Friday, October 31, 2014

Gary Krist's "Empire of Sin"

Before turning to narrative nonfiction with The White Cascade and City of Scoundrels, Gary Krist wrote three novels--Bad Chemistry, Chaos Theory, and Extravagance--and two short-story collections--The Garden State and Bone by Bone.

Krist applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Empire of Sin involves one of the more brutal episodes in the book, a citywide manhunt in July of 1900 that eventually escalates into a horrific race riot. The episode occurs in the middle of what I characterize as New Orleans’ other civil war – a decades-long effort by the city’s wealthy Anglo-American elite to suppress the “disruptive elements” in the notoriously unruly city. Part of this effort involved the imposition of Jim Crow laws on the city’s heterogeneous black population. This created great friction in New Orleans -- a place previously known for relatively fluid race relations – until finally, on one hot summer night, a young black man named Robert Charles is pushed too far. A scuffle with a New Orleans policeman turns violent, and soon Charles is on the run, leaving two dead policemen in his wake. For several days, he eludes one of the most extensive manhunts in New Orleans history. But page 99 finds him holed up with a rifle in the back annex of an uptown house, knowing that he is about to be found but determined not to surrender without a fight. "He didn't have many other options," as I write on that page. "Nor could he have any illusions about how this adventure would end. A black man who had killed two white policeman in the New Orleans of 1900, no matter what the circumstances, would never be allowed to explain himself in court."
Learn more about the book and author at Gary Krist's website.

The Page 69 Test: The White Cascade.

Writers Read: Gary Krist (May 2012).

The Page 99 Test: City of Scoundrels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Cara Caddoo's "Envisioning Freedom: Cinema and the Building of Modern Black Life"

Cara Caddoo is Assistant Professor of American Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Envisioning Freedom: Cinema and the Building of Modern Black Life, and reported the following:
On page 99, a battle rages between two of Chicago’s most powerful black men: Reverend Elijah Fisher and Robert T. Motts, a kingpin of Chicago’s underworld. At stake is control of the three-block stretch of city streets on Chicago’s South Side that will soon be known as “The Stroll.” Motts has announced plans to transform his saloon on 27th Street into a “high-class theater.” To lend an air of legitimacy to his new venture, he’s even struck a deal with Ida B. Wells, who has agreed to host a high-society event at the theater. Fisher and fellow man of the cloth, Archibald Carey, are furious. They’re certain the theater is a guise for another of Motts’ dens of iniquity. The ministers have launched a crusade against the venture. It doesn’t help that Fisher’s church is located directly across the street from the site of Motts’ new theater.
It was in this venerable district, near the intersection of State and Twenty-Seventh streets, where Fisher and Robert T. Motts first clashed in 1905. At that time, the Olivet Baptist Church and the Motts Theatre had only recently ventured into the neighborhood, and their fate there was far from certain. (p. 99)
As the campaign against Motts continues, there will be fiery speeches, pointed insults, and one very memorable, impassioned oath. The allegiances of black Chicago will split. Within a decade, one of these men will mysteriously die—choking, it may seem, on his own words.

This conflict occurs midway through the book. In previous chapters, we’ve witnessed the rise of black American cinema. Hundreds of African Americans, starting in the 1890s, exhibited and produced motion pictures for black audiences. Although Fisher and Carey’s responses might seem to suggest otherwise, these black film pioneers were often ministers and church leaders. In fact, black churches were among the first places to show films for African American audiences.
Yet all of this changed with the rise of the colored theater. Suddenly ministers turned a suspicious eye on motion pictures, which they blamed for drawing away their congregants. Thus the skirmish between Fisher and Motts foreshadowed tensions that would eventually erupt across the nation. Black church leaders and colored theater proprietors went head-to-head over the motion pictures. But like all battles, the repercussions are not as simple as they seem. What appeared a loss at one moment might transform into a victory in another. As the chapter continues, we witness the rise some of the era’s most celebrated centers of black cultural life spring from the ashes of these struggles.
Learn more about Envisioning Freedom at the Harvard University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Barton A. Myers's "Rebels against the Confederacy"

Barton A. Myers is Assistant Professor of Civil War History at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. He is the author of Executing Daniel Bright: Race, Loyalty, and Guerrilla Violence in a Coastal Carolina Community, 1861–1865 as well as numerous articles and book reviews.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Rebels against the Confederacy: North Carolina's Unionists, and reported the following:
Based on groundbreaking new research on the American Civil War, Rebels Against the Confederacy asks readers to set aside their previous understanding of the American South from 1861 to 1865 in order to observe the Confederacy from the perspective of hundreds of Southern-born unionists, white and black, men and women, who fought the new Southern nation from within.

The Page 99 Test highlights a central theme of my book. Southern-born unionists were faced with a potentially deadly decision in 1861. These people woke up one morning and encountered a new Confederate world around them. Many of the same people they had known all of their lives were now enemies, who might kill them because of their own life-long adherence to the Union of American States. Page 99 is part of Chapter Three entitled “Resistance,” which closely follows the various methods of opposition that men and women used against the Confederacy. It specifically falls in the section on hostility to Confederate symbols and heroes. Unionists celebrated the death of Confederate leaders, rejected Confederate currency, rejoiced at Northern victories, and despaired over southern battlefield successes. In particular, Southern-unionists hated Confederate General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, the great military mind, who was accidentally shot by his own troops at Chancellorsville in May 1863. Unionist James Hawkes “rejoiced when he heard of the death of Stonewall Jackson.” Confederate Julia Gwyn of highland Caldwell County, North Carolina fretted in July 1863 that local Unionists had organized a military company to “march under an old dirty United States rag!” and celebrated “the death of Genl. [Stonewall] Jackson.”

The page also begins the section of the chapter examining “Aid and Comfort to Confederate Enemies” by recounting the story of six escaped U.S. prisoners of war incarcerated at the Florence, South Carolina stockade, who were subsequently supported in their daring escape by southern Unionists living along the border between North and South Carolina.

While the Page 99 Test captures the heart of one chapter of the work, the equally important questions of who southern-unionists were, how their resistance transformed into guerrilla conflicts across the Confederacy, and subsequently, what that violence means for the all-important question of why the Confederacy lost the war in 1865, are addressed in other areas of the book. Readers will find the life and death struggle of Southern Unionists an exciting new foray into enduring questions of Civil War America.
Learn more about Rebels against the Confederacy at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Kurt Lampe's "The Birth of Hedonism"

Kurt Lampe is a lecturer in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Bristol.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Birth of Hedonism: The Cyrenaic Philosophers and Pleasure as a Way of Life, and reported the following:
This book is about the Cyrenaics, an ultra-hedonistic school of ancient Greek philosophy that flourished in present-day Libya about 2400-2250 years ago. In it I’ve set myself two overlapping tasks. First, since the evidence is really difficult, I’m trying to establish some basic facts. Second, I’m trying to communicate to a non-specialist audience what it was really like to live and breathe this philosophy.

Page 99 is only typical of the first task, and only partly so. It comes in the middle of a chapter in which I’m responding to existing scholarly interpretations. These interpretations make the Cyrenaics out to hold obviously weak positions. For example, the Cyrenaics seem to care only about whatever they’re feeling at the present moment (like the pleasure of sex), excluding any interest in forward planning. My investigation in the previous chapter shows this just isn’t true. (I think Cyrenaic philosophy has serious flaws, but this isn’t one of them!)

But in most ways this chapter, which is only nine pages long, is far from typical. Generally I relegate controversies to the footnotes and appendices. Instead I focus on questions like the following: How can philosophers who are so devoted to enjoyment also be committed to “serious” studies, the development of theory, and the cultivation of wisdom and virtue? If we pull together all the pieces of evidence, can we form a picture of Cyrenaicism as a complex, rational, purposeful way of life? Beginning with classical philosophy’s most extreme commitment to bodily pleasure, Cyrenaics soon drifted into its only clear example of pessimism and one of few instances of atheism. What is the meaning of this trajectory from radical hedonism into pessimism and atheism?

Meaningful answers to these questions require not only analysis of concepts and arguments but also appreciation of cultural history. More recent literature and philosophy can also help us to imagine how these theories and practices fit together. In this book I’ve drawn on all of these resources in an effort to understand and evaluate these little-known lovers of luxury.
Learn more about The Birth of Hedonism at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Andrew Needham's "Power Lines"

Andrew Needham is associate professor of history at New York University, where he teaches classes on recent U.S. urban, environmental, and Native American history.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Power Lines: Phoenix and the Making of the Modern Southwest, and reported the following:
When you flip to page 99 of Power Lines, you find postwar businessmen dreaming Phoenix’s future. In the moment in time captured on the page, Paul Fannin, a local propane dealer but eventually Arizona’s governor and senator, envisioned the development of a place called “the Valley of the Sun,” a place where people living in booming subdivisions would be employed by “light industries.” At the time Fannin spoke, in 1947, he actually still lived in the “Salt River Valley,” a valley where fields of cotton and citrus trees surrounded Phoenix, a city of little more than 100,000 residents.

How could this change occur? Page 99 shows Fannin and the other members of the Chamber of Commerce’s Industrial Development Committee aiming to transform local politics. “Industry,” Fannin told the Arizona Republic, “must have the assurance it will receive a fair deal from the locality in which it locates.” In the years that followed, Fannin and other businessmen ensured that industry would receive these assurances by entering into politics, dominating Phoenix’s City Hall and Arizona’s state house, and helping initiate bedrock principles of conservative economic policy: cutting business taxes, attacking state regulation, and pursuing public policy generous to business but parsimonious toward the unfortunate.

“Light industry” required more than just public policy, however. As much of the rest of my book demonstrates, companies that moved to Phoenix like Honeywell, General Dynamics and Raytheon also required energy. So too did the millions of people who moved to the new subdivisions of the Valley of the Sun. Burgeoning demand for electricity from Phoenix’s new industries and subdivisions quickly overwhelmed local supplies. Soon, it also outstripped the generating capacity of Hoover and Glen Canyon Dams. By the late 1950s, Phoenix’s businessmen, along with sympathetic officials at the Department of the Interior in Washington, began eyeing coal supplies located on Indian land in northern Arizona. By the mid-1970s, five coal-burning power plants and two massive strip mines marked those lands, sending power to Phoenix, Albuquerque, Los Angeles, and other growing cities in the Southwest.

Paul Fannin’s quest to attract light industry that appears on page 99, then, is one element of a larger story of how Phoenix’s metropolitan development helped create underdevelopment and environmental destruction on Indian lands, as well as setting the stage for today’s coal-fired climate crisis.
Learn more about Power Lines at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Kara Cooney's "The Woman Who Would Be King"

Kara Cooney is an associate professor of Egyptian art and architecture at UCLA in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. In 2005, she was co-curator of Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Cooney produced a comparative archaeology series with her husband, Neil Crawford, entitled Out of Egypt, which aired on the Discovery Channel and is streaming on Netflix.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut's Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt, and reported the following:
I got lucky; Page 99 is the beginning of a new chapter entitled THE CLIMB TOWARD KINGSHIP – a clean break in Hatshepsut’s story, an obvious step forward her narrative of power consolidation – except that Hatshepsut’s story is anything but tidy and clear. It’s a mess of humanity and nuance as I conjecture the modus operandi of a woman dead 3500 years.

The chapter opens with the obvious: This is a man’s world. It was in antiquity, and it largely is today. There were few female rulers of any kingdoms or regional states in the ancient world, but Egypt’s system of divine kingship allowed more women at the pinnacle of authority than anywhere else in the Mediterranean. But those women that did rule the land – like Merneith of the very first Egyptian dynasty – did so only as placeholders for the males around them. Merneith ruled on behalf of a son too young to rule; she was never named with a title of any official authority because her son was the rightful king (even if he was too young to do the job). Other Egyptian women stepped into power only when they were the last of their dynasty, when their father, brothers, and sons were all dead, the last gasp of a dying family lineage. Their reign was always short and died with them.

Hatshepsut must have known that she was fighting a rigged battle, that her own sex was working against her, that her womb and breasts with all their capability of producing new life were her greatest liabilities, that her biological inability to impregnate a harem of wives with potential kings would forever limit her to the confines of internal court spaces. But then her young husband died unexpectedly, and a baby king was consecrated, her nephew, unable to rule on his own for fifteen years if he lived past two. Hatshepsut was the most capable and best placed person for the job, man or woman; she worked to see her nephew educated and became the true mother of her family’s young dynasty. But then she decided to take a larger leap, to see her power formally recognized, to be called King, not just king’s wife. This was a formidable woman who could plug into a matrix of power with will and strategy, moving the pieces of a political game that controlled lesser mortals. Should we be surprised that all evidence of her reign as king was later erased with impunity, that few today can even pronounce her name? The game was rigged a long time ago…
Visit Kara Cooney's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 24, 2014

Ran Zwigenberg's "Hiroshima: The Origins of Global Memory Culture"

Ran Zwigenberg is Assistant Professor of Asian Studies and History at Pennsylvania State University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Hiroshima: The Origins of Global Memory Culture, and reported the following:
Hiroshima and the Rise of Global Memory is an examination of the history of atomic bomb commemoration in Hiroshima, and its global implications. The book compares and connects the experience of Hiroshima to the commemoration of the Holocaust in Israel and beyond. The manuscript was originally a comparative project but quickly evolved into a much bigger examination of the interactions and entanglements of the different histories of commemoration. One underlying theme in both commemoration cultures and many related sites was the importance of survivors and “victim narratives.” Although their voices and testimonies were almost completely absent in the immediate postwar, by the late fifties and early sixties the survivors of the Holocaust and Hiroshima emerged as powerful moral authorities. Page 99 is part of a section that explains that choice for Hiroshima.

Gensuikyō, the Japan Council against Atomic & Hydrogen Bombs, was at the heart of the Japanese anti-bomb movement. The section describes Gensuikyō’s rise and its (tortured) politics and ideological positions. Gensuikyō was a “big tent” movement that included diverse groups. It sought to represent a “sacred Japanese duty for peace” based on the unique national experience of victimization. Using survivor testimonies to galvanize crowds was a big part of Gensuikyō’s emphasis on victim narratives. This focus on victims amounted to nationalizing what was until then the localized and private pain of the survivors. On page 99, some of the details of this move are examined. Immediately preceding it is a section on the role of mothers’ organizations in Hiroshima.

From page 99:
Many men in the movement actively sought to include women in the movement. Their participation suited the agenda of those…who sought to align the anti-nuclear movement with their a-political, inclusive vision. The reference to mothers’ “pure” wish for peace was a potent tool in the arsenal of such men….Yasui wanted the petition effort to be a “purely national people’s movement.” As the title of his first pamphlet, “The Masses and Peace” (Minshū to Heiwa) indicates, belief in the redemptive power of the masses was fundamental for Yasui. He had a clear vision of the Japanese people united as a pacifist nation and cared much less for Japan’s past aggression or present political concerns. Yasui consciously sought to depoliticize the movement and to wrench the anti-nuclear cause from its association with left wing politics.
Gender politics and peculiar ethnocentrism (in the guise on nuclear universalism) played a crucial role in this effort to move the movement away from the left. This had crucial implications to the rise of survivors as “martyrs for peace” in Japan and the subsequent coming together of such practices with these of Holocaust commemoration, with its own peculiar brand of Jewish victim narratives and ethnocentrisms. These connections are examined in the following chapters, which take on specific cases of “entanglement” between Hiroshima and the Holocaust, as in the case of PTSD research, and the decades-long efforts of the little known Hiroshima-Auschwitz Committee to connect the two tragedies. In these cases, both solidarity and competition among victims drove historical developments, which, together, contributed to the rise of a global memory culture out of different local strands.
Learn more about Hiroshima: The Origins of Global Memory Culture at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ryan K. Smith's "Robert Morris's Folly"

Ryan K. Smith is associate professor of history, Virginia Commonwealth University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Robert Morris's Folly: The Architectural and Financial Failures of an American Founder, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Robert Morris’s Folly starts with a letter written by an American woman in London, who was requesting details on a fantastic house she had heard about under construction in Philadelphia. In 1794 – just before the project began going badly – she wrote,
“Mr. Morris is building a palace, do you think Monsieur l’Enfant would send me a drawing of it? Merely from curiosity, for one wishes to see the plan of a house which it is said, will cost, when finished £40,000 Sterling.” This figure translated to nearly $200,000, at a time when Philadelphia laborers earned perhaps $300 yearly and could rent a small brick dwelling for under $80 a year.
The page then follows through with the ramifications of this particular bit of gossip as it circulated. In the letter’s query, the house was tied directly to its patron, the wealthy “financier of the American Revolution,” Robert Morris, and his storied architect, Major Peter [Pierre] C. L’Enfant. Aside from the sheer enormity of the rumored cost of the house, it was a peculiar thing to call an American house a “palace” – a residence for a king or aristocrat, certainly not a citizen of the new American republic. As a line down the page states, this wealthy woman “seemed mildly entertained by the idea, but what of, say, members of the Philadelphia militia companies?” Or other laboring residents?

At the end of the page, the story shifts to related happenings that summer in London, including Morris’s friend John Jay’s arrival as part of treaty negotiations with Britain, and also a lover’s scandal there involving one of Morris’s sons. It all points up to Morris’s many follies – his oncoming public humiliations and entrance into debtor’s prison.

So I do think page 99 is representative. The book is an “architectural biography,” showing how politics, finance, and art intertwined in the life of a key figure in the early American nation. And I think the story has an uncanny resonance today.
Learn more about Robert Morris's Folly at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Amy Bentley's "Inventing Baby Food"

Amy Bentley is Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author of Eating for Victory: Food Rationing and the Politics of Domesticity and the editor of A Cultural History of Food in the Modern Era.

Bentley applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Inventing Baby Food: Taste, Health, and the Industrialization of the American Diet, and reported the following:
The consumption of food is an extraordinarily social activity, laden with complex and shifting layers of meaning. Not only what we eat, but how and why we eat, tell us much about society, history, cultural change, and humans’ views of themselves. What, when, and how we choose to feed infants and toddlers—the notion of “baby food” as opposed to “adult food,” whether these foods are nourishing and satisfying, as well as their appearance, texture, aroma, and taste—reveal how mass production, consumption, and advertising have shaped our thinking about infancy and our corresponding parenting philosophies and practices.

My book, Inventing Baby Food: Taste, Health, and the Industrialization of the American Diet first establishes the relationship between solid food and the decline of breastfeeding; second, contends that mid-twentieth-century infant feeding practices helped shape the American industrial palate; and third, highlights the constant maternal anxieties over infant feeding even as advice and practices shift, throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first.

A key theme in the book is how being a mother and being a consumer are intertwined, and how shifting ideas about what is best for baby play out in different eras. In the 1950s, for example, being a “good mother” meant formula feeding one’s baby and starting her on solids between four and six weeks (vastly different from the advice and practice today). Yet by the 1970s, as a result of changing social mores, and scientific studies casting doubt on the healthfulness of commercial baby food, there emerged a consumer backlash against the big baby food companies. Page 99 of Inventing Baby Food discusses this backlash, and goes on to document Gerber’s attempt to quell the stream of unfavorable press about the quality of its products by holding a pro-baby food seminar at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City. The passage below illustrates the fierce debate between the commercial producers of baby food and its critics:
“I would ask you,” began the new Gerber CEO John Swerth, “as you listen today and in the weeks to come, to evaluate the food industry information on the basis of fact rather than temporary popular, emotional appeal.” Journalist Raymond Sokolov noted the context in which the seminar was being held: “The press in months past had lapped up reports of dangerous food additives, of injuriously high salt levels in baby food and the perils of MSG. Gerber was trying to strike back at the ecology activists with some expert testimony of its own, most of it given either by Gerber employees, food industry professionals or residents of Michigan.”
Learn more about Inventing Baby Food at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Martin J. S. Rudwick's "Earth’s Deep History"

Martin J. S. Rudwick is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of California San Diego, and an Affiliated Scholar in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. He had a first career as a paleontologist before turning to the history of science, which he taught in Cambridge, Amsterdam, Princeton and San Diego. He has published several books on the history of the Earth sciences, among them Bursting the Limits of Time and its sequel Worlds Before Adam.

Rudwick applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Earth's Deep History: How It Was Discovered and Why It Matters, and reported the following:
Earth’s Deep History tells how our planet’s long and eventful pre-human history was first discovered. It’s written for people who may know little of either the scientific or the historical background, and it’s illustrated with lots of images reproduced from contemporary sources. It starts in the 17th century with the scholars who tried to piece together an accurate summary of human history, based on multicultural (including biblical) documentary evidence. James Ussher dated the original Big Bang at 4004 BCE, but he was expressing what seemed to them all to be common sense; they were not creationists in the modern mold. Also in the 17th century, naturalists complemented this kind of historical research, when they began to think of nature itself as having a history, which could be reconstructed by treating rocks and fossils, mountains and volcanoes, as nature’s own documents and archives.

Page 99 finds my story in the later 18th century, when several newer lines of evidence made it seem likely that the Earth’s timescale was far lengthier than earlier generations had imagined. But it was not until the 19th century, during the most creative period in the entire history of the Earth sciences, that this enlarged timescale was combined effectively with the idea of nature itself having a history. The Earth’s deep past then turned out to be not only unimaginably lengthy but also unexpectedly eventful; and there was an equally eventful history of life to match, with occasional mass extinctions and with the human species only appearing as it were at the last moment. And all this could be reconstructed reliably and in increasing detail, as the scope of geological exploration and debate expanded beyond Europe.

In the 20th century the newly discovered phenomena of radioactivity became the basis for a more precise timescale, which not only enlarged its magnitude still further but also showed, for example, that for most of the Earth’s history its life forms had all been microscopic in size. By the early 21st century the Earth’s deep history was being treated as just one among many diverse planetary histories, within the Solar System and probably beyond it, however unusual the particular history of our home planet seemed likely to have been.

One final point is worth emphasizing. Those who reconstructed the unexpectedly eventful deep history of the Earth and its life (at different times they called themselves “savants”, naturalists, scientists) have in each century included many who were devoutly religious people, as well as many who were not. In this book I dismiss the persistent myth – for such it is – of perennial conflict between “Science” and “Religion” on this issue. The modern creationists, who flatly deny the scientific reconstruction of the Earth’s deep history, are no more than a bizarre sideshow, and one largely confined to the US.

Page 99 [with bits from pages 98 and 100, to make it read coherently]:
The possibility of a hugely extended history of the Earth, almost all of it probably pre-human, was most convincing to those naturalists who had seen for themselves, in the field, the sheer scale of the piles of rock formations and the size of the great volcanoes. Their growing suspicion that vast spans of time must be involved generally remained both implicit and unquantified. This was not for fear of criticism from church authorities, but for the much stronger reasons that they had no reliable way to measure the time involved, and that they had no wish to be thought merely speculative. Yet their unpublished informal remarks (where any have survived in the historical record) show that by the later 18th century many of them were thinking – openly, routinely and almost casually – in terms of at least hundreds of thousands of years, or even millions, for the accumulation of the piles of strata and of the still more recent volcanoes. . . . Such an amount of time may seem pitifully inadequate to modern geologists, but it does show that their predecessors in the later 18th century had already taken the crucial imaginative step of thinking of the Earth’s own history in terms that vastly exceeded the traditional few millennia. At the time, imagining even hundreds of thousands of years had just as great an impact as imagining billions would have had. . . . Never in the subsequent history of this kind of science did those with the relevant field experience doubt that the Earth’s timescale must dwarf the totality of recorded human history; in contrast, the opinions of the general public, who lacked this first-hand knowledge, often remained quite different. . . . From now on, any savant who proposed or inferred a very long timescale, or just took an extremely ancient Earth for granted, was pushing at an open door (it is a modern misconception that this crucial change of perspective had to wait for the geology of the early 19th century, or even for Darwin’s evolutionary theory still later in that century).
Learn more about Earth's Deep History at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Boyd Cothran's "Remembering the Modoc War"

Boyd Cothran is an assistant professor of U.S. Indigenous and Cultural History in the Department of History at York University in Toronto, Ontario.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Remembering the Modoc War: Redemptive Violence and the Making of American Innocence, and reported the following:
How have Americans remembered the Indian Wars and justified their violence? Remembering the Modoc War delves into this question by exploring how historical memories of the Modoc War of 1872-73, California's so-called Last Indian War, have persisted over the last century and a half. Histories of nineteenth-century U.S.-Indian violence evoked a legacy of conquest, cultivating a self-image of the United States as an innocent rather than expansionistic colonial power. Casting their actions as fundamentally innocent, Americans imagined themselves as the victims of frontier violence by representing Indians as the irrational aggressors and violators of a civilized nation’s just laws.

The book shows how stories about the Modoc War have changed over time. Page 99 describes how the prolific dime novel industry of the Gilded Age transformed the Modoc War into a tragic romance for East Coast American audiences to experience and consume. Most of these novels used the actual events and real Indigenous people merely as props for their romantic dramas. Such is the case in Seth Hardinge's Modoc Jack; or, The Lion of the Lava Beds (1873) or T.C. Harbaugh's The Squaw Spy; or, The Rangers of the Lava-Beds (1873), both of which relied upon well-developed nineteenth century literary tropes such as the tragic Indian chief and the romantic Pocahontas-like Indian princess.

But not all works of popular literature at the time reinforced notions of American innocence through romantic portrayals of Indigenous people. Some, like Joaquin Miller's Life amongst the Modocs indicted American postbellum Indian policy and anticipated many of the arguments reformers such as Helen Hunt Jackson would make a full decade later in A Century of Dishonor (1881) and her popular romance, Ramona (1884). As Page 99 quotes Miller's preface to his quasi-biographical novel:
"This narrative is not particularly of myself, but of a race of people that has lived centuries of history and never yet had a historian; that has suffered nearly four hundred years of wrong, and never yet had an advocate…. When I die I shall take this book in my hand, and hold it up in the Day of Judgment, as a sworn indictment against the rulers of my country for the destruction of these people."
Page 99, then, shows how the dynamics of the Gilded Age dime novel industry promulgated narratives of Americans innocence but also created a platform for contesting these representations, an ongoing struggle that is at the heart of Remembering the Modoc War and whose significance stretches into the present day.
Learn more about Remembering the Modoc War at the University of North Carolina Press website, and visit Boyd Cothran's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 17, 2014

Conevery Bolton Valencius's "The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes"

Conevery Bolton Valencius is associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where she teaches environmental history, history of science and medicine, and the American Civil War. She is the author of The Health of the Country: How American Settlers Understood Themselves and Their Land.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her 2013 book, The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes, and reported the following:
On page 99 of The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes, the Cherokees are in trouble.

Earthquakes have disrupted the places where they had fished, hunted, and farmed near the thriving Mississippi River trading center of New Madrid, in what is now the Missouri bootheel.

After massive tremors in the winter of 1811 and 1812 (now estimated at around magnitude 7.2), most of the Cherokees left. Instead, Americans poured in. People like a certain nasty Mr Hunt roamed Cherokee lands, killing cattle that he “claimed as his own.” “A very bad man,” as one Cherokee complained, Hunt went about “insulting them and telling them that he will soon have them out of the Country.”

Unfortunately, it’s not only the Cherokees who are in trouble.

The New Madrid tremors had reverberations in many parts of Indian lands. The earthquakes emptied regions of the former New Madrid hinterland and intensified conflict in the areas further west where earthquake refugees fled. The quakes impelled a bloody Cherokee/Osage war, a conflict dangerously amplified when earthquake refugees streamed … into settlements claimed by the Osages along the White and Arkansas Rivers. Trouble with the Osages had been brewing for decades before the quakes. Earthquake flight made everything worse.

Why does this matter?

It matters because when those Cherokees left, the Americans who came after were able to forget that they were ever there. The New Madrid earthquakes made possible a flood of American emigration that erased the prior Native American history of the middle Mississippi Valley.

In the rest of this book, I show other ways the quakes mattered – to religious revival, to scientific discussion, to Indian confederacy, to the War of 1812.

I show why the quakes were forgotten, because of environmental, social, and scientific transformations.

I also show how they matter still. The New Madrid earthquakes are some of the most powerful and well-documented examples of quakes in the middle of a tectonic plate. This is not an academic interest: intraplate quakes have killed hundreds of thousands in China, and they visit the middle Mississippi Valley with geologic regularity.

In page 99 of The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes, just like in the book itself, we are in the midst of stories of how these long-ago American earthquakes shaped how our contemporary society and our contemporary sciences came to be.
Learn more about The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Catherine Gildiner's "Coming Ashore: A Memoir"

Catherine Gildiner’s childhood memoir Too Close to the Falls (1999) was a New York Times bestseller and on the Globe and Mail’s bestseller list for over a year. In 2010, she published a sequel, After the Falls, also a bestseller.

Gildiner applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Coming Ashore, the third title in her memoir series, and reported the following:
The choice of page 99 is prescient. On this page Clive Hunter-Parsons, an English upper crust Oxford Student declares his love for Cathy McClure the brash American. It is the only page in the entire book where love is declared. He announces that he has been in love with her since he met her. He marvelled at her inappropriate attire at high table and the other follies she was involved with since coming to Oxford. He was astonished and impressed that she drove through the post office on her bike when she couldn't find the brakes and 'wasn't even sorry.' It is, in a way, a back handed compliment because Clive acknowledges he has made an 'inappropriate choice' but he can't help loving her. This passage, of course, turns out to be what is wrong with the relationship. He 'loves' her but wants her to change. Never a recipe for happiness.
Visit Catherine Gildiner's website and blog.

The Page 99 Test: After the Falls.

My Book, The Movie: Coming Ashore.

Writers Read: Catherine Gildiner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Roger Moorhouse's "The Devils' Alliance"

Roger Moorhouse is a historian and author specializing in modern German and Central European history, with particular interest in Nazi Germany, the Holocaust and World War Two in Europe. He is the author of a number of books on modern German history, including Killing Hitler and Berlin at War, and is a regular commentator in the specialist and general press.

Moorhouse applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Devils' Alliance: Hitler's Pact with Stalin, 1939-1941, and reported the following:
I love the premise of the “Page 99 Test”; the idea that a single page of a book may, in either style or content, be indicative of the whole. The Devils' Alliance is about the much-overlooked Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939-1941, which saw the world’s two most barbarous totalitarian regimes find common cause and brought war to Europe.

Page 99 is the opening page of a chapter on the response of the world’s communists and fascists to the news of the Pact. It tells the story of Harry Pollitt, General Secretary of the British Communist Party, who unwisely advocated the defence of Poland in 1939, before the propaganda line dictated to him by Moscow changed and he was deposed by his more ideologically-obedient comrades.

The page is – unsurprisingly perhaps – both representative of the remainder of the book, and it is not. On the one hand, given that the scene described on that page plays out in London, it is geographically distant from the epicentre of events in the rest of the book, which is broadly the area between Berlin and Moscow – what Tim Snyder aptly called the “Bloodlands” – a region in which countless thousands suffered persecution, deportation or death as a direct result of the Pact.

In a broader sense, however, the page is representative of the whole. It certainly demonstrates my overall approach to my writing, for instance that of seeking to ask questions that other historians have not addressed before. It also chimes with my desire to always tell the story in such a way that personal experiences and ‘human stories’, such as Pollitt’s, can be foregrounded so as to better engage the reader.

On reflection, I suppose Pollitt’s experience (from page 99) really isn’t so different from the rest of the book. Though geographically distant from events, he was nonetheless subjected to the same seismic shift that others were with the signature of the Pact. True, his life was never under direct threat, but beyond that his world was turned upside down, just as much as if he had been a Pole from Volhynia, or a Latvian, or a Bessarabian. The Devils' Alliance is the story of a forgotten political earthquake, and Harry Pollitt felt the tremors as much as anyone.
© Roger Moorhouse 2014
Visit Roger Moorhouse's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Jonathan Eig's "The Birth of the Pill"

Jonathan Eig is the New York Times best-selling author of four books: Luckiest Man, Opening Day, Get Capone, and, most recently, The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution. He is currently working on a biography of Muhammad Ali.

Eig applied the “Page 99 Test” to The Birth of the Pill and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Birth of the Pill contains this thrilling quotation: “The foregoing experiments demonstrate unequivocally that it is possible to inhibit ovulation in the rabbit and successful breeding in the rat with progesterone…. It has been determined furthermore that following the sterile period, normal reproduction may ensue.”

Sterility in rabbits and rats? Does it get any better than that?

Fortunately, it does. You see, the characters in my book have embarked on one of the most audacious scientific missions of the twentieth century. They’re going to try to create a hormonal birth-control pill for women, never mind that birth control remains illegal in thirty states, the Catholic Church is sure to put up a fight, and the FDA has never approved anything remotely like this. In many ways, their mission seems like a hopeless cause.

But science doesn’t permit shortcuts. And if the biologist Gregory Pincus is serious about trying to give Margaret Sanger the pill’s she’s been searching for, he’s got to start with basic research, which means rabbit and rats and a lot of mundane work.

In the passage I quoted above, it’s 1952 and Pincus is writing to Planned Parenthood, asking for about $3,000 to fund his work for the next year. He’s explaining that progesterone shut down ovulation in lab animals. He’s also pointing out that the animals were able to reproduce again after the progesterone made them sterile. That’s important because Pincus would be in big trouble if he gave progesterone to women and rendered them permanently infertile. But even with the encouraging early results, Planned Parenthood executives were reluctant to give Pincus money. To them, it seemed like a risky leap from rabbits and rats to women.

So while this passage focuses on administrative details, it’s important because it shows the enormous obstacles he and Sanger are facing. If they can get the money, and if the science works, and if they can find women willing to try this untested drug, and if the pill proves safe and effective, and if they can get a drug company to manufacture it, and if they can get the FDA to approve it, and if the Catholic Church doesn’t attack them… Well, then maybe they really can pull this off. But as of Page 99, it seems highly unlikely.
Learn more about the book and author at Jonathan Eig's website.

The Page 99 Test: Get Capone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 13, 2014

Rebecca Frankel's "War Dogs"

Rebecca Frankel has been writing about war dogs since 2010 in her Friday column called “Rebecca’s War Dog of the Week.” Her photo essay “War Dog,” is one of the most-viewed pieces in Foreign Policy’s history. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, National Geographic, and elsewhere. She has been a commentator on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer and MSNBC among others. In 2011, she was named one of 12 women in foreign policy to follow on Twitter by the Daily Muse. Frankel is currently senior editor, special projects at Foreign Policy magazine.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, War Dogs: Tales of Canine Heroism, History, and Love, and reported the following:
If you turn to page 99 of War Dogs, you’ll find not quite halfway through the book, but smack dab in the middle of a close-up look at a dog’s superior senses.

Dogs have excellent hearing and their eyesight is, in many ways, far more discerning than ours, but it’s their sense of smell that is really remarkable. It’s not just that a dog’s nose is stronger than a human’s – and it is about a thousand times more sensitive -- but the way dogs use their noses is vastly more layered and more evolved. On page 98, I describe it this way: “A dog hunting for scent is like a linguist who, even when standing before the Tower of Babel (or more practically speaking, an international airport), can hear not only a cacophony of many tongues clamoring at once, but who can pull apart the sounds to find and comprehend the individual voices.”

In the wars waged in Iraq and Afghanistan, the most effective and insidious weapons that were used (and still are being used) are Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs)—bombs cunningly hidden along roadsides, under bridges, or in the walls of buildings. And during these wars, regardless of the money and advances spent on developing technology to combat this risk, a dog trained in explosive-material detection is the most effective way of avoiding those bombs.

But the real reason why page 99 is, indeed, a snapshot of this book’s core is revealed in these lines (and, in some ways, what’s in between them):
To find such deadly weapons, handler and explosive-detecting dogs need to be prepared, focused. In addition to keeping watch on the wind, and on his dog, a handler must also keep his eye on the ground and the path ahead, watching for disturbances—wires, rock piles, things that do not belong—as well as any other sign of human interference, adding the keenness of the human eye to the power of the dog’s extraordinary nose.
Because no matter how amazing a dog’s nose is or how cautious and careful a handler is, at the end of the day, at the end of a patrol, neither one can do the job of finding bombs on his own as well as they can do it together. A dog and his handler have to operate as a team, one secured by a deep bond built on trust, training, and often, I believe, love.

In the unforgiving conditions of combat theater, a handler and dog depend on each other for safety and for comfort and that relationship extends between them, yes, but also to those around them, if not simply because they’re keeping the men and women who walk behind them safe. And together they are saving lives.
Visit Rebecca Frankel's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Colin G. Calloway's "The Victory with No Name"

Colin G. Calloway is Professor of Native American Studies at Dartmouth College. He is the author of many books, including Scratch of a Pen and Pen and Ink Witchcraft.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Victory with No Name: The Native American Defeat of the First American Army, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Building and sustaining the confederacy depended on the character and charisma of leaders whose reputation, war record, spiritual power, oratory, and sound counsel could attract warriors and keep them committed to the cause. Those individuals sometimes differed in their positions, advocated different strategies, or altered their stance....”
On November 4, 1791 a coalition of Indian nations destroyed an American army led by General Arthur St. Clair that was invading their Ohio homeland. The battle was the biggest victory Native Americans ever won. It caused alarm and repercussions in the United States. It aggravated the growing divisions that eventually led to the creation of the first political parties. It produced the first congressional investigation in American history and in the process saw the birth of the principle of executive privilege. It increased the federal government’s role in shaping western development. It increased the president’s power to raise troops. It changed how Americans viewed, raised, organized, and paid for their armies and it provided the impetus for creating a new army to expand the American republic.

But most Americans today have not even heard of the battle, and explanations of how supposedly savage Indians could destroy an American army have usually emphasized how the Americans lost rather than how the Indians won—so the battle is called “St. Clair’s Defeat.” In fact, it was a clash between two recently formed and fragile American confederations as well as between two American armies. The United States under the new Constitution was still finding its feet and the Indian nations northwest of the Ohio River had formed a confederation primarily to defend their lands against American expansion. As the passage from page 99 indicates, establishing and maintaining a coalition of different tribes required consensus, conciliation, and accommodation. The American defeat owed much to military failings and contractor fraud but the Indian victory was as much diplomatic as military, achieved by holding together an alliance that was subject to divisive strains and local agendas, and bringing a united force of warriors to bear at the decisive moment. A new U. S. army defeated the Indian confederacy three years later and St. Clair’s Defeat was set aside as an aberration and largely forgotten. But the battle was hugely important at the time and it deserves to be remembered as both an American disaster and a Native American victory.
Learn more about The Victory with No Name at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Pen and Ink Witchcraft.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Rosamond L. Naylor's "The Evolving Sphere of Food Security"

Rosamond Naylor is the Director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment, Professor of Environmental Earth System Science, and Associate Professor of Economics (by courtesy) at Stanford University. She is also the William Wrigley Senior Fellow at Stanford's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

Naylor applied the “Page 99 Test” to the new book she edited, The Evolving Sphere of Food Security, and reported the following:
Page 99 falls within Chapter 4, "Institutions, Interests, and Incentives in American Food and Agriculture Policy." The four co-authors of this chapter - Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, David Lazarus, Walter P. Falcon and myself - explore the history of U.S. agricultural policy (particularly the "Farm Bill"), including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). As we write on page 99:
In 2012, the U.S. thrifty food budget resulted in a poverty line of about $24,000 for a family of four. That year, some 47 million Americans - about 15 percent of the entire nation - received SNAP payments. Support was restricted to those families with net incomes less than the poverty line, with the actual amount of support increasing the further below that line income levels fell. If a hypothetical family of four had zero net income, they would have received $8,000 in SNAP payments for the year; if their net income was $12,000, they would have received payments of $4,000. Overall, payments averaged approximately $1,600 per person for the year.

As a consequence mainly of these four factors, the SNAP portion of the Farm Bill budget totaled $73 billion in 2012. In addition, the budget provided for $19 billion for school lunches; $8 billion in assistance for nursing and pregnant women, infants and children; and $12 billion in supplemental assistance for new nutrition initiatives. The $112 billion consumer package now constitutes the core of USDA's budget, and not surprisingly, its size and prominence are making the traditional farm constituencies extremely nervous. As discussed subsequently, nutritional costs now seriously threaten the rural-urban political coalition that has been necessary to pass recent Farm Bills.
The Evolving Sphere of Food Security is global in scope - the 19 contributing authors from Stanford University bring decades of collective field research experience in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and North America. Although Chapter 4, from which the above passage is quoted, is the only chapter that focuses on the United States, it remains an apt representation of the book for two reasons.

First, because it underscores the fact that despite being the wealthiest economy in the world, the U.S. still grapples with alarming rates of food insecurity. As we write in this passage, about 15% of Americans receive SNAP (food stamp) benefits because they cannot otherwise afford sufficient, nutritious food.

Second, this passage represents the book well because it demonstrates the many challenges faced by governments in addressing food insecurity. Policymakers in the U.S. - as in every country - struggle to respond to the root causes of hunger within their borders: mainly poverty, but also problems with food production, distribution, price and quality. They also face a delicate and often elusive balance between the interests of consumers, who prefer cheap food, and the interests of farmers, whose incomes rise with food prices.

In the remainder of this chapter, we delve into the history of U.S. agricultural policy, and highlight the political and economic complexities of the current U.S. Farm Bill. We examine how biofuels policy affects food prices and food availability in the United States and overseas. We explore the domestic political structure that shapes agricultural policy, as well as how U.S. farm and nutrition subsidies compare with other countries. And we look at how the Farm Bill itself - originally a rural poverty-reduction program born out of the Great Depression - has shifted the average American diet and fueled rising rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other symptoms of "overnutrition."

As I write in the book's opening, "Hunger is an intensely human experience" that knows no geographic boundaries. The book's other 13 chapters (plus a foreword by Kofi Annan) explore the many faces and facets of food insecurity around the globe. Drawing on a multidisciplinary team of Stanford authors from fields as diverse as law, medicine, economics, earth science and international security, The Evolving Sphere of Food Security aims to illuminate a deeply complex issue and guide readers in how to craft sustainable solutions.
Learn more about The Evolving Sphere of Food Security at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 10, 2014

Brian Hayden's "The Power of Feasts"

Brian Hayden is Professor Emeritus in the Archaeology Department at Simon Fraser University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Power of Feasts: From Prehistory to the Present, and reported the following:
From page 99:
In California, Hildebrandt and Rosenthal (2009) have shown that, beginning over 2,500 years ago, marine shellfish were transported more than 25 kilometers inland, probably reflecting feasting activities in interior areas. The unusually large and well-made stone bifaces such as those displayed as wealth items as part of the Hupa feasts may also provide archaeological indications of feasting contexts (Goldschmidt and Driver 1943). As already mentioned in the ethnographic section, the large stone bowls found in many parts of California were apparently used by the elites for feasting.

In the south of California,Maxwell (2003) and Fagan et al. (2006) have identified several feasting deposits on San Nicolas Island that are similar to other deposits in the region that were identified as feasting remains associated with mourning rituals or secret society ('antap) rituals. These deposits included hundreds of large abalone shells and thousands of animal bones. Hull et al. (2013:26-7,42-3) have expanded the number of identified mourning sites in Southern California but concentrated on the ritual rather than the feasting aspects at these sites. As is common, they attribute
Page 99 features one of the most important messages of The Power of Feasts, to wit: that large competitive feasts are part and parcel of complex hunting and gathering cultures like the ones ethnographically and archaeologically recorded on the Northwest Coast, and California. Feasts are important in traditional societies because they are means of converting surpluses into key benefits for hosts, including acquiring military allies, marriage partners, and political power. Feasts were probably also the driving force behind the domestication of plants and animals, the development of important new technologies such as pottery, and constituted a major technique used to create social and economic inequalities. A key point is that feasting does not seem to occur among simple hunters and gatherers who existed for the first 2.5 million years of human existence. Feasting only seems to occur among complex hunters and gatherers who first emerged in a few resource-rich areas in the Upper Paleolithic of Europe (c. 30,000-12,000 years ago) and subsequently became more widespread following technological innovations.

Because feasts provided important survival, reproductive, and life-quality benefits, and because they were based on the production of surpluses, feasts were generally competitive. Ambitious people tried to find ways of producing more and more surplus food in order to obtain more benefits and better benefits than others. This constituted a major new force for food production that had not existed before, a sociopolitical purpose for producing food, not only more food, but foods with more appeal: beer, bread, fat-rich meats, chocolates, tobacco, emulsified nut oil drinks, and many more delicacies of the time. The extra labor required to produce these foods was more than compensated for by the potential benefits that could be obtained. The key cultural watershed was not domestication per se, as most textbooks would have it, but the development of complex hunting and gathering cultures centered on feasts like the Northwest Coast potlatch. Over generations, as people constantly strove to improve crop yields through selecting seeds for planting with desired qualities, people were eventually able to increase surplus foods in favorable localities. Greater surpluses led to more and larger feasts, more benefits, and larger debt systems that resulted in more complex social and political organizations, ultimately leading to civilization. It is no accident that early civilizations such as the Incans, the Sumerians, and the Egyptians essentially ran on beer, bread, and feasts.
Learn more about The Power of Feasts at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Jason Weeden & Robert Kurzban's "The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mind"

Jason Weeden is a senior researcher with the Pennsylvania Laboratory for Experimental Evolutionary Psychology (PLEEP) and a lawyer in Washington, DC. Robert Kurzban is professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and founder of PLEEP. He is the author of Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mind: How Self-Interest Shapes Our Opinions and Why We Won't Admit It, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mind begins not with politics, but with sports:
In sports, the rules matter. And, crucially, different rules help some people and hurt others. Salary caps might help teams in smaller markets and hurt teams in larger markets. Race-based limitations might help second-tier whites and hurt top-tier African Americans. And there are countless other examples, of course. Raising the pitcher’s mound helps pitchers and hurts hitters. Requiring both feet in bounds for a catch in football hurts wide receivers but helps defensive backs. The foul-out rule in basketball hurts high-impact players but helps bench players get more minutes. Time limits in golf help speedier players and hurt slower players.

Unsurprisingly, athletes know where their interests lie and tend to support the rules that help themselves.
These paragraphs end our introductory section to chapter 5, which focuses on public opinion regarding the government’s role in helping (or harming) different people based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, the country they were born in, and so on – issues such as affirmative action, school prayer, same-sex marriage, and immigration. We use the opening section to ease into this material with sports analogies before beginning the difficult work of discussing topics about which many people (ourselves included) have passionate views. The middle of page 99 begins a section called “Back to Reality,” starting with the line: “In life as in sports, people fight over rules that help some and hurt others.”

While the previous chapter talked about sex and reproductive issues – abortion, birth control, pornography, premarital sex, and marijuana legalization -- chapter 5 talks about issues that relate to policies surrounding groups. The next chapter follows up with a discussion of issues relating to income redistribution and government safety nets.

Page 99 provides a nice overview of one of the big themes in the book. While many scholars focus on relatively abstract factors when discussing political issue opinions – ideologies, values, principles, personality features, and so on – we’re convinced that they often overlook the central fact that many issues present competing alternatives (in cases where there’s no such thing as neutral rules) that really do make some people better off at the expense of others.

We show that people’s particular issue positions are broadly predictable based on whether policies hurt or help them. This is true not only with issues relating to income redistribution, but also with issues where scholars rarely consider interest-based explanations, like abortion and marijuana legalization.

We understand, of course, that it’s not exactly polite to tell people that many of their cherished political positions are probably driven by self-interest. We add insult to injury by discussing psychological research indicating that people are fundamentally self-deceptive about being self-interested.

But, to return to sports analogies, our job as number-crunching social scientists isn’t to cheer on our own political team, but to analyze data and then call ‘em like we see ‘em.
Learn more about The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mind at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Jessica L. Beyer's "Expect Us"

Jessica L. Beyer is a Research Scientist at the University of Washington in the Jackson School of International Studies and the Technology and Social Change Group in the Information School.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Expect Us: Online Communities and Political Mobilization, and reported the following:
Expect Us is a comparative ethnography that focuses on four online communities and asks why some end up mobilizing politically offline and others do not. The four communities I examine are Anonymous (, The Pirate Bay, World of Warcraft (WoW), and the posting boards attached to

Page 99 brings the reader into the middle of the WoW chapter—a chapter about an online community where people know each other well, where online identities are often closely tied to offline relationships/identities, and where people debate politically significant issues all the time. WoW is not one of my communities that mobilized politically in the offline world. Most people are interested in my “sexier” cases that did mobilize offline—Anonymous and The Pirate Bay—but my favorite chapter in the book is this chapter about WoW.

WoW is a massive multiplayer online roleplaying game that had 11.5 million people playing it at the height of its popularity. I found that in WoW, people are constantly debating and negotiating norms/ideas that have political significance, such as norms of fairness, public speech, and appropriate distribution of scarce resources. I also found that the reason that this micro-level, politically significant behavior never manifests as group-level political mobilization, as it does with an online community such as Anonymous, is because the ways in which people are allowed to communicate, establish reputations, and interact in the online space thwart large-group identity. Even in-game or game-related activism is largely individualized action.

With that as backdrop, p99 comes at the end of a section about guild norms and regulation that is dedicated to the ways in which guilds – a type of stable small-group identity – are left to self-regulate. Guilds are tiny, largely undemocratic, fiefdoms, serving to splinter the WoW community into thousands of small communities. They are often the settings for debates around issues such as appropriate public speech. Through guilds, players gain reputations. And, guilds are one of the major forces for behavior regulation in the game. Guilds self-regulate to such an extent that if one were to complain about derogatory or offensive language within a guild, the official response from Blizzard would be that the offended individual should leave the guild in question, rather than pushing the guild to change its behavior.
It is important to note that Blizzard does not seem to intervene in guilds that allow only male or female players, guilds that only allow people of a certain nationality (e.g., Dutch-only), guilds restricting membership based on age, or guilds that restrict on the basis of language (e.g., French Canadian guilds). There are also many Christian guilds, with places such as the Christian Gamers Alliance hosting lists and contact information for interested gamers. Other religion-based guilds appear to be rarer—with some impossible-to-substantiate rumors that Muslim-only guilds are not allowed. There is no evidence that race-/ethnicity-based guilds exist, which indicates that Blizzard is likely regulating them quickly or there are very few.

As I have discussed, because guilds form little worlds within the larger world, players devote a great deal of effort to regulating behavior inside the guild. However, because of the importance of reputation in WoW, they also expend a great deal of effort in regulating player behavior outside the guild.
Learn more about the book and author at Jessica L. Beyer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Lorri Glover's "Founders as Fathers"

Lorri Glover is the John Francis Bannon Endowed Chair in the Department of History at Saint Louis University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Founders as Fathers: The Private Lives and Politics of the American Revolutionaries, and reported the following:
The cover of Founders as Fathers depicts a rare and idealized domestic scene from the revolutionary era: George Washington’s family. On page 99, readers learn the truth behind that image.

The beautifully-attired children standing beside George and Martha Washington are her grandchildren, his step-grandchildren. Martha Custis was the wealthiest young widow in Virginia and mother of two when she accepted the overtures of George Washington. He was ambitious, and her fortune and connections smoothed his entry into the highest echelons of society. They never had children of their own, either because of his infertility or impotence.

George Washington tried to be good stepfather, but Martha’s son, Jack Custis, thwarted him at every turn. Tutors the couple hired to properly educate Jack routinely pronounced him entitled and lazy. As a young man, Custis squandered every opportunity given him, abandoned his education, and married too young and against parental advice. During the Revolutionary War and despite his stepfather’s repeated pleas, Custis sold land for a song to cover his growing gambling addiction. In the closing days of the war, he desperately sought to share the glory. But he never saw action, caught camp fever, and died the same month Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown. Washington left the battlefield to sit at Custis’s deathbed. His was a pointless death that left an estate in chaos and four children under age six. Jack’s young widow kept the younger two and sent the older ones to be raised by the most famous couple in America. Washy and Nelly Custis are the children in the family portrait.

The truth behind the painting gets to the heart of Founders as Fathers. Too often we’ve etched the founders in amber; in statues and memorials they are literally rock-solid, larger than life. Scholarship on revolutionary leaders’ political, military, and intellectual roles typically ignores family. But that was not how the founders lived their lives. My book reveals that we cannot fully understand the revolutionary generation or the country they forged without going home with them and exploring the intimate parts of their lives. We must meet these founders as fathers.
Learn more about the book and author at Lorri Glover's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 6, 2014

Andrew Steane's "Faithful to Science"

Andrew Steane is a Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford, England, and occasional speaker in the area of Science and Religion.

Steane applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Faithful to Science: The Role of Science in Religion, and reported as follows:
Page 99 is not typical in content for this book, but perhaps it gives a fair flavour of the style, and an impression of the author with whom the reader has embarked.

Faithful to Science is about science and religion, as it says on the cover, but it is not a portrayal of two things. It is an attempt to display a single thing: the way an integrated theistic perspective fully embraces science in its proper role. When one has come to acknowledge, with the due hesitation which surrounds all religious language, that the natural world is the product of an absolute reality that can know and be known---the fundamental claim of theism---then one's commitment to science is, or should be, just as mature and intellectually coherent as anyone else’s. Science is not an alternative to a reasonable faith, but a part of it. It is the way to address some types of question---the questions about the analysis of physical structure. But those are not the only questions worth asking.

As it happens, page 99 falls in a chapter where the book takes an interlude, a short autobiographical digression, allowing the reader to get a flavour of the way such ideas pan out in humdrum human life. In some respects this does not give a fair impression of the book, because it mentions a specific human story and a specifically Christian commitment, whereas most of the book is written from a broadly theistic perspective which could, it is hoped, embrace a much wider range of readers. Never mind; at least the page includes a few hints concerning the importance of humility, and the fact that not everything that announces itself as “Christian” is a fair representation of what the word should mean.

So page 99 illustrates where the author is “coming from”---the sense of cautious discovery, painful journey, ordinary research activity. But ultimately the book is not about its author, but about the wide-ranging discoveries and the metaphysical limits of science. Science is not the political partner, nor the all-conquering promoter, of atheism. But to get this in the right perspective does require mental effort, some care in avoiding category errors, and a willingness to bring one's whole person to bear in the unsettling but deepening entreaty: “tell me your name.”
Learn more about Faithful to Science at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Rebecca Hamlin's "Let Me Be a Refugee"

Rebecca Hamlin is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Grinnell College.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Let Me Be a Refugee: Administrative Justice and the Politics of Asylum in the United States, Canada, and Australia, and reported the following:
Let Me Be a Refugee takes a close look at how liberal democracies decide who among the thousands of people who arrive at their borders seeking asylum qualifies for a refugee protection visa. One hundred and forty-seven states have signed on to the relevant international treaties promising to protect refugees, and all of these states use the identical definition of a refugee from the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. Yet, because international refugee law asks states to accept people who may not have followed the proper migration channels, wealthy liberal democracies are often very concerned about abuse of the system, characterizing asylum seekers as “queue jumpers” or as economic migrants in refugees’ clothing.

Page 99 describes Canada’s reaction to growing numbers of Mexican asylum seekers in the early 21st century. The agency responsible for assessing refugee claims, the Immigration and Refugee Board, issued several precedent-setting decisions that interpreted the refugee definition to make claims from Mexico very unlikely to succeed. However, the number of applications continued to rise until 2009, when the Canadian government decided to require a visa for people travelling from Mexico. Page 99 quotes the Immigration Minister defending this decision by saying:
“We’re not talking about the kinds of people that are living in UN refugee camps by the millions who are victims of war and state-sponsored persecution.... It’s an insult to the important concept of refugee protection to allow it to be systematically violated by people who are overwhelmingly economic immigrants.”
This statement highlights one of the core themes of Let Me Be a Refugee. The reasons that motivate people to migrate fall on a broad spectrum, ranging from purely economic factors on one end, to people who are forced out by oppressive regimes. The adjudication and distribution of refugee status requires decision-makers to turn this continuum into a binary, but increasingly, asylum seekers fall into the great grey middle between obvious refugees and obvious economic migrants. Rather than a dictator’s targeted persecution, they are fleeing the suffering caused by generalized violence, failed states, famine, and climate change. Decision-makers are tasked with applying a definition from 1951 to a more complex range of life experiences than ever before, leaving much room for interpretation. Further, because receiving states have resolved these questions differently from one another, whether or not someone is a refugee often depends on which border they cross.
Learn more about Let Me Be a Refugee at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 3, 2014

Richard E. Ocejo's "Upscaling Downtown"

Richard E. Ocejo is assistant professor of sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY. He is the editor of Ethnography and the City: Readings on Doing Urban Fieldwork.

Ocejo applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Upscaling Downtown: From Bowery Saloons to Cocktail Bars in New York City, and reported the following:
I have always thought that readers will be drawn to my book because it is about bars and nightlife, but they will enjoy it because of the interesting people in it. This thinking explains why page 99 is one of my favorites in the book. It comes in Chapter 3, in which I show how an important group in downtown Manhattan neighborhoods, where advanced gentrification has transformed them into an upscale destination, has reacted to the proliferation of bars and the growth of nightlife scenes. This group, which I call “early gentrifiers,” or people who moved downtown at the start of gentrification and remain there, continuously fight against more bars opening up and other changes in their neighborhood. In the chapter I show how a sense of symbolic ownership of their neighborhood and a nostalgic narrative about its past motivates their protests, which yield few positive results.

This page features one of my favorite people in the book, a man named Virgil. Like many longtime residents who protest bars, Virgil moved to the East Village in the 1970s, and encountered a poor, crime-ridden place with abandoned buildings. He also looks back on this time nostalgically, when the neighborhood was diverse and creative with colorful characters in the streets, before gentrification, new bars, and young revelers came. Here he expresses his fondness for one of these characters:
“There was this guy, Marty, who would play basketball in the morning and then he would, he actually taught a lot of the people basketball, because he came here to be in this kind of environment. Then he would hold court in the park. He had students, they would come to him and he’d teach literature, he’d teach art, history, philosophy, even though he didn’t know anything about philosophy. He would hold court, and then he would go back to his place with his ‘patients,’ whom he could psychoanalyze. This is such a characteristic thing, that this guy would just do this kind of stuff, and he would take money for it too. You’d have to pay him something. And he was highly respected here. People all over knew Marty, ‘Oh yeah, Marty!’”

“He was like the ‘mayor’?”

“Yeah, they called him the philosopher. He was the philosopher, but he was also the basketball player, and the psychoanalyst, and just a very prominent, important person.”

“What happened to him?”

“He jumped off the Williamsburg Bridge.”
For residents like Virgil, people like Marty were what made downtown an “authentic” or “real” place, and what made them feel attached to it. But lurking beneath these stories of the area’s past is the harsh reality of its negative conditions as a place in decline, which added so much of what newcomers came to appreciate about it: cheap rents, homeless bars, a diverse population, and quirky characters. These residents arrived downtown as it was transitioning into a place of rebirth, a desired destination from an unattractive slum, a process they also helped bring about. Their nostalgia narrative, then, not only compels them to protest today’s new bars, but also neglects facts from the past and shows the privileged position they are in to make such claims about what is “authentic” or “inauthentic” about their neighborhood. This page provides a short, but clear and powerful, example of this important finding in my book.
Learn more about Upscaling Downtown at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Lynn Hunt's "Writing History in the Global Era"

Lynn Hunt is Distinguished Research Professor at UCLA, former president of the American Historical Association, and author of numerous works, including Inventing Human Rights and Telling the Truth about History.

Hunt applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Writing History in the Global Era, and reported the following:
Any single page probably gives a good sense of a writer’s style but not perhaps of their arguments. Page 99 falls in the third of four chapters of my book on how history will be written in the era of globalization. The first chapter recounts the rise and fall of cultural theories such as postmodernism or postcolonialism. The second chapter focuses on globalization; is it the new paradigm for writing history that replaces cultural theories and what might be its pluses and minuses? The third chapter, in which p. 99 appears, is about rethinking society and the self. Even as talk of globalization reshapes the writing of history, certain long lasting categories of history and social science have also come up for discussion, including society and the self. You might think these are self-evident but they are not. Page 99 shows that the concept of society has changed over time and that its highlighting in the eighteenth century served very distinct political and religious purposes.

From page 99:
Society, the individual self, and secularization were all closely linked together in the eighteenth century. Society was the space of autonomy or freedom from the demands of authoritarian rulers claiming a transcendental ground of legitimacy. Its emergence as practices and concept implied a challenge to that transcendental ground of legitimacy, whether in the form of the divine right of kings or the Biblical link between the father’s authority and the authority of the crown. In other words, the increasing attention to society propelled secularization by undermining the supernatural grounds of authority. Society authorized itself. It was self-regulating, though not always with the greatest success.

Over the course of the eighteenth century, society came to be seen as composed of individuals and not just families and status groups such as the nobility, the clergy, or the many guilds of professions and occupations. As a consequence, government was increasingly seen as representing individuals, especially individual property owners, rather than status groups. Thus, the first issue in the French Revolution of 1789 was whether the Estates General should vote by order (clergy, nobles, Third Estate) or by “head” (by individual deputy). Voting by head won out. The nation was to be composed of individual citizens, not differentially privileged status groups. In short, society’s autonomy from authoritarian rule was not enough; individuals had to be as autonomous as possible from the pressures of their families and communities as well.
Learn more about Writing History in the Global Era at the W. W. Norton website.

Writers Read: Lynn Hunt.

--Marshal Zeringue