Monday, November 20, 2017

Elizabeth L Silver's "The Tincture of Time"

Elizabeth L Silver is the author of the memoir, The Tincture of Time: A Memoir of (Medical) Uncertainty, and the critically acclaimed novel, The Execution of Noa P. Singleton.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to The Tincture of Time and reported the following:
From page 99:
I’m in the waiting room of the first neurosurgeon’s office about to find out the results from Abby’s first outpatient MRI. There is a large screen showcasing an aquarium scene, stretching from floor to ceiling. We get free water with the logo of the office printed on the bottles.

It is hours after Abby has awakened from anesthesia. She is cranky but not terribly so. I wait for an extra hour. It’s OK. These are neurosurgeons. Pediatric neurosurgeons. Nothing I do will ever be as important—not in writing or in law. I wonder if other doctors feel impotent comparatively. Still, I know that this pediatric neurosurgeon is just a person. He is not a God. He’s a meticulously well-trained technician, and yet I wait for his answers the way a penitent stands outside a confessional hoping for absolution.

While I wait, the termites of guilt return. Hospitals are infested with them, as are waiting rooms.
Page 99 represents the theoretical core of the book, in that it is a book about waiting, about wondering what the future may hold, and learning how to navigate that unknown terrain – specially with respect to medical crises. This page opens on a section exploring waiting rooms in hospitals, doctor offices, therapists’ offices, and any place where life is forced to the periphery for a moment. It is the place of temporariness, it is a place filled with anxiety and possibility. This short excerpt is taken from a hospital waiting room, where we await results from a brain MRI for our infant daughter and must speak with a pediatric neurosurgeon about the results as soon as we are called back from our soft chairs in the waiting room. Everything in our lives will lead up to the short conversation we know we will have when called back, but in that moment in the waiting room, life and its mysteries can take any form it likes. There are no answers yet, and it is this place of emotional stasis that intrigued me as a writer, a person, a parent. What does it mean to wait – to be forced to wait or to embrace the waiting? In so many ways, this makes us human.
Learn more about the book and author at Elizabeth L. Silver's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Execution of Noa P. Singleton.

My Book, The Movie: The Execution of Noa P. Singleton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Padraic Kenney's "Dance in Chains"

Padraic Kenney is Professor of History and International Studies at Indiana University,

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Dance in Chains: Political Imprisonment in the Modern World, and reported the following:
Writing about the experience of political imprisonment, I examine a wide variety of actions that prisoners engage in, ranging from communal education to hunger strikes. One of the hardest activities to write about is escape from prison. It is challenging to discuss, as I do on page 99 of Dance in Chains, because the motives are so simple: anyone who is confined against his or her will should want to get out. But in the case of political prisoners, escape is also part of politics: you escape to rejoin the movement and also, perhaps, to show what your movement is capable of.

Not that everyone had much of a chance to escape. But in some regimes, political prisoners seem to spend most of their time devising jailbreaks. This was certainly true in Ireland during the years of the Revolution and Civil War (1916-1923). Page 99 features a postcard from 1919, showing Irish revolutionaries merrily escaping en masse from Mountjoy Prison in Dublin, while a little boy alerts the clueless guard.

The Irish Free State that took over the prisons and camps in 1921 did not have more success holding on to the men and women they detained. We see Sean MacBride—future winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on human rights, but in 1923 a lowly IRA soldier—given the task, in Newbridge Camp near Dublin, of managing the multiple escape schemes being hatched by his fellow prisoners, in order to identify those with the best chance of success. Thus escape became proof of the IRA’s organizational superiority.

I understand the political prisoner as someone who develops a politics of the prison: that is, who sees the fact of being imprisoned as an opportunity to advance one’s cause. The men in Mountjoy Prison and Newbridge Camp, as well as those I portray in prisons and camps ranging from Stalinist Poland to Apartheid South Africa to Guantanamo Bay, demonstrate this very well.
Learn more about Dance in Chains at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Stephen R. Bown's "Island of the Blue Foxes"

Stephen R. Bown is a critically acclaimed author of several literary non-fiction books on the history of science, exploration and ideas.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Island of the Blue Foxes: Disaster and Triumph on the World's Greatest Scientific Expedition, and reported the following:
On page 99:
The flotilla was soon engulfed in “thick” weather, and one of the ships became lost and returned while two continued on south, one commanded by Spangberg, the other by Lieutenant William Walton. They reached the island of Honshu in northern Japan in late June. Here they spied many small ships in the shallow bays. Coastal villages were surrounded by people working in fields of grain of a variety they did not recognize, while large forested hills dominated inland. On several occasions, boats sailed out to meet them, and men came aboard their ships to trade fresh fish, water, large tobacco leaves, rice, fruit, salted pickles, and other foods for Russian cloth and clothing. They were small men who bowed when entering the ship’s cabin and were “excessively polite.” Spangberg did not allow his men to go ashore, nor did he allow many Japanese to board his ship, “since Japan’s history abounds in accounts of attacks on Christians.” He observed that “in each Japanese craft was a number of stones, each of about two to three pounds weight. Perhaps the stones served as ballast, but being of that size, they could also have been used as projectiles, if things should have gone wrong.”
My latest book, Island of the Blue Foxes: Disaster and Triumph on the World’s Greatest Scientific Expedition is about the mighty decade long Great Northern Expedition, conceived by Russia’s Peter the Great in the early 18th century. It was the most ambitious and well-financed scientific expedition in history, lasting nearly ten years and spanning three continents, its geographic, cartographic and natural history accomplishments are on par with James Cook’s famous voyages and Lewis and Clark’s cross-continental trek. The expedition involved thousands of scientists, artists, surveyors, naval officers, mariners, soldiers, and skilled laborers, all of whom had to cross through Siberia (which had no roads or accurate maps at the time), build a shipyard from scratch in Kamchatka, then build two ships, before setting off across the North Pacific to Alaska. It was a hugely important undertaking both politically and scientifically – Siberia was charted and a route across it formalized, while it laid the foundation for the Russian Empire to conquer Alaska (before selling it to the US over a century later). But it was also one of the Age of Sail’s darkest tales of shipwreck, suffering and survival. Page 99 does convey something of the content of the book – the adventurous events of a sea voyage – but it doesn’t get to the meat of the story, neither politically with Peter the Great in St. Petersburg, nor scientifically with the German naturalist and physician Georg Steller, nor nautically with the lurid and dramatic shipwreck, nor adventurously with the demoralized group’s survival on an uninhabited island. So this time I’d have to say sorry Ford Madox Ford, no dice, as they say.
Learn more about the book and author at Stephen R. Bown's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: The Last Viking.

The Page 99 Test: White Eskimo.

My Book, The Movie: Island of the Blue Foxes.

Writers Read: Stephen R. Bown.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Kelley Fanto Deetz's "Bound to the Fire"

Historical archaeologist and historian Kelley Fanto Deetz is a research associate at the James River Institute for Archaeology, and a Visiting Assistant Professor at Randolph College, in Lynchburg, Virginia. Deetz, who was a professional chef for several years, is a contributor to The Routledge History of Food and Birth of a Nation: Nat Turner and the Making of a Movement. Her work has appeared in National Geographic History.

Deetz applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Bound to the Fire: How Virginia's Enslaved Cooks Helped Invent American Cuisine, and reported the following:
Page 99 is the start of chapter 4: "In Dining: Black Food on White Plates." It opens by introducing Mary Randolph, a well-known wealthy white plantation mistress as she discusses the excitement about throwing a ball.  White southern nostalgia oozes throughout the first paragraph, and reflects most American’s ideas about plantation dining and southern hospitality as a whole.  Mary Randolph was the quintessential housewife, and her social world revolved around entertaining.  The language and images presented are quickly derailed as paragraph two states “Behind every meal and in the shadow of every mistress was an enslaved cook who was responsible for creating these lavish dinners.”

It is this juxtaposition between how we, as a nation, have chosen to remember our shared cultural heritage and how things actually were, and continue to be.  Misrepresentations baked in generations of racism and exploited labor have led us to not just misremember, but to forget the contributions of enslaved African Americans to our culinary history. Page 99 sits at the crossroads of race, gender, and memory and represents the greater point of the book; enslaved cooks and West African foodways were central to the creation of American cuisine, and its due time to give credit where credit is due.
Learn more about Bound to the Fire at Kelley Fanto Deetz's website.

My Book, The Movie: Bound to the Fire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Helen Fry's "The London Cage"

Historian and biographer Helen Fry is the author of more than twenty books focusing mainly on intelligence, prisoners of war, and the social history of World War II. She lives in London.

Fry applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, The London Cage: The Secret History of Britain's World War II Interrogation Centre, and reported the following:
Few stories of the Second World War have been as controversial as the London Cage – the secret wartime interrogation centre run by British intelligence from three luxury stately houses in a road parallel to Kensington Palace. The street was Kensington Palace Gardens, still known today as ‘Millionaire’s Row’, and the most unlikeliest of places to hold German prisoners of war. But their quarters were far from luxurious – the once grand rooms of Nos. 6-7 and Nos. 8 and 8a were stripped of their opulent furniture, carpets and priceless art and turned into a harsh interrogation centre.

Applying Test 99 to The London Cage gets to the heart of one of my major revelations – that the intelligence services were using ‘truth drugs’ on enemy prisoners at least a decade before the Cold War. Page 99 lands at the controversial point in 1941 and 1942 when MI6 – the British Secret Service – was holding Rudolf Hess (Hitler’s deputy) in a secret location after his failed solo flight to Britain in May 1941. ‘Truth drugs’ were administered to him in the belief he might spill some of the closely guarded secrets of the Third Reich. I place the Hess drugging episodes within the wider context of the experimental use of ‘truth drugs’ at the London Cage. The intelligence services were using a combination of  barbiturates, amphetamines and hypnosis on its prisoners in an attempt to ‘break their will to resist’ and induce them to speak the truth in interrogation. The discussion about Hess comes immediately after an incident in 1940 when Colonel Alexander Scotland, the commanding officer of the London Cage, arrived at another interrogation site to inject a prisoner with ‘truth serum’. In that instance, Colonel Scotland hoped to ‘turn’ a captured German spy into a double agent for Britain. He failed and was banned from ever entering that site again.

Truth drugs are of course not the only controversial revelation in the book – I'm interested in the four mysterious ‘suicides’ and try to get to the root of their deaths. I succeed in revealing the names of two of them for the first time.

At the end of the war, the London Cage became the most important war crimes unit outside Germany and was responsible for bringing some of the worst Nazi war criminals to justice by a painstaking, forensic gathering of evidence for the trials. These interrogations were not without their controversy either. Returning to the core of page 99, did Colonel Scotland sanction the use of ‘truth drugs’ on Nazi war criminals to gain their confessions?  Probably not, but it would appear that he crossed a line even further and allegedly used brutality, and forms of torture on them – physical and psychological. Had the tables turned such that Colonel Scotland himself was now guilty of war crimes? Issues raised by page 99 are still relevant today – posing challenges in this age of global terrorism for both opponents and exponents of torture.
Visit Helen Fry's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 10, 2017

Cathy Gere's "Pain, Pleasure, and the Greater Good"

Cathy Gere is associate professor of history at the University of California, San Diego, and the author of Knossos and the Prophets of Modernism and the newly released Pain, Pleasure, and the Greater Good: From the Panopticon to the Skinner Box and Beyond.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to Pain, Pleasure, and the Greater Good: From the Panopticon to the Skinner Box and Beyond and reported the following:
Page 99 of Pain, Pleasure, and the Greater Good is the first page of Chapter 3, entitled “Nasty, British, and Short.” My terrible pun on Thomas Hobbes’s famous phrase ‘nasty brutish and short’ is actually a serious statement. The book is about the psychology of pain and pleasure, which originated with Hobbes’s Leviathan, and became more and more influential in England and Scotland through the succeeding centuries. Chapter 3 is about the early-nineteenth-century version, as proposed by Thomas Malthus and Jeremy Bentham. The point of changing ‘brutish’ to ‘British’ is that pain-pleasure psychology always presents itself as being about the true brutish nature of the human animal, but in fact, it inevitably reflects very specific geographical, economic and political conditions, in this case British laissez-faire capitalism, rampant industrialization, and poor law reform.
Learn more about Pain, Pleasure, and the Greater Good at the University of Chicago Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Knossos and the Prophets of Modernism.

Writers Read: Cathy Gere.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Kevin Carrico's "The Great Han"

Kevin Carrico is Lecturer in the Department of International Studies at Macquarie University and the translator of Tsering Woeser’s Tibet on Fire.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Great Han: Race, Nationalism, and Tradition in China Today, and reported the following:
From page 99:
When the Qin Emperor founded the first unified Chinese state, Han Clothing was there. When the great inventions of paper, gunpowder, and the compass were discovered, Han Clothing was there. When Emperor Taizong reigned over the golden age of the Tang, Han Clothing was there. And when Zhu Yuanzhang led the victorious establishment of the Ming after the Yuan invasion, Han Clothing was there, just as it was when Koxinga gave all that he could to resist the murderous Qing. And having been there at these moments, it is also here in the present, providing a link from these moments in the past today… According to movement mythologies, the sole remnants in the Yellow Emperor’s tomb today are his Han Clothing: such permanence and stability is lacking in every aspect of real human existence, yet is imaginarily given concrete form in Han Clothing.

Such transcendent stability and indeed immortality is particularly resonant in an era of unpredictable and destabilizing change, as we see in China today, in which identity not only faces the usual existential challenge of its own impossibility but the further challenges of increasingly rapid sociocultural transformation.
The Great Han is an ethnographic study of the Han Clothing Movement (Hanfu yundong), a popular nationalist group that has emerged in cities across China in the decade and a half since 2001. Members of this group promote a purportedly eternal style of “traditional clothing” that they imagine was worn through history by members of the Han nationality, China’s majority constituting 92% of the population, until it was lost in early modernity. Revitalizing this apparel for the Han majority, then, is viewed as a way to revitalize authentic Chinese culture against the depredations of China’s painfully long nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

This narrative, however, not only misrepresents history, but also the movement’s driving forces in the present. The Han nationality is a thoroughly modern concept, and Han Clothing, while presented as a timeless tradition, is in fact a very recent invented tradition. Therefore, rather than tracing the revitalization of lost authenticity, The Great Han finds the origins of these constructions of history and tradition located firmly in the contradictions of life in the present.

In this book, I focus in particular upon the relationship between socio-political processes and individual experiences. Although recent developments in China are often glossed as “China’s rise,” individual experiences of this rise are considerably more complex: new opportunities also produce new anxieties and uncertainties. Based upon my research in cities across China, I profile a number of participants in this movement, providing a glimpse of how the alter egos they construct therein, presented as their genuine selves, are in fact fantasies of the self that imaginarily invert real-life challenges and uncertainties, while legitimizing these imaginings through the ideas of “culture” and “tradition.” Participants, in short, imaginarily transcend their mundane living environment by constructing an alternate fantasy reality that is presented as more genuine and thus real than reality itself.

This is where we find ourselves on page 99. In an era of disillusioning modernity plagued by uncertainties and anxieties, the threads of Han Clothing functions provide links to a more authentic, more peaceful, and genuinely prouder time in the past: what participants call “the real China.” Most importantly, these metaphorically laden threads can now be held and indeed possessed as one’s very own. In contrast to a disillusioning reality constantly slipping out from beyond one’s control, Han Clothing thus provides a stable and indeed possessible link to an inverted fantasy world presented as one’s authentic self.
Learn more about The Great Han at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Randolph Lewis's "Under Surveillance"

Randolph Lewis is a professor of American studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He has written extensively on how visual culture shapes our sense of the nation, often focusing on people who work outside the cultural mainstream. His books include Navajo Talking Picture: Cinema on Native Ground.

Lewis applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Under Surveillance: Being Watched in Modern America, and reported the following:
The page 99 test is useful for my new book, which is about living in a society making unprecedented investments in surveillance technologies. The page in question is part of a chapter called “Growing Up Observed” that deals with the strange ways we get accustomed to (or hostile to) invasive monitoring during our earliest years. What makes us sensitive to being watched is not a question that scholars have been able to really answer, and I don’t make any definitive claims in this essayistic chapter. Instead, I’m considering some ways of thinking about the topic that might help readers to understand their own attitudes about the NSA, drones, Big Data, and other forms of surveillance that the book explores.

Moreover, page 99 is not just about childhood and surveillance, which is a fascinating topic in the era of “Elf on the Shelf”, but also a reflection of the personal nature of this book. While the various chapters on surveillance in nature, churches, or media gently touch on my own experiences, “Growing Up Observed” has a short section that draws on my own life in some detail. That makes page 99 the most personal part of a fairly personal project, and in that sense it’s quite revealing about the origin and deeper nature of the book. Yet am I really writing about myself on page 99 and the pages nearby? Yes and no: mostly it is my attempt to think through the subtle things that make us sensitive, or not, to this vast organizing force in the world today. That was my goal at least.

Finally, I would say something about the writing style that I noticed when I flipped to page 99. Happily, for me at least, the writing on page 99 feels a little more vibrant and personal than the academic work I did in my younger years. Frankly, to the extent that authors can say such a thing about their own books, page 99 seems written with the sort of care and warmth that I hope is characteristic of the book as a whole. So in that sense, I hope the reader of the book gets something that page 99 seems to promise: big questions and subtle insights about a subject of great urgency, written in clear prose with a gently philosophical bent.
Learn more about Under Surveillance at the University of Texas Press website.

Writers Read: Randolph Lewis.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 6, 2017

Daniel Swift's "The Bughouse"

Daniel Swift teaches at the New College of the Humanities in London. His first book, Bomber County, was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and the Guardian First Book award, and his essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, the New Statesman, and Harper’s.

Swift applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics, and Madness of Ezra Pound, and reported the following:
Page 99 is the heart of my book The Bughouse, for this is the page on which I describe Pound’s room on Chestnut Ward of St Elizabeths federal hospital for the insane. Pound spent a decade in this room, as a patient at the hospital between 1945 and 1958, and here he met with the many poets, artists, political activists, and students who came to visit him. He was, in his years at St Elizabeths, a most provocative figure: a great poetic genius and a patient in a mental hospital; a traitor and a madman; a fascist, a teacher, and a fool. This ward, and this room, were his setting, and here he played so many roles.

What is the room like? It is not big but nor is it a prison cell. It is perhaps ten feet by twenty, with two windows which look out upon the trees and lawns which surround St Elizabeths. It has heavy blue wallpaper which is peeling now, and it is no different, really, from the ten other rooms on the ward. No different except this one is the scene of what is perhaps the world’s most unorthodox literary salon: convened by a fascist, held in a lunatic asylum, with chocolate brownies and mayonnaise sandwiches served for tea.
Learn more about The Bughouse at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: Bomber County.

The Page 99 Test: Shakespeare's Common Prayers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 4, 2017

John Sharples's "A Cultural History of Chess-Players"

John Sharples is a cultural historian. He completed his PhD at Lancaster University. He has published on the chess-player, flying saucers, and Jules Verne.

Sharples applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, A Cultural History of Chess-Players: Minds, Machines, and Monsters, and reported the following:
My book puts forward the idea of the chess-player as a fragmented cultural figure. In an attempt to engage with the various forms of its subject, it is divided into three sections – Minds, Machines, and Monsters. The thought that a solitary page could encapsulate the entire work’s themes was an intriguing one. Despite initial doubts, it arguably does do so. Page 99 comes from the concluding remarks of chapter four, entitled ‘Future Shocks: IBM's Deep Blue and the Automaton Chess-Player, 1997-1769.’ This chapter examines a range of cultural responses to Garry Kasparov's 1997 defeat by the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue and to Wolfgang von Kempelen's eighteenth-century Automaton Chess-Player. By suggesting that ‘both Deep Blue and the Automaton Chess-Player functioned as highly ambiguous cultural messages congealed in one object’, I frame the chess-player as a kaleidoscopic cultural figure capable of generating multiple meanings. This is the main theme of the whole work. Other chapters apply this theme to chess-player forms including the human, animal, child-prodigy, and super-villain, utilising comics, detective fiction, sci-fi, and film.

On page 99, I conclude by summarising some of the ways cultural construction occurs and consider the efficacy of the crude binary oppositions which have been used to assert the superiority of the human chess-player over machine counterparts. Characterisations of Kasparov’s contest as ‘Linda Hamilton vs. the Terminator’, for example, raise questions of historical timeliness and cultural power. In an age of pervasive computer systems, the ‘historical moment’ of the chess-player as a figure of reason and intelligence may have passed. This thought is amplified elsewhere throughout the book, in the context of a number of more disreputable, more monstrous, and more Gothic theoretical readings of the human chess-player. These themes are closely linked to chapter four’s readings of the machine chess-player, particularly the idea of the chess-player as a statue, often static and frequently isolated in performance, and the way the chess-player is viewed as a distant emblem of ‘intelligence’ and ‘reason’ under the gaze of others. In this regard, the ‘quality of the whole’ work is revealed on this single page.
Learn more about A cultural history of chess-players at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Francesco Duina's "Broke and Patriotic"

Francesco Duina is Professor of Sociology at Bates College, as well as Honorary Professor of Sociology at the University of British Columbia and Visiting Professor of Business and Politics at the Copenhagen Business School. He is the author of several books, including Winning: Reflections on an American Obsession.

Duina applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Broke and Patriotic: Why Poor Americans Love Their Country, and reported the following:
From Page 99:
Indeed, if anything, the system—the country, the government, and society in general—helps you take advantage of America’s opportunities. This, too, is part of the attractiveness of the country. I asked Sam if he felt that the country did enough for him. He replied:
The country does enough.... They feed you, they give you free housing, they give you food stamps ... the country does a lot for their people. The United States do a lot for their people. If you can’t make it here, you can’t make it nowhere.... If you can’t make it here, you ... you ... there’s something wrong with you ... there’s something terribly wrong with you. ... Yeah, he [my father] taught me that. It’s the land of opportunity to be what you wanna be. I helped you so far, and you have to help yourself.
I paused to think about the words “there’s something terribly wrong with you” if you don’t make it in America. It was as if America really gives people everything they need to succeed. Angie, in the same bus station in Birmingham, stated something nearly identical: “If you check into anything like college, you want a good job ... there’s the government, there’s funds, there’s programs, there’s no obstacles if you know how to go get what you want, what you need. There’s something always out there to help you.” What is necessary on the individual’s part is the will to progress. “If you, if you work for it,” she added, “you can have what you want here. You go to school and do what you want. Before I had a wreck and broke my back and wound up on disability . . . I was a real estate agent making close to one hundred thousand dollars a year.” The help extends even to criminals. In Sam’s words, “Even in the prison they, they got programs in the prison. Trying to reprogram them, you know.”
Page 99 is one of many where the reader hears the thoughts and beliefs of some of America’s economically worst-off people as they describe their intense love of country. This is Chapter 3, where the attention turns to the widely-held conviction that America is great – indeed superior to other countries – because it is so wealthy and because anyone can make it there. When I questioned my interviewees about their own, often very difficult, trajectories in life, the answer was consistently one of personal responsibility: their dire circumstances were the results of their own choices, they told me, not anyone else’s – much like wealthy people have become so because they have earned it. So, why blame the country for anything? On the contrary, they expressed gratitude to the many organizations that help them eat and sleep with a roof over their heads.

The other core chapters of the book explore two parallel ideas driving the intense patriotism of America’s most impoverished citizens. The first is a sense that America represents hope for mankind in general and, in turn, for themselves individually. When nearly everything else has gone wrong in life, pride in being American can give one a powerful sense of dignity. This is the land where every person counts, every human being is sacred. The second idea involves freedom. America is the land of physical and mental freedom. The extent of that freedom, according to them, is unique. Here, discussions about God (freedom of religion) and guns often came up.

Misconceptions about other countries, and America itself, certainly abounded. The lessons I learned from my travels and conversations, however, made clear to me that those were not really very relevant for my interviewee’s devotion to their country. In the end, the most important thing was something else: it was a sense that this country (still) belongs to the people.
Learn more about Broke and Patriotic at the Stanford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Winning.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Elizabeth Rosner's "Survivor Café"

Elizabeth Rosner is the author of three novels and a poetry collection.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her first work of nonfiction, Survivor Café: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory, and reported the following:
From page 99 (footnotes omitted):
In 2007, the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity issued a letter condemning the denial of the Armenian genocide, a letter signed by fifty-three Nobel laureates. Wiesel himself repeatedly called Turkey’s campaign to downplay its actions “a double killing.”

It’s already more than a year past the one-hundredth anniversary commemorating the Armenian genocide of 1915. At a ceremony on April 24th, 2015, the Turkish government offered “condolences” for the 1.5 million victims, while pointedly refusing to use the word “genocide.”


Inside a former matzo factory in Istanbul, now that Turkey’s Jewish community has found it cheaper to import matzo from Israel, an art installation was created. White pieces of paper, imprinted with images to make the paper look like matzo, hang suspended from wires. They are referred to as “ghost matzo.”

Years ago, while I was wandering aimlessly through the Lower East Side of New York City, my gaze was suddenly drawn upward to a small wire-mesh-covered window through which I could make out the machinery of the once-famous Streit's factory for matzo-making. I watched the baked pieces dangling and drifting in the hot air, slowly drying.

I’ve heard that factory is closed now too.

My friend Lola tells me that among printmakers, the second image printed after a monotype is called a ghost.


According to firsthand testimony, the Sonderkommando observed a Passover seder. Matzo, that is, unleavened bread, also translated as “the bread of affliction,” were baked in the oven at Birkenau. One of the men had worked in a bakery before Passover and knew the special requirements.
I’m humbly gratified to see that Page 99 of Survivor Café serves as a compact example of the book’s structure, its interlocking themes, and even its multi-layered voice. First, these three sections, separated by asterisks, represent the braided organization of my book -- its interweaving of research and conversation and personal story. Even though I don’t always oscillate this rapidly among subjects, and even though more often than not the narrative moves rather slowly and elaborately along a single pathway, the book’s overarching messages are revealed through each of the sub-sections on this page: the way genocides connect us to one another; the way art tries and fails and tries again to comment upon or even to embody history; the way truth can be hidden in the abuses and erasures of language; the way stories of war and loss and beauty and resilience echo back and forth across time and place.

Whether or not it’s explicitly clear to the reader at each moment, in my own mind as the writer, everything in the book is both invisibly and visibly interconnected like this. In these passages, I recognize details that refer to the legacy of trauma (Elie Wiesel calling the Turkish government’s denial of the Armenian genocide a “double killing”) and also the labyrinth of memory (Istanbul and its closed matzo factory and the making of ghostly art). Last but not least, in moving formally and informally between citations and interpretations, between the globally collective and the individually personal, this one page captures the tone of the book, a voice that is intimate as well as journalistic, emotional as well as scholarly. I love the idea that not only the quality of the book but also the cumulative effect of reading it can, in microcosm, be imagined by way of this single page-long experience.
Visit Elizabeth Rosner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 30, 2017

Peter Sahlins's "1668: The Year of the Animal in France"

Peter Sahlins is Professor of History, University of California, Berkeley.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, 1668: The Year of the Animal in France, and reported the following:
From page 99:
The conversations about and descriptions of the Royal Menagerie, coming at the end of the Promenade de Versailles [by Madeleine de Scudéry, published in 1669), support this reading. The Promenade is part guidebook, part “gallant description,” part “Story of Célanire,” and part conversation … the discussion at the menagerie discloses an important characteristic of the site: it is less a source of science than of the civilizing process, here expressed in literary terms.
The page 99 test makes my book seem as though it’s for a largely literary crowd – that, in this case, it might be about the infamous French salonnière Scudéry – but it’s not. I draw widely across the disciplines, to capture in my net a hitherto under-documented appearance of a huge array of animals in many different media in and around 1668, from the decorative arts and tapestry, to lectures on physiognomy, to the design of the fabled animals in the Royal Labyrinth, and to pamphlets about medical scandals involving animal blood transfusion.  What did this sudden visibility of animals, this “animal moment,” 450 years ago, mean? Animals, I argue, were good to think (I unapologetically invoke the famous phrase of anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss).  In 1668, they were especially good to rethink certain fundamental changes in ideas about governance, about nature, and about animals themselves.  I introduce a neologism  – “Renaissance humanimalism” – to describe the world that was superseded, but never completely, in 1668; and I tell the stories of artists and weavers, courtiers and virtuosi, and others who were opponents and supporters of the two towering figures that dominate the great mutation of 1668: Louis XIV and René Descartes. In the shadow of these giants – representing versions of absolutism and mechanism -- animals were critical agents in the imagining of new world views.

It all started with the Royal Menagerie at Versailles, first conceived in 1664, and largely completed by 1668.  The Menagerie was dominated by graceful avian species. The birds and (fewer) mammals of of Versailles staged  a new model of animal spectatorship, one with deep political and cultural implications. On page 99, I write that “The Menagerie is less a source of science than of the civilizing process, here expressed in literary terms.” The “civilizing process,” adapted from the German sociologist Norbert Elias, could be extended to make sense of the uses of animals in the realm of politics, but also in the  world of literature and other media including media of medical pamphlets, painting, tapestry, sculpture, garden design, and more.

Finally, page 99 contains my core thesis about the Royal Menagerie, itself at the center of the Year of the Animal in 1668, where it all began.  As René Magritte might have put it, “this not a zoo.” Although the dead bodies of the Versailles’ animals quickly found their way onto Claude Perrault’s dissecting table of (as of the spring of 1668, if not earlier), such was not the intentional design of Louis XIV’s menagerie. At its founding, the Royal Menagerie was a work of of splendor rather than of science. It was allegory before it was zoology, and it was literary before it was social.  In the end, page 99 passes the test.
Learn more about 1668: The Year of the Animal in France at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Laura Engelstein's "Russia in Flames"

Laura Engelstein is Henry S. McNeil Professor Emerita of Russian History at Yale University, where she served as chair of the History Department, and Professor Emerita at Princeton.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Russia in Flames: War, Revolution, Civil War, 1914-1921, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Russia in Flames Rasputin is murdered. Even people who know little about the Russian Revolution of 1917 have heard of Grigorii Rasputin, the sinister holy man who allegedly held the Empress Alexandra under his spell and contributed to the downfall of the 300-year-old Romanov dynasty. The details are lurid: on December 17, 1916, as Russia was struggling under the pressure of World War I, Rasputin was enticed into the basement of the Petrograd palace of the wealthy and highly placed Prince Felix Yusupov. There, Yusupov and two accomplices, one a grand duke and the tsar's cousin, the other a vociferous anti-Semite, first poisoned and then shot their victim, before dumping his body under the ice of the frozen river. The patriotic assassins hoped to restore the tsar to his senses and improve Russia's fortunes in the war. Many Russians at the time believed Nicholas II was in thrall to the occult forces personified by the man in black; people ever since have been fascinated by the healer's gruesome demise.

When my editor first approached me about a project for the centenary of 1917, he proposed I write about Rasputin. Rasputin's influence behind the throne and the public's widespread belief in his demonic powers contributed to the erosion of the tsar's political authority. Rasputin nevertheless had only a bit part in the large-scale drama that was leading Russia to the revolutionary brink, a turning point in world history. Russia in Flames tells the big story: the autocracy's collapse, the heroic attempt of civil society to create a democratic Russia, the defeat of that project by the demands of continuing war, the despair of the popular classes that bore the brunt of the conflict, the bloody Civil War that dismembered the empire, and the machinations of Lenin's Bolsheviks, determined to point Russia in a new, utopian direction. Yet, on page 99, Rasputin comes back to haunt me.
Learn more about Russia in Flames at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 27, 2017

Linda Gordon's "The Second Coming of the KKK"

Linda Gordon, winner of two Bancroft Prizes and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, is the author of The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition, Dorothea Lange and Impounded, and the coauthor of Feminism Unfinished. She is the Florence Kelley Professor of History at New York University and lives in New York and Madison, Wisconsin.

Gordon applied the “Page 99 Test” to The Second Coming of the KKK and reported the following:
Page 99 places the reader in the midst of the 1920s Klan’s vigilante attacks on Catholics, Jews, people of color including not only African Americans but also Mexican and Asian Americans, immigrants, Prohibition violators, and people “parking automobiles along our highways …for what is believed to be immoral purposes.”  These categories overlap of course.  What’s more, they are all racialized: in Klan ideology, immigrants are bad unless they are “Nordic” Protestants; only Catholics drink liquor and it’s only Jews who supply it; and the “immoral purposes” are incited by the Jews who use their control of Hollywood in a conspiracy to subvert American values and thereby weaken the nation.

Klansmen and police jointly conducted raids on saloons and bootleggers; sometimes the Klansmen were legally deputized by law enforcement.  One sheriff worked with a civilian “booze squad” of Klansmen.  In southern Illinois such attacks “produced lethal battles in 1924 and 1925, involving gunmen and the deployment of military forces, and ended by forcing the anti-Klan sheriff out of office.”  The victims of these raids then appeared before Klan-sympathizing judges—one a future Klaliff, aka Vice Cyclops aka a regional Klan leader—who always convicted them.  Klansmen, by contrast, were never convicted for their vigilantism.  In Oklahoma, and perhaps elsewhere too, Klan membership was automatically suspended for any man called for jury duty, so that he could deny it and not be excluded for bias.

We also learn on page 99 that a Klan Grand Goblin “modeled his spy network on that of tsarist Russia.”  (This is the northern KKK, with some 3 to 5 million members, founded in 1920.  Unlike the original southern Klan, a secret terrorist gang who lynched African Americans to warn the whole African American population not to dare protesting white supremacy, the northern Klan, not at all secret, extended its campaign of bigotry to target Catholics and Jews.)  Its “spies” worked to catch and discipline Klan members who patronized stores run by Catholics and Jews.

Much of the Klan’s method of intimidation involved threats rather than physical attacks, and the rest of the page recounts some of those.  “If you are the mouthpiece of American labor in this locality and do not endorse the above principles,” an Oregon “Kleagle” warned,  “then you would be a fit subject for a Vigilance Committee.”  Threatening a Vermont journalist:  “Unless “certain newspaper reporters ... stop attacking the Klan, they will be taught the same lesson that some editors in the south have learned.”

The Klan also practiced “black psy war.”  This label derives from the US war in Vietnam, in which the CIA and armed forces distributed leaflets designed to look as if they were issued by the Vietnamese National Liberation Front (aka the “Viet Cong).  The goal was to get people to turn against the NLF by attributing malign  plans to it.  The Klan used similar tactics, distributing frightening material allegedly from Catholic sources.

The page concludes thus: “Taken in the aggregate, it seems clear that these threats also constituted terrorism, aimed … “  The sentence continues on the next page: “at sending a message to whole communities of people—intimidating noncomforming groups into submission to Klan `law’,”

Lest we assume that only men were responsible for KKK bigotry, let me point out that the very next chapter is about Klanswomen, who numbered about 1.5 million.
Visit Linda Gordon's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Paul Halpern's "The Quantum Labyrinth"

Paul Halpern is a professor of physics at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, and the author of fifteen popular science books, including Einstein’s Dice and Schrödinger’s Cat. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Scholarship, and an Athenaeum Literary Award. Halpern has appeared on numerous radio and television shows including Future Quest, Radio Times, several shows on the History Channel, and The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special. He has contributed opinion pieces for the Philadelphia Inquirer, blogs frequently on Medium, and was a regular contributor to NOVA’s “The Nature of Reality” physics blog.

Halpern applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Quantum Labyrinth: How Richard Feynman and John Wheeler Revolutionized Time and Reality, and reported the following:
I think page 99 of The Quantum Labyrinth is emblematic of the book’s depiction of Feynman’s cleverness (in terms of his work at Los Alamos), mischievous nature (his pension for playing pranks and picking locks), love for his first wife Arline who was ill with tuberculosis (she was his creative muse), and overall versatility.  That page does not mention Wheeler, the other protagonist of my book, so it is not fully representative, however.
Visit The Quantum Labyrinth website.

My Book, The Movie: The Quantum Labyrinth.

Writers Read: Paul Halpern.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Deborah Parker and Mark Parker's "Sucking Up"

Deborah Parker is Professor of Italian at the University of Virginia. Mark Parker is Professor of English at James Madison University. They are coauthors of Inferno Revealed: From Dante to Dan Brown.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Sucking Up: A Brief Consideration of Sycophancy, and reported the following:
Our book considers sycophancy from several perspectives—from the earliest types in classical literature, to historical examples, to modern sociology, to famous literary examples, among them Dante, Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens and Proust.

Page 99 occurs in the book’s final section, “How Low Can You Go?” where we look at Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day. The book’s narrator Stevens is an aging butler who served the aristocrat Lord Darlington during the build-up to WWII. As Stevens ponders his life of devoted service, he gradually reveals that Darlington had been a Nazi sympathizer.

Much of the narration is defensive, a kind of anxious special pleading. Stevens’ suppression of self and his complicity in his master’s meddling in foreign policy, weigh heavily upon him. To justify his assent Stevens carefully develops his professional ethos through a series of anecdotes, from which he draws certain lessons that illustrate a “great” butler. A “great” butler will only “abandon the professional being he inhabits” when he pleases. Adherence to this code proves excruciating when a guest at one of Lord Darlington’s banquets wishes to show the limitations of democracy. The guest peppers Stevens with questions about various economic and political issues to expose the butler’s ignorance and Stevens performs his humiliation satisfactorily.

Key to Stevens’ maintenance of dignity here is the illusion of choice. He makes himself small out of professionalism. And with such self-deceptions, Stevens transforms a range of sycophantic roles—from the “yes-man” to the reliable doormat—into something positive. Page 99 is integral to our consideration of the blindness which accompanies some forms of sycophancy. The brilliance of Ishiguro’s novel lies in the narrator’s unreliability, his blinkered recollection of the past. Stevens is always on the verge of unhappy revelations about himself, Lord Darlington, and the nature of his service. Like a word forever on the tip of one’s tongue, this full consciousness never emerges. Flatterers fool themselves.
Learn more about Sucking Up at The University of Virginia Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 23, 2017

Craig Callender's "What Makes Time Special?"

Craig Callender earned his PhD with research on the direction of time at Rutgers University. He then worked at the London School of Economics before moving to the University of California, San Diego. He has interests in time and physics, the interpretation of quantum mechanics, quantum gravity, philosophy of science, and environmental ethics.

Callender applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, What Makes Time Special?, and reported the following:
Page 99 is a fair representation of the first half of the book. The book can be divided into two parts, one on time and physics followed by one on time and psychology. As we navigate through life, we employ a model of time that is deeply tied to what makes our lives recognizably human. This model of flowing time is connected to personal identity, agency, freedom and more. The first half investigates the fate of this model when confronted by physics. The model doesn’t fare well: current physics judges it to be more or less rubbish. The second half accepts this conclusion and then uses psychology, evolution, and more to explain why the model we use, even if fundamentally flawed, nonetheless makes sense for creatures like us to use.

But what about future physics? Could it possibly save intuitive time? That is the question addressed on page 99. Here I point out that on the horizon we have quantum gravity, a set of research programs aiming to join quantum theory with relativity. Depending upon whether one regards quantum theory or relativity as the more secure foundation, one will either “rescue” time from relativity or further relativity’s attempt to demolish time. Neither task, I show, is so easy. The time of relativity is very resilient. Because it connects up with the central tension running throughout the book — is the flow of time an illusion? — Page 99 is a good indication of what you’ll find throughout.
Learn more about What Makes Time Special? at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Aidan Forth's "Barbed-Wire Imperialism"

Aidan Forth is Assistant Professor of British imperial history at Loyola University Chicago.

He  applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Barbed-Wire Imperialism: Britain's Empire of Camps, 1876-1903, and reported the following:
Camps, throughout history, have served a multitude of functions, from incarcerating political suspects, to rounding up refugees, enemy aliens and military combatants. One thread that connects this global history is the language of disease. Whether in Nazi Germany, where camps detained “carriers of the bacillus of Bolshevism” (218) or at Guantánamo Bay, where barbed-wire incarcerated Haitian refugees suspected of carrying AIDS (227), medicine and social sanitation have proven central metaphors of modern statecraft. Likewise, in the British Empire, medical concerns led to the detention of more than a million colonial subjects during a global pandemic of bubonic plague in 1897. A system of medical quarantine camps, from Hong Kong to South Africa, and especially in India, interned those suspected of carrying the contagion. In the name of “disease control,” camps (like the one pictured on the cover of the book) detained “certain classes of people” who “as a rule are dirty in their habits” (82). Page 99 is the final page of chapter 3, which systematically examines this vast system of detention and lays the groundwork for future chapters on camps for political rather than medical “suspects.”

Ultimately, the chapter concludes that medical quarantine largely failed to stop the spread of plague. In the words of Claude Hill, Private Secretary to the Bombay Governor, plague camps were “not only ineffective,” they “created an undercurrent of discontent” among the native population (99). Yet camps remained popular among colonial officials because they offered an excuse to remove undesirable social and racial elements—“the scum of the Bombay population,” according to one police official (56)—from the center of colonial cities. Urban “cleansing” became racial “cleansing.” British plague camps also provided effective logistical models for the billeting of mass populations in the future. These included the “concentration camps” of the South African War (1899-1901), which interned “verminous” and “extremely dirty” populations during a colonial “dirty war” (167). Interestingly, officials from India with experience managing plague camps were eventually seconded to administer this new system of camps in South Africa.
Learn more about Barbed-Wire Imperialism at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Walter S. Judd & Graham A. Judd's "Flora of Middle-Earth"

Walter S. Judd is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Biology, University of Florida. Graham Judd holds an MFA in Printmaking, and received a Jerome Foundation Fellowship for Emerging Printmakers at Highpoint Center for Printmaking.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Flora of Middle-Earth: Plants of J.R.R. Tolkien's Legendarium, and reported the following:
From Page 99:
The forest gate is described as archlike, formed by two gigantic trees leaning against each other, and these trees are ‘strangled with ivy and hung with lichens’ and bear only a few old, damaged leaves. Here we see two distinctive characteristics of Usnea: first, its preference for sickly, dead, or dying trees that have fewer leaves and thus a more open canopy, allowing more sunlight to reach the lichens; and, second, its characteristic epiphytic and hanging habit—that is, it almost always grows on trees or shrubs on which it forms a much-branched system of often pendulous, pale gray to yellowish branchlets (Figure 7.8). This growth form is so characteristic of Usnea, a fruticose lichen (i.e., one that has a branched, miniature, shrubby or treelike form), that the species of this genus are  called beard lichens (or old man’s beards) because their hanging branches look like a graying beard. These common names are alluded to by Tolkien elsewhere, as when Merry and Pippin entered Fangorn forest (Figure 7.8) and saw ‘great trailing beards of lichen hung from’ huge branches (LotR 3: III), and Pippin, picking up on the feeling of the forest, exclaimed—‘Look at all those weeping, trailing, beards and whiskers of lichen!’ (LotR 3: IV). These descriptions perfectly match the appearance of many species of Usnea, which are widespread and diverse in Europe (with more than 30 species occurring there) and thus would have been very familiar to Tolkien. Usnea seems to have been as common in Middle-earth, and it adds to our mental image of—and gives a certain foreboding quality to—the great forests of Mirkwood and Fangorn. This expectation of evil is expressed most clearly in the very similar description of the forest gateway where the orc trail from Thangorodrim entered Taur-nu-Fuin: the Forest-Beneath-Night, so named because it was filled with terror and dark enchantment by Morgoth. We read in The Lay of the Children of Húrin that Beleg and Gwindor saw

[A]n archway opened.        By ancient trunks

It was framed darkly,        that in far-off days

The lightning felled,         now leaning gaunt

Their lichen-leprous        limbs uprooted. (Lays I: lines 936-939)

Again, we see the image of ancient dead trees covered with beard lichens. Their presence is described as ‘leprous’ because of their gray-green to yellow-green color, but this term is also appropriate given that Taur-nu-Fuin itself is diseased and distorted by the evil actions of Morgoth. This forest, located in Dorthonion north of Beleriand in the First Age, was much more perilous than either Fangorn or Mirkwood. Yet it was here that Beleg found Gwindor and rescued Túrin (see SILM 21).
This book is a flora, and like any flora it documents the plants occurring in the geographical area of concern—in this case J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth. For each of the 141 genera and/or plant species mentioned in Tolkien’s major writings, we include (1) the common and scientific names, along with an indication of the family to which the plant belongs; (2) a brief quote from one of Tolkien’s works in which the plant is referenced; (3) a discussion of the significance of the plant in the context of Tolkien’s legendarium [part of which is quoted above, for Beard Lichens]; (4)  the etymology, relating to both the English common name and the Latin scientific names, and, where relevant, the name in one or more of the languages of Middle-earth; (5) a brief description of the plant’s geographical distribution and ecology; (6) its economic importance; and (7) a morphological description. Most of these are also provided with a woodcut-style illustration (as an aid to identification), along with an inset illustrating one of the events in the history of Middle-earth in which the plant played a role. Tolkien was clear that his Middle-earth is to be viewed as our own world, and his writings, therefore, are meant to reconnect us to important elements of our internal and cultural landscape and also to impact how we interact with other individuals and with the world in which we live—including the landscapes of our natural environment—including plants!  The plants within Tolkien’s legendarium are actually part of the story, showing numerous connections with humans, elves, and hobbits in the myths and history of Middle-earth. We hope that our detailed treatment of these plants will create a visual reference, and legitimacy, for both the plants growing in our forests, meadows, and marshes, as well as those that we have received as gifts from Tolkien’s imagination. Finally, Tolkien viewed the light of the Two Trees of Valinor as “the light of art undivorced from reason, that sees things both scientifically … and imaginatively” – following his guidance, we attempt in our book to integrate both botanical science and artistic imagination
Learn more about Flora of Middle-Earth at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Gregory A. Daddis's "Withdrawal: Reassessing America's Final Years in Vietnam"

Gregory A. Daddis is an Associate Professor of History and Director of Chapman University’s MA Program in War and Society. He is author of Westmoreland's War: Reassessing American Strategy in Vietnam.

Daddis applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Withdrawal: Reassessing America's Final Years in Vietnam, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Just as important, the increasing role played by the ARVN meant a necessary decline in American influence. Though the “one war” approach envisioned an integrated allied effort, officers still saw deficiencies in the “sequential manner of attacking one critical phase or threat at a time.” If both pacification and Vietnamization relied on a secure environment in which to flourish, then it made sense to defeat the enemy’s military threat. Yet the combined campaign plans continued to place the primary responsibility for pacification on the ARVN’s shoulders. In large sense, the South Vietnamese armed forces were being pulled in two opposite directions….

Yet it seems hard to argue against the idea that South Vietnamese forces, despite all their flaws, indeed were best suited for pacification, always a process of negotiation between the host government, its army, and the people. Realizing the “population had to be provided with more than temporary security,” MACV had always intended the ARVN to work closely with local territorial forces. But with US forces withdrawing, Abrams and his staff grappled with whether the South Vietnamese army should focus on pacification or improving its ability to react to the more conventional NVA threat.
For many Americans who fought in the Vietnam War, their relationship with the South Vietnamese army, popularly known as the ARVN, remained one fraught with tension. The friction seemed inevitable. With President Richard M. Nixon’s 1969 decision to withdraw U.S. forces from South Vietnam, American military leaders felt they were bestowing the war to an ally in which few had much faith. Generals like Creighton Abrams were far from optimistic about a policy that quickly became known as “Vietnamization.” Even after years of US aid and assistance, by the late 1960s, the ARVN was grappling with issues of corruption, low morale, and poor leadership.

True, South Vietnamese soldiers fought hard across much of their homeland. They were instrumental in helping pacify the countryside, defeating local insurgents, and building bridges between the Saigon government and its rural population. An excerpt from page 99, however, illustrates a key paradox that the American military assistance command (MACV) faced as it began to depart from a war not yet concluded. That paradox remains a controversial topic on the U.S. war in Vietnam to this very day.
Learn more about Withdrawal at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Westmoreland's War.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Sarah Adler-Milstein and John M. Kline's "Sewing Hope"

Sarah Adler-Milstein is a worker-rights advocate and has served as Field Director for Latin America and the Caribbean for the Worker Rights Consortium. John M. Kline is Professor of International Business Diplomacy at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He is the author of four books, including the textbook Ethics for International Business.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Sewing Hope: How One Factory Challenges the Apparel Industry's Sweatshops, and reported the following:
How do you capture the difference between heaven and earth? Sewing Hope: How One Factory Challenges the Apparel Industry’s Sweatshops tells the story of Alta Gracia, an apparel factory in the Dominican Republic.  Local workers describe the comparison between Alta Gracia and typical apparel industry sweatshops as la diferencia entre el cielo y la tierra (“the difference between heaven and earth”). Alta Gracia is the only apparel factory that pays workers a living wage over three times the legal minimum, maintains excellent health and safety standards, and has signed collective bargaining agreements with a legitimate labor union – all verified by an independent labor rights organization.

Page 99 captures one small aspect of what makes this life-changing model for apparel production so different from a "normal" factory. On top is a photo of two factory administrators reviewing personnel policies. Text on the bottom half relates the administrators’ unusual efforts and equally unusual success altering company policies to improve workers’ health insurance coverage, providing access to quality healthcare clinics and pharmacies. This “slice-of-life” example only hints at the dramatic contrasts in labor-management relations and workplace standards revealed by the full analysis of Alta Gracia’s operations.

Beyond Page 99 you'll find many other crucial aspects of the living wage model and the "big picture" view of how this one small factory could chart a course for larger industry transformation. Most executives and many economists hold a fatalistic view that low wages and dangerous conditions are unfortunate but inherent elements of competition in the global apparel industry. Alta Gracia tells a very different story: that living wages and safe factories are possible and that the cost is minimal – less than a dollar a sweatshirt.

Life-changing stories show the impact a salario digno (wage with dignity) can have on a worker’s family. There can be nutritious meals, needed healthcare and educational opportunities for both children and adults.  Later may come improvements in basic housing, such as running water, and help for relatives in need. Some workers start small businesses or train for a profession.  These other scenes of heaven are revealed if you read beyond the photo and short text on page 99.  There's so much more that Alta Gracia’s anti-sweatshop model offers by creating a kind of "heaven" for only 90¢ more a sweatshirt.
Learn more about Sewing Hope at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Matthew Kraig Kelly's "The Crime of Nationalism"

Matthew Kraig Kelly is a historian of the modern Middle East. He has served as a visiting professor at Occidental College and the University of California, Los Angeles, and his work has been published in the Journal of Palestine Studies, Middle East Critique, and other academic journals.

Kelly applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Crime of Nationalism: Britain, Palestine, and Nation-Building on the Fringe of Empire, and reported the following:
"Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you."--the page 99 test, attributed to Ford Madox Ford

This is arguably accurate for my book. Page 99 of The Crime of Nationalism concerns Zionist and Palestinian anxieties in the run-up to the release of the 1937 Peel Report, which – unbeknownst to either group – would recommend the partitioning Palestine into two states: one Jewish and one Arab. Why did the British recommend this partition? Because they came to the determination that Arabs and Jews just couldn’t get along. Even with the utterly neutral, entirely objective, scrupulously fair British exerting every sinew to bring about a reconciliation between them.

This British self-image is, in a sense, what my book is all about. The British had a terrible habit in Palestine of overlooking the ways in which their own actions contributed to the political instability they were attempting to manage. If one metaphor captures this mentality, it is the stage. The British conceived of themselves – and particularly of their institutional presence in Palestine – as the stage upon which two actors, the Arab and Jewish communities, performed. On this understanding, the stage merely upheld the actors; it could not script their behavior. It was up to the Arabs and the Jews to put their intercommunal affairs in order. Their failure to do so only illustrated how obstinate and perhaps uncivilized they were. Yet, as my book demonstrates, the British state in Palestine was much more than a stage. To stay with the metaphor, it was a third actor, just as causally dynamic and consequential as Arab and Jewish institutions. Once we appreciate this fact, we can approach the historical materials relating to 1936-39 with the goal of deconstructing the British representation of the rebellion. By returning the British to their rightful place in the causal picture of the revolt, we gain a more complete understanding of this important episode in the history of interwar insurgencies.
Learn more about The Crime of Nationalism at the University of California Press website.

My Book, The Movie: The Crime of Nationalism.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 16, 2017

Abeer Y. Hoque's "Olive Witch"

Abeer Y. Hoque is a Nigerian born Bangladeshi American writer and photographer. She has published a book of travel photographs and poems called The Long Way Home, and a book of linked stories, photographs and poems called The Lovers and the Leavers. She is a Fulbright Scholar and has received several other fellowships and grants. Her writing and photography have been published in Guernica, Outlook Traveller, Wasafi ri, ZYZZYVA, India Today, and The Daily Star. She has degrees from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and an MFA in writing from the University of San Francisco.

Hoque applied the “Page 99 Test” to her book, Olive Witch: A Memoir, and reported the following:
From page 99:
…universities and jobs in Enugu, Ibadan, Jos, Benin, Kano, Zaria, and Lagos, or they will have gone abroad. In another couple of years, even those in Nsukka will have gone. It is a university town, its population bounded by those studying or teaching there.

‘You cannot accept this,’ Abbu says after reading the letter.

‘What do you mean?’ I ask, shocked.

‘It’s not for you. This scholarship is for black students.’

‘No, it’s for students who have ties to Africa,’ I protest.

‘They mean blacks. What if you went to their office? What would they think when they saw you? When it was clear that you weren’t black?’

I think about Kunta Kinte, his unthinkable trials repeated a million times over the centuries to where America is today. With less force in my voice, I say, ‘But we need the money.’

‘They need it more.’

In the break room at work, I read the scholarship offer one last time and then pitch it in the trash with the fast food wrappers and coke cans. I shut my book and take out Glenn’s latest letter.

My lovecrush is so overpowering that I don’t perceive the tension mounting in our house. So when my father asks why I must write Glenn so often, I’m not as careful as I usually am with my words.

‘I like writing to him,’ I say, capping and uncapping my inky blue pen as I look out the living room window. ‘Nothing seems real until I’ve told him.’

Outside, the summer heat shimmers on our black tar driveway. I notice the grass has to be cut. Maher is still too young to handle a bulky bladed machine on his own, so it falls to me and Simi to mow the lawn, and we hate it. We have a used lawnmower whose starter is so reluctant that it requires…
My book is split into three very different, chronological geographies of my life and identity: Nigeria (where I was born and lived til I was 13), the States (where my family moved and I’ve lived since high school), and Bangladesh (where my parents are originally from and where I lived as an adult for a few years). Interleaved with those sections are excerpts set in a psychiatric ward.

Page 99 falls in the American bit, just past high school into college, but it mentions my first hometown in the world, Nsukka, in southeastern Nigeria, and alludes to the nostalgia and grief of never really being able to go home after you’ve left. There’s a conflict between my father and me, telling because family dynamics and cross cultural and generational clashes are some of my memoir’s major themes. And the actual conflict is about how I identify myself, as African or otherwise. My first love makes an appearance, a relationship not approved of, par for the course for immigrant families. And there’s suburban America in the backdrop with its sprawling lawns and fast food chains and household chores – alien landscape slowly, resentfully becoming familiar ground.

As a writer, I’m also interested in language as much as story and place, and I think page 99 of Olive Witch gives the reader a thank you taste of much of what I hold dear: an attention to place via description and setting, themes of displacement and identity, and of course, love.
Learn more about the book and author at Abeer Y. Hoque's website.

--Marshal Zeringue