Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Patrick Manning's "The African Diaspora"

Patrick Manning is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of World History and Director of the World History Center at the University of Pittsburgh and president of the World History Network, a nonprofit corporation fostering research in world history. His books include Slavery and African Life, Migration in World History, and Navigating World History: Historians Create a Global Past.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The African Diaspora: A History Through Culture, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The African Diaspora: A History through Culture traces the movement of captive Africans across the Atlantic from 1600 to 1800, identifying points of origin and destination, and discussing social conflict and change in both Africa and the Americas. That page reflects the book’s recurring linkages among regions of Africa and the Americas, the transformations brought by social struggles, and the representation of black experience in material and expressive culture. Enslavement brought a struggle for survival among black people. Earlier pages explore the growing connections among African peoples; later pages investigate the succeeding struggles for emancipation, for citizenship, and for social equality. The book explores these issues from 1400 to the present for Africa, the Americas, and for black populations throughout the Old World; it concludes with big questions about the past and the future.

I hope that this story of one-seventh of all humanity shows how much of our modern world results from the creative energies of black people. The book is a reaffirmation of the continuing exchanges among black people worldwide; it is a pointed critique of those visions of modernity that fail to explore injustice, neglect the roles of black people at every level of society, and leave aside the African continent. It is a global history from the bottom up.
Read an excerpt from The African Diaspora, and learn more about the book at the Columbia University Press website.

Learn more about Patrick Manning's research and teaching at his World History Network webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 28, 2009

T. Lynn Ocean's "Southern Peril"

T. Lynn Ocean has explored various careers including commercial tread rubber sales and retail management. These days she pretends to be a photographer, enjoys cooking, and will jump at any chance to take a road trip in the name of doing research. Ocean is the author of the novels Fool Me Once, Sweet Home Carolina, Southern Fatality, and Southern Poison.

Already a veteran of the the Page 69 Test, she applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new novel Southern Peril, and reported the following:
Thanks for the page 99 challenge! I took you up earlier for Southern Fatality and Southern Poison, the first two books in this mystery series, which is set in historic Wilmington, North Carolina. I hope that readers will enjoy Southern Peril even more.

As an author, I'm all about writing to entertain. I love action scenes, romantic tension, juicy plots, and humor. Page 99 speaks to the latter ingredient and should give your readers a chuckle—especially those who have a live-in relationship with a parent OR know anyone who does.

Jersey Barnes, private security specialist, grew up without a father. In Southern Fatality, he appeared on her doorstep, like a stray cat, and has been living in the attached efficiency apartment since. Spud and Jersey don't have a traditional father/daughter relationship by any means, but they do put up with each other. Perhaps it's a sense of obligation and the family blood bond thing. Or maybe it's just simple curiosity. Either way, the two are getting to know each other in adulthood.

A retired cop with a muddled sense of ethics, Spud is in his eighties and is a magnet for trouble. His antics consistently challenge Jersey's patience. Of course, she has a tendency to be a bit of a smart-ass and doesn't mind throwing lighter fluid on a raging bonfire.

Note that Spud is on painkillers after hurting himself during a yoga class. (He's trying to stay young for his new girlfriend, Fran.) Read on for a peek at this amusing character dynamic…

From Page 99:

It wasn't the same walking into the Block without seeing Ox there. I said hello to a few regulars before climbing the stairs to my home. I beeped myself through the security system to find Spud in my kitchen, staring intently at a ficus tree. Even his mustache was perfectly still.

"You okay, Spud?"

He continued to study the plant, as if in a daze.

Alarmed, I moved in to examine him, thinking he might have suffered a stroke. "Spud? Can you hear me?"

"I'm practicing reading an aura, for crying out loud. Do you mind?"

I found a bottle of Dos Equis beer in the fridge. Somebody had been to the grocery store. "Is this for your NAB group?"

My father explained that, yes, he learned the skill of aura-reading from the New Age Babes. Every living organism has an energy field radiating around it, he told me, animals and plants. Learning to see the color of the aura is one way to enlighten the mind. A red aura around a person means they're angry, he said, while a blue aura indicates calm.

"What color is the ficus tree's aura?" I asked.

His head tilted to the side. "I detect a large aura, sort of a whitish-yellow." He broke his gaze and looked at me. "Healthy plants have a large, bright aura."

"That ficus tree is fake, Spud. It's a silk plant."


"It's not real. So it can't possibly have an aura."

"Oh, for crying out loud! I been working on reading the stupid plant's aura for fifteen minutes now. I thought I finally had it!"

"Better stay calm, Spud. Your energy field might go red."

He turned the Barnes narrow-eyed glare on me. "Here I was all ready and set to impress Frannie with my new talent, and you go and ruin everything!"

His halo did look sort of red. At least the emerging vein in his forehead did. I asked if Fran was a member of the NABs.

"No," he said. "What does that have to do with anything?"

She'd probably be curious as to where he learned to read auras, I told my father. When she discovered his involvement with the New Age Babes—a group of all women—Fran probably wouldn't be too pleased. She might even be jealous.

"I hadn't thought about that," Spud muttered. "She's the one who told me to join some social clubs!"

men's clubs, Spud. Not women's clubs."

"I'll quit, then. This aura stuff is a bunch of crap, anyway."

"You're their newly-elected president, remember?" I said.

"Oh, right. I shouldn't quit." His mustache twitched side to side. "I'll get Frannie to join!"

My father, always the deep thinker.
Learn more about the author and her work at T. Lynn Ocean's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Chris Knopf's "Hard Stop"

Chris Knopf is the author of the Sam Acquillo Hamptons mysteries: The Last Refuge, Two Time, Head Wounds, and the newly released Hard Stop.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to the new novel and reported the following:
As it turns out, page 99 of Hard Stop, the fourth in the Sam Acquillo Hamptons Mystery series, is one of the most important pages in the whole book. How did this happen?

A good mystery is almost always a series of mini-mysteries, wherein the reader gets to guess mini-solutions, like, why did the murder weapon come from Portugal? Why did the single, male victim have a closet full of women's clothes (not his size?) What happened to the victim's car, a collectible 1967 GTO? What about that $450,000 stuffed in the mattress of the victim's girlfriend's mother?

In Hard Stop, the biggest mini-mystery is solved on page 99. So there you go.

If you buy the book, avoid that page until you read the preceding pages. Unless you're adverse to suspense, in which case, go there directly after reading the opening chapters. Then go to about page 262, where you can learn the solution to the core mystery and avoid the necessity of actually reading the entire book. I realize most people suffer from severe time-deprivation, so for you, this might be an efficient way to enjoy books like mine.

For the rest of us, and I count myself among those who hate to figure out the answer before it's revealed, you'll want to ride along with Sam Acquillo as he stumbles toward a solution to the puzzle he's been confronted with.

My favorite crime book of all time, and I've read a lot of them, is Presumed Innocent by Scot Turow. This is a truly brilliant book - compelling, beautifully written, full of surprises, and intimate, in that you feel like the protagonist/1st person narrator tells the tale as the two of you sip scotch in front of a roaring fire. I had no idea of the solution to the mystery until he revealed it. My hair literally stood on end.

That's my definition of a great book of suspense. In my mind, the best books there are.
Visit Chris Knopf's website to learn more about the Sam Acquillo Hamptons mysteries.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Anne Rose's "Psychology and Selfhood in the Segregated South"

Anne C. Rose is Distinguished Professor of History and Religious Studies at The Pennsylvania State University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Psychology and Selfhood in the Segregated South, and reported the following:
In modern times, the psychological sciences have struggled to explain mental illness and promote mental health. My book asks how psychology, psychiatry, and psychoanalysis developed in a unique American environment: the segregated South. Here racial identity intervened by means of law and custom in every social situation, intimately shaping the experience of southerners. This was the American region where, in the decades after 1900, the exuberant new sciences of self-fulfillment faced cultural restraint and fear. The encounter tested psychology and the faith of Americans in its curative power.

On page 99, southern critics – black and white – condemn the abstraction of the psychoanalytic field study, Caste and Class in a Southern Town, by the Yale social scientist John Dollard. The year was 1937, and northern reviewers had praised Dollard’s interviews of African Americans in Mississippi, including questions about their dreams and sexuality, as pioneering. Southern book reviewers rose up in protest, although not in unison. One white professor claimed that Dollard’s hay fever, set off by the lush southern climate, distorted his senses. Dollard’s argument that the color line nurtured frustration and anger, this southerner fired back, was mere theorizing. A black sociologist agreed that Dollard was misled by his keenness for science. Analyzing segregation was fine, the reviewer insisted, but publishing a scholarly study was a weak response to a crippling moral dilemma.

Page 99 is typical in its emphasis on the regional migration of psychological concepts, the conflicts they stirred, and the sincerity of advocates with often tragically differing views. Regionalism deeply affected the development of American psychological theories and therapies, and the segregated South did not easily welcome self-exploration. Page 99 is not typical, however, because along with these contending intellectuals, ordinary southerners also played a role. Segregation conveyed one set of messages about selfhood, and psychology another. Put simply, segregation preached the limitations of distinctive racial natures, and psychology promised individual growth. The intellectual conflict was profound, the social stakes were high, and public discussion was cautious. In the restrained environment of segregation, southerners of both races made daily choices -- slowly informed by psychology -- that belong to the history of Americans’ continuing search for self-understanding.
Learn more about Psychology and Selfhood in the Segregated South at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong's "Morality Without God?"

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong is Professor of Philosophy and Hardy Professor of Legal Studies at Dartmouth College. He is co-author of God? A Debate between a Christian and an Atheist as well as Understanding Arguments, author of Moral Skepticisms, and editor of Pyrrhonian Skepticism, Moral Psychology, and the OUP series, Philosophy in Action.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Morality Without God?, and reported the following:
Page 99 is not representative of Morality Without God? in many ways. On page 99, I am answering a fairly abstract philosophical objection to my secular harm-based account of morality, but most of the book is less abstract. Second, upon rereading, the tone of page 99 sounds very serious, whereas much of the rest of book is playful and, I hope, fun to read. Third, there are no biblical quotations or empirical studies cited on page 99, although the rest of the book includes lots of these. Nonetheless, page 99 does represent another feature of Morality Without God? I try to give my opponents their due rather than dismissing them in the way that many "new atheists" do. On page 99, I am answering an objection that would spring to mind not just for professional philosophers but also for everyday people, including evangelical Christians. By responding to this objection, page 99 obliquely represents one main theme of the book: We do not need any supernatural authority to back up morality. To see my full argument for this claim, however, you will have to read the rest of the book.
Read more about Morality Without God? at the Oxford University Press website.

Visit Walter Sinnott-Armstrong's webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Marc Bekoff & Jessica Pierce's "Wild Justice"

Marc Bekoff has published numerous books, including The Emotional Lives of Animals, and has provided expert commentary for many media outlets, including the New York Times, CNN, and the BBC. Jessica Pierce has taught and written about philosophy for many years. She is the author of a number of books, including Morality Play: Case Studies in Ethics. Their new book is Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals.

Pierce applied the “Page 99 Test” to Wild Justice and reported the following:
When you think of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom—old time nature TV—you think of a cameraman hiding in the bushes simply catching a slice of real life in the wild: the animals we see are engaged in a constant and usually bloody struggle over food, mates, and territory. But think of a different kind of nature TV—more contemporary, more like a reality show: Meerkat Manor. This is essentially a soap opera—it is all about relationships. Who loves whom, and which relationships have gone sour; who has been loyal and who has betrayed trust; who are the social leaders and who is being ostracized for breaking the rules of the community. These animals are busy—and they are not busy eating each other. They are busy negotiating a very complex and nuanced social world. It is this social world of animals that sets the stage for Wild Justice.

Contrary to old stereotypes, the social lives of animals are strongly shaped by affiliative and cooperative behaviors. Animals spend a good deal of their time engaged in what biologists call “prosocial” behavior. Mammals living in tight social groups appear to live according to a set of social rules and expectations that foster a relatively harmonious and peaceful coexistence. They are naturally cooperative, they offer aid to their fellows, they build relationships of trust. They appear to feel for members of their community, often showing signs of empathy and fellow feeling. They care for the sick and infirm, and they grieve over lost family members. They tolerate and even get pleasure from being close—both physically and emotionally—to others. They seem even to have a sense of fairness. It is these social behaviors that are the focus of Wild Justice. We argue that this constellation of behaviors constitutes a kind of animal morality.

In Wild Justice, we begin with a definition of morality that is broad and encompassing: morality is a suite of interrelated other-regarding behaviors that cultivate and regulate complex interactions within social groups. Morality is a kind of social glue, and is a broadly adaptive strategy for social living that has evolved in many animal societies other than our own. Morality is a term that encompasses human and nonhuman behavior. We then describe what we see as three central clusters of moral behaviors (a cluster is a group of related behaviors): the cooperation/altruism cluster, the empathy cluster, and the fairness cluster. Within each cluster is a range of closely related behaviors: for example, the cooperation cluster includes altruism, reciprocity, trust, punishment and revenge.

Page 99 finds us in the chapter about empathy, which I personally find the richest of the three clusters. After talking about what empathy is (the ability to perceive and feel the emotion of another), why empathy is adaptive for animals, and how empathy comes in many different shapes and sizes (from the relatively simple and behaviorally rigid forms of emotional contagion, to complex forms of cognitive empathy), we then begin reviewing the data on empathy in animals. We start with primates, because this is where we find the most robust body of research. At the top of page 99, we’re talking about a well-known primate study published in 1964 by Stanley Wechkin, Jules Masserman, and William Terris. The researchers reported on a laboratory study in which a hungry rhesus monkey refused to pull a chain to receive food, if it could see that pulling the chain also delivered an electric shock to another monkey. One monkey refused to pull the chain for twelve full days—that’s twelve days without food.

Page 99 continues:

Around the same time, University of Wisconsin psychologist Harry Harlow was setting forth on his famous wire-monkey experiments. Although Harlow was interested in humans, his controversial research on monkey love also revealed a great deal about the process of social attachment in primates, the very process that is thought to shape the neural connections that underlie empathic behavior. Working with infant rhesus monkeys who had been taken from their mothers, Harlow showed that the desire for affection was stronger than the desire for food. Given a choice between a cold wire monkey with food and a soft cloth monkey without food, the infants clung to the soft, foodless monkey. From other studies, Harlow concluded that baby monkeys raised without social contact with peers and without real mothers grow up to be socially incompetent. The development of social and moral intelligence is stunted when the appropriate developmental cues are not triggered. Harlow’s work led to later studies on attachment and on the important connection between the early nurturing of infants and children and the development of empathy.

In another study conducted in 1977 by Hal Markowitz, diana monkeys were trained to insert a token into a slot to obtain food. A male was observed helping the oldest female, who had failed to learn the task. On three occasions he picked up the tokens she had dropped, put them into the machine, and allowed her to have the food. His behavior seemed to have no benefits for him; there did not seem to be a hidden agenda.

Although many of these early studies involved monkeys, there is now a large body of research that spans the range of primate species. And having the opportunity to compare empathic capacities in monkeys and apes reveals important differences, and confirms the hypothesis that empathy is a broad range of behavioral tendencies and that species will vary, perhaps considerably, in how developed these capacities are. Frans de Waal asserts that empathy is more cognitively complex and more highly developed in great apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, and humans) than in monkeys.

I think page 99 is a good representation of the book as a whole. The page is rich with examples of pro-social behavior in animals and it suggests that empathy (and morality more broadly) is a richly nuanced and complex repertoire of behaviors, not a unitary capacity, and that we need to stay attuned to species and individual variation. Page 99 also points (as do many other pages) toward some the rich philosophical questions embedded in the book. In particular, the paragraph on Harry Harlow’s experiments brings home to me an aspect of the book that I found ethically challenging. Harlow’s work is both fascinating (for what it tells us about the empathic capacities of monkeys) and terrifying (for what we’re willing to do to animals in the pursuit of scientific knowledge).
Read an excerpt from Wild Justice, and learn more about the book at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 22, 2009

Julie Metz's "Perfection"

Julie Metz is a graphic designer, artist, and freelance writer whose essays have appeared in publications including Glamour and Hemispheres magazines, and the online story site mrbellersneighborhood.com.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal, and reported the following:
I will be worn down.

I will lose my mind.

I will have to live a completely false life.

I can’t pretend. I don’t have the stomach for it. I have always been a terrible liar. No more lying.

Page 99 of my memoir Perfection (Voice/Hyperion) comes right after a huge wad of dark matter hits the fan, the moment when I discover, after seven months of widowhood, that my husband had been having a long affair with a woman in my town, who also happened to be the mother of one of my daughter’s friends.

Though Perfection is nonfiction, I usually I read novels, though I make exceptions for James Woods’ How Fiction Works, David Sedaris, Susan Orlean, and current affairs and history books I hope will make me smarter. Some novels manage to pack in both—Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty taught me more about life during the Thatcher years than I’d ever learned from newspapers even as it rocked my world with sentences I had to read over and over again. We won’t get into my To Be Read pile here, taller than I am, at any rate.

When I began my memoir, a writer friend suggested that I re-read the novel Jane Eyre, the great nineteenth century fictional memoir in which an innocent narrator is shattered by a devastating revelation at about the midpoint of the novel.

A check of page 99 of my paperback edition of Jane Eyre reveals that the heroine is still at Lowood School, the orphanage where she spends her childhood before leaving to become a governess at Mr. Rochester’s gloomy Thornfield Hall:

“I desired liberty; for liberty I gasped; for liberty I uttered a prayer; it seemed scattered on the wind then faintly blowing.”

The shattering revelation of Mr. Rochester’s mad wife in the attic is still 126 pages away. Jane will spend the remainder of the novel searching for her liberty and her true self. The rest of my book after page 99 is also about coming to terms with some painful truths, and rebuilding both a life and an identity after betrayal and widowhood. I hope readers will see something of themselves in my midlife journey.
Read an excerpt from Perfection, and learn more about the book and author at Julie Metz's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Kyria Abrahams' "I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed"

Kyria Abrahams was a regular columnist for Jest Magazine for several years, where she was featured alongside performers and writers from The Daily Show and Chappelle’s Show. As a standup comic, Comedy Central twice selected her as one of ten semi-finalists for the Boston Laugh Riots Competition.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her memoir I'm Perfect, You're Doomed: Tales from a Jehovah's Witness Upbringing, and reported the following:
This chapter is about my OCD, which was something I strongly considered not putting in the book. OCD is the kind of thing people write whole books about, and it was hard enough to write a whole book about the Jehovah’s Witnesses, let alone have a random foray into my chemical imbalances. Later, though, I realized that it was integral to the book.

I did not try to gloss over my personal failings in this memoir. I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, but I also had a pretty debilitating anxiety disorder, not to mention the fact that I was an obnoxious, selfish teenager who wished I had money so I could spend it all on black lipstick. I wanted the reader to be able to see the whole picture of my childhood and decide for themselves where religion fits into the bedlam that my life became.

I think that OCD and fundamentalism are very similar, as both utilize ritual as a way to control the world around you and feel safe. I’d like to say that being Jehovah’s Witness and constantly fearing the apocalypse contributed to my need to manipulate my immediate surroundings, but I don’t think that’s how OCD works. I can’t claim that the Jehovah’s Witnesses affected my body’s ability to produce serotonin. They don’t have the power to do that. Satan the Devil, however, did give me acute mold allergies. And for that, I will never forgive him.
Read an excerpt from I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed, and learn more about the book and author at Kyria Abrahams' website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Wednesday Martin's "Stepmonster"

Wednesday Martin has worked as writer and social researcher in New York City for almost two decades. She was a regular contributor to New York Post’s parenting and lifestyle pages for several years, and her work has appeared in a number of national magazines including Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and Fitness. Martin was also a features editor at Woman’s World. She earned her doctorate in comparative literature from Yale and taught cultural studies and literature at Yale, The New School, and Baruch College. A stepmother for nine years, she lives in New York City with her husband and their two sons.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do, and reported the following:
My book Stepmonster starts from the premise that it is time to tell the story of remarriage with children from the point of view of the woman who marries a man with children, since her role is uniquely challenging, uniquely over-determined, and (to me) particularly fascinating. Our cultural resentment and suspicion of stepmothers runs deep, and the role is historically and socially rich in meaning. Yet books for women with stepchildren tend to focus on the emotions and needs of the children versus the stepmother, and to reduce her entire situation to one of replacement parent or spouse soother. My book is an attempt to explore stepmothering more comprehensively--in other cultures and across historical periods, as well as from perspectives as varied as evolutionary biology, literary criticism, economics, law, and personal experience.

Page 99 of Stepmonster falls at the end of a chapter called "You're Not My Child!" This chapter is about the taboo emotions that a woman with stepchildren will commonly feel--anger, jealousy, resentment--but seldom speak about or even acknowledge, rightfully fearing judgment and condemnation.

In spite of the fact that I set about to write a book that is NOT a book of advice--my goal was to write a deeper, more comprehensive book about stepmothering, one that went way beyond lecturing, "shoulds," and simplistic "recipes for success"--page 99 is in fact a section of advice.

At the top of the page, I note that I have at times been emotionally cautious and even guarded with my husband's daughters, having learned from hard experience that putting myself out has inevitably resulted in feeling put out when my efforts were rebuffed. I note that, "The risk is that in protecting ourselves, we may unwittingly be turning ourselves into a stereotype--the emotional and financial skinflint of a stepmother." I also note that while this "may be a little sad, or a little funny, it is also, we might remind, ourselves appropriate. We are, after all, their stepmothers."

This sets up for a transition to a discussion of a celebrated (among stepmothers) essay on "disengaging," one that seems to have been posted anonymously on the internet several years ago. The recommendations of this essay, which I summarize in part of page 99, include stepping back from hostile and rejecting stepchildren and giving and doing less until they are ready for a more reciprocal and healthy relationship with their stepmother. Such an undertaking as disengaging goes against virtually everything women are socialized to want to do in a step-situation--to try, to blend, to win them over, to be the good guy no matter what, to bend over backwards in order to win the approval and love of children who are very likely simply unable to confer it.

Page 99 is not a page I would say is representative of my book--most of it is not even my own writing. But it does show that stepfamilies are not alone in their frequent feelings of frustration, and that they are not without resources or choices. It supports women in stepfamilies taking steps that are self-preserving rather than self-abnegating, and urges them, in spite of all the pressures they feel to do so, to stop putting themselves and their needs last.
Read an excerpt from Stepmonster, and learn more about the book and author at Wednesday Martin's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Michèle Lamont's "How Professors Think"

Michèle Lamont is Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies and Professor of Sociology and African and African American Studies, and Senior Adviser on Faculty Development and Diversity, Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, How Professors Think: Inside the Curious World of Academic Judgment, and reported the following:
How Professors Think is a book that analyzes how social scientists and humanists go about evaluating the research of their colleagues and students. However, unlike other books on peer review, it is concerned with the meaning that is given to excellence as scholars go about separating the wheat from the chaff. This book also discusses disciplinary differences in evaluative culture – why political scientists and English professors don’t look for the same qualities when they sort through a pile of fellowship proposals or applications to graduate school. It also shows that economists and anthropologists have very different views concerning where excellence resides – in the object being evaluated or in the eyes of the beholder. While economists think that excellence is objective and is to be found in the proposal itself, scholars hailing from more interpretive fields believe that evaluators play a central role in giving value to the proposals – indeed, that they are engaged in the coproduction of excellence. While participating in panel deliberations, they produce what they hope will be convincing arguments about what is good work. They don’t think that their views – their subjectivity – corrupt the process. Instead, they think it is essential to the process, because they are asked to serve in their quality as connoisseurs, as experts who have spent many years developing a very refined classification system for understanding what the field has already produced and what is new and promising.

P. 99 of How Professors Think discusses the evaluative culture of political science. While some disciplines, such as English, tend to be skeptical concerning whether knowledge “advances,” such is not the case in political science. To quote: “Despite the divisiveness that characterizes the discipline, most political scientists I interviewed say they believe in scientific progress (“We stand on each other’s shoulders. It is a collective enterprise.”) They also tend to agree that quality resides in the proposals themselves, as opposed to resulting from the interpretation of the judges. One political scientist defines excellence in terms of successfully meeting disciplinary standards. He states: “I believe that there are scientific norms that are relatively well understood, that are pretty explicit. My view on this would be Lakatosian ... There are certain norms that one can battle about. The battles are within, I think, pretty narrow parameters.” This scholar believes that relativism applies to some kinds of knowledge and not others. For him, there are poles of relativism and certainty, and interpretations of the world are important when it comes to ethical matters. But, “I don't think it works well if we're looking say at thermodynamics or mathematics ... the mathematics we have is not relative, you know, there are proofs there.” Another political scientist dismisses as “silly” the view that claims to truth are just competing narratives. Of those who adopt such views, he says, “I think they believe in academic excellence, but defined differently. It's more defined in terms of intellectual virtuosity and the capacity to find hidden meanings in arguments rather than original contributions to knowledge. I think they have some very clear ideas of academic excellence, they're just different.” When asked if she believes in academic excellence, another political scientist—a Europeanist teaching at a large Midwestern university—responds, “I mean, it’s not like God or something, but I know when I’m reading something excellent and when I’m not. I don’t know that there’s consensus about it. I mean either someone has convinced me of something or they haven’t. Either they have the evidence or they don’t. If they have the evidence, then it’s nicely done.” These quotes suggest that the identification of excellence is far from being a simple matter, and that to understand it, we have to consider the broader normative and cultural contexts that scholars inhabit, which contexts vary enormously across the disciplines, and across the sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities. Moreover, reaching consensus on what defines excellence is not a desirable goal. It would require a cultural flattening of our problems and research questions and result in an impoverishment of our intellectual world – a uni-dimensional world decried by Herbert Marcuse, which we have many good reasons to fear.
Read an excerpt from How Professors Think, and learn more about the book at the Harvard University Press website.

Learn more about Michèle Lamont's scholarship at her faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lawrence S. Wittner's "Confronting the Bomb"

Lawrence S. Wittner is Professor of History at the State University of New York, Albany, and former President of the Peace History Society.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement, and reported the following:
On p. 99 of Confronting the Bomb, the reader will discover a relatively obscure, but important, battle in the early 1960s between independent peace organizations and Communist-dominated peace organizations for control of the worldwide campaign against nuclear weapons.

Most of the rest of the book recounts the history of this worldwide campaign and its remarkable impact.

Ever since the explosion of the first atomic bombs in 1945, there had been widespread popular anxiety about nuclear weapons. This anxiety reached peaks of intensity in the late 1940s, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and in the late 1970s and early 1980s, as vast protest campaigns emerged around the demand for banning nuclear weapons. With millions of participants, this public challenge to the nuclear ambitions of the great powers and their imitators became the largest social movement of modern times.

Based on massive research in the files of peace groups and in previously top secret government records, as well as on interviews with peace movement leaders and government officials, Confronting the Bomb provides a comprehensive account of this worldwide nuclear disarmament campaign.

It also provides conclusive evidence that the movement provided the key element in curbing the nuclear arms race and preventing nuclear war.

Along the way, readers will receive fascinating glimpses of the interaction between the leaders of the nuclear disarmament campaign (including Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Norman Cousins, Andrei Sakharov, Helen Caldicott, E.P. Thompson, and Randall Forsberg) and government leaders (among them Harry Truman, Jawaharlal Nehru, Nikita Khrushchev, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Mikhail Gorbachev).
The material in Confronting the Bomb was first made public in the author's scholarly, award-winning trilogy, "The Struggle Against the Bomb" (1993, 1997, 2003). But now, for the first time, it is presented in a short, popular form, making it much more accessible to the general public.

Read the preface to Confronting the Bomb, and learn more about the book at the Stanford University Press website.

Learn more about Lawrence S. Wittner's scholarship and political activity at his faculty webpage and Wikipedia page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 15, 2009

Thomas Maier's "Masters of Sex"

Thomas Maier is the author of The Kennedys: America’s Emerald Kings, which was adapted for Warner Home Video DVD, and the critically acclaimed Dr. Spock, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 1999. He is a special writer at Newsday.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love, and reported the following:
Ford Madox Ford's theory about Page 99 has never been more vividly demonstrated than in my biography Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love. Masters and Johnson's primary work dealt with the scientific study of sex, and their key findings underlined the power of female sexuality. On page 99, Paul Gebhard of the Kinsey Institute recalls his visit to M&J's medical lab at Washington University, where he was invited to observe how they observed women volunteers having sexual orgasm.

Here's the Page 99 excerpt:

Bill and Gini motioned him to follow them into a green-colored examination room nearby. In the middle of this sparse, almost empty room was the chaise lounge chair, a baseboard riddled with electrical outlets and another machine, best described by Gebhard as "a motor-powered, plexiglass phallus." Masters, a proud progenitor, beamed with satisfaction as he explained its gadgetry.

"Well, do you want to see it in action?" Masters demanded.

Though the question caught him by surprise, Gebhard quickly agreed. Gini disappeared into another room and returned several minutes later with the anonymous female graduate student wearing a pillowcase over her head.

When everyone was ready, the young woman rested on the leather-padded lounge chair, with her feet in stirrups and her body nearly flat. Her pink, bare skin was fitted with numerous dark wires connected to a bulky electroencephalograph machine, which hummed, whirled and beeped. A tiny television screen tracked the swirling patterns of electrical impulses coming from her brain. Little sensors attached to the woman's breasts monitored each heart beat, recorded in squiggly lines across white paper rolling out slowly from an electrocardiograph machine. These tools served as a kind of sexual polygraph, as detectors of the truth in an area so often filled with exaggeration and lies.

In the meantime, Masters grabbed a metal office chair, which he placed in front of the chaise. He instructed Gebhard to sit down if he wished to observe the inner actions of the vagina and cervix during this experiment. Gebhard found himself within two feet of the young woman's opened legs, close enough to stare through the optical lens of the long-stemmed device.

"Keep your eye some distance from the end of the phallus or you'll get poked!" Masters advised, after Gini removed the warm towel. Bill allowed a slight grin before returning to his studied grimace.

With the machinery in place, Masters gazed around the room. He made sure the color camera was turned on, and his staff ready to register and tabulate each reaction. Once settled, the young woman was handed "Ulysses" -- the nickname given to the cylindrical plastic device. Among the staff, it seemed only natural to call this one-eyed monstrosity "Ulysses", the same name as a recently-released Kirk Douglas movie featuring a giant cyclops. Gebhard viewed the fully illuminated vaginal cavity through the camera-like lens with remarkable clarity. "It was completely transparent,” he remembered.

At her own speed, the young woman in the chair rubbed "Ulysses” against her labia, first gently and then firmly. She massaged the moist outer lips of her vagina, enough so that the plastic device made a slight scratchy sound against her public hair. She followed a prepared routine, as if she had been trained to perform certain practices for the benefit of her clinical audience. Eventually, she felt a rush of blood and energy with her vulva feeling lubricated. She slipped the device inside almost effortlessly, with barely any pressure at all.

For the next few minutes, the entire room seemed caught up in a minuet of movement, syncopated to the young woman's thrusting of “Ulysses” into her vagina and the chronicling of each impulse it provoked. As tension rose and her climax neared, the woman's body glistened with sweat. The room’s warmth, monitored carefully by Gini, now felt even hotter. In those days, Maternity Hospital didn’t have air-conditioning and climate control became a critical factor in testing the volunteers’ physiologic response. The young woman threw her head back, wiggling her hips up and down, sideways and back. To reach the stated goal of orgasm, she’d been instructed beforehand on controlling the motorized device, increasing the rapidity and depth of its plunging as she desired. Rather than convulsing in ecstasy, however, she appeared relatively calm. Her simulated love-making appeared almost workman-like.

Gini and Bill scribbled notes while watching the machines and the young woman's gyrations. Gebhard kept watching through the plexiglass device with utter amazement, enough that he lost track of its thrusting motion. "She speeded it up too much, and the phallus came back and hit me in the eye." Gebhard recalled. Flustered after being struck by a mechanical dildo, Gebhard said he “kept my eye a little further away from the phallus, so it wouldn’t happen again." Despite years of study at the Kinsey Institute, Gebhard felt as if he were observing sex for the first time. As the woman neared climax, he recalled, "I got to see the cervix sort of retreat up into the recesses of the uterus and become more prominent. Eventually she did have an orgasm and that did not take too much time.”

Through this looking glass widget, Gebhard confirmed Masters’ significant discovery that dispelled a longstanding -- but fundamentally incorrect -- medical belief about a woman’s body prior to orgasm. Bill and Gini showed that vaginal lubrication during intercourse didn’t pour forth from the Bartholin’s gland, located in each of the minor labia, as believed by organized medicine. Nor did it come from the cervix, as others theorized. Instead, they discovered “a transudation-like reaction” of mucous material, seeping or “sweating” through the walls of the vagina. It formed a smooth, glistening coating, like perspiration on an athlete’s forehead. It left a woman sufficiently lubricated usually within less than 30 seconds of initial sexual excitement. This basic misunderstanding about a woman’s sexual response existed for decades before corrected with direct scientific observation by Masters and Johnson. As Gebhard said, “You had to have a researcher like Bill, because no other way were you going to find out.”

When the young woman finished, she put her clothes back on, picked up her money and returned to life on campus. Masters and Johnson counted her among more than a dozen females recruited in the early days of their study. Gebhard never learned her name. Her identity remained a tightly-kept secret. “Bill said nothing -- he watched," Gebhard remembered of the solemn demonstration that day. Once completed, however, Masters beamed with inventor’s pride. “‘Males hate this machine,” he quipped, “because invariably the females speed up the machine at a rate that no male can equal!’

Gebhard couldn’t resist a laugh. “I can understand that,” he replied.

Years later, Masters defended the supreme practicality of this Rube Goldberg-like device. “Doctors put mirrors inside the stomach to study the stomach,” he observed. “You do the same thing with the vagina and people say, ‘How dare you do that?”
Preview Masters of Sex, and learn more about the book and author at Thomas Maier's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Susie Boyt's "My Judy Garland Life"

Susie Boyt's novels include The Normal Man, The Characters of Love, The Last Hope of Girls, and Only Human.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to My Judy Garland Life, her first work of non-fiction, and reported the following:
Page 99 of My Judy Garland Life - A Memoir might not, at first, seem representative of the book at all. Page 99 has nothing to do with Judy Garland and is not even written by me. It is, in fact, a letter my mother sent to me just before I sat my final exams at Oxford, when I was 23 and bereaved and grieving. It occurs in a short section of the book entitled Things That Have Consoled Me Greatly at Low Moments in a chapter called ‘The Rescuers’.

Yet the letter’s themes of courage, hope, cheer and its excruciating opposite, are all utterly central to my book. My Judy Garland Life is really an extended meditation on love, fame, rescue, grief and consolation, disguised as a book about hero-worship. In examining key episodes from my life and key episodes from Judy Garland’s life the book takes a long, clear look at the many faces of loss and the many faces of love. It is, I hope, a dark book with high spirits about the way we all live.

1. A letter from my mother while I was at university and very, very sad.

Darling Suse,

I hope so much that you are feeing better. I think you are being very brave about everything. All this immense golden sunshine seems very extraordinary– when I went to the market early it was cold, even wearing a coat. One old lady fly-pitching on the pavement: ‘Yesterday the Caribbean, today Siberia!’ and she was repeating it to every passer by, accompanied by lots of laughter. The tree outside looks like a firework display of golden shooting stars aimed at my window and the air is rotten with the smell of lawn mower, except for our front garden where some roses are out. They are called PEACE; I might put some little labels like the sign TAKE COURAGE at Finsbury Park.

I’m going to see Enid tomorrow. Last week I stayed there till midnight, we were recounting the days of our youth, I could remember a lot of things about her that she had forgotten. I must see if she can do the same for me. Tomorrow there is a circus in Highury Fields, no animals but lots of funny acts. I’m hoping to take Frances* after school. I should think it would be very exciting for us both, though not so exciting without the smells of lions and elephants.

Some time in the summer after your exams, perhaps we could go on a little holiday together, for one or two days, stay at a posh hotel in Brighton for the night or something. Wouldn’t it be lovely, we could go to the Variety Theatre in the evening and stroll along the pier. And take photographs. What do you think?

I hope and pray you feel better, I have a strong feeling that everything is going to go really well, and you will be really pleased with all your hard work and exams. I hope you like the little enclosure [a rose key ring]

All the love in the world. Mum.
Read an excerpt from My Judy Garland Life, and learn more about the book and author at Susie Boyt's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 11, 2009

David O. Stewart's "Impeached"

David O. Stewart is the author of the highly acclaimed The Summer of 1787, the bestselling account of the writing of the Constitution. He has practiced law in Washington, D.C., for more than a quarter of a century, defending accused criminals and challenging government actions as unconstitutional. Stewart has argued appeals all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and was law clerk to Justice Lewis Powell of that Court.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln's Legacy, and reported the following:
No test is perfect, not even one decreed by Ford Madox Ford. I squirmed when I applied the page 99 test to Impeached, my book about the Andrew Johnson impeachment trial of 1868. Because page 99 is the last page of Chapter 8, it holds but four-and-one-half lines of print, a grand total of 58 words. Ouch. My entire book judged on a haiku-like excerpt due to an offhand pronouncement by a British novelist who changed his last name to be the same as his first name in order to avoid anti-German sentiment during World War I. (Ford’s last name was originally “Hueffer.”)

But rules are rules. Adding the 22 words that form the beginning of the sentence from the bottom of page 98, this passage describes the bitter standoff in late 1867 between President Johnson (the Southern Democrat who became president when Lincoln was assassinated) and the overwhelmingly Republican Senate, just before the impeachment crisis:

As Congress and the president circled each other warily, each looking to gain ground against the other, perhaps to administer a coup de grace, [General-in-Chief Ulysses S.] Grant stood on the most critical ground in the fight – at the War Department, in charge of the military. Not only that, his stature with the public was too great for anyone to ignore. With Grant holding the pivot of the contest, the battle would be joined again in the poisonous political climate of Washington City.

Not so bad. Here are crystallized two of the Big Themes in the book.

The first is the rancorous political atmosphere of post-Civil War Washington, as the nation and its leaders groped towards a reconstruction of the Southern states and of the nation. Reconciliation after bitter civil war was no easier for Americans in 1866 than it has been for Vietnamese in 1980 or Iraqis in 2005. The process curdles even well-intentioned initiatives into bitter disputes.

The second was the surprising importance to the impeachment effort of General Grant, military hero and presumptive next president. Repelled by Johnson’s belligerent defense of the Southern states’ right effectively to re-enslave four million black people, Grant’s support for impeachment – at first tacit, then overt – was essential to the impeachment drive. The impeachment crisis marked Grant’s transition from a military to a political figure.

Those 80 words leave out a few important themes. That Johnson’s talents were a woeful mismatch for the challenges of reconstruction, and that his own blunders fed the flames of the impeachment effort. That the case against him was largely botched by his prosecutors in the Senate trial. That the acquittal of Johnson by a single vote in the Senate was almost certainly the result of backroom deals for patronage jobs and hard cash. That the often baffling impeachment process provided the nation a critical cooling-off period at a moment when it teetered on the edge of a second civil war.

But you can read the book for all that.
Read an excerpt from Impeached, and learn more about the book and author at David O. Stewart's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cathy Gere's "Knossos and the Prophets of Modernism"

Cathy Gere is an assistant professor at the University of California, San Diego, and the author of The Tomb of Agamemnon.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Knossos and the Prophets of Modernism, and reported the following:
The book is about how an eccentric cast of modernist artists and thinkers responded to the excavation and reconstruction of the Palace of Minos on the Island of Crete. The dig began in 1900, and the archaeologist Arthur Evans recreated ancient Crete as a peaceful, goddess-worshiping, matriarchal paradise. As the twentieth century launched wars of ever-increasing reach and ferocity, this pacifist interpretation proved to be incredibly appealing, and modernist intellectuals from Freud to James Joyce to Robert Graves all celebrated the Minoan epoch in their writings.

Page 99 is dominated by a quotation from the artist Giorgio de Chirico, one of the 'prophets of modernism' of the title. During the Balkan Wars of 1912 to 1913, de Chirico produced a whole series of paintings of the mythological Cretan princess Ariadne, which are clearly indebted to the excavations at Knossos. The quotation on page 99 is about his feelings about warfare, in particular about a war that his family was swept up in when he was a child. This was the conflict that won Crete her independence from the Ottoman Empire, the gruesome aftermath of which led Arthur Evans to suppress the evidence he had already amassed for ancient Cretan militarism, and to recreate the society as a sort of peaceful Eden. It’s really a book about an archaeological fantasy – how the trauma of modern war produced Europe’s false memory of a peaceful Cretan childhood – and so in that sense page 99 is very representative of the major themes of the work.
Read more about Knossos and the Prophets of Modernism at the University of Chicago Press website.

Learn more about Cathy Gere's scholarship at her UCSD faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Michael & Elizabeth Norman's "Tears in the Darkness"

Michael Norman and Elizabeth M. Norman are a writing couple from Montclair, NJ. Michael is a former reporter for the New York Times and teaches in the Literary Reportage program at New York University. Beth is a PhD historian in the Humanities and Social Sciences at NYU’s Steinhardt School. Her second book, We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of the American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese, was published to critical acclaim by Random House in 1999. Michael’s first book, These Good Men: Friendship Forged From War, an account of his service with the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines in Vietnam in 1968, also garnered wide-spread reviews. The couple has two grown sons. They are already at work on their next book, another non-fiction narrative, this one about public medicine and New York’s Bellevue Hospital.

The Normans applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Tears In the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath, and reported the following:
First, why we failed the page 99 test. We didn’t set out to write history; we set out to create a layered, interlocking non-fiction narrative, a good old-fashioned “story” that unfolds slowly, and you can’t understand page 99 without a bit of setup. Tears In The Darkness is the story of America’s first major land battle in WWII, the 99-day-battle for the peninsula of Bataan in the Philippines in 1942, a battle that became the worst defeat in American military history.

We interviewed more than four hundred people for the book, the American, Japanese and Filipino soldiers who took part, this to create a narrative, a story, that is told from shifting points of view. We also built the book around a central American character, Ben Steele, a young Montana cowboy who became a prisoner of war, survived and came home to become a professor of art. The book has twenty-three of his evocative sketches embedded in the text.

A third of the book is told from the Japanese point of view. Page 99 is in the middle of one such section, the story of a Japanese battalion that was wiped out and one of the nine Japanese soldiers who survived and was captured by the Americans, Kiyoshi Kinoshita.

On the eighth day of battle, the enemy began its attack with a barrage of mortar and artillery rounds. The high-trajectory missiles came crashing down through the canopy and exploded on the hohei in their holes, then the barrage lifted, and behind a loud rattle of rifle fire the enemy advanced.

The Sixth Company was on the right side of the arc now, and Kiyoshi Kinoshita spent the day crawling back and forth with messages. He had to keep low, creep carefully under the heavy wooden lianas and across the green thorns and thistles that tore at his uniform and ripped into his skin. Sometimes, to catch his breath, he hunkered down for a moment in a depression in the ground or tucked himself into a nook between two finlike tree roots. The jungle soil was cool, the only relief from the smothering heat, but he had to keep moving.

He was thirsty—they all were. Some of the men had discovered a small spring in a ravine leading down to the beach, but it took a long time for a man to fill his canteen there, especially under fire. And the heat and dust and smoke and fear left their throats tight and their mouths as dry as rice paper and bitter as vinegar. They were hungry too, down to dry biscuits and bits of candy now. There was little forage on Quinauan Point, a few roots perhaps, some leaves and grasses they boiled to a sour tea. And they were so low on ammunition they often waited until an enemy was almost on top of them to fire. One officer, defending himself only with his sword, cut off his enemy’s right hand before his enemy shot and killed him with the other.

After a week of such savagery, bodies, limbs, hunks of flesh, and viscera…

Now, why we think we passed the Page 99 test. We hope the reader will see the “novelistic” technique of shifting point of view on that page. Overall we tried hard as writers to get out of the way between the reader and the subject. And we tried to create a non-fiction story that was told from ground level, though the eyes of people who experienced it, like Ben Steele and Kiyoshi Kinoshita, old men now living with the ghosts of war.
Watch the Tears in the Darkness trailer and read an excerpt from the book.

Learn more about the book and authors at the Tears in the Darkness website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 8, 2009

Charlotte Brooks' "Alien Neighbors, Foreign Friends"

Charlotte Brooks is an assistant professor of history and the co-chair of the Program in Asian and Asian American Studies at Baruch College, CUNY.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Alien Neighbors, Foreign Friends: Asian Americans, Housing, and the Transformation of Urban California, and reported the following:
In one way, page 99 of Alien Neighbors, Foreign Friends is not particularly representative of the book as a whole. Much of it consists of a 1939 quote from “My Day,” the newspaper column that Eleanor Roosevelt wrote for many years. In this particular column, Mrs. Roosevelt mentions a private social research organization’s report detailing the terrible housing conditions in San Francisco’s Chinatown. In 1939, racial segregation confined almost every one of the city’s 20,000 Chinese Americans to the overcrowded and terribly substandard neighborhood. Eleanor Roosevelt’s inadvertent leaking of San Francisco’s dirty little secret-­-that its biggest tourist attraction was also a slum­--prompted widespread soul-searching among white city residents, who eventually came to support the construction of a public housing project (albeit a segregated one) for Chinese Americans in Chinatown.

While page 99 thus focuses on a specific public relations disaster and its aftermath, it also hints at the central argument of the book: that white Californians’ view of Asian Americans as perpetual foreigners was central to the residential segregation of Chinese Americans and Japanese Americans before World War Two and to their increased integration by the 1950s. To white Californians, the Cold War changed the meaning and repercussions of discrimination against Asian Americans because so many whites equated them with Asians in Asia, where the U.S. was attempting to win hearts and minds and prove the superiority of capitalism.

Page 99 shows that attitudes towards Chinese Americans had already begun to shift by the late 1930s. The widespread support in San Francisco for a publicly-funded Chinese American housing project was extraordinary in a city with an almost century-long tradition of anti-Chinese activism. As the book shows, however, Mrs. Roosevelt’s column came at a crucial moment: Japan had invaded China in 1937, and white Americans, even in San Francisco, began to fear Japan’s ambitions and to express great sympathy for the beleaguered Chinese and their presumed surrogates, Chinese Americans. Page 99 thus highlights one instance of a common pattern: events overseas played more of a role in determining Asian American housing opportunities than did need or justice or the entitlements of citizenship.
Learn more about Alien Neighbors, Foreign Friends at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Moshik Temkin's "The Sacco-Vanzetti Affair"

Moshik Temkin is an assistant professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Previously he taught American and European history at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris and at Columbia University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Sacco-Vanzetti Affair: America on Trial, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book The Sacco-Vanzetti Affair: America on Trial captures what may have been the central paradox of the entire Sacco-Vanzetti affair: that international controversy turned Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti into famous men–one magazine called them “the two most famous prisoners in the world”–and ultimately also sealed their fate.

Sacco and Vanzetti were two Italian immigrants and anarchists whose 1921 conviction for the robbery and murder of a paymaster and his guard outside Boston was increasingly seen, by people inside and outside the United States, as a judicial travesty and a symbol of everything wrong with America. On page 99 I discuss Georg Branting, a Stockholm attorney who visited the United States in the Spring of 1927 to investigate the case on behalf of “European opinion.” He became convinced that Sacco and Vanzetti were innocent, and that, because of this, the authorities would stop their execution. When that didn’t happen, and Sacco and Vanzetti were executed in August 1927, Branting came to the grim conclusion that the international pressure exerted on the United States by Europeans, Latin Americans, and others around the world made many Americans in positions of power worry about appearing weak in the face of “foreign interference” and international “terrorism”. This was especially true of Massachusetts Governor Alvan Fuller, a man with presidential aspirations who chose, at the moment of truth, not to pardon Sacco and Vanzetti. This meant that, as opposed to what American high school and college students read in their history textbooks, Sacco and Vanzetti were executed not in spite of the global protest on their behalf, but rather because of it. In this sense, the Sacco-Vanzetti affair revealed a powerful division among Americans, between those who viewed the U.S. as part of an international community, and those who insisted on its principled separateness from the rest of the world. This conflict, in many ways, continues today.

Here’s a quote from page 99:

Ultimately, in the debate over whether individuals or a system were the downfall of Sacco and Vanzetti, [Georg] Branting came down firmly on the latter side.... In his opinion, Sacco and Vanzetti were executed because of ‘mighty forces that were in motion’.... No other outcome, Branting now wrote in contradiction of his hopeful public statements in June 1927, could seriously have been expected. To his mind, the questions that the legal and political authorities in the United States and Massachusetts were asking themselves in the heated days of 1927 were: ‘Should the ruling party, with the presidential campaign impending, yield to the radicals’ demands? Should one risk...being suspected of weakness toward the “reds”? The answer: never, it must not happen! Foreign countries, let them go to the devil.’

It is safe to assume that Branting, who was back in Stockholm, did not read the self-satisfied editorial that appeared in the Boston Evening Transcript on August 24, 1927, the day after the executions, but it showed how correct his assessment probably was. ‘The Sacco-Vanzetti case’, wrote the editors, ‘has been the vehicle of as vicious propaganda as ever deluged a community. Radicals the world over...saw here an opportunity to further what they call their cause. Without their meddling interference the case never would have assumed unusual proportions ... Many well-meaning [American] citizens either thought these foreign agitators were in earnest or were afraid of what they might do.... Massachusetts could not pay the slightest attention to European protests or the sentiments voiced by the journals and public men of distant lands.’

In this, the editors of the Transcript faithfully captured the jingoism and anti-outsider feeling that ultimately did in Sacco and Vanzetti, and the editorial reinforces the impression that Sacco and Vanzetti were executed because men in positions of power made the choice to allow it to happen. And these choices were made in a political context that made it seem to these individuals that clemency for Sacco and Vanzetti would mean a surrender to foreign pressures and subversive activities.”
Read an excerpt from The Sacco-Vanzetti Affair and learn more about the book at the Yale University Press website.

Visit Moshik Temkin's Harvard faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Jennifer Manske Fenske's "The Wide Smiles of Girls"

Jennifer Manske Fenske is the author of the novel Toss the Bride. Her essays have been published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Arizona Republic, and Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel as well as New Parent and The Lutheran magazines.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new novel, The Wide Smiles of Girls, and reported the following:
The Wide Smiles of Girls is a novel about two sisters, March and Mae Wallace, whose relationship becomes fractured when March is injured in a horseback-riding accident. Convinced she bears some responsibility for the accident, Mae Wallace becomes March’s favorite punching bag. The two sisters move to a South Carolina island and meet Hale, an artist and widower who is mourning the death of his young wife, Ruth. Ruth has died mysteriously after climbing an old highway bridge that is being dismantled.

On page 99, Mae Wallace meets Hale, her new next-door neighbor on Langdon Island. She is lonely, cut off from her sister and her old life she left behind in Atlanta. Hale is hurting, too, two years after he lost his wife. He still lives in their seaside bungalow; he still paints under the old highway bridge where she fell.

From page 99:

March was paralyzed. It hurt me to say it. Her legs didn’t work and it didn’t seem that was ever going to change. The accident had robbed her of walking, running (not that she ever did), and the independent life she had lived. In time, March could function independently, we were told, but until then, there was physical therapy, rehabilitation, and “life skills” training.

My parents, numb for months about the accident, had selected Sea Villas Rehabilitation Center as one of the best places in the nation for March to stay for the foreseeable future. Although no one asked, I volunteered to go and live on the island to be near my sister.
Preview The Wide Smiles of Girls, and learn more about the author and her work at Jennifer Manske Fenske's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Merry Wiesner-Hanks' "The Marvelous Hairy Girls"

Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks is Distinguished Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her many books include Christianity and Sexuality in the Early Modern World and the prize-winning Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe, now in its third edition.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Marvelous Hairy Girls: The Gonzales Sisters and Their Worlds, and reported the following:
I first saw the portrait that is on the book’s cover—done by the Italian painter Lavinia Fontana, who as a woman artist in the Renaissance was herself an oddity—when I was looking for something else, and I decided I had to learn more about the hairy little girl in the pink brocade dress. The result is The Marvelous Hairy Girls: The Gonzales Sisters and their Worlds, which tells the story of three sixteenth-century sisters, who, along with their father and brothers, were afflicted with what doctors now call hypertrichosis universales, so that their bodies were covered with hair. Their father, Petrus Gonzales, was born on the Canary Islands, taken as a small boy to the French court of Henry II and Catherine de Medici, and educated there. He was given a minor position at court (as an assistant bearer of the king’s bread) and married a normal Parisian woman, during the time when France was being torn apart by the wars of religion. The couple had a number of children, most of them hairy. In the 1590s, the family moved to Italy, where they were part of the entourage of the Farnese family, which included dukes and cardinals who were interested in oddities and the exotic. Here the fate of the three sisters paralleled that of most women in the sixteenth century: one died young; one remained unmarried and died in middle age; and one married—to the keeper of the Farneses’ hunting dogs--and had children, one of whom was probably hairy. Their noble patrons dressed the Gonzales family in luxurious clothing, which further highlighted their double identities: human and beast, civilized and wild, courtier and monster. Their many portraits ended up on castle walls and in the “cabinets of curiosities” natural scientists were assembling with thousands of wonderful and weird objects, the roots of today’s museums.

Page 99 is in the middle of Chapter Three, “Massacring Beasts, Monstrous Women, and Educated Gentlemen: The World of the Court.” It tells the story of Petrus’ life in Paris, where:

Nobles vied with each other to carry out tasks associated with the physical needs of the monarch—bringing in breakfast, handing napkins, emptying the royal chamber pot. As Petrus carried the king’s bread, he may have walked beside, or at least close behind, some of France’s most powerful individuals.Though we may view such service activities as demeaning or even disgusting, they offered great opportunities for personal access to the ruler.

As does the rest of the book, this page uses the Gonzales family as a lens to see the larger worlds in which they lived, and finds unusual parallels. The “massacring beasts” of the chapter’s title (which is at the top of the page, so technically on p. 99!) are the Catholic “wolves” and Calvinist “beasts” who were brutally killing each other, the “monstrous women” female rulers such as Catherine de Medici, and the “educated gentlemen” courtiers who were taught—as was Petrus—to speak Latin as part of the new humanist learning. Other chapters range over many other things to which they were connected, such as ideas about hairy wild folk at home and beyond Europe, devotion to a hairy Mary Magdalene and to a God that created such wonders, and marriage patterns that made such a family possible.
Read an excerpt from The Marvelous Hairy Girls, and learn more about the book at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 1, 2009

Todd B. Kashdan's "Curious?"

Todd B. Kashdan, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at George Mason University. He earned his B.S. from Cornell University and his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Buffalo. He has been active in the positive psychology movement since 2000, when he taught one of the first college courses on the science of happiness. He currently teaches courses on abnormal psychology, mood and anxiety disorders, and the science of well-being. Currently, he is the associate editor of the Journal of Positive Psychology as well as the Journal of Personality.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Curious?: Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life, and reported the following:
Part I: Summary of p.99 of the book

On p. 99 of my book, you will find yourself right in the midst of an exercise to clarify your values, or the bedrock foundation of your identity. This is a book about finding meaning, finding passion in life, and being open, curious, and receptive to opportunities that allow us to use our time and energy to the fullest. We spend more time choosing lattes, weekend plans, and furniture for our house than what we want our lives to be about and what we value. Although we cannot always be happy, we can almost always be profoundly aware and curious. To achieve happiness, meaning in life, and other elements of the good life, we will engage in a constant series of personal experiments.

Don’t let your daily chores, routines, and schedules get in the way of exploring and discovering passions in life. Know your values. Invest your time and energy into what you care about most. It all starts with taking an interest in ourselves, other people, and the world outside of our routine. If things aren’t working, we need the strength to reinvent our daily lives as needed. Values are our compass for figuring out what direction to start.

If you aren't living according to your values, you won't be happy, no matter how much you are achieving. Point your curiosity inward to begin the journey and be open and receptive to whatever it is you uncover. More information about the entire book can be found at: www.toddkashdan.com.

Part II: Actual writing on p.99 of the book

{*}Virtue—To live a morally pure and excellent life

{*}Wealth—To have plenty of money

{*}Insert your own unlisted value:

{*}Insert your own unlisted value:

Once you select your top ten values, prioritize each one into the following categories:

{*}Most important to me

{*}Very important to me

{*}Least important to me

Having clarified your most cherished values, you can keep them at the forefront of your attention, and it will be easier to determine which activities are worthwhile to commit to and be interested in. Returning back to the “big-five” kinds of moments in our lives, we are regularly confronted with uninteresting or painful activities that are potentially hazardous to our health that we can quit (e.g., talking to a racist neighbor) or still feel compelled to do (e.g., calling your 85-year old grandmother every week and enduring the 10-minute spiels about how you don’t call enough).

Knowing your values makes it easier to make decisions as they offer us a direction to travel in. Enduring interest and passion—the hallmarks of a fulfilling life—start with moments of interest, that is, infusing daily activities with more delight, eliminating unnecessary activities that drain time and energy, and taking on new activities that have the potential to enhance our lives. But moments of interest are transformed when they tap into and reflect our values. It’s easier to quit painful or uninteresting activities when we know that our cherished values conflict with their continuation. It’s easier to justify ending a relationship if you know what values are at your core and are being disrespected or tread on. It’s easier to begin relationships when you know which values you are more flexible about. Then there are values you don’t identify with. Someone exemplifying them might expand your own world if you were to enter a relationship with them. Those unaccounted-for activities that are ruled out or rejected
Browse inside Curious?, and learn more about the book and author at Todd Kashdan's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue