Friday, June 29, 2007

Susan Nagel's "Mistress of the Elgin Marbles"

Susan Nagel has written for the stage, the screen, scholarly journals, the Gannett newspaper chain, and Town & Country, and is the author of a critically acclaimed book on the novels of Jean Giraudoux.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to her book Mistress of the Elgin Marbles: A Biography of Mary Nisbet, Countess of Elgin and reported the following:
I just turned to p99 in Mistress of the Elgin Marbles and found Mary in Constantinople, where she had gamely gone at the age of 21 with her new husband, Lord Elgin, Britain's Ambassador Extraordinaire to the Ottoman Empire. On p99, Mary has just given birth to her second child, her first daughter, and writes home to her mother that the baby has been Christened and innoculated. She is happy to report that the baby, also called Mary, 'sailed through the smallpox inoculation without reaction.' Out of her own personal fortune, Lady Elgin, had funded the shipment of a quantity of Dr. Jenner's newly discovered smallpox vaccine to the Middle East. She planned not only to innoculate her own children but also to offer the serum to other children to save lives. So grateful was the Ottoman Emperor, Selim III, after his own children received the vaccine, that he gave Mary unprecedented favor. She was the first Western woman invited inside Topkapi Palace and it was she who was given the Emperor's permission to remove the marble sculptures from the Parthenon, the result of which action remains controversial today. Mary, who was a wonderful mother and adored her children (and, obviously, had great concern for all children), would subsequently take the then revolutionary stand, contrary to her husband's wishes and the laws of Britain at that time, that it was she, (and every woman) who had the right to decide whether or not she would become pregnant. Mistress of the Elgin Marbles is the story of a passionate woman, mother, talented diplomat and humanitarian, who unwittingly changed the course of women's rights and cultural history.
Browse inside Mistress of the Elgin Marbles and read a brief excerpt.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Robert Wilder's "Daddy Needs A Drink"

Robert Wilder's column, “Daddy Needs a Drink,” is published monthly in the Santa Fe Reporter.

Daddy Needs a Drink is his first book; he applied the "Page 99 Test" to it and reported the following:
Just last week, a woman in a silk bowler stopped me on the street to tell me how much she enjoyed my daughter Poppy in a recent performance she was in. In a feeble attempt to be humble on my daughter’s (and my) behalf, I asked her casually, “Oh, did you like it?” The woman became quite angry with me as if I had just insulted her grandmother’s cat and yelled, “Didn’t YOU see it?” about two inches from my face. The excerpt below is from when Poppy was still in preschool. This fall she’ll be entering the sixth grade. Obviously, I’m still struggling with the murky area between deep humility and bragging about my daughter acting and singing confidently in an ensemble cast on the main stage in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I have a feeling that I’ll be struggling like this for a very long time.

Excerpt from page 99 of Daddy Needs a Drink:

Santa Fe is a relatively small town and it got back to my wife that I was arrogant, a snob, and far too proud of my daughter and myself. I don’t know what the gaggle of strawdogs expected, maybe another round of bloody marys with sides of tequila to thank them? So I changed my compliment-reply-tactic from silence to what all those obnoxious bumper stickers had advertised to me; I would practice kindness of the not-so-random variety. A few months later at her preschool open house, a man I had never met saw Poppy acting out the role of grocery store clerk in the dramatic play area. She had on the standard dress-up garb: dandruffy adult glasses, oversized lab coat, pink feather boa and high heels donated from some reformed ex-hooker. Reminded me of Dennis Rodman when he started his fall from what little grace he had. Poppy was muttering something about the injustice of tax on food and clothing when the father said: “Is that your daughter?”

“She is today,” I answered good-naturedly. He shot me a soft and confused look. I could tell he was one of those overly sensitive Santa Fe males from his fuzzy sweater, comfortable shoes, yoga pants, tortoise shell spectacles and hair like a toy poodle’s.

“She is very precious, you know,” he said as if passing on some odd snippet of trivia he’d just read. “And articulate. So very clever.”

I landed my new approach: “Thank you so much. You are very kind to say that. Very kind.” Which he was. I thought it would end there, and I could go home and tell my wife that my reputation in this town was changing, yessirree bob. Soon, they’d be calling me Humble Hank. Surprisingly, poodle man grabbed me by the shoulders and stared deeply into my eyes.
Visit Robert Wilder's website to read more about Daddy Needs A Drink, including a few choice excerpts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 25, 2007

Katharine Weber's "Triangle"

Katharine Weber is the author of four novels: Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear, The Music Lesson, The Little Women, and Triangle. Her paternal grandmother finished buttonholes for the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in 1909.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to Triangle and reported the following:
You asked:

Is Ford Madox Ford's statement "Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you," accurate for your book?

Page 99 of my novel Triangle is a true fractal of the whole in striking ways, proving Ford Madox Ford's crackpot statement right, in this instance. The page is the middle of a transcribed interview from 1999, a prickly and combative conversation between Esther Gottesfeld, then age 104, the last living survivor of the Triangle shirtwaist factory fire of 1911, and Ruth Zion, a humorless Triangle fire scholar blinded by her own agenda. Ruth's presumptuous and flatfooted questions are only implied by the tone and content of Esther's answers.

Triangle is a novel that questions not only how we tell our stories, how we determine what history is, where we get our information, how information is preserved and how it is distorted, but also and especially how we listen to stories, how we also insist on hearing them in the ways that shape our knowledge and beliefs about history. This interview is one of a trio that have taken place in Esther's final years; the three-ness of these interview transcripts is one of many instances of threes and triangles throughout the novel. Repetition is also a crucial element, and here on this page Esther is forced by Ruth to go deeper into detail than is her preference when discussing her fiance Sam, who, along with her sister, died a hero's death in that sweatshop fire she survived on March 25th, 1911. She describes her experience of the fire in crucially varied ways in the course of the novel. Page 99 has an important iteration of some key elements of the story: it gives a sense of Esther's voice, and it offers tiny but illuminating details about Sam, how she and her sister met him on the job, how much he was paid, and how workers were intimidated at the Triangle. It's a rich and truly representative page of the novel.

Page 99 of Triangle:

clean man, always with a clean shirt, because he would go from one machine to the next machine, all the time, all through the day. He was a gentleman. That was how we met him, he was always fixing our machines, making adjustments when the belt would break or come loose, or something needed to be changed, or you broke a needle. My sister had a machine with a cockeyed wheel when we began and he had to keep fixing it so many times she told him he was making it cockeyed just so he could come over to her again.

[question] Yes, then he and I began to go for walks on our day off, that was how we became engaged. I don’t want to discuss this so much, it isn’t important to the story of the fire anyway.

[question] We had Sunday off because we were piece workers. Some of the week workers had to go on Sundays too. There was this sign in the elevator in the Triangle, it said YOU DON'T COME TO WORK SUNDAY, YOU DON’T COME TO WORK MONDAY. But we were above that, except sometimes Sam went in on Sundays, when they needed him, and he could make good money doing that. The elevator men, they made good money that way, doing extra days.

[question] I don’t remember how much they gave him.

[question] I am sure he told me about his money once we were engaged. We would be making plans for the future and telling each other everything like any engaged couple. We talked about the future and we made our plans. We were kids. But I don’t remember now so much. I am an old lady now.

[question] He had four hundred and twelve dollars in a cigar box under his bed, from his room, he had a room on Allen Street, they gave me that after the fire. The landlady saved it from anyone stealing and she gave me the cigar box. It was all he had, but some clothes.
Visit Katharine Weber's website and read an excerpt from Triangle.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Russell and Alexander's "A History of Witchcraft"

Jeffrey Burton Russell is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara and author of at least seventeen books. His five-volume history detailing the concept of the Devil is recognized by scholars as the definitive text on the subject. Brooks Alexander is the author of Witchcraft Goes Mainstream and has written numerous articles on witchcraft and neo-paganism and their effect on contemporary religious movements.

Russell applied the "Page 99 Test" to their book, A History of Witchcraft, and found that the test failed: the page is entirely occupied by an illustration. As is often the case, the test grade is not as interesting as the comments, which Russell generously provided:
The best reference to the book is Jeffrey Burton Russell and Brooks Alexander, A New History of Witchcraft: Sorcerers, Heretics, Pagans (London: Thames and Hudson, 2006) -- irritatingly put out in the US as A History of Witchcraft: Sorcerers, Heretics, Pagans, Second Edition (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2006). The new edition contains much updated and expanded material on "Wicca" and related New Age religions.

Here are the main points of the book:

"Witchcraft" is found in virtually all cultures. But the meaning of the word varies hugely, whence the threefold subtitle.

A vast variety of magical practices exist in many societies, including ancient Europe. Anthropologists have tended to lump them together as "witchcraft" (see Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2002 ed.) for want of a better word.

We prefer the term sorcery, which involves using objects, words, and gestures to accomplish a magical end, whether beneficent or maleficent. The basic difference between magical and religious practices is that magical practices are quasi-technological: if you do such and such, such and such will happen; whereas religion involves prayers and petitions that do not work automatically but are subject to the will of God (or gods).

In the late Middle Ages in Europe, witchcraft took on a different meaning. Since about 1050 church authorities embarked on a powerful program of reform: educational, moral, and doctrinal. This program achieved vast improvements in the morality and knowledge of both clergy and laity, but the opposite side of the coin was prosecution of heretics. Beginning in the 14th century, witchcraft came to mean the practice of blasphemous rites in worship of and submission to the Devil.

How many people actually practiced such rites is unclear, though probably not very many. However, fear of witchcraft became intense in the 16th and 17th centuries in both Protestant and Catholic regions. Over 100,000 persons were tried for witchcraft and about 60,000 executed (the figure of "millions" is a fantastic hyperbole invented in the late 19th century).

The witch prosecutions ceased by the mid-eighteenth century.

Toward the end of the late 19th century a number of occult movements occurred, notably that of Alisteir Crowley. Borrowing from Crowley, Gerald Gardner invented a number of documents that he alleged showed the existence of the witch cult throughout European history, only for Gardner the cult was good and the Christians evil. This point of view was reinforced by a well-known Egyptologist named Margaret Murray. A number of occultists followed Gardner or invented their own varieties of witchcraft or "Wicca." Part of the Neopagan movement of the past few decades, these Wicca Neopagans have spread remarkably in the US, the UK, and other countries.

Though the varieties of Wicca paganism are vast, the underlying principles are dismissal of monotheism, along with positive attitudes toward polytheism, nature-worship, and feminism. Efforts to connect modern Wicca with earlier forms of witchcraft fail historically and are artificial. Most thoughtful Wiccans now happily admit that theirs is a new religion that they themselves have created.
Read more about A New History of Witchcraft: Sorcerers, Heretics, Pagans at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 22, 2007

Shaena Lambert's "Radiance"

Shaena Lambert is the author of a book of short stories, The Falling Woman, which was chosen by The Globe and Mail as a top book of the year and was short-listed for the Danuta Gleed Award.

Radiance, her first novel, is about an enigmatic Hiroshima survivor who comes to New York for surgery on her face and the complex relationship she has with her hosts.

Lambert applied the "Page 99 Test" to Radiance and reported the following:
The test seems to work for Radiance.

On page 99 Daisy, the main character, thinks about "the nature of the enemy" - ie, why we hate en masse, and what happens to that hatred once the cause is gone.

The book takes place in 1952, seven years after the end of WW2. Daisy has the job of looking after Keiko, a Hiroshima survivor who has come to New York to have surgery on her face. But Keiko behaves badly - she's aloof rather than grateful. She steals. She lies. On page 99, Daisy is tired - tired of being nice, tired of controlling her own conflicted emotions. She is sitting in the UN plaza thinking about all the hate people used to feel during the war. What happened to it? Did it disappear? Can hate be turned on and off like a light switch - or is it still there?

She remembers a poster she saw depicting Tojo as a worm, with crossed eyes, many teeth in a fleshy-lipped mouth. He looked venomous. But in fact (she learned later, seeing his photo during the war crimes tribunal) he was actually a grave, good-looking gentleman. With their hatred they had transformed him.

Daisy seems fairly conventional on the surface but like many normal-seeming people she uses her normalness as a smokescreen. Here, once she gets thinking, she does try to do justice to the question - seeing it not just from her own point of view, but imagining the hatred that fueled Japanese aggression as well.

All of this is pretty central to the themes of the book.
Visit Shaena Lambert's website and read an excerpt from Radiance.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Michael Boylan's "A Just Society"

Michael Boylan is Chair of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies at Marymount University. His many publications include The Extinction of Desire, Basic Ethics, and A Just Society.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to A Just Society and reported the following:
On page 99 of this book the reader is in part two: the just society. (Part one discussed the just person.) It is the conjecture of this book (following Plato) that the same basic rules apply to the just society as apply to the just person with a little adjustment for scale and group dynamics.

On page 99 the issue of diversity and the common body of knowledge is addressed. These are two important components for a just society. In a just society, there should be space and encouragement for people of all sorts to engage in the public dialogue (subject to the personal worldview imperative: “All people must develop a single comprehensive and internally coherent worldview that is good and that we strive to act out in our daily lives"). This eliminates tolerance for those who advocate positions contrary to this imperative: completeness, coherence, goodness (as defined by a recognized moral theory), and possible applicability to real life. Those who want to join the community who are intolerant, such as the KKK, find themselves in the position of advocating incoherent positions that cannot be connected to any recognized moral theory: ethical intuitionism, virtue ethics, utilitarianism, and deontology (see my Basic Ethics (Upper Saddle River, N.J., 2000 — second edition in the works).

Well, if you want to think about foundational principles that support public policy and ethics, then you should read this. It is not enough to give an opinion off the top of your head. Rather, some considered reflection based upon some foundational principles is far superior because it recognizes our rational nature. Agree or note: give it a look: http:/
Read more about A Just Society at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Mark Vernon's "Science, Religion and the Meaning of Life"

Mark Vernon is a writer, broadcaster and journalist. He is the author of Science, Religion and the Meaning of Life, The Philosophy of Friendship, and Business: the Key Concepts.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to Science, Religion and the Meaning of Life and reported the following:
On p99 of my book, Science, Religion and the Meaning of Life, I am asking myself a question: should I start going back to church? Therein lies the story of the book.

I used to be a priest in the Church of England. Then, after a few years, I left, a conviction atheist. But then, something else unexpected happened. Gradually, I became a passionate agnostic.

I came to think that being absolutely sure that there is not a god is as deluded as being absolutely sure that there is a god. Both are dogmatic positions since the evidence hangs in the balance. But then the question for me became: how to be a committed agnostic? In particular, can it be more than just a shrug of the shoulders or a de facto atheism? Or, is a spirituality based only on art galleries and enjoying music enough? Can such an attitude add up to a way of life or is it a cop out?

In my book, I try to show how it can and, moreover, why the agnostic way of life increasingly matters in our age of certainties and extremes.

As for whether or not to go back to church - the quick answer is sometimes. I see now that religions carry a wisdom that is simply not expressed in any other form, for all that contemporary believers so often make a horrid mess of it. But I go back as a religiously inspired agnostic, since I am equally sure that I cannot make the assertions of faith that modern church-going so often requires. I am drawn to churches where the architecture and music speak louder than words.
Visit Mark Vernon's website, his blog, and read an excerpt from Science, Religion and the Meaning of Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 18, 2007

Jonathan Tucker's "War of Nerves"

Jonathan B. Tucker is the author of War of Nerves: Chemical Warfare from World War I to Al-Qaeda.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to the book and reported the following:
War of Nerves is a detailed history of the nerve agents, the most deadly class of chemical weapons. In 1936, an industrial chemist named Gerhard Schrader, who was developing pesticides at the IG Farben company in Germany, accidentally synthesized the first nerve agent. Even in tiny doses, the new compound produced a cluster of disturbing symptoms in Schrader and his assistant, including a marked dimming and blurring of vision, headache, runny nose, and shortness of breath. When the compound was tested in animals at higher doses, it caused convulsions and rapid death by respiratory paralysis. The reason for this extraordinary toxicity later turned out to be the ability of the new chemical to inhibit a key enzyme involved in nerve transmission, thereby disrupting the functioning of the central and peripheral nervous systems. Although Schrader’s compound was clearly too dangerous to use as a pesticide, the German Army decided to turn it into a chemical weapon. Because its toxicity was almost too strong to be acceptable, Army officials dubbed it “Tabun,” after the German word for “taboo” (Tabu).

War of Nerves describes the mass-production of Tabun by the Nazi regime during World War II, the development by Germany of two even more lethal nerve agents (Sarin and Soman), the inconclusive debates within the Nazi inner circle over whether or not to initiate chemical warfare, the post-war competition among the victorious Allies for the secrets of the German nerve agents, the chemical arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the proliferation of nerve agents to the Third World and their extensive use in the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s and Saddam Hussein’s genocidal campaign against the Iraqi Kurds, the secret development by the Soviet Union of a new class of nerve agents called the novichoks (the Russian word for “newcomer”), and finally the emerging threat of chemical terrorism, as indicated by the 1995 Sarin attack on the Tokyo subway and the efforts by Al-Qaeda to acquire chemical weapons.

The book also chronicles the twenty-year process of negotiating an international treaty to ban chemical weapons, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which entered into force in April 1997 and now has 182 member-states. Because not all state possessors of chemical weapons have joined the CWC, however, the goal of eliminating this entire class of weaponry has yet to be achieved. As a reviewer in the New York Times Book Review incisively observed, War of Nerves is “a history of the race between the advance of this taboo technology and the political efforts to abolish it.”

Page 99 of the book discusses the IG Farben Trial at Nuremberg in 1947-48 and the particular case of Otto Ambros, the company official responsible for the production of Tabun and Sarin during World War II. Ambros was arrested by the U.S. occupation forces in Germany and indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the used of forced labor at a synthetic rubber plant at the Auschwitz concentration camp. The wily Ambros tried to argue in his defense that during a meeting in 1943 at Hitler’s eastern military headquarters, known as “Wolf’s Lair,” he had persuaded the Führer not to use his stockpile of chemical weapons, and that he should therefore be aquitted of war crimes. An excerpt from page 99 follows:

On May 1, 1947, in a sworn deposition in this own defense, Ambros argued that his briefing at Wolf’s Lair on May 15, 1943, had aroused doubt in Hitler’s mind about whether the Allies had independently discovered nerve agents. “I believe,” Ambros said, “through my objective description of the production situation and above all through my objective reference to the possibilities of the enemy side, I significantly contributed to the fact that Germany did not make any use of chemical weapons.” This self-serving interpretation conveniently sidestepped the fact that Ambros’s negative depiction of Germany’s chemical warfare capabilities had been intended to persuade Hitler to expand the production capacity for Tabun and Sarin and thereby ensure a qualitative advantage over the Allies. Indeed, after the meeting at Wolf’s Lair, Hitler had increased funding for nerve agent production. As historian Peter Hayes later wrote about Ambros and his fellow executives, “Lacking the courage of moral conviction almost as a condition for their professional success, they shut off their consciences, which was tantamount, in this instance, to having no consciences at all.”

The judges at Nuremberg found Ambros guilty of using forced labor at the Auschwitz plant and sentenced him to eight years in prison, minus time already served. But all the other charges against him were dropped, including the planning, preparation, and execution of offensive war, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Ambros did not even serve his full sentence but was released early for cooperating with U.S. intelligence. He then began a successful career as a consultant to the German and American chemical industries. Ultimately, the interest of the Allied powers in learning the secrets of the German nerve agents led them to recruit many former Nazi scientists for their respective chemical weapons programs.
Read Jonathan Tucker's professional biography at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies; learn more about War of Nerves -- and read an excerpt -- at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Cody Mcfadyen's "The Face of Death"

Cody Mcfadyen is the author of Shadow Man and The Face of Death.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to the latter and reported the following:
In my opinion, Ford Madox Ford's statement is an interesting idea, but maybe mostly because it's so unlikely. I took a whirl at it and read Page 99 of my new novel, The Face of Death. It was a decent enough page, a part of the book designed to fill in some gaps and keep the story humming along. But I wouldn't send it out as an ambassador of the book. A novel is an organism symbiotic with itself. The beginning feeds the middle feeds the end. Then the middle chews on the beginning a little bit while the end cleans barnacles off both of them. My point being, you read a book until it's done, and only then can you really know what the "quality of the whole" is. Even so, that favored bugbear appears - subjectivity. Some people read a book and hate it, some read a book and love it. In my humble opinion, you should start at page one and eat the whole sundae, fudge and all. Reading is a meal, not a taste test.
Read more about The Face of Death --including an excerpt -- at Mcfadyen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 15, 2007

William Martel's "Victory in War"

William C. Martel is Associate Professor of International Security Studies at The Fletcher School, Tufts University, and author of, most recently, Victory in War: Foundations of Modern Military Policy.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to the book and reported the following:
“The Page 99 Test” is so intriguing that I couldn’t resist the offer to tell readers more about Victory in War.

While page 99 captures the main arguments in Victory in War, it discusses only one aspect of victory, which for me, rests on four conditions.

1. Level of victory. My study proposes three levels of victory.

First, we have tactical victories. These narrow victories, defined as success in battle or control of an area, occur routinely. In Iraq, for example, U.S. forces track down and kill insurgents.

Second, political-military victories represent most victories in war. States achieve their basic political and military goals, armies surrender or just fade away, and peace terms are negotiated. Saddam Hussein’s government was destroyed and his military disappeared into the countryside.

Third, grand strategic victories, which everyone recognizes as events that fundamentally reorder global politics. Historically, the “gold standard” is World War II.

2. Change in status quo. Victory reflects how much war changes the pre-war conditions. Those changes can be great or small. The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 comprehensively changed the status quo.

3. Level of mobilization. Victory is shaped by how much of a state’s political, military, economic resources are mobilized for war. States can mobilize everything for all-out war or a small fraction of its power. In Iraq, the U.S. engaged in a moderate level of mobilization.

4. Post-conflict obligations. Events after hostilities shape victory by imposing political and economic costs on the victor. In Iraq, the US has protracted obligations to rebuild Iraq.

To illustrate these concepts, Chapters 5-11 examine U.S. wars from the Revolutionary War to the invasion of Iraq.

So why did I write this book? Historically, victory is an inexact and universally misused term for success. Policymakers and strategists (Chapters 2 and 3) must precisely define what they want to achieve in war, not just vaguely express their intent to prevail.

Another is to help citizens, policymakers, and scholars understand what victory means for everyone in society.

Finally, we need to get victory right, or sharpen our language on defeat.

The next question? Why victory in Iraq is so difficult, but that’s another blog…

Page 99:

Change in the Status Quo

The second organizing principle in this pretheory of victory is the change in the status quo in the defeated state that the victor attains by the use of military power. This concept was evident in Hans Morgenthau’s Politics among Nations when he addressed the relationship between “victorious war” and “inducements to imperialism.” As he observed, “the nation which anticipates victory will pursue a policy that seeks a permanent change of the power relations with the defeated enemy.... It is the objective of this policy of change to transform the relation between victor and vanquished ... [which can lead to] a permanent change in the status quo.”103 In this pretheory of victory, the change in the status quo can be located along a continuum that ranges from limited to comprehensive changes. At the limited end of the scale, the state uses force for limited aims to compel a change in the adversary’s actual or declared policies. This can increase to the point where the state is able to use force for unlimited aims to defeat an adversary’s military capability to conduct war. At the next level in this progression, the change in the status quo occurs when policymakers use force to transform the institutional, constitutional, or economic foundations in the state that contribute to the adversary’s power and legitimacy. The most comprehensive degree of change in the status quo is the case of the occupation of the defeated state and regime change. At its most extreme, the change in the status quo could be a “Carthaginian peace,” in which the state is annihilated and has no hope that its current government, leadership, and economy will survive. 104 A change in the status quo on this scale occurs when the state uses force to destroy the enemy’s military chain of command, replace its political head of the state, demolish its existing system of governance, and in the extreme case occupy its physical territory.105 Using a contemporary example, the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003 (see Chapter 11) exemplifies a war that produced a comprehensive change in the status quo.

As might be expected, the relationship between the change in the status quo and the level of victory is analytically imprecise. The problem is that although higher levels of victory are likely to coincide with comprehensive changes in the status quo, this is not always true. Using the case of political–military victory, limited changes in the status quo are likely to occur when the state uses military force to compel another state to stop its practice of, say, supporting terrorist organizations. Largely as a result of U.S. military strikes against Libyan government facilities and military targets in March 1986 (see Chapter 6), the government of Muammar al-Qaddafi slowly but measurably (yet discontinuously – witness Lockerbie) reversed its policy of sponsoring terrorism.106

This military intervention was at best a raid, but it sparked changes in Libya’s willingness to support terrorism. A second example of a change in the status
Learn more about Victory in War at the Cambridge University Press website, and read an excerpt.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Emily Maguire's "Taming the Beast"

Emily Maguire's first novel, Taming the Beast, was nominated for the Dylan Thomas Prize and received a Special Commendation in the Kathleen Mitchell Awards.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to her novel and reported the following:
From page 99:

Mike lit himself a cigarette and inhaled deeply. ‘So here’s what I wanted to tell you. Last night, at your place, we got so dirty, right in front of everyone. No one had a clue!’

‘At my place?’ Jamie’s face flushed. ‘What are you on about?’

Me and Sarah were going for it, right there at dinner.’

Dinner. Jamie ran the tape over in his mind. Nothing had happened at dinner. Before dinner Sarah had kissed Jamie and flirted with Mike. After dinner Shelley had driven Mike and Jess home and Sarah had ... God! What was Mike talking about?

‘There I am, eating the delicious meal your lovely lady cooked up, and suddenly my pants are open and there’s a hand on my knob.’ Mike shook his head as if he couldn’t quite believe it. ‘There’s Sarah, chatting away about variable loans or some shit, and all the time she’s pulling me off under the table. I returned the favour though. When I licked my fingers after the meal, it wasn’t just the chicken I was lickin’ if you get what I mean.’

‘Sorry, I have to - ’ Jamie bolted for the toilets and made it inside just in time to vomit up what felt like everything he had ever eaten and drunk in his entire life. After a couple of minutes he stopped and rocked back on his heels to catch his breath. Then he remembered her saying I’ve never been so wet in my life and his stomach heaved again.

Taming the Beast is the story of Sarah Clark, a young woman still reeling from an affair with her sadistic English teacher eight years earlier. The book’s action is mostly concerned with the re-ignition of this abusive relationship now that Sarah is an adult with sexual experience and agency.

Page 99 is a glimpse into the effect Sarah’s self-destructive sexual fury has on her best friend Jamie. Jamie’s girlfriend is pregnant and another couple in Sarah’s circle – Jess and Mike- have become engaged. Sarah, comfortable only in the midst of chaos, has taken the opportunity of an engagement dinner to seduce both Mike and Jamie. Mike takes it as a bit of fun, but Jamie has been in love with Sarah for a decade and he assumes her sexual attention means his love is at last being returned.

Page 99 represents a turning point of sorts for the Jamie-Sarah relationship. From here on in, Sarah will charge headlong into a destructive relationship with her former abuser, and Jamie – feeling sexually humiliated but still in love – will cast aside his long-time role of Sarah’s protector in an attempt to become her lover – whatever the cost to his wife and child, and to Sarah herself.

This page is interesting because it shows the effects of Sarah’s sexual relentlessness which is itself an effect of her earlier abusive relationship. The book is, in one sense, about the ways in which a single event can have momentous repercussions and this scene is a glimpse at the hurt that still radiates from the damaged woman at the centre of the story.
Visit Emily Maguire's website and read an excerpt from Taming the Beast.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Bruce Western's "Punishment and Inequality in America"

Bruce Western is Professor of Sociology at Princeton University.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his book Punishment and Inequality in America and reported the following:
The page 99 test is stern indeed. I fear that I may have failed. Read page 99, and my book Punishment and Inequality in America comes across as too much social science. It says: "Earlier research on selection and average wages focused on trends from the 1960s through the 1980s. I study wage inequality through the 1980s and 1990s by analyzing data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) and correctional surveys of inmates."

The main message would have fared better with a page 189 test: "In the last decades of the twentieth century, mass imprisonment became a fact of American life. The deep involvement of poor black men in the criminal justice system became normal. Those drawn into the net of the penal system live differently from the rest of us. Employment is more insecure, wages are lower. Families are disrupted as incarceration separates children from their fathers and breaks up couples. Pervasive incarceration and its effects on economic opportunity and family life have given the penal system a central role in the lives of the urban poor."

For better or worse, we need some social science to show that the growth of the American penal system has produced a devastating transformation of American race relations. The empirical story is sometimes dry in its details, but a prison system that now puts 1 in 5 black men behind bars is no less an injustice of historic proportions.
Read the Introduction to Punishment and Inequality in America and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 11, 2007

K.J. Erickson's "Alone at Night"

K.J. Erickson is the author of four Mars Bahr mysteries.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to her most recent novel, Alone at Night, and reported the following:
Interesting idea.

I've always been struck writing a police procedural how similiar the structure is to opera, where arias provide moments of emotion, realization, character development -- and recitatives advance the plot. Page 99 in Alone at Night is definitely recitative: My protagonist, Marshall Bahr, is considering how to handle tips received from a reality television show featuring the case Mars is working on.

In opera, recitative must be well-constructed and intrinsically interesting to create an effective foil for the melodic richness of the aria that follows. The same is true during the recitative sections of a police procedural. There's a substantial amount of detail and action that must follow from point A to point B, none of which has much melody. On Page 99 in Alone at Night, I'm relying on the reader's curiosity re: how information would be handled on a TV show such as "America's Most Wanted" and on the implied tension of how important this information will be to resolving the case.

Page 99 doesn't tell you anything about Mars as a character, nor does it include other characters who are integral to the series, but it is very representative of the mechanical, plot-forwarding aspects of a police procedural.
Visit K.J. Erickson's website and read an excerpt from Alone at Night.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Stona Fitch's "Senseless"

Stona Fitch is a novelist living in Concord, Massachusetts, where he also directs Gaining Ground, a non-profit organic farm. He is a former crime reporter and musician with the seminal Boston underground band Scruffy the Cat.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his novel Senseless, which will be released as a feature film in 2007 by Scottish director Simon Hynd, and reported the following:
On Page 99, anti-globalization extremists torture Eliott Gast, an American economist, in a white room near Antwerp, Belgium. One of his captors, nicknamed Blackbeard, removes Gast’s wedding ring and swallows it, claiming to like the taste of American gold. The captors scrape Gast’s hand with a cheese grater and apply biopolymer to deaden his sense of touch. The acrid smell triggers Gast’s memory of building model bombers as a boy. And the whole procedure is broadcast live on the Internet to raise money for the extremists’ poorly defined (and possibly non-existent) cause.

Compact and very disturbing, Page 99 says a great deal about Senseless, a short novel laced with equal parts horrific violence and lush memories of sensory pleasures. This uneasy mix makes some readers throw the novel across the room. Others read it in one sitting. Few look at the household items that are used for torture — the cheese grater, an iron, a coffee spoon — in quite the same way.

I wrote Senseless during the sweltering summer of 1999, deep in thrall to an authorial fever dream — long before September 11th, the ascent of amoralists, online beheadings, and reality television. The book persists, unsettling and resonating, as American appetites and economics continue to do damage on various fronts.
Visit Stona Fitch's website to learn more about Senseless.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Ian Patterson's "Guernica and Total War"

Ian Patterson teaches Modern English Literature at the University of Cambridge, where he is a Fellow of Queens’ College.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Guernica and Total War, and reported the following, starting with the text from page 99:
...potent term in the argument against bombing in the 1920s. The most widely-read attack on the official policy, The Great Delusion (1927) by 'Neon' (Marion Acworth), denounced the idea that the British should simply 'take frightfulness as a matter of course'. Was there any moral difference, the author asks, 'between the killing of British women and children by the bombing of London and the recent bombing of totally defenceless women and children [by the RAF] in their native villages in Waziristan?' But in the end the word was used so much that it lost any residual sense of horror it may once have had and became just another technical term, as in this 1938 comment: 'A further development of aerial frightfulness recently perfected in Spain and China is the machine gunning of civilians from the air.'

This impersonal use of language was central to the need that military strategists and some politicians felt to distance themselves from the moral consequences of their policies. Ways had to be found of policing the Empire without bankrupting the armed forces, and the air force seemed to offer the best answers. Not only could it cover more ground more quickly than infantry, regardless of the terrain (as long as it wasn't mountainous or heavily forested — deserts were best), but their real effectiveness was believed to be moral: the fear induced by single acts of violent destruction would, they were confident, have long term intimidatory effects. It was not usually couched in clear terms, though. The public perception of this exemplary violence had to remain politically acceptable. Indeed the very 'impersonality' of air operations (or their 'inhumanity', depending on one's point of view) made them more vulnerable to criticism than the army, which for example used gas shells extensively in 1920 in what is now Iraq. (Many prominent figures supported the use of..."

Ford Madox Ford is quite right, up to a point. Page 99 points to some of the central issues in the book and also, I hope, gives a taste of the moral argument. Although the book is partly about the bombing of Guernica in 1937, that account provides the opportunity to question why the bombing of civilians from the air has been so widespread a weapon of war or 'pacification' for the last century. Influential early enthusiasts and military strategists believed that the unparalleled destruction such bombardment could unleash would destroy civilian, and therefore government, morale almost immediately, making wars extremely short. Despite all the evidence to the contrary — even the most terrible bombing seems to strengthen rather than weaken the determination not to give in — this view is still widely held (and underpins the concept of 'shock and awe' so favoured by the Bush and Blair governments). The book examines the cultural presence of these and other ideas, in popular and serious fiction, poetry, film and a variety of writings about the future of 'civilisation' that appeared in the years between the first and second world wars. Why, I ask, did the fate of that small Spanish town Guernica become such a potent symbol? Not just because of Picasso's painting. The painting became the shorthand symbol of the event, but the reasons for the significance of the event run very deep, and bring together a surprising number of elements. As well as describing the events in Guernica, the book traces the story of bombing from 1911 through two world wars, Abyssinia and Spain, to Iraq, focussing mostly on the first 45 years (limitations of space prevented much discussion of the impact of the atomic bomb, for example). It is a book about the ethics of war, its effects on those who have no interest in it, its place in culture and civilisation, and the creation, through bombing, of a new kind of fear.
Visit the Harvard University Press website for more information about Guernica and Total War and read an excerpt.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 8, 2007

Tony Eprile's "The Persistence of Memory"

Tony Eprile is the author of Temporary Sojourner and Other South African Stories, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and The Persistence of Memory, which won the Koret Jewish Book Award, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and was listed as a best book of 2004 by the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his acclaimed novel and reported the following:
This page is a somewhat anomalous one, since it happens to open in one of those transitional places in my novel: when I’m moving my protagonist from a sheltered Jewish childhood into his experience as a conscript in the South African army. POM is set in my birth country of South Africa. It’s a sort of fake bildungsroman, its central conceit being that the protagonist has the gift — or, as he thinks of it, curse — of a perfect memory in a society that is constantly erasing and rearranging its history to suit the current ideology. My desire was to see what kind of political consciousness can arise from memory and an interest in memory alone, to explore the various ways that memory is recorded and also falsified, and to comment on three decades of particular turbulence and change in South Africa’s history.

I’m chuckling as I write this, as I just returned from a three-week reading tour in the Middle East, traveling with four other writers. We gave a lot of readings — to students in Syria, Jordan, Ramallah, and elsewhere — and, inevitably, our intros to our own writing started, through repetition, to sound canned. We had been bounced around the back of a van in Istanbul in stifling heat, our guide yelling at the driver who seemed to be taking in ever tighter circles, until we rolled up to Bosporus University and were rushed an hour late into a classroom full of eager Turkish students. Near delirious from lack of sleep, I launched into my spiel prior to reading a short excerpt, only to hear my traveling companion, Daniel Alarcon, crack up. “I’m sorry,” he said. “It’s just that I could complete your introduction myself.” Later, Jane Hirshfield fell asleep while Daniel was reading, to the visible delight of our audience. We gave the Turkish students quite a show — a useful demonstration of the silliness and humanness of writers. Which brings me back to my novel, which I hope includes much silliness and humanness within the dark events of South African history.

On page 99, my narrator recalls biting into a scone that had been invaded by an unseen bee that stung him on the upper lip, “which promptly swelled to several times its own size so I came to resemble one of those primitive tribesmen who has stretched his lips with wooden plugs in homage to some fat-mouthed god.” As a neophyte in the army, he sees himself as one of many “chrysalids in the process of transformation, and it was the army’s aim and delight to beat hell out of whatever personalities we had arrived with….” And there you have the novel, with South Africa’s insect life representing the wildness of its indigenous inhabitants, a bit of anthropology thrown in, and the absurdity of the events leavening the pain and brutality that lies always under the surface of this world.
Read more about The Persistence of Memory at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Vicki Hendricks's "Cruel Poetry"

Vicki Hendricks is the author of noir novels Miami Purity, Iguana Love, Voluntary Madness, Sky Blues, and the latest, Cruel Poetry.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to the new novel and reported the following:
Page 99 of Cruel Poetry -- Sexual flirtation between the main character Renata and one of the many men who would gladly succumb to her charms. She’s wearing a translucent leopard print dress with Pepe the anaconda around her shoulders. A blond guy says, “I used to have one like this -- not quite so big.” Renata giggles. “Damn. What happened to it? Oh, are we talking about snakes?”

As Renata spreads her legs, her back to the light, revealing a lack of panties, her breath deepens and a cool streak of wetness runs down her thigh, instant response to the eager participant to her exposure.

Although it’s an exaggeration that you can stick a finger anywhere into one of my books and come up with a sex scene, I guess it worked this time. Page 99 is representative of various moments when the main character expresses the sexual focus of her life and how she entangles those who surround her in danger, body and soul, whether they are men, women, or snakes.
Visit Vicki Hendricks's website and read an excerpt from Cruel Poetry.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Dan Kalla's "Blood Lies"

Born, reared, and still residing in Vancouver, Dan Kalla spends his days (and sometimes nights) working as an Emergency Room physician at an urban teaching hospital. He writes novels, too.

Kalla applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new thriller, Blood Lies, and reported the following:
My fourth novel, Blood Lies, is a Fugitive-style suspense thriller flavored with the science of forensic DNA evidence, the Pacific Northwest cross-border drug trade, and my ‘behind-the-curtains’ view of the ER (as a still practicing Emergency physician).

The hero, Dr. Ben Dafoe, is desperate to find out how his blood wound up caked on the walls at the savage murder scene of his former fiancée, Emily. Going on the run from Seattle to Vancouver, the young ER doctor assumes he is looking for his missing-and-presumed-dead identical twin who, like Emily, was another casualty of drug addiction. But Ben’s frantic journey takes him through the underworld of the drug trade on both sides of the international border and deep into a deceitful web where he eventually learns that, figuratively and literally, sometime blood lies.

By page 99, Ben is feeling the noose of suspicion tighten. He is stalked by an anonymous whisperer calling from Canada to warn him that the police already know that his blood has been found at the crime scene. Ben is beginning to wonder if his identical twin, Aaron, might be still alive, and therefore responsible for an indistinguishable DNA blood sample on the wall. The scene on page 99 takes place in the plush office of his high-powered defense attorney, Michael Prince. By this point, Ben’s life is in such upheaval that he doesn’t know whom to trust … including his own attorney.

Page 99:

When I finished, Prince viewed me poker-faced. “And you’re certain the calls originated in Canada?”

“According to my call display,” I said.

“Why Canada?”

“There could be a connection. Aaron had moved to Vancouver about a year before he died.”

Prince’s lips broke into a slight smile. “You mean before he disappeared.”

“I keep forgetting.”

His smile faded. “I won’t let you.”

Michael, I don’t think I can sit back and wait. The cops aren’t looking for any other suspects. They’re building the case against me.”

“Which may or may not be enough to even lead to charges,” Prince said, relaxing back in his seat. “We can’t stop them from investigating you. What we need to do is to focus on preparing your defense should it become necessary.”

I wasn’t ready to let it go. “Michael, didn’t you once defend the second victim, Jason DiAngelo, on charges of drug possession?”

The skin around his eyes tightened slightly. “And how is that relevant to you?”

“I’m not sure it is, but I’d heard that Philip Maglio hired you.”

“Which of course I can’t comment on,” Prince said dismissively. “Where are you going with this, Ben?”

“JD was a drug dealer who sold Emily black market HIV drugs. He worked for a supposed Seattle mob boss. A few days ago, I saw another drug dealer die in the Emergency Room of the same knife wound that killed JD. Maybe it’s all tied in somehow.”

Prince smiled reassuringly, but warning lurked behind the benign countenance. “Ben, we don’t have to produce alternate suspects. We don’t even have to prove your innocence. All we have to establish is reasonable doubt. And I think your missing brother will offer us that.”
Visit Dan Kalla's website and read an excerpt from Blood Lies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Lynne Viola's "The Unknown Gulag"

Lynne Viola is a Professor in the Department of History at the University of Toronto and author of The Best Sons of the Fatherland: Workers in the Vanguard of Soviet Collectivization, Peasant Rebels Under Stalin: Collectivization and the Culture of Peasant Resistance, and the new book, The Unknown Gulag: The Lost World of Stalin's Special Settlements.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to The Unknown Gulag and reported the following:
I didn’t know Ford Madox Ford’s statement about p. 99. When I read it, I was sure it couldn’t be accurate for my book. But when I turned to p. 99 of my book, it struck me that Ford’s statement was, perhaps, as much of a challenge as a potential deadly silencer of mediocrity.

So, what is on p. 99 of The Unknown Gulag? In short, the paragraphs on this page tell of the grueling work regimes of adult and child forced labor in Stalin’s special settlements.

In 1930 and 1931, Stalin sent close to two million peasants (labeled “kulaks” — supposedly rural capitalist exploiters) into internal exile as forced laborers in the most desolate and forbidding regions of the Soviet Union. Entire families were banished from their villages, expropriated of their property, and sent into the wilderness to extract the raw materials (timber, metal ores, etc.) so vital for Stalin’s forced industrialization drive. The special settlements were the foundation block for the infamous Gulag and marked the beginnings of Stalin’s infamous reign of terror.

Close to half a million people died in the special settlements as a result of hunger, disease, and sheer exhaustion. “A. K. Rodionova, a special settler in Siberia, recalled that she would be ‘up at 4 and to work at 6. The plan was 3 cubic meters of wood. If you didn’t fulfill it, you didn’t go home — they wouldn’t give you your rations.’ In a letter smuggled out to relatives in Canada, special settler Franz Warkentin echoed Rodionova’s statement: ‘All men over 18 years of age were to work in the forest. Here we were forced to cut trees from early morning until late at night in snow a meter deep. If you completed fifty percent of the required work, you received fifty percent of your food ration.’ The eight-hour work day was never observed. Inspection teams reported eleven- and twelve-hour work days as the norm with no days off. In the Northern Territory, bosses were said to dismiss the very idea of an eight-hour day, arguing that they needed special settlers to work at least eleven hours. Doubtless, most worked far more than this.” (p. 99)

Everyone worked, from children to the elderly. “Rules regulating the labor of children, minors, women, the elderly, and the nonablebodied were routinely violated. According to directives from August 1931, minors under 16 were not to be employed in industry; exceptions were allowed only with a doctor’s certificate and then only if the minor was over 14. Fourteen- to 16-year-olds were to have a four-hour work day, and 16- to 18-year-olds a six-hour day. In agriculture, children under 12 were not supposed to work at all. In fact, as a report on special settlers in Kazakhstan noted, children’s labor was used ‘almost everywhere...equally with adults and without time limitations.’ Iagoda complained that the same norms for healthy men were applied to minors, pregnant women, and the nonablebodied. A report on the Urals also noted that norms were not differentiated by gender or age.” (p. 99) In fact, mortality rates were the highest of all for the children of the special settlements.

Many Communist officials wrote in their secret reports that conditions in the special settlements were worse than in the concentration camps of the Gulag. These conditions are partly reflected in the work regimen. “Special settlers often worked without a day off. When bosses in the Northern Territory were forced to grant their workers a day off, they held back their rations for the day. Many special settlers went for long periods of time receiving no pay whatsoever. As was the case throughout Soviet industry during the First Five-Year plan, there were often long delays in paying workers. In the case of some special settlers, these delays could extend for up to two years. And industrial officials frequently refused to pay special settlers anything while they were building their settlements. By September 1931, over one million rubles in back pay was owed to special settlers in the Northern Territory. When they were paid, their salaries were generally pitifully small because they were based on the fulfillment of impossible norms. In the Far East, for example, daily wages of special settlers rarely exceeded one ruble 20 kopeks, a small fraction of the average working salary....” (p. 99)

So does p. 99 of The Unknown Gulag reflect the overall quality of the book? Although an author cannot be the judge of the “quality” of her own book, I do think p. 99 captures the essence of the story I am trying to tell, a story which must now count among the twentieth century’s most horrific instances of mass repression.
Learn more about The Unknown Gulag at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Dylan Schaffer's "Life, Death & Bialys"

Dylan Schaffer is the author of the acclaimed Misdemeanor Man Mysteries and other works, including Life, Death & Bialys: A Father/Son Baking Story. He applied the "Page 99 Test" to Life, Death & Bialys and reported the following:
I hate to admit it, but I’d never heard about this page 99 business before. I mean, I’ve read a little Ford Madox Ford, but his advice about turning to page 99 to find the essence of a book stuck me, initially, as a little weird. Then I tried it with my latest book, a memoir about how me and my dying father baked our way to truth and reconciliation, called Life, Death & Bialys: A Father/Son Baking Story. And let me tell you, FMF turns out to have been a freaking genius. Here’s a bit from my page 99, which takes place outside the world’s best bialy shop, a place called Kossar’s on New York’s lower east side:

“We walk outside and stand in front of the store eating. Cream cheese would be nice, but I can see how eating it dry is a purer bialy experience.

We hear someone with an English accent say to her friends, ‘It’s just like a bagel, but without the hole.’

Flip [my father] steps over and corrects her, though he’s gentle about it and doesn’t make me want to hide. With his mouth full, he shakes his head a few times and says, ‘Not a bagel, darling. Totally different animal. Baked, not boiled. You see the onions in the middle?’

A few seconds later Flip is part of the gang, telling them how he used to come for bialys sixty years ago, asking about their travels around the country. I stand by, silently, savoring my first Kossar’s bialy, and wondering how a person so close to death can be so cheerful.”

Life, Death & Bialys, as you may have gathered, is about life, death, and bialys. Page 99 nicely (it’s slightly spooky just how nicely) offers a glimpse on each of those topics. The book tells the story of how, just a few weeks before my father died, we took an intensive baking class in New York City. My father left my mom when I was five and we’d spent very little time together over the next thirty years. Flip hoped the class would give us a chance to come to something like terms.

Page 99 offers a nice preview. It demonstrates what a strange and funny and weird and bialy-obsessed person my father was. It shows that, like my dad, bialys are rare, inimitable, and widely misunderstood. And, finally, it suggests that during our week learning to bake in New York, and in the few weeks before Flip died, I stood by watching, wondering, and marveling and how strong life can be, even at the very end.
Visit Dylan Schaffer's website, and read an excerpt from Life, Death & Bialys.

--Marshal Zeringue