Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rory Nugent's "Down at the Docks"

Rory Nugent is an explorer and a writer. His books include The Search for the Pink-Headed Duck and Drums Along the Congo.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Down at the Docks, and reported the following:
While a true master, his prose a guide for all scribblers, Ford Madox Ford was dead-ass wrong commending page 99 as all a browser needs to ascertain the whole. Sure, any one page can offer up a fair sampling of tone and style and tempo; after all, each paragraph should be integral to the whole, and if not, well, the book is sure to leak like a poorly caulked scow. What Ford misses--indeed, what any reader flipping pages at random misses--is the force of the narrative. Character development is important. Plot is important. And craftsmanship is best exhibited over the course of a book, page one to the END. God help us--reader and writer alike--if the story stinks; we all feel duped and for different reasons. On the other hand, we all want to be taken on a journey offering up a tremendous pay-off for little cash up front. However, the only way to assay worth takes a lot more reading than a single page.

That said and astern, I gladly invite readers to take the Page 99 test when picking up my new book, Down at the Docks. The language is indicative of the whole, as is pacing and structure. And luckily, perhaps, this single page exemplifies what I tried to do throughout the book, layering it with history and using a single place (in this case, the fishing port of New Bedford, Massachusetts) as a mirror on the 300 year American passage from bottom of the heap to top of the pile.

Nowhere in America, wrote Herman Melville in Moby Dick, will you find more patrician-like houses, parks and gardens more opulent, than in New Bedford. But ever since the blossoming of the electronic age and out-sourcing, New Bedford has withered, a brick and mortar city filled with mill buildings which keep the fire department in work but few others. As always, fishing remains a vital industry in town. In fact, it's America's largest fishing port; however, its fleet is under seige by government rules and regulations and much from the past is going missing, just like cod.

Page 99 of Down at the Docks involves my man, Mako, a captain who feels he has been screwed by a bunch of sheriff deputies, lab coats and greenies who don't know jack about the sea. In his early days, he was a harpooner aboard a swordfish stick boat. A fish swims near him on his boat and reflexively, he reaches for Mister Sticker, his harpoon........

While javelins are made for throwing, harpoons are meant for thrusting. The user's power hand cusps the end of the wooden shaft, while the other hand guides the iron tip to the target, leaving arms and shoulders to do the work. As a weapon, it's effective only in close combat, which partly explains why so many New Bedford whalemen died on the job.It was normal for the harpooner to urge the oarsmen to climb up the back of the beast. He knew any distance beyond a few yards was useless to his cause; he needed to plunge the stick a foot or more into blubber. What chances the whale had to escape and/or turn its predators into prey disappeared after the introduction of bow-mounted harpoon guns in the late 1860s.

Closer, please, Mr. Fish, Mako whispers, and thumps the transom several times with Mister Sticker. In his days as a harpooner aboard a sword boat, he was known as one of the few white guys in the top tier of a trade dominated by men of color: red, black, brown and yellow. Traditionally, like Tashtego and Queequeg, the best in the business hailed from islands: Martha's Vineyard, Cabo Verde, the Azores and Samoa.

That's it, fishy, closer, Mako says, and prepares to launch. Hands at the grip points, the shaft goes tight to his right cheek and he puts his left foot forward, his legs bent at the knee. With the machine cocked, the veins in his arms start stretching their fabric and his eyes grow large, bulging in their sockets and showing lots of white. The shiner nears, and when the target darts leftward, Mako twists at the waist, following it. When, for a moment, the fish dives, he straightens. The fish accelerates, but he's already up to speed.

Mister Sticker barely raises a splash as it cuts through the water......
Learn more about the book and author at Rory Nugent's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 30, 2009

Barry Strauss' "The Spartacus War"

Barry Strauss is a professor of history and classics at Cornell University as well as the director and a founder of its Program on Freedom and Free Societies. His books include The Battle of Salamis, named one of the Best Books of 2004 by the Washington Post, and The Trojan War: A New History, a main selection of the History Book Club.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Spartacus War, and reported the following:
If you like two-fisted reconstructions of ancient battles, you’ll love page 99 of The Spartacus War. If you hate uncertainty, however, then you won’t be so sure. Page 99 packs all the grandeur and misery of writing a history of Spartacus into 300 words.

Rebel, gladiator, and slave, Spartacus is one of the most famous figures of the ancient world. He is also one of the most poorly documented. He and his 60,000 troops wreaked havoc on Roman Italy for two years but they left no records. The Romans, who won the war, told the story, but no complete contemporary Roman account survives. We have only fragments, so the story of Spartacus is a jigsaw puzzle missing many parts.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that Spartacus was such a noble opponent that even the Romans were forced to admire him. That is intriguing in itself, which makes the historical detective work of studying Spartacus even more absorbing.

Page 99 imagines a battle in southeastern Italy between the Romans and a Celtic breakaway group from Spartacus’s army. The date was 82 B.C. We know little about the battle except its outcome and one detail about the fighting. In my reconstruction, scholarship mixes with the imagination to yield informed speculation.

Spartacus himself doesn’t appear on the page, nor does my extensive travel in Italy. I tromped around many of the war’s battlefields but not this one. A pity all that, but still, the page does give a taste of the book’s research.

Excerpt, p. 99:

Ancient battle lives in the imagination as a climax: a collision, followed by dozens of disorderly, individual fights that go on until one side prevails. Real battle was probably episodic. Like boxers, the two sides combined, broke apart, regrouped each in its own corner, and then hit each other again. Finally, one army would collapse and run. Such typical Roman battle lasted two to three hours, but episodes of hand-to-hand fighting probably each lasted only 15-20 minutes before exhaustion set in.

The only detail of the battle of Mount Garganus to survive is the report that the rebels “fought extremely fiercely”: a conventional statement but it might just be true. Celtic warriors were known for their ferocity and tenacity in battle. We might imagine the bravest legionaries circling around the enemy’s flank or trying to stab their way into the enemy lines. Eventually they succeeded, but probably at a price.
Read an excerpt from The Spartacus War, and learn more about the book and author at Barry Strauss' website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Wendy Moore's "Wedlock"

Wendy Moore is a writer and journalist. Her work has been published in a range of newspapers and magazines, including the Guardian, the Observer and the British Medical Journal and has won several awards. Her first book, The Knife Man, was published to great critical acclaim.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Wedlock: The True Story of the Disastrous Marriage and Remarkable Divorce of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore, and reported the following:
As a British author, having published my book Wedlock both in the UK and US, the p. 99 test presents me with an enviable dilemma: I have two p. 99s to choose from.

Both refer rather pleasingly to a key theme in the story – sex and scandal – so content-wise the book certainly passes the p. 99 test. Stylistically, the American p. 99 probably best epitomises my efforts to combine narrative drive and historical fact as seamlessly as possible. And both pages, since they are relatively close together, describe a turning point in the plot at a crucial moment in the life of the main character.

Wedlock tells the story of Mary Eleanor Bowes, the Countess of Strathmore, whose first marriage to John Lyon, the 9th Earl of Strathmore, created the Bowes Lyon name. Her third son, Thomas, would become great-great-great-grandfather of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth. Born in 1749, the only daughter of an immensely wealthy coalowner in north-east England, Mary Eleanor enjoyed a pampered and privileged upbringing. When her father died in 1760, when she was 11, she became the richest heiress in Britain. Pursued by a bevy of suitors, at 18 she married the handsome but aloof Earl of Strathmore. It was not an ideal match and when he died, of TB, nine years later, Mary wept few tears.

By p. 99, or pp. 99s to be precise, Mary has reached a pivotal point in her life. A merry young widow, with a large fortune and five young children to consider, Mary has every chance of making a successful second marriage. Instead she becomes mired in sexual scandal and wrecks her chances of happiness. Having taken a lover just before her husband’s death, Mary has just discovered herself pregnant with her lover’s child. So p. 99 finds her in mourning costume, contemplating an abortion. Her account of her abortion attempts – not just once but four times – is a rare chronicle of such an event in history. But at this very same moment, a charming Irish adventurer, who calls himself ‘Captain’ Andrew Robinson Stoney, breezes into town on the lookout for a rich heiress to ensnare. Torn between two suitors, Mary makes a disastrous choice.
Read an excerpt from Wedlock, and visit Wendy Moore's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Matthew Beresford's "From Demons to Dracula"

Matthew Beresford is a freelance writer based in Chesterfield, Derbyshire in the UK.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his book From Demons to Dracula: The Creation of the Modern Vampire Myth, and reported the following:
Page 99 in my book is the first page of a chapter dedicated to the vampire within Eastern European folklore. Is it reflective of the book as a whole? In some ways, yes. It describes how travellers and returning soldiers brought back strange and macabre tales of the superstitious act of exhuming dead bodies that occurred throughout much of the later 17th and most of the 18th centuries. This act was a preventative method of vampirism: the reanimation of a dead corpse. Once exhumed, hearts were removed and heads were cut off suspected vampires before the remains were re-buried.

These tales and reports were the foundation for the later Gothic literature of Victorian England, culminating in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) and subsequently the later stage and cinema productions of that mystical being, the vampire. But my book argues for a much deeper history for the modern vampire myth, and goes back some 6000 years in time to the spirits and demons of the Ancient World of Rome, Greece and Egypt, on through early funerary rites in the Prehistoric period and incorporates the Saxon and Viking Poems and Sagas and the plagues, superstitions and witch trials of the Middle Ages.

I investigate the truth behind the Historical Dracula, Vlad the Impaler and look at ‘vampire hotspots’ such as Whitby and Highgate Cemetery in England, before finally examining the modern image within cinema, vampire crime, the Goth culture and vampire interest groups in an attempt to track how the modern vampire myth was created.
Learn more about the book and author at Mathew Beresford's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 27, 2009

Eve Pell's "We Used to Own the Bronx"

Eve Pell served as reporter and associate producer for three PBS documentaries: The Best Campaign Money Can Buy, which won a Columbia-DuPont award in 1992, Heartbeat of America, which won a Cine Golden Apple a year later, and The Battle Over School Choice. Her books include The Big Chill about the Reagan administration and Maximum Security on conditions in California prisons.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, We Used to Own the Bronx: Memoirs of a Former Debutante, and reported the following:
On page 99 of We Used to Own the Bronx: Memoirs of a Former Debutante, I am dancing at the Plaza Hotel in New York City hotel wearing a long tulle evening dress. It's 1952, I am 15 years old, and I am learning the skills to be a social success in the WASP upper crust of which I am a junior member by virtue of having been born into an old, aristocratic family. There are more than a hundred teenagers there, all in formal dress, most of whom I do not know. We all--almost all--attend private day or boarding schools where we have no contact at all with the opposite sex, so we are fascinated and ignorant. At these events, girls are at the mercy of boys--they can choose partners but we can't. The women's movement doesn't exist; girls like me are trained to be pretty chameleons, pleasing to boys--with the ultimate goal, a few years down the road, of making a "good" marriage to a suitably rich and prominent gentleman.

...we were truly in the arena, a vast, high-ceilinged ballroom in the center of which stood a cluster of black-clad boys like a flock of penguins. Couples danced around the cluster, fox-trotting in the old-fashioned way....The challenge for girls was to get danced with by as many boys as possible; the goal was to be so entertaining that many boys would cut in on you several times a night. You could be discussing the poetry of T. S. Eliot with a studious one, then smile gracefully over his shoulder at the approach of another as he raised his hand to cut in. As the poetry student released you, you moved into the arms of the other boy--with whom you had previously been chatting about the Rangers' star hockey player....On a good night, I carried on a dozen interrupted conversations that way, several of them with boys I had never met before as I smiled, adjusting my brain and body to each new partner's style without missing a beat.

Fifteen years later, as a socialite housewife in San Francisco at the height of the 1960s, I couldn't bear that life any longer. Through a series of unexpected events, I jumped off the tracks and, leaving the life I had been brought up for, plunged into radical politics and more adventures than I could possibly have foreseen.

The Ghost Word blog gives a good account of the book.
Read an excerpt from We Used to Own the Bronx, and learn more about the book and author at Eve Pell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Beryl Satter's "Family Properties"

Beryl Satter is the author of Each Mind a Kingdom and the chair of the Department of History at Rutgers University in Newark.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America, and reported the following:
Page 99 is a map of Chicago circa 1960, with areas containing black populations of 40% to 100% highlighted. The map also shows that there was an immense increase in the number of such areas since 1940. My book explains the forces behind this growing pattern of racial segregation – and who benefited financially from it.

Many people know about “redlining,” or banks’ widespread refusal to make mortgage loans to African-Americans, especially those moving to white neighborhoods. Many also know about “blockbusting” (real estate speculators would buy “low” from whites and sell “high” to blacks). What no one explains is how low-income blacks who couldn’t get mortgages could buy “high” from white speculators.

I learned the answer to this mystery when I read the papers of my father, Mark J. Satter, a Jewish attorney who, until his death in 1965, represented scores of black clients who’d been grossly overcharged for their properties. Most had bought homes “on contract,” or on the installment plan. My father learned from his clients that speculators were buying properties from whites at close to market value, and then selling them to blacks “on contract” at double to quadruple market value. Just as shocking were the terms of these sales. Contract buyers made down payments and were responsible for taxes, insurance, and maintenance. But if a contract buyer missed even one payment, the seller was free to evict the buyer – and keep everything the buyer had invested to that point.

The profits to the speculators were stunning. For example, one of my father’s clients bought a building for $9,950, from a speculator who had recently purchased it for $3500. His client had paid off $8,500 of that debt – plus another $2300 in improvements – when he was evicted. Approximately 85% of properties sold to black Chicagoans were sold “on contract” – and there were close to a million blacks in Chicago by the early 1960s. In 1958, my father charged that speculators were draining Chicago’s black community of $1 million dollars a day, and the evidence I’ve turned up supports his estimate.

The meaning of the map on p. 99 is best summed up by a self-described “middle-class Negro homeowner” who I quote the page before. “Face it!” he wrote in 1959. “Racial prejudice is profitable in Chicago. Every time a new parcel of land is added to the Bronze Ghetto, millions of dollars in real estate profits are made!”
Read an excerpt from Family Properties, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Matthew Pearl's "The Last Dickens"

Matthew Pearl is the New York Times bestselling author of The Dante Club and The Poe Shadow, and is the editor of the Modern Library editions of Dante’s Inferno (translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) and Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue: The Dupin Tales.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest novel, The Last Dickens, and reported the following:
In recruiting Charles Dickens as a subject and a character in my novel, I wanted to explore his unique high wattage celebrity. The main thread of the book takes place in 1870 as an American publisher named James Osgood must search to find the ending to Dickens's last book in order to save his publishing firm and, ultimately, his own life. Interspersed are two sections that take place a few years earlier, late 1867-early 1868, when Dickens was touring the United States in a landmark reading tour.

Page 99 finds us in one of those "flashbacks" as Dickens and his entourage weave through American fans, ticket speculators and one relentless celebrity stalker. When I say "entourage" I mean it. Dickens brought along a dresser, in charge of each outfit Dickens wore, a ticket agent, a theatrical manager, a gas-lighting expert, and one or more unnamed assistants. In The Last Dickens, I've created a fictional member of the entourage, a young Irish porter named Tom Branagan, who becomes a protector. On page 99, Tom is contemplating the fame of his boss. "Tom had helped keep the onlookers away when Dickens had arrived at the Parker House; he was not surprised by their presence but by their persistence. A young woman yanked out a piece of fringe from Dickens's heavy gray and black shawl; a man excited to touch the novelist took the opportunity to pull a clump of fur from his coat."

With the rest of the entourage in denial, Tom suspects that one of the fans is out to harm Dickens, a suspicion which soon turns urgent. (The stalker plot is based on a real incident during the tour.) The chase for the stalker ultimately ties together with the intrigue surrounding the lost ending of Dickens's last novel.
Read an excerpt from The Last Dickens, and learn more about the author and his work at Matthew Pearl's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Poe Shadow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Karen Greenberg's "The Least Worst Place"

Karen J. Greenberg is Executive Director of the Center on Law and Security, New York University School of Law. She is the editor of numerous books, including The Torture Papers: The Road to Abu Ghraib and the well known Terrorist Trial Report Card which has tracked all US terrorism cases to go through the US courts since 9/11.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo’s First 100 Days, and reported the following:
When the first military unit at Guantanamo– Joint Task Force 160 - received the detainees, they looked over their captives, and soon realized that they knew next to nothing about the “worst of the worst” that they had been expecting. US authorities didn’t know the prisoners’ names or much else about them. Many had been handed over for bounty to US forces. Accordingly, the detainees arrived without “pocket litter” or papers. Translators prepared in Arabic turned out to be useless for the majority who spoke Pashto and Urdu. The detainees arrived with diseases, dietary requirements, and religious sensibilities unknown to the command staff on the ground at Guantanamo. Yet when the JTF asked that the International Committee of the Red Cross - the international organization best prepared to give professional advice on medical and other issues - be allowed to join them as required under international law for prisoners from a war zone, their request was denied by “higher-ups” in Washington. Finally, the uniformed military directly involved with Guantanamo bypassed Washington’s impasse and called in the ICRC. Only then did the 160 begin to know who they had in their midst and how best to interact with them. Only then could the 160 begin fully to understand how to legally and humanely go about attending to the detainees – goals which this first team considered themselves sworn as military men and women to uphold.

From Page 99:

The first thing the ICRC wanted to do was to interview each detainee. Setting up an open-air table within sight of the cages, the representatives began their questioning. If the ICRC representatives had had their way the detainees being interviewed would not have been shackled at all. But the JTF command structure was not about to allow anything that would expose the ICRC men to serious harm. A compromise was reached. Each detainee was seated in a chair facing a table at which the interviewers sat, asking their questions and taking notes. This afforded the shackled detainees a modicum of dignity.
Learn more about The Least Worst Place at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 23, 2009

Peter Singer's "The Life You Can Save"

Peter Singer is Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. He is the author, co-author, or editor of more than thirty books, including Animal Liberation, widely considered to be the founding statement of the animal rights movement, Practical Ethics, and One World: Ethics and Globalization.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty, and reported the following:
The 99th page of The Life You Can Save is almost entirely taken up by a description of the work of Namlo International, a small aid organization founded by Magda King that helps rural villagers in developing countries to build and run schools.

The Life You Can Save presents an ethical argument for the view that we have an obligation to help those living in extreme poverty. I begin by drawing a parallel between our obligation to rescue a child from a shallow pond, at the cost of ruining one’s best shoes, and our obligation to rescue children in other countries who are dying from avoidable, poverty-related causes. I look at how much it really costs to save the life of one of those children, and conclude that it might not be so very different from the cost of a pair of expensive shoes. Yet most of us don’t give nearly that much to organizations seeking to help people out of poverty.

I then consider objections to the claim that we ought to be doing more to help those living in extreme poverty. Some of these objections are ethical, and others factual. One of the factual ones is that aid doesn’t work, and so there is nothing we can do for those living in extreme poverty. Part of my rebuttal of this objection is to describe many aid projects that do work, and this is the point made by my account of the work of Namlo International. It shows what can be achieved by relatively modest contributions to people in developing countries.

Someone applying Ford Madox Ford’s remark about judging a book by its 99th page would therefore get a very misleading impression of what The Life You Can Save is about. The reader who takes page 99 as representative of the book as a whole would expect a book full of descriptions of aid projects and the people who have started them. Neither the theme of the book nor its general mode of discussion is apparent from that single page.
Read an excerpt from The Life You Can Save, and visit The Life You Can Save website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mario Acevedo's "Jailbait Zombie"

Mario Acevedo is the bestselling author of The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, X-Rated Bloodsuckers, and The Undead Kama Sutra. A former infantry and aviation officer, engineer, and art teacher to incarcerated felons, he lives and writes in Denver, Colorado.

He applied the “Page 99 Test”--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?--to Jailbait Zombie, the latest Felix Gomez novel, and reported the following:
In the case of this book, you understand the skankness of the girl but there's nothing about zombies.

Page 99:

She rattled the pills in her pocket. “Another side effect of these is increased sex drive. Not that I needed an excuse. I was dying anyway so fucking was a good way to pass the time and make money. What was I waiting for? Usually it was better than watching television. Even with a scumbag like Barrett.”

“You slept with him?”

Phaedra gave a devilish laugh. “I never slept with anyone. But if you want to know, I didn’t have sex with Barrett. He paid me twenty dollars to look at my titties.”

“And that’s it?”

“No. I had to watch him jack off.” Phaedra put a charge in her voice like she took pleasure shocking me.

Which didn’t. Instead I pitied her. Her story explained the “allowance” money that had fallen out of her pocket. She was dying and traded her youthful innocence for fast, cheap thrills.

“Don’t look so sad,” she taunted. “I learned lots about sex and even more about the way the world works.”

“And your uncle Sal?” I hadn’t met the guy but I had already pegged him as a rat. If he abused Phaedra, this was another reason to hang him by his tail.

“Uncle Sal’s been good to me. Around him, I can pretend I’m not the family’s dirty secret. But my aunt Lorena, Sal’s wife, hates me. She sees the effect I have on men. She calls me the strega, witch.” Phaedra gave a grin that was both ironic and condescending. “I don’t know what makes my relatives more uncomfortable. That I’m dying of Huntington’s or that I know who among them is a child molester.”

“And Gino?”

“He’s been okay. Nothing happened between him and me. Besides Uncle Sal, Gino’s the only friend I’ve had in the family.”

“Does Gino know about your reputation as a strega?”
Browse inside Jailbait Zombie, and learn more about the author and his work at Mario Acevedo's website and his blog.

View the video trailer for Jailbait Zombie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Kurt Lash's "The Lost History of the Ninth Amendment"

Kurt T. Lash holds the James P. Bradley Chair in Constitutional Law at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. After graduating from Yale Law School, he served as Law Clerk to the Honorable Robert R. Beezer of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He has published numerous journal articles on constitutional history and he has served as the Chair of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Constitutional Law.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Lost History of the Ninth Amendment, and reported the following:
It is a pleasure to talk about the 99th page in my new book, The Lost History of the Ninth Amendment (Oxford University Press, 2009). The book presents newly uncovered evidence which suggests the Ninth Amendment originally was understood as working alongside the Tenth Amendment as a rule of construction calling for a narrow construction of federal power. The 99th page of the book comes from a chapter which explains how this rule of narrow or strict construction was presumed to inform all powers delegated to the federal government—including powers delegated to the federal courts in Article III of the Constitution. This particular page explores how the rule came up during the original debates over the meaning of Article III in the Virginia Ratification Convention:

Anti-federalists were quick to point out the danger lurking behind the words of Article III. In the Virginia Convention, for example, George Mason warned that Article III would allow the “sovereignty of the state to be arraigned like a culprit, or private offender.” The response of Federalist advocates of the Constitution was the same on this matter as it was in regard to other texts whose construction appeared to threaten the retained sovereignty of the states: The text would be narrowly construed in order to the preserve the independent sovereign existence of the states. James Madison, for example, conceded the wording of Article III “does not stand in that form which would be freest from objection. It might be better expressed.” Nevertheless, Madison insisted that:

It is not in the power of individuals to call any state into court. The only operation it can have, is that, if a state should wish to bring a suit against a citizen, it must be brought before the federal court.... It appears to me that this can have no operation but this--to give a citizen a right to be heard in the federal courts; and if a state should condescend to be a party, this court may take cognizance of it.

This is a straight forward example of strict construction: The operational meaning of a term otherwise capable of a broad interpretation is narrowed in order to preserve the presumed sovereign status of the states. Although the text allows federal courts to hear suits between states and individuals, this applied only where a state was a plaintiff or where it had otherwise consented to be sued by an individual.

Despite the assurances of Federalists like James Madison and John Marshall that federal power would be narrowly construed in order to preserve the retained sovereign powers and rights of the people in the states, it appeared that the Constitution would not be ratified unless these assurances were made an express part of the Constitution. Ultimately, Federalist proponents of the Constitution agreed to add a Bill of Rights to the ratified Constitution. What we now call the Ninth and Tenth Amendments were specifically added to ensure a state-protective reading of federal power.

Within months of the ratification of the Constitution, however, nationalists like Alexander Hamilton pressed for the creation of a National Bank—an act which Madison insisted was beyond the scope of delegated federal power. The following passage, which describes Madison’s reaction to the proposed Bank is from pages 39-40 of the book:

Madison emphatically disagreed. The broad construction of federal power relied upon by the Bank’s advocates threatened the retained power and rights of the people. In his speech before the House, Madison reminded the Assembly of the recent struggle to ratify the Constitution and how the state ratifying conventions had been promised a federal government of limited power. The states had ratified the Constitution, but had done so on the understanding that the delegated powers of government would be narrowly construed and most had demanded the addition of amendments that would make this understanding an express part of the Constitution. Madison referred the House to the pending Bill of Rights as fulfilling the promise that federal power would receive a limited construction.

The explanatory amendments proposed by Congress themselves, at least, would be good authority with [the state proposals]; all these renunciations of power proceeded on a rule of construction, excluding the latitude now contended for. These explanations were the more to be respected, as they had not only been proposed by Congress, but ratified by nearly three-fourths of the states. He read several of the articles proposed, remarking particularly on the 11th and 12th. The former, as guarding against a latitude of interpretation—the latter, as excluding every source of power not within the constitution itself.

Here Madison explains that the Tenth Amendment “exclud[ed] every source of power not within the constitution itself,” while the Ninth Amendment “guard[ed] against a latitude of interpretation” of those powers which were in the Constitution. He referred to these amendments, however, not as the Ninth and Tenth, but as the “11th and 12th.” This reflected an early practice of referring to the amendments according to their original place on a list of twelve proposed amendments—only ten were ratified at the time and what we call the Ninth and Tenth were the eleventh and twelfth on that list. This is just one example of early references to the Ninth that, until very recently, went unnoticed. They form an important part of what I call the Lost History of the Ninth Amendment.
Read more about the book at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 20, 2009

Jack Kilborn's "Afraid"

Jack Kilborn applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new novel, Afraid, and reported the following:
My name is Jack Kilborn, and this is an excerpt from my technohorror novel, Afraid, coming March 31st.

In this page 99 scene, a young firefighter named Josh, and and aging county sheriff named Streng, have managed to momentarily subdue two psychotic commandos who have attacked them in the Wisconsin woods at night. They're trying to figure out what to do next....

“We need to run,” Streng said.


“I know what you’re thinking. But what if one of them wakes up before we find a weapon? Then we’re both dead. These guys are too skilled, too strong.”

“Maybe Ajax has a gun or a knife on him.”

“You want to frisk him?”

“We have to try.”

Josh’s spirit was willing, but his feet did not want to go anywhere near Ajax. Santiago scared him in a bullying, sadistic way, but Josh still considered him human. Ajax was like a creature from a bad dream, a monstrous force of nature. He didn’t seem to be the same species, or even to belong on the same planet.

But the only way to stop being afraid was to kill him, and the only way to do that was to search him for weapons.

Josh quickly dismissed using his flashlight, as it might wake his tormentors up. He put his hands out before him and walked cautiously through the darkness, trying not to smack into any trees. His knees bumped into Ajax and he drew in a sharp breath. He reached down, amazed that he could touch his chest without bending over. This guy was freakishly huge. Time became measured in heartbeats, only a finite number remaining before the creature woke up.

Josh screwed up his courage and felt around for the giant’s belt. He found a Velcro pouch, ripped it open. It held a smooth metal container, and some kind of electronic gizmo, but no weapons. Josh pocketed the box and continued around the perimeter of his hips. A canteen. Josh took it, attached it to his own belt.

Ajax moved, shifting away. Josh stood absolutely still, fighting the impulse to flee. He needed to finish this up fast.

He patted down the rest of Ajax’s waistline, but found nothing else. Josh wondered why Ajax didn’t have a gun, and then realized that the man’s enormous fingers probably would be too big to squeeze a trigger. Then why not a knife, or some other weapon? Maybe in his vest.

Josh reached up, fingers exploring. The material was soft, pliable. It amazed Josh that it was actually bulletproof. He found an empty pocket, and then a zipper that was stuck. Ajax’s chest rose and fell beneath his hands, so huge that Josh felt like he was frisking a fallen horse.

“I found matches, and some capsules.” The Sheriff’s voice startled Josh. He must have been searching Santiago. “You?”

“A container, some sort of electric thing, and water.”

Josh reached up higher, touched Ajax’s throat. Any thought of breaking the man’s spine while he slept vanished when Josh realized how large it was. It would be easier to snap a log in half.

“My knife should be in his ear,” Josh told Streng.

“Not there. Maybe he pulled it...umph.”

A gentle, rustling sound. Then the forest went quiet.


Streng didn’t answer. Josh strained to hear, but only heard the steady rasp of Ajax’s breathing.

“Sheriff Streng? You okay?”


Dumb question. Of course the Sheriff isn't okay. This is a horror novel. By the end of it, almost everyone the entire town of Safe Haven, Wisconsin, has been murdered.

Why are they being murdered? What evil has come to this little town?

You can read a much larger excerpt on my website, www.JackKilborn.com.

But be warned. This isn't a book for the faint-hearted. This page 99 excerpt isn't really indicative of the horror, the violence, and the suspense in Afraid. What came before, and comes after, is much scarier.

If you're brave enough, I hope you give it a try.
Jack Kilborn is a pen name for award winning thriller author JA Konrath.

The Page 69 Test: Afraid.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Rachel Shteir's "Gypsy"

Rachel Shteir is Associate Professor in the BFA program in Criticism and Dramaturgy at the Theatre School at DePaul University, which she directed until 2005, and author of Striptease: the Untold History of the Girlie Show.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Gypsy: The Art of the Tease, and reported the following:
Maybe because I’m not a huge Ford Madox Ford fan, the idea that p. 99 “reveal[s] the quality of the whole” strikes me as a little Cliff-notey.

Still, page 99 does say I think something important about Gypsy and reveal one thing that appeals to me about her, makes her iconic, and deserving of inclusion in Yale’s series: This is her ability to reinvent herself.

Set in 1939, the story I tell here sets the stage by describing what from our post-modern Puritanism is an incomprehensible moment—a striptease vogue more or less endorsed by New York City officials at the 1939-40 World’s Fair. The craze was thought in general to be a way to distract Americans from the aftertaste of the Depression and the onset of World War Two. (Note to Obama: you have not had to bail out the sex industry yet.)

The main event on p. 99 is Gypsy's rejection of Salvador and Gala Dali's offer to star in what was essentially a surrealist porn funhouse in the fair's first season. A sort of high-brow, European idea of burlesque, the funhouse would include topless mermaids, Botticelli Venuses lounging on couches and other such attractions. It was sensational.

“The slogan the Dalis proposed to advertise Gypsy--come and see Gypsy Rose Lee at the bottom of the sea--would have drowned her in kitsch.”

That Gypsy rejected the Dalis at a moment when burlesque, the genre that had made her famous in the thirties, had vanished, shows her understanding of her own iconic-ness. Gypsy never wanted to be perceived as a caricature or a freak show or at any rate she wanted to be perceived as one in the way she wanted to, which always boiled down to playing at elitism while still being true to her déclassé roots. (Or at least so she always made it seem.)

Had Gypsy accepted the Dalis’ offer, it's hard to say where her career might have gone. Perhaps she would have continued being the darling of the elite. But I think she understood that the climate had changed and being the darling of the elite was no longer enough to maintain her stardom.

Gypsy proceeded to a summer stock tour of a hackneyed play about burlesque, to a visit to her literary friends at Yaddo, and ultimately to 7 Middagh Street, the Brooklyn house she shared with Auden and others. She began to write. In the second year of the fair, she agreed to star for Mike Todd, replacing Carmen Miranda in a much tamer spectacle--the Broadway revue and crowd-pleaser, Streets of Paris. In other words turning down the Dalis launched her in another direction.

Then, as always, her striptease was her best disguise.
Read an excerpt from Gypsy and learn more about the book at the Yale University Press website.

Visit Rachel Shteir's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Paul Escott's “'What Shall We Do with the Negro?'”

Paul D. Escott is Reynolds Professor of History at Wake Forest University. His books include After Secession and Slavery Remembered, winner of the Mayflower Cup.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, “What Shall We Do with the Negro?”: Lincoln, White Racism, and Civil War America, and reported the following:
The Ford test is intriguing. For my book, it has some value: it would give the reader a sense of the importance of some of the trees in the forest.

Noting the celebratory character of our culture's view of US history, my book re-examines the Civil War's discussion, North and South, about the future status of African Americans. It looks at newspapers, magazines, books, reports of military officers, and many other sources, but particularly at governmental policies and the policies of Abraham Lincoln. On page 99 the reader will get a sense of the research behind my book's conclusions and a feeling for some of the questions I ask.

Page XV and pages 223-24 would be more useful overall. They show that a divided and racist US society traveled a conflicted and complex route before confronting emancipation and the future status of African Americans. Many other questions took priority, and events forced change more often than the wise and far-seeing policies of leaders. Lincoln as the Great Emancipator is an icon in US popular culture today, but his policies during the war reveal a president who placed a higher priority on reunion than on emancipation, who showed an enduring respect for states' rights, who assumed that the social status of African Americans would change very slowly in freedom, and who offered major incentives to white Southerners at the expense of the interests of blacks. Important policy positions that are often ignored by historians receive careful analysis in this book.
Learn more about “What Shall We Do with the Negro?” at the University of Virginia Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 16, 2009

Peggy Pascoe's "What Comes Naturally"

Peggy Pascoe is Beekman Professor of Northwest and Pacific History and Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Oregon.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America, and reported the following:
I have to confess that page 99 wouldn’t be my first choice for revealing the essence of What Comes Naturally. I’d prefer page 69, in which the U.S. Supreme Court upholds Alabama’s ban on sex and marriage between whites and blacks; or page 71, in which judges insist that interracial marriage is “unnatural”; or page 133, in which county clerks act as gatekeepers of white supremacy by assigning each marriage license applicant a “race or color.”

Still, page 99 does demonstrate two crucial points: 1) that between 1860 and 1967, American states banned marriages between whites and blacks, Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, American Indians, Hindus and Native Hawaiians and 2) that lawmakers and judges showed more sympathy for marriages between white men and black or Indian women than for marriages between white women and black or Asian American men.

Page 99 takes place in the 1860s. The state legislatures of Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, and Arizona have just finished banning whites from marrying Chinese, and now they hesitate over adding Indians to this list. Lawmakers knew that many pioneer men had married Indian women, and they worried that they ought, as one Oregon representative put it, to be “more liberal to that class of our citizens who, coming here at an early day, married Indian women and have raised families by them.” As a result, the law Oregon passed set special blood quantum standards for Indians: it banned whites from marrying “any negro, Chinese, or any person having one fourth or more negro, Chinese, or kanaka blood, or any person having more than one half Indian blood.” (Kanaka was their term for Native Hawaiians.)

On the bottom of page 99 is a map that shows the half-dozen American states that banned marriage between whites and Indians. But this map is more than just an illustration; as part of a series of maps that show the history of miscegenation laws in a nutshell, it really does touch the heart of my book. Designed especially for What Comes Naturally, these ten maps trace the passage and repeal of the laws, track changes over time in state and regional patterns, and tell what racial groups were affected in which states. My hope is that readers who pick up the book will be able to see at a glance the history of laws against interracial marriage in any state they choose.
Learn more about What Comes Naturally at the Oxford University Press website.

What Comes Naturally
has just been awarded two prizes by the Organization of American Historians: the Lawrence Levine Prize for the best book on American cultural history, and the Ellis Hawley Prize for the best book on political economy and American institutions.

Available online: Pascoe's recent article, "The Election of Barack Obama and the Politics of Interracial and Same-Sex Marriage."

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Jeff McMahan's "Killing in War"

Jeff McMahan is Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University. His books include The Ethics of Killing: Problems at the Margins of Life (Oxford University Press, 2002).

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Killing in War, and reported the following:
Page 99 is in a section of the book that advocates more generous legal provisions for conscientious refusal to fight in an unjust war. The material on this particular page is part of a response to the objection that if the moral right of conscientious objection by active-duty military personnel were accorded some form of legal recognition, that would undermine the military chain of command and thus the cohesion and effectiveness of the military itself. The previously stated arguments for a moral right of conscientious objection, and indeed in some cases a moral requirement of conscientious refusal, are a natural extension of the central thesis of the book, which is that it is morally wrong (though in many cases excusable) to fight in a war that is unjust because it lacks a just cause.

From p. 99:

If there were legal provisions for soldiers to refuse to fight in a war that they could plausibly argue was unjust, this could indeed impair the ability of their government to fight an unjust war. But this is hardly an objection, since from an impartial point of view that would be an overall good effect. The concern is instead that such a provision would impede the ability of the government to mobilize sufficient forces, with sufficient discipline and cohesion, to be able to fight a just war as efficiently as it could if it were to prohibit conscientious objection. I cannot pretend to have the expertise in history, psychology, and other areas that would be required to offer a credible opinion on this matter. But I will offer a couple of observations. First, there have been a great many instances of unjust wars throughout human history, which suggests how comparatively easy it is for governments to assemble the soldiers they need to fight their wars, whether just or unjust. Yet there are relatively few recorded instances of a government being unable to fight a just war because of its inability to motivate people to fight. Mass insubordination or mutiny has been comparatively rare, especially in wars that were just. In particular, when people have been threatened by unjust aggression by a foreign power, they have almost always been willing to fight, even when the prospect of successful defense has seemed remote. It is illuminating to recall that the contemporary military organization that has the most conspicuous record both of instances of conscientious refusal to serve in certain campaigns or operations and of toleration of this sort of conscientious action is Israel’s IDF, which operates on the basis of universal conscription and extensive reserves. Yet no one doubts that everyone in the IDF would fight with the utmost cohesion and determination in a just war of national defense.

If we ask what has been the greater problem historically, conscientious refusal to fight in just wars or unreflective obedience to commands to fight in unjust wars, the answer is obvious. Considered impartially, therefore, greater toleration of selective conscientious objection, even by active-duty soldiers, would almost certainly have good effects overall.

Learn more about Killing in War at the Oxford University Press website.

Visit Jeff McMahan's faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 14, 2009

George B. Kirsch's "Golf in America"

George B. Kirsch is professor of history at Manhattan College. He is the author of Baseball and Cricket: The Creation of American Team Sports, 1838-72; Baseball in Blue and Gray: the National Pastime During the Civil War; and several other books.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Golf in America, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book discusses the first golf and country clubs founded by wealthy German Jews in the early twentieth century, with special attention to the Lake Shore Country Club of the suburban north shore of Chicago. At that time Jews were beginning to move to the northern suburbs of Chicago. Those who wished to play golf and join a country club were barred from the Protestant golf clubs because of their religion, so they launched their own. I write:

The Lake Shore Club spent $750,000 on its course, clubhouse, and locker rooms. It also promoted the development of Highland Park and Glencoe as a Jewish summer colony, and it enrolled some of the richest and most powerful men in Chicago’s German Jewish community and in the city itself. For example, one of its members, Julius Rosenwald, was president of Sears, Roebuck and was reputedly the richest man in Chicago.

The dual goal of Golf in America is to present a concise narrative and social history of golf in the United States from its origins in the 1880s to the present. Page 99 is only partly representative of the book’s approach and viewpoint in that it refers to a group of German Jewish golfers who were wealthy enough to found their own country clubs when they were denied admission to those controlled by Protestants. Their experience is only a small part of the story of golf in America. The main theme of my volume is the surprising growth of golf as a popular, mainstream sport in the United States. I contrast its image as a sport for rich people with the reality of widespread enthusiasm for the game by people of both sexes from a wide range of classes, ethnic backgrounds, and races in the United States—long before the rise of Tiger Woods. In short, Golf in America chronicles and interprets the experiences of all American golfers, not just upscale members of elite country clubs, but also presidents, legendary professionals, patrons of municipal links, women, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, television and film celebrities, and handicapped and blind participants.
Visit the Google book search page for Golf in America, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

Read "The Recession and Golf" by George B. Kirsch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 12, 2009

G. Cochran & H. Harpending's "The 10,000 Year Explosion"

Henry Harpending holds the Thomas Chair as Distinguished Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Utah. A field anthropologist and population geneticist, he helped develop the “Out of Africa” theory of human origins. Gregory Cochran is a physicist and Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at the University of Utah.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution, and reported the following.
Our book, The 10,000 Year Explosion, is about recent human evolution, mainly since the end of the last ice age about ten thousand years ago. Now the question is whether the book is holographic: if you look hard at a randomly picked page, say page 99, can you know what kind of book this is? Sounds tough, but as we understand it, we can now learn a lot about the fundamental rules of the world just by carefully examining a grain of sand... so let's take a stab at it.

On that page we talk about recent and ongoing changes in the dystrophin complex, a set of genes that function in both muscle and brain. We strongly suspect that humans have become weaker over the last 100,000 years, judging from the trend towards lighter skeletons, and we certainly hope that they have become smarter over that period. There would not have to be a tradeoff between brain and brawn - it's not dictated by the laws of physics, at least not strongly so - but the details of biochemistry and development can create such tradeoffs. The comparison between this path-dependent tradeoff with inevitable ones such as that between size and agility is not explicit in the text but we were thinking it and you should too. That's representative: there are many important points in this book that are implicit - never stated at all, and left as an exercise for the reader.

We also talk about recent changes in genes that affect hearing. New versions of those genes have been spreading over the past few tens of thousands of years, and some of the most recent ones are regional. We think that these changes must be related to changes in human language; they suggest that true speech hasn't been around all that long. There may even have been some adaptation to different languages. This is congruent with our main message: natural selection created and continues to shape all human traits, including those we consider the very essence of humanity, such as the ability to talk yourself out of a traffic ticket.
Learn more about the book and authors at The 10,000 Year Explosion website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

George C. Edwards' "The Strategic President"

George C. Edwards III is a Distinguished Professor of Political Science and the Jordan Chair in Presidential Studies at Texas A&M University. His many books include On Deaf Ears: The Limits of the Bully Pulpit. He is the editor of Presidential Studies Quarterly.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Strategic President: Persuasion and Opportunity in Presidential Leadership, and reported the following:
Presidential leadership is at the core of American government, but an intriguing paradox has bedeviled our efforts to understand it. On the one hand is the widespread view that “presidential power is the power to persuade.” Conversely, there is a dearth of evidence of the persuasive power of the presidency, and presidents frequently fail to persuade others to support their policies, often undermining their ability to govern in the process. I decided to use this contradiction as a springboard to examine—and ultimately challenge—the dominant paradigm of presidential leadership.

Focusing on best test cases of presidential leadership of the public (Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan) and Congress (FDR, Lyndon Johnson, and Ronald Reagan), I sought to determine the source of their success. I found that despite their considerable rhetorical skills, the public was unresponsive to their appeals for support. To achieve change, these leaders capitalized on existing public opinion. Similarly, in dealing with Congress they recognized especially favorable conditions for passing their agendas and effectively exploited these circumstances while they lasted.

I also looked at presidents governing in less auspicious circumstances, and found that whatever successes these presidents enjoyed also resulted from the interplay of conditions, and the presidents’ skills at understanding and exploiting them.

Explaining these results requires analyzing the many obstacles to successful leadership. Page 99 is part of a discussion of the difficulties presidents have in setting the country’s agenda and the stern competition they face in attempting to do so.

Presidential power, then, is not the power to persuade. Presidents cannot reshape the contours of the political landscape to pave the way for change by establishing an agenda and persuading the public, Congress, and others to support their policies. Instead, successful presidents facilitate change by recognizing opportunities in their environments and fashioning strategies and tactics to exploit them. Presidents who base their strategies of governing on the premise of the persuasive presidency are destined to fail.
Read an excerpt from The Strategic President, and learn more about the book at the Princeton University Press website.

Learn more about the author and his work at George C. Edwards III's Texas A& M webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Gordon Barrass' "The Great Cold War"

Gordon Barrass is former British diplomat who served on the Joint Intelligence Committee in London during the last years of the Cold War.

He applied the page 179 test to his new book, The Great Cold War: A Journey Through the Hall of Mirrors, and reported the following:
I had long felt that if we were ever to understand the fraught half century of confrontation that we call the Cold War, we would need to explore the perceptions each side had of the other. Besides researching the papers once held in secret archives, I travelled to Moscow and Washington to interview nearly one hundred of the key players. These included top policy makers, strategists and military commanders and key figures in the world of intelligence in Moscow and Washington. They provided some eye opening accounts of what was going on behind the scenes, as well as many valuable insights into the mixture of insecurity, ignorance and ambition that drove the rivalry between the two opposing forces.

When I asked Milt Bearden, a former senior CIA officer, what he thought had been the West’s most serious intelligence failure during the Cold War he responded pithily, saying: “We didn’t realize just how f***ing scared Soviet leaders were of us!” Page 179 provides a riveting example of their horror of nuclear war and some vignettes showing that Leonid Brezhnev had no wish to go anywhere near Armageddon.

Page 179:

After the Moscow Summit Marshal Grechko invited Brezhnev and some of his colleagues to take part in a “war game,” seemingly hoping to stiffen Brezhnev’s resolve in dealing with the harsh realities of a nuclear war. The exercise began with generals describing the impact of a surprise attack by over a thousand American missiles. They grimly explained that 80 million people would be killed, the armed forces obliterated, 85% of industry destroyed and European Russia so irradiated as to be uninhabitable. General Danilevich recalled that “Brezhnev and Kosygin were visibly terrified by what they heard.”

Marshal Grechko then asked Brezhnev to push a button that would launch a “retaliatory strike,” which in reality involved the launch of just three missiles with dummy warheads along a test range. Brezhnev turned pale, began perspiring and trembled visibly. He repeatedly asked Grechko, “Is this definitely an exercise?” The leadership were traumatized by this experience. None of them ever again participated in such an exercise. Brezhnev immediately ordered yet tighter controls to ensure that there could never be unauthorized use of Soviet nuclear weapons.

It was clear that none of the leadership wanted a nuclear confrontation, especially Brezhnev, who was a bon viveur of the first order. In his diary, he often wrote little notes about lovely ladies who had made him feel good. On his way to visit Nixon in 1973, he took such a shine to a Soviet air hostess that he had her made a “nurse” in his official party so that she could comfort him at night. During the same visit, Brezhnev’s enthusiasm for women was famously documented in a photo [at right, click to enlarge] of him admiring Jill St. John’s rear. This man had no wish to go anywhere near Armageddon.

While the Soviet leadership fretted over the inadequacies of their strategic nuclear forces, they had one great source of comfort—they knew that the West believed that before long Soviet strategic forces would have the upper hand. This was a perception that worked to Moscow’s political advantage.
Read the prologue to The Great Cold War, and learn more about the book at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 9, 2009

Antje Ellermann's "States Against Migrants"

Antje Ellermann is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at The University of British Columbia.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, States Against Migrants: Deportation in Germany and the United States, and reported the following:
Page 99 of States against Migrants, shows a bar chart that displays the deportation of various groups of migrants by German immigration authorities in the 1990s. The chart reveals a striking pattern: failed asylum seekers feature more prominently than illegal immigrants among those expelled from Germany. This pattern is remarkable for two reasons. First, it is greatly at odds from deportation trends in the United States. Second, it is an expression of the German state’s remarkable coercive capacity because it is far easier to deport illegal immigrants than failed asylum seekers.

States against Migrants: Deportation in Germany and the United States is a contemporary study of the capacity of liberal democratic states to coercively regulate individuals within their borders. In this book, I argue that deportation places extraordinarily high demands on the state. Because it imposes severe hardship on migrants and their families, and because it often involves the use of physical force, deportation is likely to induce political contestation because these state interventions run up against the most fundamental interests of the individuals they target. As a result, both the legislation and implementation of deportation present formidable challenges to the state. The book examines the politics of deportation as it evolves across the policy cycle, beginning with anti-immigrant populist backlash and ending in the expulsion of migrants by deportation bureaucrats. It reveals striking differences in the nature of state capacity not only between the United States and Germany, but also between the policy stages of legislation and implementation.
Read an excerpt from States Against Migrants, and learn more about the book at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sara Barron's "People Are Unappealing"

Sara Barron's work has appeared on Showtime’s This American Life, National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition, and the Today show, and at the HBO Comedy Festival in Aspen, Colorado.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, People Are Unappealing: True Stories of Our Collective Capacity to Irritate and Annoy, and reported the following:
My book, People Are Unappealing: True Stories of Our Collective Capacity to Irritate and Annoy, chronicles my Midwestern adolescent misadventures in its first half: writing a 50-page porn by age eleven (“He humped me wildly with his wiener!”), masturbating my way into a wrist brace, appearing on The Jerry Springer Show. Also, there’s a bit about how in 1992 I sprouted a faint but discernable mustache. The second half details my move to New York City and subsequent failure at many, many things: actor, singer, dancer, retailer, less chronic masturbator. And poet. And spoken word poet.

Page 99 of People Are Unappealing is part of a larger chapter called “Non-Equity” about the aforementioned failures at acting: it’s August of 2001, my wonderfully supportive, wonderfully naïve parents have written the last check to pay for my six-figure B.F.A., and the job I score – not that there’s anything wrong with this – is that of Professional Shirt-Folder and Occasional Windex-er at Banana Republic. I work the late shift, four to eleven, so I can be free to audition during the day.

I studied acting for four years at the university level and received a B.F.A.. That stands for Bachelors of Fine Arts to most, but my mother’s favorite joke was that it stood instead for Big Fucking Actor. “Look who it is!” she’d say when I’d fly home to Chicago to visit, “my Big Fucking Actor of a daughter!” My stock response was ‘very funny,’ to which she’d reply, “Well, I thought we ought to laugh instead of cry about it.”

‘It’ was the hour of reckoning: I had my B.F.A., my memorized monologue. I’d re-soled my jazz shoes and purchased a beret. It was time to scrap the ‘student’ portion from my title and graduate to ‘Actor.’

Ever watch TV or see a movie? If so, perhaps you’ve noticed acting as a career path for the physically attractive. Some of the beauties can act to boot, but first and foremost they’re oddly and unfairly pretty. On the attractiveness scale from 1 to 10, these girls are 10s. Conversely, I was not. I’m not gratuitously self-deprecating, I’m just being realistic. Sporting a F.U.P.A. and faint wisps of back hair, I hung just left of center: a 4. Stilettos, a hint of rouge, a nicely tailored dress – these devices inched me towards a 5; a 6 at best. But you wouldn’t stop me on the street to say, “You ought to be in pictures!”

For those not in the know, FUPA is an acronym for Fat Upper Pussy Area.

Pass it around.

Besides that: I’ll hop on board with Ford’s hypothesis; I think my page 99 works well as an appropriate measure of the book as a whole. The strongest jokes might not be here, but my preoccupation with the idea that someone’s lack of self-awareness is a key component to his/her downfall – that a sad hilarity results when deluded expectations get a smack-down – this, I think, gets touched upon.
Learn more about the book and author at Sara Barron's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Chris Ayres' "Death by Leisure"

Chris Ayres joined The Times (London) in 1997 and has since been posted in New York, Los Angeles, and Iraq. The latter stint inspired his first book, War Reporting for Cowards.

He now writes from Los Angeles for The Times while contributing occasional columns to the Los Angeles Times. His work has also recently appeared in Forbes, Conde Nast Traveller, and Playboy.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Death by Leisure: A Cautionary Tale, and reported the following:
Having relocated from a sheep farming village in Northern England to Los Angeles—to take up a job as Hollywood correspondent for The Times of London—I have moved into a gaudy eighties-vintage apartment complex named ‘The Leisureplex’ and embarked upon a scheme to use borrowed money to impress the local women.

The scheme isn’t working, even after I spent $5,000 on an ill-advised bribe to get myself (and my unimpressed date) into Michael Jackson’s 45th birthday party at Neverland ranch. Still, I’m persevering—although I’m already beginning to suspect that there might be some serious consequences to the instant self-gratification made possible by the Bush/Greenspan credit bubble.

Page 99 finds me once again trying to raise the stakes (I’ll do a lot more of this before the book is done) having just taken delivery of that ubiquitous status symbol of the mid-2000s: a plasma TV “big enough to beam messages to extraterrestrials”. Meanwhile, LA’s infamous Santa Ana winds are raging, and the catastrophic 2003 Cedar Fire is beginning to take hold, a natural (or perhaps unnatural) disaster that I will go on to experience first-hand.

“Sweating, stripped to my boxers, and matted with dust from lying on the floor, I finally located the ON button," I write, having just hooked-up the TV. "I will say this: the picture is dramatically different than that of my old TV. For example, it’s a lot bigger. Tuned to CNN, I can now see every pixel in Larry King’s face. The manual tells me that if I want to make the pixels smaller—and the picture sharper—I will need to buy a new high-definition receiver and a new high-definition cable subscription. And then, after I acquired both of these things, I will need to buy a new high-definition TV.

"Say what you want about obsolescence, but it doesn’t waste any time these days.”
Learn more about the book and author at Chris Ayres' website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 6, 2009

David Kushner's "Levittown"

David Kushner is the author of Masters of Doom and Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids. A contributing editor at Rolling Stone and Wired, he has also been published in the New York Times, New York, Entertainment Weekly, Parade, Salon, and the Village Voice. He does commentary for NPR, and teaches journalism at New York University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Levittown: Two Extraordinary Families, One Ruthless Tycoon, and the Fight for the American Dream, and reported the following:
Levittown is about the dark side of the American Dream. It tells the true story behind the iconic suburb's whites-only policy - and the two families who challenged the builder's plan during the explosive summer of 1957.

Flipping to page 99, it seems Ford Madox Ford's statement might be right after all. The first two words on the page are "shattered window." I find that amazing, because it really does cut to the heart of the story.

The phrase comes at the moment when Levittown, Pennsylvania's first African-American family, the Myerses, came home to find a rock thrown through their front window. A mob had shown up on the day they moved in, and some attacked the home. In another sense, the "shattered window" suggests the shattering of this picture perfect dreamtown. But there's more. John Keats wrote a famous satire of a Levittown style community - the name of the book, The Crack in the Picture Window.

Further down page 99, however, there's the other key part of the Levittown story. It's not just about evil and hate. It's about the remaking of this model town. The page ends with the Myers' neighbors, the Wechslers, showing up with others to help them.
Learn more about the book and author at David Kushner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue