer Angels, Michael Shaara

Lincoln: A Novel, Gore Vidal

Lincoln: A Photobiography, Russell Freedman

Mary Todd Lincoln, Her Life and Letters, Justin G. Turner

Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch

The Portable Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Delbanco

The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 52 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 52 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 14, 2011

    Masterful Research and Writing

    It is a little difficult for me to write a review of a book that covers the US Civil War period, and notable people of that geography and era - it has fascinated me for decades, and I suspect what some people consider dry, I consider absorbing. Nevertheless, I believe I can be reasonably detached with this work.

    Donald is an accomplished writer - two Pulitzer Awards, and the research and style/flow of writing of Lincoln is perfect. Seriously. More importantly, he covers the life of Lincoln with a rigor for truth and evenly weighted probability masterfully, and this is the reason why I enjoyed the book so much. As a non-American, but nevertheless mid-Eighteenth Century US student, I have developed a view of who Lincoln was. I saw his as a visionary and as an eloquent statesman, and also as a self-made man. The burden of his responsibilities during the Civil War were always permeating the total picture of the man, and there seemed to be an endless collection of anecdotes about Lincoln's axe-swinging, frontier-living, small-office and saddle legal days. And much more. What Donald did was take the filters away, but at the same time analyze the self-same filters when appropriate. I discovered the real man, and with the meticulous research, feel confident that I really know the truth.

    As a non-US citizen I feel that I understand the United States better, by understanding Lincoln, and his times - a period in history that has had, and continues to have, a profound influence on that great nation. Donald's book is one of those definitive sources to ensure that the understanding is complete.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2008

    Magnificent biography.

    This 599 page book is an easy to read, detailed, and informative look into all aspects of Lincoln's life: prairie years,struggling and established lawyer,keen politician,family man, and Commander in Chief/President. Learn how he deals with various political factions, inept military generals,the death of two sons, and the impact the war had upon him. The book will provide the reader with a greater appreciation of the statesman that held the union together.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Unparalleled information and research

    The amount of information in this book is incredible. Just to give an idea, Donald needed 100 pages just to cite everything that he used. Starting with Lincoln's humble beginnings and family life, to his law practice, his political career, and of course his presidency and early demise, Donald takes his readers into the life of our 16th President like no other writer (to my knowledge), has before. With the amount of detail and information included, this is a very heavy read. Some areas drag a bit and can be a bit dry but if you are looking for a biography filled with detail that takes you into the life and mind of Lincoln, this is the book for you.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2010

    If you want to know Lincoln, this book is a must.

    This book on Lincoln by Donald is a great read. Having gone through several other books, others that are dry, incomplete and at times whimsical, this one hits the mark. Donald have done justice by compiling the correct data on our 16th President and has presented it in direct text, easy to read, easy to understand. It is a compliment to the author, Donald, when others copy sections from this book for their books. Why waste time and simply go for the one that covers Lincoln best.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2000

    A Great Intro to Lincoln

    It's amazing how think how Lincoln would never make it in the do-or-die politics at the turn of this century. Donald shows us both the weaknesses and strengths of Lincoln. For those who revere him blindly, be prepared to have your eyes opened. For those who dislike him, you'll find him suffering greatly through consistent heartbreaks throughout his life and sad ending. The book is a quick read, and the audio is excellent, too.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2012

    This is the book to read if you want to learn about the man behi

    This is the book to read if you want to learn about the man behind the legend. I like the fact that it takes you on a journey from Lincoln's youth to the end of his life giving the reader a sense of knowing Lincoln much more intimately and showing what a person can achieve in their life time.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2004

    Dry but very interesting

    With word that later in 2004 several new Lincoln biographies are to be published I again turned to my unread copy of Donald¿s LINCOLN. It had been highly recommended to me when I mentioned that I had never read a biography of Lincoln. I was told this was one of the best Lincoln Biographies.Overall, David Donald¿s book is just full of details and is interestingly told from Lincoln¿s perspective. (What did Lincoln know and what did he do? A real time biography.) I greatly admire Donald¿s accomplishment and learned a great deal but was disappointed that this is just not an ¿entertaining¿ narrative. The writing is dry, without a visual sense or an emotional core. You never feel you¿re experiencing Lincoln, feeling what he must have felt as he comes across in the narrative as stoically reactive to events while holding on to only one true principle, saving the union. I especially like the first part of the book covering Lincoln¿s early years up to the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates. But once the Great War takes hold Lincoln is depicted as a man given to compromise and taking the middle ground unable to do anything more than ride the whirlwind of events. (Actually Lincoln said himself that this is the case and it comes so apparent in this narrative.) Lincoln appears here as an uncertain politician and seldom the statesman. This may be true and a bit unsettling to those of us who might want to ¿worship¿ the Lincoln as statesman who belongs to the ages. My reading left me with little insight into Lincoln¿s thinking, and more important without an insight into what he is feeling that I felt distanced from subject. The feeling I came away with was that Lincoln was not really comfortable in his own skin and I was uncomfortable and unsure that this could be true. I recommend Donald¿s book for its detail, overall insight, but warn that it is a tough read.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2000

    Best Book Ever On Abraham Lincoln

    This book is the most complete and up to date understanding of Lincoln available to read. If you do not read this book, you have missed getting to know Lincoln the way Lincoln got to know life himself. Highly recommended.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2012

    SIMPLY THE BEST

    This book was exactly the type of biograpy about Lincoln I was looing for. We have a real tendency to simplify the actions of people and give them labels without really understanding much about them. With Lincoln we learn at a young age that he freed slaves and preserved the Union in a time of civil war. This book of course delves into other topics but I loved that Donald set out to explain reasons behind actions and especially explain the evolution of Lincoln as a politician, a leader, and a man, mostly through Lincoln's own words.

    Very finely crafted and researched. Highly recommend.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2012

    An enlightenig and engaging read

    Extremely well researched historical biography. Highly recommend reading the sample. The rest is anything but dull.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 6, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Fallible Lincoln

    Carl Sandburg's monumental multi-volume biography (I have read a abridged version) turned Lincoln into a Godlike figure. Donald gives us a more life-sized portrait. His interest is in Lincoln the politician, war leader,and President and how he grew into those roles. The focus is kept tightly on Lincoln and only enough outside information is given to fill in the gaps. A living, feeling, fallible yet likable human being emerges. Another interesting book about Lincoln is Lincoln and His Generals, a slim volume by T. Harry Williams. It concentrates on Lincoln's relations with his military commanders and is quite insightful, even though it was written 60 years ago.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2003

    From a Military Historian

    The author's access to the Hay and Nicolay papers, unavailable to previous Lincoln biographers such as Sandburg and Thomas, makes many details available, such as Lincoln's law career. Donald's strength is his clear, concise exposition of the Lincoln administration's political climate. Some military details, however, are incorrect. McClellan's chief of staff, Randolph Marcy, was his father-in-law, not his son-in-law, as Donald states.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2002

    great book

    it was good

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2001

    The Best Biography on Lincoln Bar None

    Along with Gore Vidal's book on Lincoln, this is a fantastic book. This book is very well detailed, and gives an evenhanded analysis of one of our great presidents. Should be a must read for all classes/discussions on Lincoln

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2013

    Great Book

    700 page book that never slowed down. Very well written

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    Posted April 27, 2014

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    Posted November 17, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted April 13, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2008

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2012

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