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Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing

Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing

3.8 126
by Melissa Bank

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Hailed by critics as the debut of a major literary, The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing has dazzled and delighted readers and topped bestseller lists nationwide. Generous-hearted and wickedly insightful, The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing maps the progress of Jane Rosenal as she sets out on a personal and spirited expedition through the


Hailed by critics as the debut of a major literary, The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing has dazzled and delighted readers and topped bestseller lists nationwide. Generous-hearted and wickedly insightful, The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing maps the progress of Jane Rosenal as she sets out on a personal and spirited expedition through the perilous terrain of sex, love, and relationships, and the treacherous waters of the workplace. With an unforgettable comic spin on the mating dance, and captures in perfect pitch what it's like to be a young woman coming of age in America today.

Editorial Reviews

Bitch Magazine
Melissa Bank gets it exactly right: her Jane Rosenal is intelligent, witty, perspective, and moody—and has a lot more her mind than where her next boyfriend is coming from; you could have dinner with her, you could work with her, you could be her.
Jenny Turner
The nicest thing about this book is the epigraphs. There are lots, taken from the advice manuals on which the great American character was built....The stories, however, are less ironic than their epigraphs might suggest. They have a curiously sheltered and olde-world quality, charming in a way, but also odd.
London Review of Books
The summer's best beach book.
Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
...[A] charming, funny collection of seven linked fictions....[A]ll the considerable humor of these stories turns on Jane's wonderfully clear sense of the trickiness of language....The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing...[contains] amusing lessons in how to stalk and find...yourself.
The New York Times
Time Magazine
Truly poignant....There is an exquisite honesty to Jane's relationships.
Gorgeous and wise.
USA Today
Because Jane is funny and perceptive, the reader willingly goes places with her.
...[Jane] is consistently braving [dating] turmoil with perspective and a sardonic attitude....[W]ithin its final 45 pages...a successful balance of inventiveness, humanity and intelligence is created....[T]hese pages provide the book's most endearing moments.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Banks's debut short story collection about the mixed-up dating life of Jane Rosenal was a hit on the beach-reading circuit this summer. Hearing the author's conviction while she reads her work proves why: there is an uncanny likeness between the writer and her feisty-but-neurotic heroine. Banks plays up this mood by narrating in a quiet, seductive voice--one that nonetheless manages to convey a sense of sustained desperation. The episodes move chronologically, starting with Jane's girl's-eye view of her older brother, Henry, in bumbling action as he dates an older, more sophisticated woman. At age 16, Jane moves in with a great-aunt in her Manhattan apartment, then sees the world through her host's jaded eyes. Later, as a lowly assistant in publishing, she is seduced by an older editor, a super-macho alcoholic who suffers impotence. Banks's gifts of distanced objectivity--as author and reader--dovetail here with stylish panache. Based on the 1999 Viking hardcover. (Aug.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Bank structures her tongue-in-cheek exploration of relationships by playing off the genre of self-help guides, even including a manual called "How To Meet and Marry Mr. Right" to set her novel's climax. The book is filled with some wonderfully humorous lines and insights as our young heroine, Jane, grows up in bewilderment, lurching from one disastrous affair to another. Yet it suffers terribly from an awkward handling of dialog from the Dick & Jane school of repartee--"he said, she said, I said" litter the conversations. Lorelei King's reading heightens the annoyance at the author's lack of skill. If this audio is meant as parody, Bank doesn't pull it off successfully. It might appeal mostly to female adolescents, but for others the attraction will quickly wear thin.--Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Witty, sparkling.
People Magazine
Refreshingly down-to-earth....A funny fictional report on the dating wars.
The Missouri Review
Most of the stories in The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing revolve around Jane Rosenal and detail her progress in relationships, from her vicarious participation, as an adolescent, in her older brother's love life, through several bittersweet affairs of her own, to a romantic finale when Jane finds her perfect counterpart. One particularly impressive feature of this book is Bank's skill with dialogue. Rather than relying on firstperson musings to push the stories forward, Bank uses lively, often absurd, surprisingly resonant conversations between her characters to keep things moving.
Yahlin Chang
...[C]aptivating...fast and funny with real moments of poignancy....Bank draws exquisite protraits of loneliness, and she can do it in a sentence.
Jenny Turner
The nicest thing about this book is the epigraphs. There are lots, taken from the advice manuals on which the great American character was built....The stories, however, are less ironic than their epigraphs might suggest. They have a curiously sheltered and olde-world quality, charming in a way, but also odd.
London Review of Books
Lisa Schwarzbaum
...[I]rresistible...swinging, funny, and tender...[T]he pre-publication excitement about Girls' Guide is warranted....Bank...fishes deep in her literary debut and hooks a winner.
Entertainment Weekly
Elaine Szewczyk
...[Jane] is consistently braving [dating] turmoil with perspective and a sardonic attitude....[W]ithin is final 45 pages...a successful blanace of inventiveness,human and intelligence is created....[T]hese pages provide the book's most endearing moments.
Janet Steen
If you're a female New Yorker in your thirties with a few romantic blowouts under your belt, you might feel obligated to love Bank's much-buzzed-about, gal-friendly collection of stories: It's the easiest, breeziest summer read to wash up on Manhattan's littered shore in a long time...Bank's strengths lie in her lively pacing and crackling dialogue.
Time Out New York
Kirkus Reviews
A smart, ruefully funny chronicle of a modern young woman's search for love. When we meet Jane Rosenal, she's a wisecracking 14-year-old whose sassy wit keeps the world at bay but also gets the attention of her affectionate yet slightly distant parents. First-novelist Bank creates a dead-on teenage voice from her opening lines, making protagonist Jane both mildly obnoxious and appealingly vulnerable as she relates her efforts to decipher what went wrong between her older brother, Henry, and his upper-crust girlfriend, Julia. In subsequent chapters, the author skillfully allows Jane's narration to evolve as the young girl struggles toward maturity and Mr. Right. When she gets an entry-level job in publishing and becomes involved with a much older editor, Archie Knox, Bank's insightfully nuanced portrait shows Archie helping Jane grow professionally — particularly by guiding her through the treacherous office currents created by a boss subtly determined to keep her down — while keeping a firm upper hand emotionally. When her father reveals he has leukemia, the reserve between parent and child is breached, and the support Jane finds enables her to leave Archie. The final segment wickedly spoofs The Rules and other manipulative man-hunting guides as Jane nearly scares off her Prince Charming by behaving in ways completely alien to her open, candid nature; the satire wears thin after a time, but the finale's warmth all but makes up for it. The novel takes the currently fashionable form of freestanding chapters that read like short stories that just happen to be about the same character. Two of them — a first-person vignette by someone other than Jane; an odd second-personaccount of breast cancer and an excessively devoted boyfriend — don't really fit in, but otherwise Bank's debut is a model of well-crafted narrative building to a thoughtful, hopeful conclusion.

From the Publisher
“Charming and funny.”
—The New York Times
“As hilarious as Girls’ Guide is, there’s a wise, serious core here.”
—The Wall Street Journal

“A sexy, pour-your-heart-out, champagne tingle of a read—thoughtful, wise, and tell-all honest. Bank’s is a voice that you’ll remember for years to come.”

“Believe the hype: Jane’s touching (but unsentimental) career and love trials ring true.”
“Bank writes like John Cheever, but funnier.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Melissa Bank accomplishes that hardest of simple things: She shows life as it is—and makes it readable.”
—The Washington Post Book World
“Writing literature that mixes comedy and tragedy in the proper amounts is not an easy task. Only a handful of contemporary writers (Joseph Heller, Ann Tyler, and John Irving come to mind) can do it with any success. Whether dealing with serious issues or mundane, Bank proves that she has what it takes to stand in such august company.”
—The Denver Post
“Crafted by a gifted writer, a descendant from the school of restraint whose grandfather is Hemingway and whose father is the early Raymond Carver. The presiding mother figure is Lily Tomlin.”
—The News and Observer
“Only a few authors have successfully blended the compressed nature of short prose with the novel’s greater panorama of character. Melissa Bank brings similar energy and style to her new book.”
—Chicago Tribune

“I read the first chapter and thought, ‘Wait, I know this girl.’ By the second, I realized she was my friend. She did all the things that good friends do: she made me laugh, she made me weep, and when I closed the book at the end of the day, I knew I’d never forget her.”
—Ruth Ozeki, New York Times bestselling author of A Tale for the Time Being and My Year of Meats
“Courageous and wise, as heartbreaking and laugh-out-loud funny as only the most deeply true fiction can be. Melissa Bank writes with a fine eye, a clean voice, and a generous heart.”
—Pam Houston, bestselling author of Sight Hound and Cowboys are My Weakness
“A compassionate comedy of manners, pitch-perfect . . . Bank’s people are fully realized and, just like us, fond, foolish, blind, and wise by turns and in ways both tenderly familiar and refreshingly odd.”
—Amy Bloom, New York Times bestselling author of Away and Lucky Us

Product Details

Gale Group
Publication date:
Bestsellers Series
Edition description:
Large Print
Product dimensions:
5.49(w) x 8.48(h) x 1.02(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing

My best friend is getting married. Her wedding is only two weeks away, and I still don't have a dress to wear. In desperation, I decide to go to Loehmann's in the Bronx. My friend Donna offers to come with me, saying she needs a bathing suit, but I know a mercy mission when I see one.
"It might be easier if you were bringing a date," Donna says in the car, on the Major Deegan Expressway. "But maybe you'll meet somebody."
When I don't answer, she says, "who was the last guy you felt like you could bring to a wedding?"
I know she's not asking a question as much as trying to broach the subject of my unsocial life. But I say, "That French guy I went out with."
"I forgot about him," she says. "What was his name again?"
"Fuckface," I say.
"That's right," she says.

* * *
At the entrance to the store, we separate and plan to meet in an hour. I'm an expert shopper, discerning fabric content by touch, identifying couture at a glance. Here at Loehmann's, on Broadway at 237th Street, I'm in my element — Margaret Mead observing the coming of age in Samoa, Aretha Franklin demanding R-E-S-P-E-C-T in Motor City.
Even so, I search for a whole hour without finding a single maybe, until I see it, my perfect dress, a black Armani sheath — but only in an ant-sized 2 and a spider 4.
I think, A smarter woman than I am bought my 10 at Saks or Barneys weeks ago, knowing it would never find its way to Loehmann's. She knew her dress when she saw it and didn't hesitate. That woman is zipping up her sheath right now, on her way to meet the man she loves.
But in the communal fitting room, Donna hands me the black Armani sheath in a 10 — the one that almost got away. I take this as an omen.
Is the dress perfect? It is so perfect.
I say, "You're my fairy godshopper," and sit on the fitting-room bench, holding the sheath in my arms while Donna tries on bathing suits. She adjusts the straps of a chocolate maillot and frowns at herself in the mirror. She doesn't know how beautiful she is, especially her sultry, heavy-lidded eyes; she says people stop her on the street and tell her to get some rest.
"No wonder I'm single," she says to the mirror. "Even I don't want to get into bed with these thighs."
I say that getting married isn't like winning the Miss America Pageant; it doesn't all come down to the bathing suit competition.
"What do you think it comes down to?" she says.
I say, "Baton twirling."

* * *
Afterward, we celebrate our purchases over turkey burgers at the Riverdale Diner. In a put-on silky voice, I say, "I am a woman who wears Armani."
"Clothes are armor," she says.
I don't need armor, I tell her; I'm happy for Max and Sophie.
"I hate weddings," she says. "They make me feel so unmarried. Actually, even brushing my teeth makes me feel unmarried."
She stops doing her shtick, and suddenly she does look tired; her lids practically cover her eyes. She tells me she's been reading a terrible book called How to Meet and Marry Mr. Right. "Their main advice is to play hard to get. Basically, it's a guide to manipulation."
I say that maybe she should stop reading it.
"I know," she says, only half agreeing. "But it's like I've been trying to catch a fish by swimming around with them. I keep making myself get in the water again. I try different rivers. I change my strokes. But nothing works. Then I find this guide that tells me about fishing poles and bait, and how to cast and what to do when the line gets taut." She stops and thinks. "The depressing part is that you know it'll work."
I say, "I hate fish."

* * *
The wedding is held at a restored mansion on the Hudson. I come up here sometimes on Sundays. If there isn't a wedding going on, you can pay admission to tour the house and grounds, but I pay my $4.50 just to sit in an Adirondack chair and read the newspaper and look at the river. It's a spot so idyllic that it makes you feel you're in a painting — a Seurat — and for a while I kept hoping a gentleman in shirtsleeves and a boater would dot-dot-dot over to me. Then I overheard a guard say that this place was just for the pinks and grays — wedding parties and senior citizens.
I arrive in the rainy late afternoon to help Sophie dress. I'm directed upstairs to the first door on the left, where I expect an old-fashioned bedroom with lace curtains, a vanity and a four-poster bed, but I find Sophie and her friends in a conference room with stacked plastic chairs and a slide projector. She's at the lectern, clowning in her bra and stockings.
I go up to her and the words blushing bride come to mind, though she is, in fact, an almost constant blusher — from sun or wind, laughing, crying, anger or wine. Now she actually appears to be glowing, and I kiss her and say, "Hello little glowworm."
Her hilarious friend Mavis pours me a big glass of wine; she's pregnant and says that I have to drink for two now.
After I help Sophie on with her off-the-shoulder ivory gown, she asks me to put on her makeup, though she knows I don't really know how. It's for the ritual of it; I brush a tiny bit of pale eye shadow on her lids and put on barely-there lipstick. She blots her lips with a tissue.
Mavis says, "Jesus, Sophie, you look like a whore."
The photographer knocks to tell Sophie it's time for pictures, and the rest of us follow. Mavis and I stop in the bathroom, and from the stall she tells me she didn't realize for a long time that she was pregnant; she thought she was just getting fat and becoming incontinent. "So the pregnancy was really good news."
Since I have nothing to add about pregnancy, I tell her I read that Tiny Tim wore Depends in his final years. He wasn't incontinent, just thought they were a good idea.
Downstairs, we join Mavis's husband and the other guests. We take our seats in the room where the ceremony will be held. It has a river view, but all you can see now is fog and rain and wet grass.
I ask Mavis what her ceremony was like, and she says that instead of The Wedding March she chose K.C. and the Sunshine Band's song "That's the way — Uh-Huh, Uh-Huh — I Like It" and danced herself down the aisle.
Her husband does a deadpan, "Uh-huh, uh-huh."
The music plays. We wait. Mavis whispers that she has to go to the bathroom again. I say, "Think how much better you'd feel if you had a Depends on right now." This is what I'm saying when Max and Sophie walk down the aisle.

* * *
The reception kicks off with a a klezmer band doing their bloop-yatty-bloop, and Sophie and Max are hauled up on chairs for the Jewish wedding version of musical chairs. I was raised as an assimilationist but it's not my confused identity that prevents me from joining in; I've got the spirit, but I can't clap to the beat.
Finally, we go to our tables. I'm at One, sitting between Mavis and Sophie, and I know everyone at the table except the man taking his seat at the opposite end. He's tall and gangly with olive skin, a high forehead and big eyes, cute, but that doesn't explain what comes over me. I haven't had this feeling in so long I don't even recognize it; at first I think it's fear. My hair follicles seem to individuate themselves and freeze; then it's like my whole body flushes.
He smiles over at me and mouths, "I'm Robert."
I mouth, "Jane."
When I come out of my swoon, Mavis is telling the table that my Depends comment made her pee in her pants. She tells me I should work Tiny into my toast, and only now do I remember that I'm supposed to give one.
I try to think of it during dinner, but I'm also trying not to stare at Robert, and I'm shaky and not exactly prepared when it's my turn to go up to the microphone.
"Hi," I say to the crowd. I wait for something to come to me, and then I see Sophie, and it does. I say that we met after college in New York, and that over the years we had a succession of boyfriends but weren't so happy with any of them. We were always asking each other, "Is this all we can expect?"
Then, I say, there was our sea-horse period, when we were told that we didn't need mates; we were supposed to make ourselves happy just bobbing around in careers.
"Finally, Sophie met Max," I say, and turn serious. I look over at him. I think, He has a nice face. And I say this into the microphone. "He gets how funny and generous and wholehearted she is. He understands what a big person she is, and yet he doesn't want to crush her." I get some blank stares here, but Sophie's laughing. I say, "Max is the man Sophie didn't know if she could hope for."
When I sit down, Robert stands, I assume to give his toast. But he walks over to my side of the table and asks Mavis if she'll trade seats with him.
She says, "No," and waits a moment before relinquishing her chair.
Robert sits beside me and says, "I loved your toast."
I linger over the word "love" coming out of his mouth about something of mine.
He tells me that he knows Max from freshman year — roughly twenty years — and I remember that a huge number of Oberlin friends are here and ask what bonds them all for life.
He says, "No one else will be friends with us."
Then another toaster picks up the microphone.
Toast, toast, toast; Robert and I can only talk during the intermissions in hurried exchanges:
I learn that he's a cartoonist, and I have to tell him that I work in advertising. "But," I say, and don't know what to say next. "I'm thinking of opening a dog museum."
"A dog museum?" he says. He's not sure if I'm kidding. "For the different breeds?"
"Maybe," I say. "Or else it could be a museum that dogs would enjoy. It could have interactive displays of squirrels dogs could chase and actually catch. And a gallery of scents."
He tells me he's just moved back to New York from L.A. and is staying with his sister until he finds an apartment. I tell him I live in Sophie's old apartment in the huge ancient building nicknamed the Dragonia for its gargoyles. Almost everyone knows someone who has lived there — an ex-girlfriend or masseuse, a cousin — and Robert does, too, though he doesn't specify whom.
Will I check on vacancies for him? I will.
Sophie's father goes up to the microphone for the last toast, a position of honor he's requested. He reads a rhyming poem:
"I despaired at my spinster daughter
though I thought her
awfully fair.
Then came Maxie, praise the Lord,
from the heavens, I had scored.

But Max, like Sophie, makes documentaries,
how are they going to pay their rentaries?"
Sophie's shaking her head; Max is trying to smile at his father-in-law. Robert leans over and whispers to me,
"Dad is trying awfully hard,
but this guy is no one's bard."

* * *
Max and Sophie go table to table to talk to their guests, and as soon as Robert and I have the chance to talk without interruption, a statuesque beauty in a drapey gown interrupts.
"Jane," Robert says, "this is Apollinaire."
I'm about to say, "Call me Aphrodite," but I realize in time that he's not kidding.
"Have a seat," he tells her, nodding to the one next to me. But she gracefully drops beside him, as though to fill her urn, forcing Robert to turn his back to me. It occurs to me that I may not be the only butterfly whose wings flutter in the presence of his stamen.
After she glides off, Robert tells me that she composes music for movies and has been nominated for an Oscar. I think of my only award, an Honorable Mention in the under-twelve contest to draw Mr. Bubble.
"I like her toga," I say, confusing my ancients.
We talk, we talk, and then Robert announces to the table at large that it's time for us to prepare the newlyweds' getaway car.
Outside it's drizzling. Robert retrieves two grocery bags from the bushes and leads us to Max's car.
Mavis shaving creams smiley faces on the windows.
"Tres droll," her husband says, looking on.
I don't spray a word. I hold my shaving cream poised but nothing comes out. I say that I'm blocked.
Robert, tying cans to the bumper, says, "Just pretend you're spraying in your journal."
As we walk away from the parking lot, he says, "I'm pretty sure that's his car."
— From The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing, by Melissa Bank. ©May, 1999, Melissa Bank used by permission

Meet the Author

Melissa Bank is the New York Times bestselling author of The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing and The Wonder Spot. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Cosmopolitan, and Zoetrope, among other publications, and has been heard on National Public Radio and featured at Symphony Space in New York City. Bank holds an MFA from Cornell University and is the winner of a Nelson Algren Award for short fiction. She divides her time between New York City and East Hampton.

Brief Biography

New York, New York
Date of Birth:
October 11, 1960
Place of Birth:
Boston, Massachusetts
B.A., Hobart William Smith, 1982; M.F.A., Cornell University, 1987

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The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 126 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book started out ok but just got more disconnected and uninteresting as it went. it jumps from different stages in the character's life. i did not like how it was not in chronological order. overall, i would not recommend this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved the main character and found the humor fresh and interesting. The short story format did enhance the originality of the piece and I look forward to Ms. Bank's next novel with glee. I hear they are making a film out of the final short story. It will doubtless be interesting to see how they handle the inner dialogue..
lousquared More than 1 year ago
HATED this book. I'm not one to give up on a book, but that's what I did with this one. Story was going nowhere and was very disjointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Have read this book so many times.... still a favorite many years later
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After a few pages i got bored of it. Just to say dont read the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of my longtime favorites!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
jessicaraya More than 1 year ago
Don't let Bank's spare style fool you. This book is full of deep truths about being young, growing up, falling in and out of love, and all the stupid mistakes we make along the way. I have read Girls' Guide three times now and each time was like coming home to visit your funniest and wisest college friend. If you're a novel lover who don't thinks you don't like short stories, this is really a novel in stories. If you like Alice Munro's Lives of Girls and Women or Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge, you'll love this book. If you like good writing and characters you wish you could meet for drinks, you'll love this book. Her second book was nowhere near as good as this one--but then if I could write one book like this, I'd be eternally proud and never pick up a pen again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the one of the best books i have read!! One of my Good friends gave me the book and i told her " you know i dont like to read" and she told me "trust me you will like it!" And she was right this book was so good that it changed my mind about reading, anyone can read ,you just need to find a book that is good for you!! <3
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
1996JN More than 1 year ago
This book was great. I have to admit, i did get a bit confused. Did she end up with robert, ben or archie. The story went back and fourth, so i got lost. I hope jane comes back in a new book. (:
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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songofthestars91 More than 1 year ago
I doubt that I would have ever picked up this book if it wasn't for my Women's Popular Genres class. According to my professor, this novel was one of the first that was labeled as "chick-lit," a term used to describe postfeminist fiction. Or in other words, modern fiction that is written by women for women. I guess I can understand why Bank's witty novel falls under this category (it traces the adult life of Jane, the female protagonist), but I definitely wouldn't call it superficial. On the contrary, Jane deals with issues that go way beyond gaining a few pounds and being dumped by a boyfriend. She is also delightfully humorous, easy to relate to, and worth reading about, if you ask me. But one must take into consideration that I am, in fact, a chick-lit fan. Even so, I must ask myself, was it a story worth remembering? And, unfortunately, the answer is no.
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MCHR More than 1 year ago
I loved this book so much, that I do not know how many times I have read it. The series of stories are very touching, regarding different stages of life: from childhood memories to grown-up relationships, looking and finding love, stuggling to make relationships work and sometimes having to let them go. What makes us adults, the road that takes us into adulthood and learning from our mistakes....without a manual. I sometimes read specific chapters instead of the whole book, and always find it moving and true to feelings, hopes and dreams.... that we must never give up even if "reality bites"....
tchrreader More than 1 year ago
I didn't like this book as much as my friends did but it was pretty good and it makes you think. A girl trying to figure out life, ends up dating an older man, going through life, men, etc.
JACk1026 More than 1 year ago
I must admit that this was light and forgettable.