Thursday, April 17, 2014

David Kaiser's "No End Save Victory"

David Kaiser has taught history at Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, the Naval War College, and Williams College. His books include The Road to Dallas: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Kaiser applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, No End Save Victory: How FDR Led the Nation into War, and reported the following:
Ford Madox Ford’s test is a good one, because in a good book, every page should bear some relation to the major themes of the work. Page 99 most certainly does.

No End Save Victory: How FDR led the Nation into War, deals with Franklin Roosevelt’s response to the world crisis from 1937 onward, but with the emphasis on the period from the fall of France in May 1940 until Pearl Harbor. Americans, including all the senior figures in Roosevelt’s Administration, expected the fall of France to be followed in short order by the surrender of Great Britain, leaving the United States face to face with the threat of German aggression, very possibly aided by the Japanese. While many Americans opposed fighting in Europe, virtually every American agreed on the need to prepare the defense of the Western Hemisphere, and Roosevelt pushed through a series of rearmament measures, including vast expansion of the U.S. Navy, in May, June and July 1940. He also created a new agency, the National Defense Advisory Commission (or Defense Commission), to supervise the increases in industrial production that rearmament would require. It included the Secretaries of War and of the Navy and representatives of private business and labor, most of whom volunteered their services. P. 99 discusses their most critical problem as follows:
The Defense Commission had to arrange for the production of the weapons America needed, but widespread disagreement persisted about how much that would be. In one of their first meetings on July 3, the commissioners agreed to assume that “the emergency,” as they referred to the situation facing the nation, would last about four years, but they differed widely on what it would entail. As Commissioner Donald Nelson explained after the war, the key argument divided men like himself, Leon Henderson, Treasury Secretary Morgenthau, and [Secretary of War] Stimson, who believed that the United States would soon be fighting all over the world, and those like William Knudsen, Edward Stettinius, and Commerce Secretary Jesse Jones who focused on the western hemi sphere and may even have believed that the European war might come to an end without U.S. intervention. Meanwhile, much of American industry, powerfully represented on the Commission by members like Knudsen of General Motors and Stettinius of U.S. Steel, wanted the minimum possible disruption of the civilian economy and the maximum possible profit, while labor wanted to conserve its gains in wages and hours amid increasing employment. With GDP destined to increase from $101 billion in 1940 to $126 billion in 1941, $162 billion in 1942, and $198 billion in 1943, the stakes were obviously enormous. So was the necessary productive effort.
This argument, as the book shows, was not resolved for another year, until July 1941, after Germany attacked the Soviet Union. At that point, Roosevelt specifically directed Stimson to do a thorough study of what it would take to defeat all the potential enemies of the United States—not merely to defend the western hemisphere. That study, which became known as the Victory Program, was completed in September. As a result, when a revamped production agency met on December 9, 1941—two days after Pearl Harbor—William Knudsen was able to inform Stimson that the production targets in the Victory Program could be met by July 1, 1944—almost the exact date at which the decisive offensives against Germany and Japan began. This was an extraordinary achievement.
Visit David Kaiser's blog, and read more about No End Save Victory at the Basic Books website.

My Book, The Movie: No End Save Victory.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Paula A. Michaels's "Lamaze: An International History"

A specialist in twentieth-century Russian and Central Asian history, Paula Michaels is the recipient of numerous awards and grants, including from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Institutes of Health. Her first book, Curative Powers: Medicine and Empire in Stalin's Central Asia (2003), won the Association for Women in Slavic Studies' Heldt Prize and was a finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award. Michaels is a Senior Lecturer in History at Monash University.

Michaels applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Lamaze: An International History, and reported the following:
“Lamaze” is a household word in the United States. Also known as psychoprophylaxis, the Lamaze method combined psychological conditioning with prenatal education to alleviate women’s fears and help them to manage the pain of labor with little or no resort to drugs. Few know, however, that the Lamaze method actually originated in the Soviet Union.

Lamaze: An International History tells the surprising story of how of this non-pharmacological means of labor pain management migrated across the Iron Curtain amid the Cold War. It recounts the interlocking political, medical, and gender histories of this technique, which serves as a window onto shifting ideas about the mind-body dynamic, pronatalism, companionate marriage, consumer activism, feminism, and the counterculture.

We pick up the story on page 99 just as the Lamaze method arrives on shores of the United States in the early 1960s. American consumers were beginning to hear about psychoprophylaxis, but were already familiar with the concept of natural childbirth through the work of British physician Grantly Dick-Read, whose own, similar method had been around since the mid-1940s. In 1962, “natural childbirth”—meaning either the Read method or psychoprophylaxis—was described as “the most-dropped phrase among America’s pregnant women today.”

Though in retrospect it might seem rather odd, the idea that women wanted a satisfying birth experience, in which they participated fully and actively, was not without controversy.
Critics depicted Dick-Read’s partisans as zealots and cultists, and called into question advocates’ mental health. Encouraging frail or mentally weak women’s desires to give birth with little or no pharmacological pain relief could precipitate a psychological crisis, they argued. Women “are convinced that to endure childbirth without the sedation of so much as an aspirin will, by some nebulous psychologic process, inspire” a closer bond with their babies and allow them to achieve “that precious lodestone of the female sex: true femininity.” A 1961 Harper’s Bazaar article against natural childbirth invoked the language and authority of Freudianism to make its case that the adherent “anticipates that the lifelong wound she feels—the wound of womanhood, of not having been a boy—will be paradoxically healed by having a child.” The author then stereotyped the woman who was interested in natural childbirth as “the fairly aggressive, masculine-oriented, nonconservative woman.” Fielding and Benjamin reiterate these arguments about women seeking “psychic masculinity” through natural childbirth and go so far as to assert that not only are “disturbed women ... often attracted to natural childbirth,” but they also “are the very women who are likely to be the most intensely enthusiastic volunteers.” When the woman in labor either experiences more pain than she anticipated or, in the face of that suffering turns to anesthesia, her birth experience becomes a trauma from which, Fielding and Benjamin, among others, claim she does not soon recover.
In its description of opposition to natural childbirth, page 99 highlights the mid-century hegemony of psychoanalytic thinking, a major theme in the book. Objections were made to the Lamaze method on medical and even political (anti-Soviet) grounds, but the psychological critique was perhaps the most potent and, arguably, the most enduring. Even today one hears echoes of these arguments in the high polarized debates over natural childbirth and epidural anesthesia in American maternity care.
Learn more about Lamaze: An International History at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Andrew Pettegree's "The Invention of News"

Andrew Pettegree is professor of modern history, University of St. Andrews, and founding director of the St. Andrews Reformation Studies Institute. He now runs the Universal Short Title Catalogue, a free, searchable database of all books published before 1601. His books include The Book in the Renaissance (2010), winner of the Phyllis Goodhart Gordan Prize.

Pettegree applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Invention of News: How the World Came to Know About Itself, and reported the following:
Debates over press freedom always assume that governments pose the greatest threat to the free flow of information. But from a historical perspective this is often far from the case. In The Invention of News I tell the story of the growth of a commercial culture of news in the five centuries before the daily paper - from the mediaeval period to the French and American Revolutions. At first, obtaining news was both difficult and expensive. Only those in the inner circles of power - the church, government and international merchants - could expect regular access to news. Of the three, governments had by far the hardest time of it. Unlike merchants, they had no agents or correspondents settled in distant ports. Unlike the church, they had no network of volunteer messengers criss-crossing the continent on pilgrimages. So in the sixteenth century Europe's princes began to establish their own network of ambassadors to observe and report. Page 99 turns the spotlight on these first diplomats, and the difficult tasks they faced to gather news often in hostile territory. This was an arduous posting. Ambassadors were often lonely, miserable and shunned by their hosts. It was hard to tell news from deliberate misinformation. Their dispatches were routinely opened, crude attempts at code easily broken. In the end diplomacy probably contributed relatively little to the rich, multi-media world of news described in this book: correspondence and conversation, gossip and public proclamation, pamphlets and song. Only in the seventeenth century did newspapers make their debut, and they too struggled to find a place in this diverse news environment. It would be two hundred years before the daily newspaper became the dominant news medium. We think of today's mix of print, broadcast and digital as a modern phenomenon. But The Invention of News tells the story of a news environment every bit as rich, varied and lively as our own.
Learn more about The Invention of News at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Book in the Renaissance.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 14, 2014

Elizabeth J. Remick's "Regulating Prostitution in China"

Elizabeth Remick is Associate Professor of Political Science at Tufts University. She is the author of Building Local States: China During the Republican and Post-Mao Eras (2004).

Remick applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Regulating Prostitution in China: Gender and Local Statebuilding, 1900-1937, and reported the following:
Regulating Prostitution in China looks at different choices that Chinese city governments made in the first half of the twentieth century about how to regulate prostitution, and how those choices affected the ability of local governments to do their work. Page 99 talks about how officials in one city, Guangzhou (a.k.a. Canton), chose to tax prostitution very heavily, in contrast with other cities that made little effort to get much revenue out of the industry. The interesting thing here is that those cities—Beijing, Tianjin, and the Chinese city in Shanghai—had many more brothels and prostitutes than Guangzhou, and therefore more potential revenue. Their officials also knew perfectly well about the Guangzhou model, but chose not to emulate it. The result was that Guangzhou had a huge source of funds that most other Chinese cities did not. This was one of the reasons that Guangzhou could fund an embryonic social welfare system, and build roads, schools, and a university, while the others couldn't. In short, regulating prostitution and taxing it heavily allowed the Guangzhou municipal government to create what we might think of as a modern local state, while other cities made different choices that sharply limited the kinds of services and infrastructure they could provide their residents.

What I'm trying to illustrate with all of this is that decisions governments make about gender can shape or limit their capacities in numerous and unpredictable ways. Regulated prostitution in China during the late Qing and Republic was all about gender: it was female prostitutes serving male clients who demonstrated they were "real "men by doing business, banqueting, and being entertained with their friends and business partners in brothels. Regulating prostitution, taxing it, and even creating a police monopoly over it in some places, institutionalized those gender relations. It also got local governments into all kinds of unsavory business, including giving prostitutes semi-monthly venereal disease checks, classifying prostitutes based on beauty, and bussing prostitutes to beauty pageants. In addition, police established reform institutions for former prostitutes, marrying them off to men who bailed them out. But regulation also paid for poorhouses, old people's homes, and public schools. These are things people now should think about as they unwittingly revisit the debates of a hundred years ago about how to deal with prostitution: whether to ban it, regulate and tax it, or ignore it.
Learn more about Regulating Prostitution in China at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Julia R. Azari's "Delivering the People’s Message"

Julia R. Azari is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Marquette University. She is coeditor of The Presidential Leadership Dilemma: Between the Constitution and a Political Party.

Azari applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Delivering the People's Message: The Changing Politics of the Presidential Mandate, and reported the following:
Page 99 explains the politics of interpreting the 1952 election. It reads:
In the Eisenhower White House, the idea of the “president of all the people” remained a speechwriting priority through all eight years in office. At the same time, the president’s policy positions derived very much from conservative ideas. This tension is evident in the way Eisenhower’s communications treated the 1952 election. It also helps to explain why electoral logic was used so infrequently despite the substantial election victory.
Eisenhower’s interpretation of the 1952 election is one of several case studies I use to examine how presidents have claimed electoral mandates in the post-Progressive era. The main argument of the book is that mandate-claiming reflects more about the state of presidential and party politics than about any particular election. Eisenhower’s enigmatic presidency is considered alongside that of Lyndon Johnson. It would be difficult to find two more different politicians in that role – in addition to different party affiliations, Johnson was a career politician with years in Congress and a love of the political game, while Eisenhower had barely participated in politics before his 1952 debut. Nevertheless, both demonstrated restraint in rhetorically tying their (considerable) election victories to policy decisions.

Despite their distinct beliefs and backgrounds, archival evidence reveals that Johnson and Eisenhower held similar ideals about how to present themselves in the role of the presidency. Both strived to represent the nation broadly, and to highlight the statesmanship qualities of the office. These values, I argue, are at odds with claiming a party mandate or telling an audience that you are “doing what you were elected to do.”

This approach to the presidency, and the political conditions that produced it, proved to be short-lived. The later chapters of the book examine how two trends, the growth of party polarization and the decline of public esteem for the presidency, have changed how presidents interpret elections. Beginning with Richard Nixon, presidents began to cast about for new narratives to justify executive leadership and to rally supporters. This rhetorical emphasis on party mandates and campaign promises has held true ever since, for presidents from Carter through Obama. The concluding chapter considers the implications of this development as well as the possibilities for its spread from the presidency to Congressional and state-level politics.
Learn more about Delivering the People's Message at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 11, 2014

Robin Waterfield's "Taken at the Flood"

Robin Waterfield is an independent scholar, living in southern Greece. In addition to more than twenty-five translations of works of Greek literature, he is the author of numerous books, including Dividing the Spoils: The War for Alexander the Great's Empire.

Waterfield applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Taken at the Flood: The Roman Conquest of Greece, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Taken at the Flood covers some of the aftermath of the Second Macedonian War (200-197). This was the war that established Roman dominance in the Greek lands to the east of Italy once and for all. It had been clear for some time that they planned to make themselves the brokers of power in the Greek world, and would tolerate no serious opposition to that goal. The Second Macedonian War was managed for Rome by a youngish consul called Titus Quinctius Flamininus, and in him the Romans found the perfect instrument for the conquest. It was not just his competence on the battlefield, but his ruthless diplomacy that won the war for Rome.

Rome had first intervened militarily in the Greek world only thirty years earlier. What the Romans found was that the Greeks had for over a century looked largely to the Macedonian kings to settle their disputes and keep the peace. So, once the decision had been taken to gain control of Greece, it was Macedon that had to be dealt with. The First Macedonian War (214-205) was inconclusive, chiefly because at exactly the same time Roman resources were being stretched to breaking point by the presence of Hannibal in Italy, and by his remarkable successes. The Romans could not commit fully to the war, and left their allies in Greece to do it for them. The allies were defeated by Philip V of Macedon, a dynamic king who saw himself as the heir to Philip II and Alexander the Great, and so the war ended inconclusively. Everyone knew the Romans would be back as soon as they had dealt with Hannibal.

So the purpose of the Second Macedonian War was to humiliate Philip V, and that was what it did. Page 99 of Taken at the Flood tells of some of the moves the Romans were making to reduce Macedon to the marginal status it had had in the Greek world prior to Philip II. Even that, however, would prove not to be enough to quench Macedonian independence: it would take the Romans a third war, the elimination of the Macedonian monarchy, and the division of the country into four republics, to achieve their goal.
Visit Robin Waterfield's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"The Most Dangerous Man In America"

Mark Perry is a military, intelligence, and foreign affairs analyst and writer. His articles have appeared in The Nation, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy, and the Los Angeles Times, among other outlets, and he is a frequent guest commentator and expert on Al Jazeera television network. He is the author of eight books, including Grant and Twain, Partners in Command, and Talking to Terrorists. Perry has served as editor and Washington bureau chief for a number of publications, including Washington D.C.'s City Paper and The Veteran, the largest circulation newspaper for veterans in the nation.

Perry applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Most Dangerous Man in America: The Making of Douglas MacArthur, and reported the following:
Novelist Ford Madox Ford supposed that a reader might open any book “to page 99 and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.” The test is clever and seems right: in the best novels, which is what he meant, fine writing and subtle style should be apparent on every page.

I would argue that the same is true for non-fiction, and particularly for American non-fiction, which is our nation’s unique genre. No one would claim that Russia, the country that gave us Gogol and Tolstoy, is a hotbed of non-fiction, but that’s not true for America, whose readers consume biographies and histories as often as the rest of us eat chicken.

So too, our best non-fiction rises to the level of literature, scaling past the simple recounting of events and facts. Great non-fiction becomes great literature when it moves us. This is as it should be: our country’s best and earliest writer, Thomas Paine, was an essayist, the finest memoir in any language was penned by our most celebrated military leader, Ulysses S. Grant and (arguably) the Lost Generation’s most influential stylist was neither Fitzgerald or Hemingway, but Edmund Wilson, whose Patriotic Gore and To The Finland Station are triumphs of brilliant historical writing.

There are counters to my claim. No one would deny the greatness of our literary giants (Whitman, Twain, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Angelou), whose legacy is the novel and poetry. Yet, even our most recent “greats” did more than just dabble in non-fiction. Gore Vidal wrote novels that were American and historical, Truman Capote’s most powerful work recounted a mass murder, James Baldwin made his name as a brilliant essayist and Norman Mailer placed himself as a character at the center of his era’s historical events.

For writers of history, like me, this legacy provides a unique challenge. My job as an historian is to tell my readers a story that they think they know, but don’t, to make my recounting of events literature. To follow in the footsteps of Paine and Grant and Wilson and Baldwin. I tried to do this in The Most Dangerous Man In America, a biography of Douglas MacArthur that ends with the end of World War Two.

It is not for me to say whether my book is literature, but I hope that in keeping with our country’s non-fiction legacy, it is gripping – and tells Americans something about their history they don’t know. So it is that The Most Dangerous Man In America’s “page 99” is page 181, a simple recounting of “the war within the war” of World War Two.

On that page, I make it clear that the most important story of our last global conflict did not involve a clash of arms, but a clash of intellects. Indeed, while the triumphs of Tarawa, Okinawa, D-Day, Stalingrad and Bastogne were key to the defeat of Japanese and German militarism, the most important battles of the war were fought far from the battlefield – and determined the war’s outcome. This is the central story of The Most Dangerous Man In America, and it’s in keeping with our country’s monumental non-fiction legacy.

For as Paine, Grant, Wilson and Baldwin have taught us, the greatest writers of history not only tell us what happened, but why it happened. It is when historians come to grips with the “why” that, as Ford says, “the quality of the whole” is revealed.
Learn more about The Most Dangerous Man in America at the Basic Books website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Blain Roberts's "Pageants, Parlors, and Pretty Women"

Blain Roberts received her Ph.D. in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is currently associate professor history at California State University, Fresno. Her articles have appeared in the Journal of Southern History and Southern Cultures. She has written op-eds for the New York Times and the History News Network. Her new book, Pageants, Parlors, and Pretty Women: Race and Beauty in the Twentieth-Century South is a Publishers Weekly Notable African-American Title.

Roberts applied the “Page 99 Test” to Pageants, Parlors, and Pretty Women and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book highlights one of things I hoped to accomplish in writing a history of female beauty in the Jim Crow and civil rights South: that our assumptions about the pursuit of beauty sometimes obscure a more complex story.

On page 99, readers will find writer bell hooks describing a cherished memory of growing up in Kentucky during the 1950s and ‘60s—having her hair done. As she and her five sisters sat in the kitchen while their mother washed and straightened their hair, she recalls, they enjoyed “[s]mells of burning grease and hair, mingled with the scent of our freshly washed bodies, with collard greens on the stove, with fried fish.”

To hooks, straightening hair was a positive childhood ritual, something she remembers fondly, in vivid, sensory terms. She associates it with other acts of nurturing, like cooking food. Straightening hair wasn’t about wanting to be white, she insists, but about black women’s culture and intimacy. She even says it was “empowering.”

The Black Is Beautiful movement of the late 1960s and 1970s, however, was rooted in the belief that straightening hair and lightening skin indicated a desire to be white or, at the very least, represented a concession to white beauty standards. Its proponents encouraged black women to embrace their curly hair and dark complexions. This shift in understanding—indeed, in seeing—was significant, freeing black women from norms and rituals, like straightening, that could breed feelings of inferiority and self-hatred.

Still, there is ample evidence that hair straightening was not all bad, and that in the South, it provided solace to women doing daily battle against the injustices of Jim Crow. Hair straightening fostered a sense of camaraderie and connection among black southern women. As they mingled in kitchens or in commercial beauty salons, women relaxed, chatted, and vented. Historian and southerner Willi Coleman remembers that her mother, a domestic, used the straightening sessions in her house to talk about her triumphs over “folks that were lower than dirt” and white men who saw her as sexually available. Coleman, for her part, took away from those moments “life sustaining messages which had seeped into my pores as I sat on the floor.”

Page 99 shows that the tactile and olfactory dimensions of the beautifying process, combined with what I call “shop talk,” formed the basis of a black female culture that had distinct benefits. As I argue later in the book, it could also lead to political activism.
Learn more about Pageants, Parlors, and Pretty Women at the University of North Carolina Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 7, 2014

Richard Bach Jensen's "The Battle against Anarchist Terrorism"

Richard Bach Jensen is Professor of History at the Louisiana Scholars' College at Northwestern State University. He has published a book about the theory and practice of Italian public security policy from 1848 to the crisis of the 1890s. His other publications deal with the repression of anarchist terrorism in Europe and America, the reform of the Italian police in the 19th century, the Italian political thinker Gaetano Mosca, Italy's system of administrative detention on off-shore islands, futurism and fascism, Mussolini, and Italian and Spanish women in modern politics.

Jensen applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Battle against Anarchist Terrorism: An International History, 1878-1934, and reported the following:
Dynamite! was supposed to be the original title of my book, since after this powerful explosive was invented in 1866, it became the signature, and much feared, weapon of anarchist terrorists. I present evidence that people at the time reacted to dynamite in ways comparable to reactions later on to the atomic bomb. (The title had to be changed because Cambridge had already published another book with dynamite in the title). In any case, page 99 of The Battle Against Anarchist Terrorism makes no specific references to bombings and assassinations, which make up a significant part of my book and formed the first global wave of terrorism. What that page does discuss is the secret international diplomatic and police efforts to contain anarchist terrorism, a virtually unknown story that forms the book’s central narrative. For many years, historians have had difficulty gaining access to documents regarding these highly secret activities (and some documentation still remains off limits, e.g., the British are withholding information about their highly effective network of spies and agents provocateurs who helped to keep England largely immune from anarchist terrorism). Over a period of twenty years of research, however, I was able to unearth much previously unknown information in the British, German, Austrian, Spanish, Italian, American, and Argentinian archives.

In the mid 1890s Austria-Hungary was at the center of efforts to coordinate international anti-anarchist efforts, just as later, in the early 1920s, it (or rather Austria) would be at the center of efforts to form an international policing organization (the predecessor of Interpol). In 1894, Austria wanted Switzerland to exchange intelligence regarding the activities of the anarchists directly with the Viennese police. Of course good intelligence is crucial for preventing terrorism and had been conspicuously lacking before the 1890s. 1894 had been a particularly alarming year for Europe and the world since in July of that year, the anarchists assassinated their first head of state (in this case, the president of France). During the next seven years, they would murder four more monarchs and heads of state and government, culminating with US President William McKinley in September 1901.

Austrian Foreign Minister Kálnoky’s efforts to organize anti-anarchist cooperation faced many obstacles. I point these out on page 99:
...the Swiss had no central police force to monitor the anarchists. This illustrates a central and often overlooked issue regarding the anti-anarchist campaign. With both Switzerland and, as we have seen, Germany, closer international cooperation in the surveillance of the anarchists required a reform, and especially a centralization, of national police forces. Many individual countries simply lacked the capacity to gather and distribute information about the anarchists without important structural changes in the organization of their police. A second major stumbling block for the Swiss, as for the English, was that they had long upheld the right of asylum for political exiles and were not eager to have their hands tied by an international agreement....

Kálnoky's plans to make Austria-Hungary into the gray eminence of the anti-anarchist campaign failed. The German Kaiser was enthusiastic for a frontal assault on the "revolutionary parties," but his government was not and gave only tepid support to Kalnoky's proposals.
Nor was the Hungarian half of the Dual Monarchy keen for Austria to spearhead an anti-anarchist crusade. Privately many European governments admitted their worry that taking a public stance might draw the unwanted wrath of the anarchists against their leaders. Since so many of the anarchist assassins were “lone wolves” unattached to any anarchist group known to the police, it was feared that no real defense existed against their attacks. This anxiety about the obscure lone bomber or assassin who could never be identified ahead of time and who might strike at any moment accounts for much of the pervasive fear that anarchist terrorism inspired between the 1880s and the 1920s.
Read an excerpt from The Battle against Anarchist Terrorism.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Maria Mutch's "Know the Night"

Maria Mutch was born and raised in Canada, and graduated from York University in Toronto. Her writing has appeared in Guernica, Necessary Fiction, Fiction Writers Review, Ocean State Review, Bayou Magazine, Literary Mama, The Malahat Review, Fiddlehead and Grain. She lives (and writes and runs) in Rhode Island with her husband and two sons.

Mutch applied the “Page 99 Test” to Know the Night: A Memoir of Survival in the Small Hours, her debut book, and reported the following:
From page 99:
I could stand before the painting as the sleepless parent of a wordless child and make these sorts of connections, teasing out the weakest threads between seemingly isolated and irrelevant occurrences and tying them together until they meant something. I can’t say why I would do this, only that it occurs in the same way that weather happens or tides, though to make the connections, I suppose, is to bear witness, to become a conduit for a language without words.
Know the Night is a memoir that sits outside memoir; it is about being awake with my son, who has Down syndrome, autism and doesn’t speak, but it is also about the polar explorer Richard Byrd and Antarctica, and there is a jazz component, too. And on page 99, there is my visit to see Van Gogh’s Irises at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The essence of the book is a search for meaning in a two year period when my son developed a sleeping disorder, and my reaction to Van Gogh’s painting is a good example of how I was seeing things. I was fascinated not only by the painting but by the information card pinned to the wall. If you go to see Irises, you will see that, behind the energetic flowers and pointy leaves, there is a creamy white background. If you read Van Gogh’s letter to his brother Theo, written in 1890 and not long before he died, then you find out that the background was intended to be pink. The information card on the museum wall says the change in color is “owing to a fugitive red pigment.” Those words seemed to me like found-poetry and I was taken up with the idea of the changing color and the fleeting nature of red. I was sleep deprived, as well, and living what seems now like a surreal existence. As I hunted for the meaning in my son’s loss of language and his sleep disorder, I had a tendency to view things as symbols. The impermanence of red and the resulting white void seemed to combine well with many of the ideas (the Antarctic ice, loss, mutability, silence) that I was exploring in the book and how I had begun to think. The last line on the page reads, “In the emptied background, then, a simple truth of our situation, that unreliability is an essential trait of what is living.”
Learn more about the book and author at Maria Mutch's website.

--Marshal Zeringue