Sunday, January 25, 2015

Stuart B. Schwartz's "Sea of Storms"

Stuart B. Schwartz is the George Burton Adams Professor of History and chair of the Council on Latin American and Iberian Studies at Yale University. His many books include All Can Be Saved: Religious Tolerance and Salvation in the Iberian Atlantic World.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Sea of Storms: A History of Hurricanes in the Greater Caribbean from Columbus to Katrina, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Sea of Storms catches a major turning point in the history of governmental response to natural disasters. The year 1780 created an extraordinary challenge for all the nations and colonies of the Caribbean. In that year, eight hurricanes made landfall in the region, among them the "Great" hurricane, the deadliest storm in the history of the Caribbean. Until the late 18th century, most countries and European empires had left disaster relief to the Church or to private charities, but this storm had roared up the chain of the Lesser Antilles during the American Revolution for independence when the Caribbean was awash with Spanish, English, and French ships and troops. The storm killed over 30,000 people, destroyed whole fleets, disrupted commerce, and along with the other storms, devastated the slave-based plantation economies of Martinique, Jamaica, Barbados and other islands. For the first time England's Parliament, realizing that the plantation economies had to be restored, sent significant funds for disaster relief to its colonies, fearing that not to do so might lead the discontented island colonies to join the continental rebels. As page 99 shows, the French governor of Martinique took a similar position, writing to Paris: "In this dreadful circumstance, it was absolutely necessary to distribute relief to the victims."

The great hurricane of 1780 and the other storms of that year proved to be a point of departure. Decisions in that year about governmental responsibility in the face of calamity had been shaped by politics as well as moral and charitable concerns, and that would become a recurrent aspect of the ways in which governments would respond to communal catastrophes thereafter. The questions generated by such intervention: are disasters a private or public matter? is disaster relief a basic human right? who should benefit from relief? and how can it be best provided without creating dependency or moral hazard? have remained at the heart of a debate that still rages today.
Learn more about Sea of Storms at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 23, 2015

Udi Greenberg's "The Weimar Century"

Udi Greenberg is assistant professor of history at Dartmouth College.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Weimar Century: German Emigres and the Ideological Foundations of the Cold War, and reported the following:
As it happens, Page 99 provides a snapshot of The Weimar Century’s broader story: how ideas and political traditions from Germany’s Weimar Republic (1918-1933) became integral to American thought, institutions, and diplomacy in the early Cold War. The book charts the remarkable influence that German émigrés, who fled the Nazis to the United States and then became members of the American intellectual and diplomatic establishment, exerted on the construction of American global hegemony after World War II.

The page is part of a section that tells the surprising story of Ernst Fraenkel, a renowned Socialist émigré who (almost by accident) became a top official in the U.S. occupation of Southern Korea after World War II. In interwar Germany, Fraenkel had been a rising star in the Socialist Party who sought to bolster democratic institutions and welfare policies. Drawing on this experience as he surveyed Korea after the war, Fraenkel was profoundly convinced that a stable democracy could only flourish if it developed through broad government programs for social and economic development. He therefore utilized his influence in the U.S. embassy in Seoul to promote massive American investments in Korean agriculture, industry, labor organization, and education. Ironically, at the very time that growing American panic over perceived “subversive” Communism led to purge of liberals and Socialists at home, figures such as Fraenkel were able to promote Socialist agendas abroad.

Equally important, Fraenkel’s story shows how political traditions from Weimar also had dark and tragic consequences in the early Cold War. Like almost all Weimar Socialists, Fraenkel was fiercely anti-Communist, and he believed the Soviet Union to be the source of overwhelming evil. In the Korean peninsula, this long-standing anti-Communist phobia translated into energetic advocacy to terminate U.S.-Soviet cooperation, ultimately resulting in the formation of two hostile states and the division of the Korean peninsula. Indeed, Fraenkel’s belief in the impossibility of coexistence between democracy and global Communism was so intense that he never pondered the high price of Korea’s division—the breaking of families, the enshrinement of tension, and the permanent destruction of Korean unity. Page 99 thus encapsulates how German ideas helped both expand and harshly limit the postwar political imagination.
Learn more about The Weimar Century at Udi Greenberg's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Judy Wajcman’s "Pressed for Time"

Judy Wajcman is the Anthony Giddens Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is the author of several books on technology and culture, such as The Social Shaping of Technology, Feminism Confronts Technology and TechnoFeminism.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Pressed for Time: The Acceleration of Life in Digital Capitalism, and reported the following:
Page 99 does contain one of the major themes of my book, but only narrowly. It introduces a study I conducted on how multimodal digital connectivity affects knowledge workers. That is, how having 24/7 communication via mobile phones and the Internet affects how work is organised and performed. On page 99 there is a Table showing that the average duration of work episodes during the day is just under three minutes. But it is only in subsequent pages that I build an argument about the relationship between technology and how we interpret and use it.

You learn later in the chapter that while most communication is now mediated by technologies, it is not the technology itself that dictates the pace of work. For example, I argue that email and information overload have become symbolic of work stress. The fact that we feel the need to respond to email quickly is not due to the speed of data transmission, but because of collective norms that have built up about appropriate response times.

So page 99 does give the reader a sense of the broader themes of the book: our perception that the pace of life is faster than it used to be and that digital gadgets are to blame. That we live in an acceleration society, constantly feeling rushed and pressed for time. But the book critiques the idea that digital technologies are inexorable driving acceleration of everyday life.

If we feel pressed for time today, it is not because of technology per se, but because of the priorities and parameters we ourselves set. The contemporary imperative of speed is as much a cultural artifact as it is a technological one. Digital time is no different – ultimately it needs to be understood as a product of the ways in which humans use, interact with, and indeed build technology. If we want to take more control of our time, and feel less pressed for time, we must contest the imperative of speed.
Learn more about Pressed for Time at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Raphael Brewster Folsom's "The Yaquis and the Empire"

Raphael Brewster Folsom is assistant professor of history at the University of Oklahoma.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Yaquis and the Empire: Violence, Spanish Imperial Power, and Native Resilience in Colonial Mexico, and reported the following:
From page 99:
The devil was everywhere in Jesuit writings about this period, a testament to the deep antagonism between the Jesuits and most of the Yaquis, and also to the vigorous persistence of non-Christian practices on the Yaqui mission. In one revealing passage, Pérez de Ribas described a Yaqui woman telling a Jesuit, “Father, look at the other side of the river; do you see how many hills, mountains, cliffs and peaks there are? In all of them, we had our superstitions; we revered all of them, and celebrated there.” The Yaquis invested the landscape with supernatural meanings, and the Jesuits were too few and too vulnerable to do much about it. The earliest accounts of the Yaqui mission told of sorcerers practicing black magic among the Yaqui people and conspiring to kill Jesuit missionaries. Satan appeared regularly among the Yaquis, sometimes in the form of an old man, sometimes as a young one. One Yaqui confessed that Satan had come to him in the form of a crow and had told him to kill all the Spaniards. Pérez de Ribas was so concerned about the devil’s grip on the Yaquis that he ordered a six-volume treatise on demonic magic by the Jesuit Martín del Río. After perusing it, he concluded that all the evil enchantments described in del Río’s book could be observed on the Yaqui mission. Indeed, Satan was so well established, and his cult had reached such heights of sophistication among the Yaquis, that it seemed that the devil had established an “endowed professorship” (cátedra) of the dark arts on the shores of the Yaqui River.
I couldn’t be happier with the results of this test. Page 99 begins with the heading, “The Devil and Yaqui Resistance.” Since the book is all about the relationships that came into existence between the Yaqui people of northern Mexico and the European representatives of the Spanish empire, this section is a good representative of the book as a whole. Jesuit missionaries first arrived among the Yaquis in 1617 under peculiar circumstances. The Yaquis had recently thrashed Spanish-led forces on the battlefield, not once or twice, but three times. Then, to the bafflement of the Spanish, the Yaquis sued for peace, offering fourteen Yaqui children to the Spanish as hostages, which was a common practice in northwest Mexico among native people who wanted to strike an alliance. The Spanish, in turn, offered Jesuits. There were still many Yaquis who did not want the Spanish as allies, and wanted Jesuits among them even less. So when the Jesuits arrived, they were horrified at the abundance of what they thought were Satanic practices. Andrés Pérez de Ribas, the lead missionary, claimed that Satan was so well established among the Yaquis that he had created an “endowed professorship” (cátedra) of the dark arts on the Yaqui River. The Jesuits were too few and too scared to destroy Yaqui religious practices. Over time, the Jesuits had a profound influence on spiritual life among the Yaquis. But “the Devil”—the Jesuit term for Yaqui adherence to ancient ritual practices—was never far off. Page 99 of The Yaquis & The Empire is a small but representative slice of a larger story about people of unimaginably disparate cultures learning to live together under circumstances of extreme violence and political turbulence. Fans of Brian Moore’s novel, Black Robe, and the wonderful movie of the same name, will find much of interest here. (In my humble opinion).
Learn more about The Yaquis and the Empire at the Yale University Press website.

Cover story: The Yaquis and the Empire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Srimati Basu's "The Trouble with Marriage"

Srimati Basu is Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and Anthropology at the University of Kentucky. She is the author of She Comes to Take Her Rights: Indian Women, Property, and Propriety, the editor of Dowry and Inheritance (Issues in Contemporary Indian Feminism series), and the coeditor of Conjugality Unbound: Sexual Economy and the Marital Form in India.

Basu applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Trouble with Marriage: Feminists Confront Law and Violence in India, and reported the following:
I was hoping that page 99 would contain one of the legal cases animating The Trouble with Marriage, which demonstrate the quotidian ways in which marriage, parenting, labor or care are shaped and contested. But page 99 has few words on it. It depicts life in the courtroom statistically and visually, dominated by an image of a confinement cell [inset, below left; click to enlarge ] and an analysis of court data. One may read these to reveal critical themes nonetheless.

Page 99 is part of Chapter 4, “Justice Without Lawyers?: Living the Family Court Experiment,” literally the core of this project. I read about the establishment of new Family Courts in India which would generally exclude lawyers, with the goal of enhancing people’s direct engagement with legal matters and providing a less alienating, more gender equality friendly space. My book began as a legal ethnography of the Kolkata courts, spanning a decade of fieldwork. It grew to encompass the governance of family law alongside that of domestic violence and rape, in courts and police stations and mediation organizations. But life in the Family Courts is the ethnographic center of the book, and page 99 appropriately brings us there, with considerations of whether the court has improved the speed of clearing cases. The broader contention of the chapter -- that set-aside courts for special issues can move cases along, but the new format still works through familiar forms of legal discipline and process – can be gleaned from the two brief paragraphs of text.

The confinement cell reminds us, similarly, that the idea of a new-style courtroom may be different from its materialization: the jail-like enclosure seems at odds with the notion of a comfortable, friendly space. The image is a reminder of my argument that these courts may have enhanced the unilateral power of judges in curbing that of lawyers, rather than empowering litigants. The cell typically houses poor men who might be jailed for failing to pay (or being unable to pay) maintenance: while husbands routinely default on maintenance, poorer men become symbols of the State’s serious intent. Women’s economic woes in marital trouble range across classes. The image also graphically conveys a point made in several chapters, that using the protective provisions of criminal law gives women some leverage against the disadvantages generated by gender-neutral civil marriage law; however, criminal law works through profoundly patriarchal notions of harm and reparation.
Learn more about The Trouble with Marriage at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sonia A. Hirt's "Zoned in the USA"

Sonia A. Hirt is Professor and Associate Dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech. She publishes on the history and theory of cities. She is the author of Iron Curtains: Gates, Suburbs and Privatization of Space in the Post-socialist City and coeditor most recently of The Urban Wisdom of Jane Jacobs.

Hirt applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Zoned in the USA: The Origins and Implications of American Land-Use Regulation, and reported the following:
From page 99:
The third important legal development [in the history of building regulations] was the application of the nuisance doctrine in 12th-century England (Fifoot 1970 [1949]). Initially, the concept was employed only by the Crown against perceived encroachments upon royal lands and public roadways. But in the subsequent centuries, the doctrine became widely used by private individuals who could sue other private individuals to recover damages. Simultaneously, the number of activities covered under the doctrine expanded greatly and included issues related to public health and safety. In one old case with exclusionary modern-day undertones, offenders were accused of having subdivided their houses to the point where they had become “overpestered” with the poor (Abrams and Washington 1989).

The Renaissance (1400-1600) and Baroque (1600-1750) marked the dawn of Western modernity and brought about a new attitude toward city-building that centered on formal, pre-calculated notions of order and of standardization of space. These principles followed from the widely held belief of Renaissance and Baroque artists and scientists in universal verities that underlie both good social organization and good city form (Benevolo 1981). They were manifested in the design of the grandest and best-known public spaces and structures constructed during the period (e.g., London’s St. Paul and Rome’s St. Peter), and in the substantial reshaping of the street network and city-block structure that took place in many of Europe’s major cities. They were also reflected in an increased level of urban regulation. The latter was grounded as much in cultural change as it was in practical matters. Many European cities grew immensely during the 15th and 16th centuries, which led to health and congestion problems of proportions unseen before. The population of London, for instance, grew multifold; construction spilled well beyond the city walls, and living conditions radically worsened. Elizabeth I responded by passing a decree that made it an offense to construct any new buildings within the cities of London and Westminster or within three miles of their gates. Another decree mandated that new buildings be constructed using existing foundations. The subdivision and subletting of existing houses was banned.

Later decrees regulated building methods and materials in much greater detail. London’s great fire of 1666 led to the Building Act of 1667 took urban regulations to a whole new level, technically in the name of fire safety but ultimately transforming the overall city structure. Narrow alleys were prohibited and new streets had to conform to new standards. Notably, buildings were divided into four categories based on the type of streets they faced, but also based on class. Each type was subject to different rules for building materials, wall thickness and heights.
Page 99 of Zoned in the USA recounts some of the threshold moments in the history of Western urban building regulations. Specifically, it refers to the emergence of nuisance doctrine in medieval England. Nuisance doctrine is a concept that dates back to Roman times and forms the basis of many building, environmental and land-use laws that are in force today. Its basic idea is that property owners should not use their land and property in ways harmful to the ways their neighbors may use and enjoy theirs (Sic utere tuo, ut alienum non laedas or Use what is yours in a way that you don't harm what is another's). Page 99 gives examples of some surprising early applications of the nuisance doctrine; i.e., to control the social class of renters in London. Later, p. 99 deals with the development of street and building regulations from the Renaissance and the Baroque—regulations that have influenced our contemporary laws as well.

The broader point of p. 99 and the history chapters of Zoned in the USA is to highlight continuity and rupture in the way people control the built environment around them. Even though many contemporary building laws can be traced to laws from the past, the sheer extent to which we regulate the built environment today is unprecedented. American land-use and building laws, specifically, are shockingly detailed to the point of being oppressive (a strange phenomenon, I think, in a country where there is so much talk about freedom and property rights). Spontaneity is either outright outlawed or can operate only under severe restrictions. If you do not believe me, try to open a small business or rent a part of your home to a friend, if your home is located in a district labeled exclusively for single-family homes in any American city, town, or suburb. I predict you will encounter various legal problems. Our contemporary zoning laws are much more apt at controlling private activity as well as social class than those of medieval England.
Learn more about Zoned in the USA at the Cornell University Press website.

Writers Read: Sonia A. Hirt.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Lesley J. Gordon's "A Broken Regiment"

Lesley J. Gordon is professor of history at the University of Akron, author of General George E. Pickett in Life and Legend, and coeditor of Inside the Confederate Nation: Essays in Honor of Emory M. Thomas.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, A Broken Regiment: The 16th Connecticut's Civil War, and reported the following:
In my book, I wanted to examine some of the complexities and ironies that emerged in the experiences of a ragtag Civil War regiment that simply struggled to survive war. The more I researched them, the more it became clear that this unit was not an exemplar of high military honor or heroism. They faltered in battle, bristled against commanders and bickered amongst themselves. After their final ignominy of capture and imprisonment, they then recounted to the postwar public a selective story that idealized their experiences. Still, they were a remarkable group who stood loyal to one another and persevered through challenges great and small.

Page 99 comes early in a chapter focused on Portsmouth, Virginia and titled “A Perfect Village.” During the summer and fall of 1863, while the major armies participated in famed campaigns like Gettysburg, Vicksburg and Chickamauga, the nomadic 16th Connecticut settled into another new garrison, largely on the margins of the war. Here, the regiment created a camp that was so comfortable and pleasant--with a church, a theater, cabins, plentiful food and family visits --that it hardly seemed like soldiering at all. On this particular page, I describe their mixed reaction to women visiting. Some like Pvt. John Cuzner, who discouraged his mother and sweetheart from coming, believed military camp was “no place for women . . . too much vulgar talk.” However, others welcomed them, maintaining that their presence improved morale and decorum. This page also describes the soldiers’ generally upbeat reception toward Sarah Burnham, the mother of Lt. Col. John Burnham. She would spend several months with the men, caring for the sick and nursing many back to health. Corporal Woodford called Mrs. Burnham a “perfect angel compared to her son.”

Yet such calmness and good will did not last: when ordered to move further south in January 1864, members spitefully burned the camp to the ground rather than hand it over to another regiment. Within a year nearly the entire regiment would be captured and sent to Andersonville prison where scores would suffer and die from malnutrition and disease. The contrast to Portsmouth could not be starker. Unlike many of the regiment’s more turbulent experiences, Page 99 offers a behind the scenes glimpse into a rare moment of domestic calm during the every-changing reality of soldier life during wartime.
Learn more about A Broken Regiment at the Louisiana State University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 16, 2015

W. Joseph Campbell's "1995: The Year the Future Began"

W. Joseph Campbell is a professor of communication at American University in Washington, D.C. He is the author of six non-fiction books, including Getting It Wrong: Ten of the Greatest Misreported Stories in American Journalism (2010) and Yellow Journalism: Puncturing the Myths, Defining the Legacies (2001).

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his recently published book, 1995: The Year the Future Began, and reported the following:
I am intrigued by the Page 99 Test, about which I learned only recently. I described the concept to a class of honors students in Fall semester 2014, but they were mostly skeptical. I am undeterred, though, and intend to incorporate the benchmark test in semesters ahead.

Page 99 of my latest book, 1995: The Year the Future Began, offers a revealing glimpse at one of the most important lasting consequences of 1995 and the so-called “Trial of the Century” — the proceedings where O.J. Simpson answered charges of slashing to death his former wife, Nicole, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, outside her Los Angeles townhouse in June 1994.

The Simpson trial spread like a stain across much of 1995, running from late January to early October. The trial was broadcast live from the Los Angeles courtroom of Judge Lance Ito and was a media circus from the start. It was both riveting and appalling, and invited extravagant characterizations: The case was likened to “a modern day Greek tragedy,” to “the Othello of the Twentieth Century,” to a “Bayeux tapestry of contemporary American culture.”

But with the critical distance offered by the passing of nearly 20 years, those characterizations seem hyperbolic, and even a bit absurd, especially as the Simpson case exerted almost no lasting influence on American jurisprudence and legal doctrine. Nor did the case offer long-term lessons about race relations in America. (Simpson, who serving a prison sentence in Nevada on criminal convictions unrelated to the 1994 murders, is a black former professional football star. His former wife and Goldman were white.) Simpson’s acquittal in the “Trial of the Century” shocked many white Americans and elated many African Americans. Those disparate reactions were striking and widely discussed in October 1995, but they had little lasting effect. Polling data show that the Simpson verdicts did not leave enduring strains in white-black relations in America.

The most important lasting contributions of the Simpson trial came in introducing to mainstream American culture the promise and potential of forensic DNA testing. Although the prolonged presentation of genetic evidence was the trial’s most tedious stretch, the Simpson case allowed the American public to gain familiarity with DNA testing, a familiarity that has deepened since 1995. Simpson’s acquittal — due in measure to the sloppy collection and analysis of genetic evidence — also encouraged a push for improved procedures in gathering, storing, processing, and analyzing DNA evidence samples.

Moreover, as I write on page 99:
The trial’s focus on DNA anticipated and perhaps stimulated broad popular interest in DNA and its seemingly wondrous capabilities. Prime-time television series such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and its spinoffs draw on techniques of DNA collection and testing and have elevated the work to a dramatic and decisive level. Such portrayals of criminalists and detectives have been criticized for simplifying and minimizing the intricacies of forensic analysis, but the shows are undeniably popular. …

The challenges Simpson’s lawyers posed to forensic evidence collection in the 1995 case clearly inspired a CSI episode that aired in October 2002, on the seventh anniversary of Simpson’s acquittal. The show, titled “The Accused Is Entitled,” was about a shaggy-haired young movie star named Tom Haviland, played by actor Chad Michael Murray, who was accused of fatally stabbing two fans in a sexual encounter in his hotel suite. Haviland hired a high-profile lawyer and a veteran criminalist who turned up flaws and deficiencies in the CSI team’s evidence-gathering procedures and in effect put the team on trial.
Learn more about 1995: The Year the Future Began at the University of California Press website and at Campbell’s 1995 Blog. FAQs about the book and the year are accessible at Campbell’s personal website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 15, 2015

William J. Maxwell's "F.B. Eyes"

William J. Maxwell is associate professor of English and African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, where he teaches modern American and African American literature. He is the author of New Negro, Old Left: African American Writing and Communism between the Wars and the editor of Claude McKay's Complete Poems.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, F.B. Eyes: How J. Edgar Hoover’s Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature, and reported the following:
If the “Page 99 Test” bets that the arbitrary can reveal the typical, then it pays off in the case of F.B. Eyes. Here, page 99 reveals one of the book’s consistent themes: the angry and disproportionate reaction of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI to any printed criticism, a failing that also shows the Bureau’s admirable respect for the power of literature. In the Cold War year of 1950, the lawyer and investigative journalist Max Lowenthal published a thick anti-FBI expose simply titled The Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Hoover Bureau’s appetite for “rumors, suspicion, and gossip,” Lowenthal concluded, gave the lie to its reputation as “the infallible watchdog of American security and liberty.” As page 99 of my book notes, “Lowenthal, a former Supreme Court clerk, onetime congressional aide, and friend of President Truman, derived little comfort from the quiet approval of his indictment at the White House: word alone of his book’s appearance attracted a prodigious Bureau counterattack. Wilting under fire, sales of The Federal Bureau of Investigation failed to break seventy-five hundred, disappointing distinguished independent publisher William Sloane.” Despite this quantifiable success, Hoover remained furious that his agents had failed to pick up scent of Lowenthal’s book prior to an advanced notice in Publishers Weekly. “‘Mr. Hoover, if I had known this book was going to be published,’ swore Louis Nichols, head of the FBI Crime Records Division, ‘I’d have thrown my body between the presses and stopped it.’”

Nichols and other Bureau critic-spies failed to block the publication of most of their literary targets: as F.B. Eyes demonstrates, evidence of book-killing, stop-the-presses censorship is sparse in the long history of Bureau literary criticism. What is far more plentiful is proof of the FBI’s special interference in African American literature—my book’s central subject. Drawing on over 14,000 pages of newly released FBI files, many of which can be found at the book’s companion website, F.B. Eyes exposes the Bureau’s intimate scrutiny of five decades of African American poems, plays, essays, and novels. Starting in 1919, year one of Harlem’s renaissance and of Hoover’s career at the Bureau, secretive FBI “ghostreaders” monitored the latest developments in African American letters. By the time of Hoover’s death in 1972, these ghostreaders knew enough to simulate a sinister black literature of their own. The official aim behind the Bureau’s close reading was to anticipate political unrest. Yet FBI surveillance grew to influence the creation and public reception of African American literature in the heart of the twentieth century.

Taking its title from Richard Wright’s poem “The FB Eye Blues,” F.B. Eyes details how the FBI threatened the international travels of African American writers and prepared to jail dozens of them in times of national emergency. All the same, it shows that the Bureau’s paranoid style could prompt insightful criticism from Hoover's ghostreaders and creative replies from their literary targets. For authors such as Claude McKay, James Baldwin, and Sonia Sanchez, the suspicion that government spy-critics tracked their every word inspired rewarding stylistic experiments as well as disabling self-censorship. In the end, then, F.B. Eyes illuminates both the serious harms of state surveillance—emphasized on page 99—and some of the ways in which imaginative writing can withstand and exploit it.
Visit the F.B. Eyes companion website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

J. Holstein, R.S. Jones and G. Koonce's "Is There Life After Football?"

James A. Holstein is Professor of Sociology in the Department of Social and Cultural Sciences at Marquette University. He is the author, with Jaber F. Gubrium, of The Self We Live By: Narrative Identity in the Postmodern World.

Richard S. Jones is Professor of Sociology and Faculty Athletics Representative at Marquette University. He is the author of Doing Time: Prison Experience and Identity with Thomas J. Schmid.

George E. Koonce, Jr. played professional football for a decade, the majority of those years with the Green Bay Packers, with whom he won the Super Bowl XXXI title. After the NFL he held positions as Senior Associate Athletic Director and Director of Development at Marquette University, Athletic Director at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Director of Player Development for the Packers, and Special Assistant to the Athletic Director at East Carolina University. Koonce is currently Vice President of Advancement at Marian University.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Is There Life After Football? Surviving the NFL, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Is There Life After Football? reveals facets of post-NFL life that will surprise most NFL fans. We already know about the sensational successes and failures some players experience when they retire: the millionaire media superstars on one hand, the tragic tales of Junior Seau, who committed suicide, or Warren Sapp who went spectacularly broke, on the other. But life after football is full of much more routine—yet daunting—challenges, such as those faced by Brandon Gold on page 99. The book isn’t an apology for spoiled players, but it does offer a window into their sometimes troubled worlds.

Gold had it all. As he tells us, he was a good looking white guy who signed one really lucrative NFL contract, won a Super Bowl, and made a Pro Bowl roster. So what could possibly be Gold’s problem? By his own account, his career ended with a whimper, not a bang. Injury cost him his blazing speed and no team signed him when his contract expired. He didn’t exactly retire, and he wasn’t exactly fired. He was just cut off from a dream he’d lived since the second grade when he’d decided all he wanted in life was to play in the NFL.

When Gold’s dream disappeared, he had no clue about what came next. He’s lived a decent life since then, making various “career moves” that haven’t exactly panned out. He doesn’t really have a job, nor is he passionate about much of anything. He’s depressed, aimless, lost. He shares this fate with hundreds of other former players. They experience a sort of culture shock that cuts them off from the camaraderie of the locker room, denies them the decadence of “livin’ large” with their fellow players, eliminates the comfort and security of having lives completely structured for them, and puts an end to the adulation of millions who exalt their “gloried selves.” On top of this, most former players feel the pain of the gridiron every day of their post-football lives. Gold is one of the lucky ones. He’s still relatively fit and active. But when he recently underwent a physical exam, his doctors looked at his full-body MRI and asked him, “What kind of car accident were you in?” Gold hadn’t been in a car crash; he’d been in the NFL.
Learn more about Is There Life After Football? at the NYU Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue