Sunday, April 22, 2018

Keith Gandal's "War Isn’t the Only Hell"

Keith Gandal is a professor of English at City College of New York. He is the author of The Gun and the Pen: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, and the Fiction of Mobilization.

Gandal applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, War Isn't the Only Hell: A New Reading of World War I American Literature, and reported the following:
War Isn’t the Only Hell attempts to put American World War I literature in its proper historical context. It also tries to expand the canon, beyond the work of famous Lost-Generation authors Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Dos Passos, Cummings, and Katherine Anne Porter. Our sense of American Great War writing--and thus of the American experience--is limited and misguided. Unlike every other combatant nation, our lasting literature was written entirely by noncombatants; moreover, we don’t understand what it meant to be an American noncombatant male and why Lost-Generation writing is the way it is.

American World War I literature has long been interpreted as an alienated outcry against modern warfare and propaganda. This reading ignores the US army’s unprecedented attempt, during the war, to assign men—except, notoriously, African Americans—to positions and ranks based on merit. And it misses the fact that the culture granted masculinity only to combatants, while noncombatants experienced a different alienation: shame.

Drawing on military archives and current historical research, the book discusses the work of thirteen significant writers: as responses to the shocks of war and meritocracy. The supposedly antiwar texts of the social-privileged male Lost-Generation authors addressed—often in coded ways—noncombatant frustrations. Meanwhile, the hard-hitting works of combat soldiers William March, Thomas Boyd, Laurence Stallings, and Hervey Allen were partly shaped by experiences of meritocratic recognition, especially meaningful for socially disadvantaged men.

Even the sole World War I novel by an African American veteran, Victor Daly, reveals a mixed experience of army discrimination and empowerment among the French. Finally, three women authors—Porter, Willa Cather, and Ellen La Motte, a frontline nurse—saw the war create new opportunities, prerogatives, and obligations for women. Ultimately, this literature registered the ways in which innovative military practices and a foreign war unsettled traditional American hierarchies of class, ethnicity, gender, and even race.

The Page 99 Test has limited applicability here, as this page concludes a chapter that shows how Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms appealed to noncombatants. It still concerns one of our literary giants.

Most of the book is dedicated to less familiar writers. Its title comes from Daly, who covertly tells a taboo racial story that has been largely missed by critics. During this centennial of American involvement in the war, I suggest we broaden our canon so this long-forgotten American war becomes a major cultural touchstone.
Learn more about War Isn't the Only Hell at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 20, 2018

David Vogel's "California Greenin'"

David Vogel is professor emeritus in the Haas School of Business and the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, California Greenin': How the Golden State Became an Environmental Leader, and reported the following:
Page 99 of California Greenin’ describes the opposition of local governments and business firms to one of California’s most important environmental initiatives, namely the establishment of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission. The world’s first coastal development agency which was made permanent in 1969 the Commission was given planning authority over all developments within 100 feet of the Bay’s shoreline. Its enactment by the California state legislature was the culmination of an extensive grassroots campaign by the Save Our Bay Action Committee, comprised of citizens who wanted to stop the beautiful San Francisco Bay from being rapidly filled it. Since western settlement, the amount of open water in the Bay had been reduced by more than 300 square miles while less of a quarter of the original tidal marshlands that had surrounded the Bay remained. Without strong and effective government regulation, one of California’s best known natural features would have continued to shrink.

The Commission’s establishment represents one of several important and innovative environmental initiatives in California that are described and explained in the book. They include the nation’s first protected wilderness area in Yosemite (1864), three large national parks to protect the sequoias in the Sierras, (1890), the nation’s first emissions standards for pollutants from motor vehicles (1964) and the California Coastal Commission (1976). More recently California has led the United States in issuing energy efficiency standards for appliances, buildings and motor vehicles and in addressing the risks of global climate change.

The book argues that California’s long history of environmental policy leadership is linked to three factors. First, many citizens have effectively supported regulations to protect the state’s unusually attractive but also highly vulnerable natural environment from destructive economic developments. Second, these citizen efforts have often been backed by business firms who benefiting by putting California on a “greener” growth trajectory. Thus both steamship firms and the Southern Pacific Railroad lobbied to protect California’s wilderness areas in order to promote tourism in the state, while the real estate industry in Los Angeles supported pollution control regulations to improve the city’s deteriorating air quality. Third, California has developed a regulatory bureaucracy that has enabled the state to develop and enforce its own environmental regulations - often independent of the federal government. Its effective and extensive environmental regulations has enabled California to remain a “golden state.”
Learn more about California Greenin' at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Politics of Precaution.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Kate White's "The Gutsy Girl Handbook"

Kate White is the New York Times bestselling author of twelve murder mysteries and thrillers and several hugely popular career books, including I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: How to Ask for the Money, Snag the Promotion, and Create the Career You Deserve, and Why Good Girls Don’t Get Ahead but Gutsy Girls Do. For 14 years, White was the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, where she increased overall circulation by 30 percent and made Cosmo the #1 magazine in the U.S. in single copy sales.

White applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Gutsy Girl Handbook: Your Manifesto for Success, and reported the following:
I’ve done this test before (with my mysteries and thrillers, as well as my non-fiction business books) and the results are uncanny. It’s based on an idea suggested by the novelist Ford Madox Ford: that if you open a book to page 99, “the quality of the whole will be revealed to you."

That’s certainly the case with my new book, The Gutsy Girl Handbook: Your Manifesto for Success. What appears on page 99 really does seem to capture the essence of the book.

I start off the page talking about the importance of asking for opportunities in the workplace. We hear a lot today about how critical it is to ask for money (whether a raise or a great starting salary), and that’s true. You have to come right out and ask for the money you want or you may end up short changed.

But it’s just as important to ask for opportunities. Don’t wait to be assigned special projects. Raise your hand and volunteer to take those on.

The whole point of my book is that in order to succeed, women need to be as gutsy as possible in the workplace, and asking for opportunities is a key way to do that. (And, hey, this works for guys, too!)

The kind of projects you should be asking for are ones that will help out your boss, strengthen your strengths, force you out of your comfort zone, increase your confidence, enhance your reputation at work, and set you apart from the pack. Perhaps it’s running a new team or representing the company at an industry event.

That’s the kind of work that gets you noticed and promoted.

And what if there doesn’t seem to be a project that fits the bill? Create one. Ask, “What are we missing here, what problem can I solve in my department?”

I once mentioned this strategy in a speech I gave and a woman later wrote me explaining how well it had worked for her. She was employed as an assistant in the PR department of an insurance company and after hearing my comments, she asked, “What’s missing?” She realized that her department lacked a crisis manual, so she took it upon herself to write one. That step and a few others like it led to her promotion from assistant to associate.

So don’t wait. Raise your hand and ask. Being gutsy is knowing that in order to succeed, we often have to take that first step, rather than be polite and wait for someone to tap us for the opportunity.
Visit Kate White's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Even If It Kills Her.

The Page 69 Test: Eyes on You.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

J. E. Smyth's "Nobody's Girl Friday"

J. E. Smyth is Professor of History at the University of Warwick and author or editor of Reconstructing American Historical Cinema from Cimarron to Citizen Kane (2006), Edna Ferber's Hollywood (2009), Hollywood and the American Historical Film (ed., 2012), Fred Zinnemann and the Cinema of Resistance (2015), and the BFI classics monograph on From Here to Eternity (2015).

Smyth applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Nobody's Girl Friday: The Women Who Ran Hollywood, and reported the following:
When I turned to page 99 of Nobody’s Girl Friday, I had to laugh—it was the one part of the book where I discuss director Ida Lupino’s career. In old Hollywood lore, Lupino stands out as the lone woman in a male-dominated occupation (her career transition occurred a few years after director Dorothy Arzner’s retirement). But the trouble with most histories of filmmaking during this era is the fixation on the director as a film’s only author. Scholars, critics, and, to a lesser extent, audiences are obsessed with the notion of the director-auteur—something popularized in the 1950s with the French New Wave and critics such as Andrew Sarris. But films aren’t novels or paintings—cinematic authorship is inherently collaborative. Back in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, editors – including Barbara McLean and Margaret Booth—could order retakes on a director’s work and were as responsible for assembling the classic films we love. They consulted with producers and writers. As my book reveals, women undertook many of these jobs, including Joan Harrison and Virginia Van Upp, two writers who transitioned into producing in the 1940s.

Nobody’s Girl Friday will hopefully make readers recalibrate what they think they know about women and power in studio-era Hollywood—but my work also undercuts a lot of popular and academic expectations about directors and authorship.

Lupino began as an actress, but like many of her peers in the 1940s (Bette Davis, Kay Francis, Rita Hayworth, and Constance Bennett), she branched out. Some of her early roles were produced by none other than Mary Pickford, cofounder and head of UA. Industry people today, students, and my historian colleagues are often stunned when I list how many women worked for the studios and the diverse professions they chose. Women rose to top executive positions, they lead their own agencies, ran guilds and unions, won Academy Awards, and controlled gossip columns. And women worked together and even supported each other’s careers—there was feminism and camaraderie (it didn’t just start with #MeToo!). After all, it was during this time that Democratic and Republican women finally came together to endorse the Equal Rights Amendment.

As I mention on page 99, Hedda Hopper (who we often dismiss as a Red-baiting shrew) adored Ida Lupino’s work and supported her career regularly in her syndicated column. Women in Hollywood’s “golden era” weren’t just secretaries and stars—and their industry recognized and even celebrated Hollywood’s leading role in gender equality. Lupino was touted as the new Orson Welles, and she subverted expectations with a lot of her tough, noirish productions. But all good things come to an end, and when the studio system started to fail through a combination of financial pressure, media competition, and the blacklist, women lost most of their power. By the 1950s, Lupino did indeed seem like a lone, embattled woman director. She, and many others moved into the television industry, but never achieved the wealth and influence they once had in Hollywood. It’s time we remembered them all—not only director “auteurs” such as Lupino, but writer Mary C. McCall Jr., secretary Silvia Schulman, executives Ida Koverman and Anita Colby, story editor Kay Brown, editor Barbara McLean, producer Harriet Parsons-- and many, many others.
Learn more about Nobody's Girl Friday at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Stuart Kirsch's "Engaged Anthropology"

Stuart Kirsch is professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan. His earlier work was influenced by two decades of advocacy on behalf of the Yonggom (or Muyu) people in New Guinea, including their response to the environmental impact of the Ok Tedi copper and gold mine. He is the author of Reverse Anthropology (2006) and Mining Capitalism (2014).

Kirsch applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Engaged Anthropology: Politics beyond the Text, and reported the following:
In Engaged Anthropology, I tackle questions about engaged research head-on, examining projects in which I have been involved in a number of different countries in the Pacific and the Amazon, as well as on campus. In particular, I ask whether engaged research methods produce adequate ethnographic description, whether they contribute to constructive political outcomes, and whether they provide results that are of value beyond the immediate context.

On page 99, I describe an attempt to establish a conservation and development project in Papua New Guinea in the 1990s. I originally visited the area to assess whether such initiatives offer viable alternatives to destructive forms of resource extraction like the Ok Tedi mine.

Page 99 describes differing attitudes towards development and protection of the environment among the four groups of people living in the Lakekamu River basin. For example, the Kurija reject:
mining and logging projects because of their likely impacts on wildlife and the local river system… Cut off from their political allies in the mountains to the east, and unsuccessful in their ventures in the closest urban centers of Kerema and Port Moresby, the Kurija regard subsistence agriculture and hunting as an integral part of their future; and consequently, they recognize the need to protect the resources of the river basin… Practical reliance on local resources, rather than conservation in the abstract, fuels Kurija desires to protect the Lakekamu River basin… In addition, by presenting themselves as responsible guardians of the southern half of the Lakekamu River basin, they hoped to gain support from Conservation International in their territorial disputes [with their neighbors].
In contrast,
The Kovio response to the initiatives sponsored by Conservation International differed significantly from the positions taken by their neighbors. Given their participation in the cash economy and their comparative political clout, they speak more favorably and confidently about the prospects of development... The Kovio make broad claims to much of the territory in the Lakekamu basin; and in the recapitulation of historical patterns of exchange, they regard the economic agenda for this territory as theirs to dominate.
The other two groups in the area
responded positively to some of the economic initiatives proposed by Conservation International… The major concern for the Biaru was that they continue to enjoy unimpeded access to their artisanal mining projects in the hills and mountains to the northeast… And while the Kamea had no objection to the projects proposed by Conservation International, they were equally interested in exploring other development options.
In revisiting an earlier article I wrote on the initiative, I acknowledge that while my ethnographic research correctly identified the reasons why the conservation project would ultimately fail—due to competing land claims and divergent aspirations for the future of the Lakekamu River basin—I remained optimistic about its prospects. Thus, the chapter shows how engaged anthropologists may be influenced by their desire to contribute to alternative outcomes.

Like the other examples discussed in the book, page 99 provides candid insight into the largely unexamined “backstage” of engaged research.
Visit Stuart Kirsch's webpage.

The Page 99 Test: Mining Capitalism.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 13, 2018

Amanda Porterfield's "Corporate Spirit"

Amanda Porterfield is Robert A. Spivey Professor of Religion at the Florida State University. She is the author of Healing in the History of Christianity and the co-editor of The Business Turn in American Religious History (with Darren Grem and John Corrigan).

Porterfield applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Corporate Spirit: Religion and the Rise of the Modern Corporation, and reported the following:
The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 was a feat of “gigantic artificial navigation” and great stimulus to commerce. To quote from page 99 of Corporate Spirit: Religion and the Rise of the Modern Corporation, “the 360-mile passageway up the Hudson River to the Great Lakes brought meat, whiskey, and flour to New York City” and transported goods to the north and west from “the city’s warehouses and famous auctions – everything from stoneware and iron chains to window blinds and black silk handkerchiefs.” As business opportunities expanded along the Erie Canal and elsewhere across the early United States, commercial corporations multiplied. Responding to demand for access to the legal protections conveyed through incorporation, many states established democratic mechanisms of incorporation to counteract the favoritism associated with earlier procedures.

While commercial corporations spurred industrial organization, churches and other eleemosynary corporations contributed to urban order, to regional and interregional networks of religious organization, and to the development of print media that promoted membership in numerous groups who practiced corporate life in terms of membership in the body of Christ. Methodist, Catholic, Baptist, and Presbyterian institutions grew exponentially during the early decades of the 19th century, while new corporate religions, including the Mormons, attracted many converts. Religious groups contributed as much as business did to the organization of people’s lives into state-chartered corporate institutions.

The first 98 pages of Corporate Spirit outline developments in corporate organization prior to this enormous spurt in religious and commercial growth in the early United States. The book shows how corporations originated in ancient Rome and developed to become mainstays of civic, religious, and commercial order in medieval Christendom. The book highlights the importance of networks of community and commerce based on the model of corporate order established by puritans and other religious groups in British America, and argues that these networks contributed to the organizational infrastructure that enabled American political independence.

The chapters that follow page 99 carry the story of American corporate development from the 19th century into the 21st. As these later chapters show, the abusive practices associated with modern forms of corporate organization rival the worst of corporate malfeasance in the ancient and medieval worlds. At the same time, the book shows how corporations served as organizational building blocks of American economic and religious prosperity, and even in some cases, as agents of good will.
Learn more about Corporate Spirit at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

David Bissell's "Transit Life"

David Bissell is Associate Professor in the School of Geography at the University of Melbourne where he researches the social, political and ethical consequences of mobile lives.

Bissell applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Transit Life: How Commuting Is Transforming Our Cities, and reported the following:
On page 99 we are confronted with a photograph of a very ordinary city scene. Three people are at a crosswalk. Even though the image is still, from our own experiences of walking through a city, we might be able to intuit that this scene is fizzing with different intensities of movement. A bus has just zoomed by, almost out of shot, a car is just about to whizz through the crossing. Two figures are stiller, poised, waiting for the green light to walk. Another figure is approaching the crosswalk, his foot about to touch the floor. The caption tells us that it is York Street crossing at Wynyard, and it is 7:20 a.m.

I am delighted that page 99 provides a brilliantly faithful sense of what the book as a whole is about. This is a book all about one of the most significant rhythms of city life. Lots has been written about commuting from a transport perspective, focussing on statistical information accompanied by diagrams about where people travel from and to. Yet somewhat surprisingly, much less has been written about the ordinary events and encounters that make commuting what it is. In part this might be because moments such as the photograph on page 99 are so ordinary as to be unremarkable. However, what this book tries to do is zoom in on these ordinary moments and the people experiencing them to draw out what is so significant about commuting.

The book is based on five years of fieldwork with commuters in Sydney, Australia. The image on page 99 is from a time-lapse photo experiment at a crosswalk in the middle of Sydney where I took photos every ten minutes for a week-long period during the morning rush hour. The point of doing this was to become attuned to the site itself in a way that, over time and through repetition, I could sense the unique intensities of this particular crosswalk. As I write on page 99, “Something is happening right now—a now that is so often obscured by projections and retrospections.” What these time-lapse images helped me to do is to try and be more present, helping me to sense some of the things going on in these ordinary scenes that would otherwise be concealed in the ongoing dance of everyday life; smothered with forward-tracing anxieties and backward-tracing ruminations.

What the book argues is that the intensities that bead our everyday lives in transit are subtly but powerfully changing who we are and the places that we travel through. The final sentence on page 99 strikes to the heart of this claim, where I write: “Rather than identifying similarities, I am interested in the shifts in intensities taking place in this space that might otherwise fly under the radar.” By drawing out and narrating these changing intensities across different sites in the city and with different people, my hope is that the book will raise questions for readers about their own transit lives, perhaps prompting heightened reflection on what might be particularly significant for them, and what they might wish to change.
Learn more about Transit Life at the the MIT Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 9, 2018

Dale Peterson's "The Ghosts of Gombe"

Dale Peterson is the author or editor of twenty books, including Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man, Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence (coauthored with Richard Wrangham), The Moral Lives of Animals, and Eating Apes.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Ghosts of Gombe: A True Story of Love and Death in an African Wilderness, and reported the following:
On July 12, 1969, Ruth Davis, a young American researcher at Jane Goodall's chimpanzee research site in the Gombe Stream National Park of Tanzania, walked out of camp following a chimpanzee into the forest. Six days later, her broken body was discovered floating in a pool at the base of a high waterfall. What happened?

The Ghosts of Gombe is my answer to that question, done by reconstructing in great detail two years of daily life at Gombe as it unfolded for the half dozen to a dozen young volunteers and researchers who were then assisting Dr. Goodall in her pioneering study. That daily life included marijuana-smoking among some, secret affairs among others, a marital breakup, snake bites and malaria, research discoveries and failures, as well as some astonishing personal friendships that developed between three of the people and some of the chimpanzees. The Ghosts of Gombe, then, is not merely a simple exercise in literary forensics, a non-fiction Who or What Done It? It is also a fine-grained portrait of life--or lives--at a remote African research station during the late 1960s. The lives portrayed include not only those of some chimpanzees and the Euro-American researchers but also those of the African staff and local fishermen who worked and lived there, and who supported the full operation with their labor and expertise, their cultural traditions and social knowledge, their good will and sympathies.

The Ghosts of Gombe is a complex weave, in other words, and page 99 presents a strand or two having to do with the Africans, particularly the camp cook, Dominic Bandora, and a local fisherman named Alphonse who lost his left foot in a railroad accident. To my mind, Alphonse is among the most compelling characters in the book. Like Dominic, he was a cultural outsider, a member of the Wafipa tribe from the south, whereas most of the staff and the local fishermen where Waha. Dominic, meanwhile, had a few years earlier been fired as the Gombe cook for failures due to drunkenness; he returned in the summer of 1968 asking Jane Goodall for his job back. Page 99 opens with Dominic, smiling, friendly, and just then meeting Jane again after a few years' absence. They begin catching up...
on family matters. His daughter, Ado, was, he told her, mkubwa sana sasa--"all grown up now." Then he asked for his job back, and so Jane hired him again. Thus, young Sadiki Rukumata, who had been the cook for some time, was demoted to assistant cook, and the quality of the meals improved. At least Ruth thought so, noting the appearance of some excellent deserts--chocolate cakes and apple pieces--and describing Dominic in a letter home to her parents as "a small, funny old man, extremely proud and an excellent cook."

Dominic was an Mfipa like Alphonse, which meant that Alphonse now had a natural ally in camp, a brother in the African sense, someone from the same tribe and region and background. Alphonse was funny and fair, and he became friends with a number of others on the staff, but now Dominic made sure to walk down to the beach every morning and sort through Alphonse's daily catch. That was good, but then Dominic went off one night and came back drunk. He started arguing with other men at the kitchen, and when Nic told him to leave the kitchen, he said, "That's my kitchen!" He wanted to fight. The following morning, of course, he was terribly apologetic....
Visit Dale Peterson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Joanna Lewis's "Empire of Sentiment"

Joanna Lewis is an Associate Professor in the Department of International History, London School of Economics and Political Science, having previously studied at the University of Cambridge after winning a Thomas and Elizabeth Williams Scholarship for students with a first class degree, and first-generation to attend university.

Lewis applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Empire of Sentiment: The Death of Livingstone and the Myth of Victorian Imperialism, and reported the following:
If you open this book to page 99, then you are drawn into the dangerous, violent and unforgiving world of the Scramble for Africa in the late nineteenth century – in this case central Africa and the quest to find by the 1890 the holy grail of exploration: the sacred spot where Dr David Livingstone had died. So remote was Chitambo in the Ila region (in present day Zambia near the border with the DRC), and so engulfed was the area in conflict as cheap guns, slavers, concession hunters, and company agents (like the men sent by Cecil Rhodes) that not only had the grave remained hidden, but finding it became a great competition between the Belgians and the British.

The section page 99 falls within is called ‘The destabilisation of central Africa’. On page 99 two key European forces trying to inch into the region and claim sovereignty over land and people are introduced to the reader. The missionaries – in this case the Church of Scotland were keen to move down from Lake Nyassa and push back other denominations. Dr Robert Laws arrived in 1875, young and idealistic. Arab slavers, African mercenaries, white hunting parties and trading companies would all clash. Britain was not keen to spend resources on converting informal influence into responsibility for new territory deep in the interior of ‘darkest Africa’. Livingstone’s grave was not far from the notorious Bangweula Swamps, an area so vast and flat, that it was rumoured you could clearly see the curve of the earth from its centre. In the rainy season, when Livingstone had tried to traverse it for a second time, the water and winds were so remorseless that it proved his down fall, and he perished in the region in 1873.

As page 99 suggests to the reader, it was the hinterland which now drew more men and more nationalities into its dangerous, and often fatal landscape. The King of the Belgians, desperate for an empire, had followed the death of Livingstone and the attempts of Henry Morton Stanley to find him, and later on find the source of the Nile and follow the course of the Congo. By the early 1890s, Belgian mercenaries were teaming up with local militia to stake their claim over the region. The most powerful chief in the area, Chief Misiri had tolerated Scottish missionaries inspired by Livingstone. These young, working class men called him ‘the perfect savage’. They told him not to cooperate with Cecil Rhodes’s British agents seeking to make treaties. He also declined when the Belgians arrived. They were not instructed to take no for an answer. They shot him dead. The Belgians took Katanga but the British took the area west, where the tree was located under which Livingstone’s body was buried and the rest of the chapter tells the story of the young explorers who set out to find the grave, many becoming martyrs in the process…

Not surprisingly, this chapter is called “A perfect savagery: the Livingstone martyrs and the tree of death on Africa’s ‘Highway to Hell’.”
Learn more about Empire of Sentiment at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Harold Schechter's "Hell's Princess"

Harold Schechter is an American true-crime writer who specializes in serial killers. Twice nominated for the Edgar Award, his nonfiction books include Fatal, Fiend, Bestial, Deviant, Deranged, Depraved, The Serial Killer Files, The Mad Sculptor, Man-Eater, and Killer Colt.

Schechter applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Hell's Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness, Butcher of Men, and reported the following:
Somewhat to my surprise, a reader limited to page 99 might actually get a fairly good idea of both the quality of my book and its subject matter. Hell's Princess recounts the ghastly crimes of the early-twentieth century serial murderer, Belle Gunness, aka “The Lady Bluebeard,” who, by means of matrimonial ads in Scandinavian-language newspapers, lured a string of lonely Norwegian bachelors to her farm in La Porte, Indiana, poisoned them, dismembered their corpses, and buried the parts in her hog lot. The page in question deals with the arrival of the sons of one of her victims, come to search for their missing father, or whatever was left of him. The last few paragraphs describe their viewing of the rank, rotten remains dug out of Belle’s makeshift cemetery and their identification of their murdered dad by the distinctive moustache on his decayed, decapitated skull.
Learn more about the book and author at Harold Schechter's website.

The Page 99 Test: Killer Colt.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Daegan Miller's "This Radical Land"

Daegan Miller has taught at Cornell University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his writing has appeared in a variety of venues, from academic journals to literary magazines.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, This Radical Land: A Natural History of American Dissent, and reported the following:
From page 99:
They were on us and over us before we could get out of the way.... When the last line of Rebs had passed over me, I was left amid the bushes with the breath nearly trampled out of me, and an ugly bayonet-gash through my thigh; and mighty little consolation was it for me at that moment to see the fellow who run me through lying stark dead at my side, with a bullet-hole in his head, his shock of coarse black hair matted with blood, and his stony eyes looking into mine.... Never have I seen, no, not in that three days’ desperate mêlée at the Wilderness, nor at that terrific repulse we had at Cold Harbor, such absolute slaughter as I saw that afternoon on the green slope of Malvern Hill. The guns of the entire army were massed on the crest, and thirty thousand of our infantry lay, musket in hand, in front. For eight hundred yards the hill sank in easy declension to the wood, and across the smooth expanse the Rebs must charge to reach our lines. It was nothing short of downright insanity to order men to charge that hill; and so his generals told Lee, but he would not listen to reason that day, and so he sent regiment after regiment, and brigade after brigade, and division after division, to certain death....

It was at the close of the second charge, when the yelling mass reeled back from before the blaze of those sixty guns and thirty thousand rifles ... that I saw from the spot where I lay a riderless horse break out of the confused and flying mass, and, with mane and tail erect and spreading nostril, come dashing obliquely down the slope. Over fallen steeds and heaps of the dead she leaped with a motion as airy as that of the flying fox, when, fresh and unjaded, he leads away from the hounds, whose sudden cry has broken him off from hunting mice amid the bogs of the meadow. So this riderless horse came vaulting along.... When I saw this horse, with action so free and motion so graceful, amid that storm of bullets, my heart involuntarily went out to her, and my feelings rose higher and higher at every leap she took amid the whirlwind of fire and lead. And as she plunged at last over a little hillock out of range and came careening toward me as only a riderless horse might come... I forgot my wound and all the wild roar of battle, and, lifting myself involuntarily to a sitting posture as she swept grandly by, gave her a ringing cheer.
What is history: the past, or the sense we make of it?

Page 99 of This Radical Land: A Natural History of American Dissent, is the first of a four-page excerpt from W.H.H. Murray’s Adventures in the Wilderness, published in 1869, a standard guide to the Adirondack Mountains in northern New York State, which concludes with a far-from-standard final chapter called “A Ride with a Mad Horse in a Freight-Car”: a story, recounted by Murray, that he and his camping companion first heard when into the light of Murray’s campfire stepped a man identified only as the Stranger, a sportsman but also a veteran of the Civil War, an ex-Union Soldier, who tells them of a beautiful horse that he first saw while he lay gravely wounded in the field at Malvern Hill, a horse that followed him to the field hospital and became his mount and his constant companion—his true love, even—throughout the war’s final three years. Once the guns fell silent after Appomattox, the Stranger and his horse boarded a train to head home. But the horse went mad. She had contracted phrenitis—a swelling of the brain. The Stranger watched helplessly as she beat herself to death against the walls of the car.

That’s how Adventures in the Wilderness ends.

In one way, page 99 resonates only moderately with the rest of the book’s content: though it is a bridge between a part on the Adirondacks and the meaning of wilderness, and a part on the transcontinental railroad in the post-Civil War US. But the excerpt stands alone at the center of the book, the pivot point, a story within a story living at the heart of the history I tell.

And so page 99 lies near the point of the book—that who we are depends on the stories we tell ourselves, that those stories are plastic, that we make our histories just as we make our presents and our futures. Just like we make our world. I’d like that world to be green, just, and free.
Visit Daegan Miller's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Erik Mathisen's "The Loyal Republic"

Erik Mathisen is a research associate in the School of History at Queen Mary University of London.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Loyal Republic: Traitors, Slaves, and the Remaking of Citizenship in Civil War America, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Framing the war not as an armed conflict between two parts of the same nation but as a war that could, with American victory, turn defeated Confederates into colonial subjects set the conflict on entirely new ground... Coming as it did at a high-water mark in the debate over loyalty, the imagining of the South as a colonial possession–and white southerners stripped of their status as citizens–foreshadowed federal wartime policy.
The Loyal Republic is about how ideas about individual loyalty to two warring nation-states brought about a re-definition of citizenship during the Civil War. Not only did this re-definition change the way that people understood their relationship to two modern states. It also encouraged a debate among those still loyal to the United States about the place of white southerners in a hoped-for unified, post-war republic. While historians have long pointed to the argument made by white southerners that their region assumed a subservient place in a post-war Union, scholars have interpreted this argument as hyperbolic rhetoric. What The Loyal Republic argues is that this idea of the South as a colony was openly debated in and out of Congress by Unionists during the Civil War as well. What this helps us to see is an alternate history of the war and its aftermath. While former Confederate citizens would be welcomed back into the national fold in time, the fusion of loyalty and citizenship during and immediately following the war suggests a more complicated process than the literature on the period often allows.
Visit Erik Mathisen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 30, 2018

John C. Hulsman's "To Dare More Boldly"

John C. Hulsman is president of John C. Hulsman Enterprises, a prominent global political-risk consulting firm. His books include Ethical Realism: A Vision for America's Role in the World, The Godfather Doctrine: A Foreign Policy Parable, and To Begin the World Over Again: Lawrence of Arabia from Damascus to Baghdad.

Hulsman applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, To Dare More Boldly: The Audacious Story of Political Risk, and reported the following:
Yes, I think Ford’s Page 99 test is a fair and good one, as it intriguingly gets beyond marketing and drills down to the actual worth of a book, of its thoughts and of the quality of the writing, which are the things true book lovers care about. So here goes. The first full paragraph on Page 99 of To Dare More Boldly: The Audacious Story of Political Risk states:
No, it is not for its brave bleakness that I am critical of The Prince; actually that is the quality of it that I admire. It is rather that, Machiavelli—like so many of his detractors through the ages—confused evil with effectiveness, seeing the charismatically dysfunctional Cesare Borgia as his ideal model prince rather than the far less morally grotesque (and far more politically successful) Pope Julius II as the true exemplar of the chess-playing creed.
The page comes from "Chapter 4: Gaming Out Chess Players; Machiavelli, Cesare Borgia and Pope Julius II." Every chapter of To Dare More Boldly amounts to an analytical commandment of political risk analysis, a conceptual ‘do’ or a ‘don’t’ for thinking, derived from history. For only by navigating the past can we make sense of the present and the future.

Here we are looking at chess-players, political decision-makers and analysts (and they are rare birds) who keep to an unchanging, long-term strategy, using supple and changing tactics to achieve these fixed objectives. The chapter looks at Machiavelli, Cesare Borgia and Julius II (with an inter-chapter on Alexander Hamilton and George Washington) seeing both stories as prime examples of chess-players in action.

Page 99 points out the irony that Machiavelli, supposedly the poster boy of chess-playing realpolitik, actually got his contemporary political analysis entirely wrong. Beguiled by the Bond-villain luster of Cesare Borgia, he originally planned to dedicate The Prince to him. But as Borgia’s rather inept efforts at risk analysis led to his ruin, the irony was that his vanquisher--the less picaresque but for more effective Julius—sat as an unacknowledged chess-player right in front of Machiavelli’s nose. History is full of irony, just as it is full of lessons.
Visit John C. Hulsman's website.

Writers Read: John C. Hulsman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Rick Shine's "Cane Toad Wars"

Rick Shine is a Professor in Biology at the University of Sydney. Besotted by snakes since childhood, he spent most of his research career prying into the private lives of serpents; but in 2005 his main study site, a floodplain in tropical Australia, was overrun by an invading army of toxic amphibians. Cane Toads, among the largest frogs in the world, had been released on the eastern shores of the continent 80 years before, and had spread westwards at ever-increasing speeds. Deadly if eaten, the toads had already killed millions of native animals. His new book, Cane Toad Wars, tells the story of the toad invasion, and of attempts by scientists, community groups, government authorities and politicians to do something about the killer frog that is rampaging through Australia’s last great wilderness.

Shine applied the “Page 99 Test” to Cane Toad Wars and reported the following:
My immediate thought on turning to page 99 was to offer an apology to that page. It faces a glorious photograph of a Freshwater Crocodile that has just seized a huge Cane Toad; pressed up against that photograph whenever the book is closed must make page 99 fear that it can’t live up to the high-impact image that precedes it. But on re-reading page 99, I think it can relax.

The text on page 99 begins with a perplexing observation. When invading Cane Toads sweep through tropical Australia, they kill vast numbers of Freshwater Crocodiles. In some rivers, more than 90% of the giant reptiles are fatally poisoned by the toad’s powerful toxins within a few weeks. Bloated corpses clog the waterway. But along adjacent rivers, the toads pour through but the crocs are unaffected. Why the difference?

A possible explanation came to me via a grizzled old bushman as we sat around a campfire beside his ramshackle house deep in the wilderness of Kakadu National Park. I and my (supposedly smart) students had tried to explain the contrasting impacts of toads on crocodiles in different rivers, and we had failed. But Dave Lindner had thought about it as well, and he had an idea. It came to him soon after Cane Toads invaded his idyllic home, when a tame monitor lizard (at six feet long, a true monster) seized a toad in Dave’s backyard, and immediately began convulsing from the poisons that were squirted into its mouth from the toad’s shoulder glands. Dave seized a bottle of water and flushed out the lizard’s mouth to remove the toxin, and the big reptile survived.

And if predators survive if they can flush away the poison, Dave thought, then maybe this is why crocs are at risk in some rivers but not others. In a small river where the crocs leave the water to forage along the sandy banks, any encounter with a Cane Toad is likely to be fatal. No convenient mouth-flushing facility in reach. But if the croc stays in the stream, and meets a toad that has come down for a drink, it may be able to wash away most of the poison as it thrashes around in the water. So maybe the crocs die in droves in a river where the local ecology encourages them to leave the water to look for food, but are unaffected if they remain aquatic.

Is Dave right? We don’t know. But an old bushman’s insights may have solved a problem that stumped my very clever research team.
Learn more about Cane Toad Wars at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 26, 2018

Adam Winkler's "We the Corporations"

Adam Winkler is a professor of constitutional law at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights (2018) and Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America (2011).

Winkler applied the “Page 99 Test” to We the Corporations and reported the following:
From page 99:
Corporations, Webster argued, should be able to come into a state and operate under the same terms and conditions as any local corporations, even if headquartered elsewhere. What Webster was seeking, in essence, was to give corporations a constitutional right to do business nationwide without state interference.
That's Daniel Webster, the legendary orator, and the case referred to was decided by the Supreme Court in 1839. Although Citizens United cast a spotlight on the rights of corporations, We the Corporations shows that corporations have been fighting to win constitutional protections since America's earliest days. Unlike minorities and women, corporations never marched in the street demanding equal rights. Instead, they fought for over two centuries to win Supreme Court cases extending to them the fundamental rights of individuals. And the struggle for corporate rights was intertwined with major moments and controversies in American history: Hamilton and Jefferson's battle over the Bank of the United States; antebellum debates over slavery; Teddy Roosevelt's trustbusting; Prohibition; the Civil Rights Movement; and the Reagan Revolution.

In this hidden yet vitally important campaign, corporations were represented by the nation's best lawyers, such as Webster. While civil rights organizations have traditionally been underfunded, corporations have always had the financial resources to hire the most expensive, creative, accomplished lawyers to file risky, test cases. For corporations, litigation is just another business expense and the potential returns can be substantial. Constitutional rights are used to challenge laws regulating business activity--laws enacted to protect consumers, investors, or the larger public. And, with the counsel of brilliant lawyers like Webster, corporations have managed to win Supreme Court cases granting them nearly all the rights of individuals. The fight for corporate rights is one of the most successful yet least known "civil rights movements" in American history.
Learn more about We the Corporations at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: Gunfight.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Susan Goldman Rubin's "Coco Chanel"

Susan Goldman Rubin is the author of many biographies for young people, including Diego Rivera: An Artist for the People and Hot Pink: The Life and Fashions of Elsa Schiaparelli.

Goldman Rubin applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Coco Chanel: Pearls, Perfume, and the Little Black Dress, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Coco Chanel is half of a double spread photograph showing the faceted mirrors reflecting multiple images of the models presenting Coco’s fashion show. Coco, perched out of sight at the top of the staircase that is also lined with mirrors, watches the reactions of the audience to her newest collection. The photo truly represents the book because it captures Coco’s tension as she waits for the response. Coco’s passion was her work.

The following page 100 gives details of her process. Wielding scissors and an unfailing eye for elegance and comfort, she created her clothes directly on the models. Indifferent to their fatigue and suffering, she worked tirelessly as she strived for impeccable tailoring. “Skirts had to move easily, with the pockets falling at the right place for hands to slide into. Zippers were concealed in the stripes of a plaid.” On the night before a show, such as the one she is presenting in the photograph, Coco ripped apart seams and redid them to make sure “the underside is as perfect as the outside.”

This YA biography gives an honest account of Chanel’s climb to success. Born out of wedlock into miserable poverty, she spent difficult years in an orphanage, yet lied and said that she was raised by unmarried “aunts.” Using her wits, talent, and determination, she managed to make her way as a financially independent woman who became one of the most well known fashion designers in the world.

In the early twentieth century she freed women from corsets and girdles with her casual, comfortable clothes. She dipped into her boyfriends’ wardrobe and created feminine versions of their blazers, polo shirts, and cardigans. But she also enjoyed looking alluring. Some of her memorable firsts include “the little black dress,” the quilted shoulder bag with chain strap, and the perfume Chanel No.5. The book is gorgeously produced with photo illustrations of her fashions as well as images of the fussy dresses and hats worn by her contemporaries when she began her career. Like many great artists, Coco Chanel was as flawed as she was unconventional, and wholly original. A fascinating subject for a biographer!
Visit Susan Goldman Rubin's website.

Writers Read: Susan Goldman Rubin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Daniel Livesay's "Children of Uncertain Fortune"

Daniel Livesay is associate professor of history at Claremont McKenna College.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Children of Uncertain Fortune: Mixed-Race Jamaicans in Britain and the Atlantic Family, 1733-1833, and reported the following:
Children of Uncertain Fortune tracks the lives of over three hundred mixed-race Jamaicans who left the Caribbean for Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They were the offspring of white men who presided over colonial plantations, and free and enslaved women of color. At the time, Jamaica was a slave hothouse with hundreds of thousands of enslaved individuals of African descent farming sugar, coffee, and other commodities. Less than ten percent of the island’s population was composed of free white individuals, who both took enslaved mistresses, as well as sexually attacked women of color. Most of the mixed-race children born from these unions were kept in slavery, but a small number of them were manumitted and some went on to live with British relatives across the ocean. The book explores why these individuals left, what their experiences were like in Britain, and how their transatlantic migrations helped to shape conceptions of race, and also family belonging, in the English-speaking world.

The page 99 test works fairly well for the book. On this page I discuss one of the reasons why mixed-race Jamaicans were pushed out of colonial society: they had very few educational opportunities. Almost the entirety of Jamaican life was dedicated to making money, to the point of excluding vital components of civil society. Indeed, the island had almost no schools to educate young people. Moreover, racial divides were quite strong in Jamaica, and many tutors refused to train mixed-race people. Jamaica’s most prestigious secondary school was, and still is, Wolmer’s. For most of the eighteenth century, it did allow students of color through its doors, because many of them came funded by their fathers’ substantial sugar estates. As concerns about enslaved uprisings grew, mixed-race people came under stronger scrutiny and Wolmer’s prohibited their matriculation on scholarship in 1777. This left only the best-heeled students of color in the institution, showing how important class position was to one’s racial status in Jamaica. It also pushed other elites of color to travel to Britain when the option of attending Wolmer’s closed up. This page sets up a longer discussion about what a British education was like for individuals related by birth to both enslaved Africans, as well as some of the wealthiest Britons in the Empire.
Learn more about Children of Uncertain Fortune at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Harvey G. Cohen's "Who’s In The Money?"

Harvey G. Cohen is the author of Duke Ellington’s America, which the Washington Post called one of the best books of the year. He writes and teaches about US cultural and political history, especially the art, business and history of the music industry and film industry. He’s also a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries at King’s College London.

Cohen applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Who's in the Money?: The Great Depression Musicals and Hollywood's New Deal, and reported the following:
Who’s In The Money? explores the "winner take all" economy of 1933 Hollywood from numerous vantage points. It connects the Warner brothers, their Busby Berkeley-led Great Depression Musicals (such as 42nd St) & FDR's New Deal programs. While the Warners were close friends and fundraisers for President Franklin Roosevelt in the 1932 election, and supported FDR’s New Deal in their film marketing during the first half of 1933, this book demonstrates how the Warners subtly undermined FDR’s dictates, doing all they could to ensure that the pain of the Great Depression was visited upon movie stars, chorus girls, technicians, screenwriters, etc and definitely not upon executives or owners of the studios.

Page 99 explores the most famous sequence in legendary choreographer Busby Berkeley’s career, and probably in the 1930s Great Depression Musicals as a whole: the “By A Waterfall” number from Footlight Parade, the key film in the book. Warner Bros. files revealed how big the water tanks were that the chorus girls jumped into, how much the sets cost, the sexual imagery employed in this surprisingly racy “pre-code” scene, the hundreds of men who worked on the sets daily, how notorious skinflint production chief Jack Warner tried (mostly in vain) to hold down costs, and more.

But Who’s In The Money? goes deeper into what was transpiring behind the scenes. Those gorgeous chorus girls created those effects with punishing efforts (you can see their tiredness and strain viewing the film closely), working 14 to 15 hours a day, six or seven days a week. They were being paid less money than they were on the previous two Great Depression musicals, 42nd St and Gold Diggers of 1933, even though those films were spectacularly successful, two of the top 5 grossing films of 1933. My book, as well as the first three Warner Bros Great Depression Musicals, focus on labor issues. Those films reflected what was happening in Hollywood at the time: punitive 50% temporary wage cuts for most employees (except owners and executives), fights and resistance over the studios’ exploitive contracts, the controversial birth of the first unions for Hollywood’s creatives (Screen Actors & Writers Guilds) and more. The book explores how Hollywood’s employees began rebelling against the way the oligarchical way the studio moguls preferred to do their business, and events got ugly on and offscreen, leading to the eventual breakdown of the all-encompassing power of the major studios after World War II.

Who’s In The Money? brings readers behind the scenes at Warner Bros. and the federal government during a period of profound tension. The national events surrounding the making of the Great Depression Musicals combine to depict a story of financial survival, political intrigue and backstabbing. Told through the lives and careers of movie stars and film executives whose names have echoed through decades of American culture, the narrative is one that resonates in today’s strange mix of politics and media.
Learn more about Who's in the Money? at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: Duke Ellington's America.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Alireza Doostdar's "The Iranian Metaphysicals"

Alireza Doostdar is assistant professor of Islamic Studies and the anthropology of religion at the University of Chicago.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Iranian Metaphysicals: Explorations in Science, Islam, and the Uncanny, and reported the following:
Is page 99 of The Iranian Metaphysicals a good representative of the whole? I think it is. But then so are most other pages!

By page 99, we are at the end of the tenth chapter, wherein I give an extended account of my encounter with Mersedeh, a self-professed sorcerer in Tehran who blended “prayer writing” with New Age therapy and self-help. When she was not working as a sorcerer-therapist, Mersedeh studied for a master’s degree in psychology and practiced her skills at making espresso drinks.

My book is about how Iranians think about and act on the metaphysical world in ways that they understand to be rational. In Part 1, I look at how it is that many Iranians take occult specialists known as “rammals” seriously, even though they admit that these figures are likely to be charlatans and that their customers are probably “superstitious” dupes. My answer is that when self-professed rational people meet with rammals and witness their incredible feats, it’s difficult for them to write them off as impostors. But because they can’t just shake off the very powerful idea that rammals are charlatans and belief in sorcery is superstitious, they adopt a variety of other attitudes toward them. One of these is to approach the occult with a lot of caution (I spend three chapters explaining what this means). Another is to inhabit a certain sense of hesitation about the occult that produces excitement and delight at the fantastic. Still another attitude is to sift the “scientific” aspects of the occult from its “superstitious” dimensions, something I go on to explore in Part 2.

Page 99 brings these various ideas together in a story about a young occult specialist. Mersedeh expresses doubts about her own metaphysical activities even as she makes a living off of them. She goes to great lengths to explain that what she does is scientific rather than superstitious. To top it off, she is an incredibly fascinating person who perplexes and entertains her customers and gets them to challenge their assumptions about reality.
Mersedeh’s answer to the disorienting picture of the rammal as a purveyor of superstition seemingly in possession of awesome powers was thus to offer an equally paradoxical counterimage: in contrast to the “ignorant” rammals, she claimed a firm scientific grasp of the metaphysics and psychology of sorcery while being prepared to dismiss the whole enterprise as a waste of time. She doubly distanced herself from the rammals even as she made a lucrative business out of rammali. If this seemed contradictory, she was ready to wave off the inconsistency with a mischievous laugh. The question was whether her customers were able to laugh along with her, or if they were disturbed by the rapid and seamless shifts she was capable of effecting in her positions. Perhaps it was both, and therein lay her uncanny power.
This last paragraph from page 99 is a good representative of the chapter, which in turn gives a good picture of the book as a whole.
Learn more about The Iranian Metaphysicals at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 19, 2018

William I. Hitchcock's "The Age of Eisenhower"

William I. Hitchcock is a professor of history at the University of Virginia and the Randolph Compton Professor at the Miller Center for Public Affairs. A graduate of Kenyon College and Yale University, he is the author most recently of The Bitter Road to Freedom: The Human Cost of Allied Victory in World War II Europe, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Age of Eisenhower: America and the World in the 1950s, and reported the following:
From page 99:
[Eisenhower] was emotionally and personally attached to the idea of peace. He spoke eloquently about the horrors of war and his desire to turn the productive capacities of mankind away from swords and toward ploughshares. But Eisenhower was not an impulsive man. As a general, he developed a reputation as a master planner, a man who husbanded power, amassed resources, and always fought from a position of overwhelming strength. As president, Eisenhower followed the same strategic principles, choosing to wage a long, patient struggle with Russia in which American power would eventually win out, rather than take any sudden or risky move that could leave the nation vulnerable. There would be many sincere words of peace during his presidency; but Ike was always preparing for war.
This passage appears on page 99 of The Age of Eisenhower: America and the World in the 1950s. It reveals a basic truth about the era: although often taken to be a time of “peace and prosperity,” the 1950s saw the evolution of the permanent peacetime warfare state. In the 1950s, the United States spent about 10% of its GDP on defense—and that, at a time of relative peace in the world following the Korean armistice. Ike wanted to calm international tensions but he also wanted to build American power so that it could impose order and deter any adventurous rivals. Was Eisenhower, then, a man of peace or of war? This riddle sits at the heart of his presidency, and the cold war itself.
Learn more about The Age of Eisenhower at the Simon & Schuster website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Anna Zeide's "Canned"

Anna Zeide is Assistant Professor of Professional Practice at Oklahoma State University, where her research, teaching, and community activism focus on food and food systems.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Canned: The Rise and Fall of Consumer Confidence in the American Food Industry, and reported the following:
One of the realities that characterizes the modern American food industry--and indeed the business world in general--is that it tends to reject government regulation. Which is why it's so interesting to find that the early canning industry actually welcomed government regulation with open arms. Page 99 of my new book, Canned: The Rise and Fall of Consumer Confidence in the American Food Industry, finds California canners in 1921 pleading: "We urgently request [the state] to assist us in policing the industry." So, what's going on here? Why did the canners want to be "policed" by the state, and what can this tell us about the development of our modern food system?

In 1919 and 1920, there were nationwide outbreaks of botulism, a deadly form of food poisoning, which had resulted from canned olives packed in California. The canning industry, and especially California canners, quickly sprang to action. They wanted to identify the root of the problem that had caused this outbreak, and to change their processes in whatever ways they could to make sure it wouldn't happen again. The canners funded the California Botulism Commission, consisting of scientific experts from the U.S. Public Health Service, the University of California, Stanford University, and the California State Department of Health. The findings of this commission produced valuable research about the times and temperatures required to safely process different kinds of canned foods. Based on these findings, California created a Division of Cannery Inspection in 1923. As I write on page 99, "A crucial point here is that these inspection programs were funded entirely by canners--testifying to the rising importance canners placed on government regulation around 1920." Canners in other states followed suit in bringing in government inspectors to maintain oversight over their own industry.

In the book as a whole, I argue that the American canning industry, before the 1930s, was uniquely vulnerable, selling a product that was unfamiliar and often undesirable to American consumers. In this space of vulnerability, the canners sought to partner with any external experts who carried public trust, to convey a stamp of approval upon their still new products. This is why the canners of the 1920s invited government regulation. They needed this external affirmation to rebuild trust in canned food in the eyes of the consumers after the botulism outbreak. As canners grew more confident in the years to come--in part as a result of the scientific work of the botulism commission--they would become less willing to open themselves up to government regulations, and would begin to reject this receptivity to external scientific advice, bringing us to the current state of tension between the federal government and the food industry.

How do we make the industry responsive once more? Show them their vulnerability.
Visit Anna Zeide's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Amy Wallen's "When We Were Ghouls"

Amy E. Wallen is associate director at the New York State Writers Institute and teaches creative writing at the University of California, San Diego Extension. Her first novel, Moon Pies and Movie Stars, was a Los Angeles Times bestseller.

Wallen applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, When We Were Ghouls: A Memoir of Ghost Stories, and reported the following:
Page 99 of When We Were Ghouls contains one of five of the photos that are included the book, this one is titled Christmas in Nigeria. Me, my brother, my dad and my sister, all of my family but my mother are present in the photo, our tacky 1970s silver tinsel tree in the background.

The page contains only a short paragraph since this is the last page of the chapter.
…a chameleon. I had even pretended to be Mrs. Astor. If I couldn’t be someone else, slip into another skin, I needed to be able to slide out of danger. I needed to be able to go someplace safer. If no one else was around, and that had become highly likely, I needed to know how to disappear.

But not yet—Suzanne and Marty were coming home for Christmas.
Is the quality of the whole revealed? The theme of my memoir is the search for whether or not my family were “hideous people.” The paragraph reveals my secret wish at an early age to be someone else, anyone else, or to disappear. The mother is missing in the photo (she’s probably taking the picture), and she’s the person who is slipping through my fingers the most throughout the memoir. In addition, the photo is also old and faded and the rest of my family is blurred and fading into a phantom pale. No one is looking at the camera, as we are all busy with our Christmas presents. I am sitting right next to my brother who is my protector throughout the book.

My book’s subtitle is A Memoir in Ghost Stories—a play on the theme of disappearance, how my family members continue to come and go in my life like ghosts, until I am left entirely on my own in Nigeria at the age of seven. The full paragraph talks of slipping away, the last line of the chapter mentions the next appearance. Or apparition. This is what I explore in the story—who was this family of flighty ghosts? My own desire to disappear, my missing mother, the phantom figures in the photo, no eye contact—yep, I see truth to Ford Madox Ford's page 99 test.
Visit Amy Wallen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 16, 2018

Alexandra Cox's "Trapped in a Vice"

Alexandra Cox is a lecturer in sociology at the University of Essex in Colchester, England.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Trapped in a Vice: The Consequences of Confinement for Young People, and reported the following:
The 1990s were an important moment in the punishment and welfare landscape in the United States: crime rates were high, punishment harsh, and cuts to welfare provision were severe. This has had long lasting effects on the lives of impoverished individuals born and coming of age in that era. In my research on youth incarceration, I interviewed the teenagers who born during the 1990s and the prison guards who came of age during that time. And I learned that the punitive philosophies of the 1990s have been transformed into an approach to punishment today that is ostensibly more therapeutic on its face, but repressive under the surface.

The 99th page of my book highlights the philosophies of the juvenile prisons of the 1990s, and introduces the story of David Brooks (a pseudonym), who began working in a juvenile facility in the 1990s. As a Black man from an impoverished urban city in New York, he had successfully obtained a college sports scholarship, and his job at the juvenile facility after college became a road to the middle class. The approach to juvenile imprisonment then was harsh: the system’s commissioner added concertina wire to the facility perimeters, introduced boot camp-style facilities, and a behavioral change regime rooted in personal accountability. Brooks was trained into this ethos, and ultimately developed his own approach to punishment, built on the principle of tough love.

Twenty years later, Brooks found himself working in a facility that was trying to undo the approach of the 1990s. Yet he had been trained to emphasize individual responsibility in punishment, and to use instrumental methods of control. Staff like Brooks carve out strong relationships with young people; yet, even though these relationships are sometimes positive, the approach to punishment that emerges in this context of reforms is often confused and contradictory. My book reveals the contradictions that emerge when systems engage in ‘non-reformist reforms,’ or reforms which make changes within the framework of a given system, rather than imagining what is possible outside of it. I argue that the framework of individual responsibility, which assumes that criminalized teenagers change because they have been induced to change, is deeply limited and stultifying for them. Yet ideas and philosophies also become sedimented in systems and through the people that operate within them, and facilities also become stultifying for staff members, in ways that make systems of punishment stick.
Learn more about Trapped in a Vice at the Rutgers University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Amanda L. Izzo's "Liberal Christianity and Women's Global Activism"

Amanda L. Izzo is an Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Saint Louis University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Liberal Christianity and Women's Global Activism: The YWCA of the USA and the Maryknoll Sisters, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Liberal Christianity and Women’s Global Activism finds the Young Women’s Christian Association of the USA (YWCA) working a subtle, but significant, transformation in the international social work profession. The YWCA was one of the largest and most influential twentieth century U.S. women’s voluntary organizations. And this example of the association’s on-the-ground efforts provides a window into one of the larger aims of this book: examining the evolving conception of Christian service that guided the interdenominational Protestant YWCA’s journey from a proselytization-minded, middle-class charitable group to a professional social service provider and advocacy organization. Parallel to this story, the book narrates another similar metamorphosis in the outreach of the Maryknoll Sisters, a Roman Catholic religious order.

The YWCA’s social work innovations, I note, offered a “collective-oriented alternative to the casework model of community intervention,” a form of theory in action that invested the small-scale interpersonal encounters of voluntary clubs with the potential for creating cooperative community on a global scale. The example on page 99 features the organization’s involvement in establishing a School of Social Work in Delhi, India in the 1940s. Illustrating the organization’s international pursuit of fellowship, Dorothy Height, a long-time YWCA employee and African American civil rights pioneer, participated in this transnational endeavor, which drew the support of future prime minister Indira Gandhi.

The Delhi project is one indicator of the YWCA’s larger mission of deploying faith commitments rooted in the New Testament in order to catalyze broader social transformations based in ideals of caring human fellowship. Increasingly aimed at bridging the divides of creed, race, and nation, the group’s agenda, I show, grew more politicized as the membership and leaders explored liberal ideals of social democracy and world fellowship.

On page 99, then, we get small but concrete demonstration of how religion could offer both an inspiration and an institutional infrastructure for women to unite in service of a more egalitarian society. In this respect, I hope, the page hints at some of the goals of the work in its entirety: namely, to highlight a neglected history of women’s centrality to activist religion.
Learn more about Liberal Christianity and Women's Global Activism at the Rutgers University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Patricia Fara's "A Lab of One’s Own"

Patricia Fara lectures in the history of science at Cambridge University, where she is a Fellow of Clare College. She is the President of the British Society for the History of Science (2016-18) and her prize-winning book, Science: A Four Thousand Year History, has been translated into nine languages. In addition to many academic publications, her popular works include Newton: The Making of Genius, An Entertainment for Angels, Sex, Botany and Empire, and more. An experienced public lecturer, Patricia Fara appears regularly in TV documentaries and radio programs such as In Our Time. She also contributes articles and reviews to many journals, including History Today, BBC History, New Scientist, Nature and the Times Literary Supplement.

Fara applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, A Lab of One's Own: Science and Suffrage in the First World War, and reported the following:
Dorothy Parker allegedly once remarked that the Bloomsbury set lived in squares, painted in circles, and loved in triangles. Page 99 of A Lab of One’s Own captures some of that feverish volatility. As well as Duncan Grant and Bertrand Russell, it features Ray Strachey (née Costelloe) who was related by marriage to both Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey. One of Britain’s leading suffrage campaigners, she has been surprisingly neglected by the Bloomsbury industry.

Like many other suffrage scientists discussed in A Lab of One’s Own, Strachey rebelled against her mother’s advice to behave like a refined young lady. My page 99 describes how this Cambridge maths graduate cut her hair short, wore a dirty blouse to a fashionable party, met the future husband to whom she proposed, and enrolled (along with 20 disdainful young men) in an electrical engineering class at Oxford. As soon as the War started, she set up an employment bureau and a welding school in central London, so that women could be trained to take over men’s jobs while they were away fighting. A resolute committee member, Strachey negotiated with government ministers and played a key role in securing suffrage for British women over 30 in 1918.

Getting the vote represented a major achievement, but professional women still struggled for equal pay and equal opportunities. After the War, Strachey dedicated her life to obtaining economic parity. As the men returned, they reclaimed their previous positions, and women were squeezed out of factories, universities and laboratories. Although sometimes it seemed that the country had just reverted to its pre-War state, in reality nothing could ever be the same again: now everybody knew that women were perfectly capable of running the country.

Equality is now enshrined in legislation, yet there are still fewer women than men at the upper levels of science. As a society, we need to examine why that is and what can be done. A Lab of One’s Own celebrates the female scientists who fought so hard to improve the future. Their example demonstrates that change is possible.
Learn more about A Lab of One's Own at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Erasmus Darwin.

Writers Read: Patricia Fara.

--Marshal Zeringue