Saturday, November 17, 2018

Zachary J. Lechner's "The South of the Mind"

Zachary J. Lechner is a historian of post-World War II southern and US history. He is an assistant professor of history at Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton, Virginia.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The South of the Mind: American Imaginings of White Southernness, 1960-1980, and reported the following:
My book investigates Americans’ fantasies about the white South during a particularly tumultuous time in US history: the 1960s and the 1970s. Even during the civil rights era, as news media accounts and nonfiction travelogues like John Howard Griffin’s Black Like Me and John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley pilloried white southerners as distinctively un-American due to their backwardness and racial bigotry, alternative visions of the white South proliferated in popular and political culture. Such views often presented the white South not as an albatross that the rest of the country must claw from its neck, but, rather, as the possessor of lost values that non-southerners desperately needed to embrace.

One of the most fascinating of these positive imaginings, which I dub the Masculine South, appeared in the presidential campaign rhetoric of George Wallace in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the motion picture Walking Tall (1973), and James Dickey’s novel Deliverance (1970) and its 1972 film adaptation. The Masculine South addressed palpable concerns about the state of American manhood in the late sixties and early seventies, as the counterculture, the New Left, and women’s liberationists undermined societal gender norms. The Masculine South, then, functioned as a backlash against these challenges, appealing instead to the ideal of manly exertion. The mantra of the Masculine South could have been “When in doubt, kick ass,” a line overheard by rock critic Lester Bangs in a Macon, Georgia, bar in 1974.

Page 99 of The South of the Mind begins by noting how a failed assassination attempt on George Wallace in 1972, one that left him paralyzed and wheelchair-bound, made his “go-to presentation of himself as a virile man, willing to use violence to rescue white society . . . no longer tenable.” But I also argue that Wallace’s message of redemptive violence—deployed, in part, as a way to shore up what he perceived as the nation’s flagging masculinity—seeped into the era’s pop culture, mostly notably, in Walking Tall. The production, made on the cheap, nevertheless thrilled audiences on the drive-in circuit and elsewhere, with its “based on a true story” rendering of the life of Buford T. Pusser, a sheriff in 1960s McNairy County, Tennessee. The movie glorifies the former wrestler as a vigilante with a badge, who “wields an oversized hickory stick that he uses to beat on bootleggers and other lowlifes.” The Pusser character is essentially Wallace’s dream of state-sponsored violence come to life, in the form of a hulking, bear of a southern white man. The lame cries of effete federal officials, who might prattle on about an offender’s civil rights or the social conditions that could have caused him to pursue a life of crime, were silenced by the sharp crack of Pusser’s mighty club. In short, Walking Tall’s “rendering of the politics of violence in the rural South and the coverage it received in the national press reinforced the popular tendency to identify the region as a uniquely antimodern space where the use of force against unruly elements fortified the vitality supposedly necessary to ensure social control” in a nation that seemed to be falling apart.
Learn more about The South of the Mind at the University of Georgia Press website.

Writers Read: Zachary J. Lechner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Timothy Beal's "The Book of Revelation"

Timothy Beal is the Florence Harkness Professor of Religion at Case Western Reserve University. His many books include The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book and Biblical Literacy: The Essential Bible Stories Everyone Needs to Know.

Beal applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Book of Revelation: A Biography, and reported the following:
Page 99 has me deep within the "forests of histories" envisioned by a medieval Italian monk known as Joachim of Fiore (c. 1135-1202). Much as Ford Madox Ford believed that the whole of a book is revealed in one of its pages, so Joachim believed that the whole of sacred history is revealed in one of the Bible's books, Revelation.

A saint to some and a heretic to others, Joachim was a "picture thinker" whose thick descriptions of his visions were often accompanied by lavish illustrations (see examples from his Book of Figures here).

For Joachim, history was not only linear, moving in one direction from beginning to end; it was also spatial, a landscape of interrelated patterns in which beginnings, middles, and ends interacted with and folded onto one another. Revelation, with its wild descriptions of angels, gods, and monsters was for him the interpretive key to understanding these interrelated forests of histories, a kaleidoscopic lens through which to see God's plan for creation. What Joachim believed he saw was that he was standing at the very edge of the world, moments before its ultimate consummation and rebirth. The end/beginning was near.

In my book I suggest that, for Joachim, Revelation was something like a medieval codec. The first modern-day codecs were hardware devices like CD recorders that encoded analog data into digital form for storage and decoded that data back into analog for users to access (the term itself is a portmanteau of the words “code” and “decode”). Later the term was adopted for computer programs like Quicktime and MPEG. In Joachim’s hands, Revelation works similarly, as a kind of machine for encoding and decoding information about the past, present, and future. Those with eyes to see could discover that information encoded and stored within it, and then watch as it decoded itself into the full meaning of the entirety of sacred history.

My book is about the many different lives of Revelation. Some are fascinating; others are incredibly disturbing. Joachim of Fiore gave Revelation a new lease on life, as the means to seeing and understanding, well, everything. His influence to this day on the visual culture of Revelation is undeniable (run an image search for "revelation" and "diagram" or "chart" for some examples). Yet none of Joachim's theological heirs live up to the stunningly rich intellectual and aesthetic elegance, symmetry, and complexity of his writings and illustrations.
Visit Timothy Beal's website.

Learn more about The Book of Revelation at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Gregg L. Frazer's "God Against the Revolution"

Gregg L. Frazer is professor of history and political studies and Dean of the School of Humanities at The Master’s University. He is the author of The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders: Reason, Revelation, and Revolution.

Frazer applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, God Against the Revolution: The Loyalist Clergy's Case against the American Revolution, and reported the following:
God Against the Revolution is a study of the arguments made by prominent clergymen who remained loyal to Great Britain during the American Revolution. Those arguments had a significant influence in some parts of America until the revolutionaries or “Patriots” mounted a very successful campaign to silence their opposition and suppress their message. Their case has largely been unknown since then because the victors write the history.

God Against the Revolution relies heavily on the actual words and phrasing of the pamphlets and sermons of the Loyalist ministers. Ideally, the reader can assume the role of a typical American in 1776-1783, set aside hindsight, and decide whether or not to support the American Revolution based on the evidence available at the time. The contest of ideas that was cut short by Patriot censorship resumes two hundred years later; and, as Mark Noll notes on the book jacket, the Loyalists receive “the hearing they were for the most part denied two centuries ago.”

There is a sense in which page 99 is noteworthy. One might wonder why this study centers on the work of clergymen. The five clergymen highlighted here are generally recognized as leading spokesmen for the Loyalist cause (along with a lawyer or two), but previous surveys have omitted the biblical arguments against revolution in general and this revolution in particular that many found compelling. Page 99 marks a sort of demarcation between the biblical and theoretical arguments of those ministers and their “facts on the ground” arguments. Specifically, page 99 is the first page of the chapter on legal arguments. From this point on, the emphasis is on British law, the relationship between the colonies and the mother country, the colonial charters, and the actions taken by the Patriots.

In eighteenth-century America, clergymen were leaders of their communities, well-educated and respected scholars, and public opinion pacesetters. They were equipped to address issues from a broad-ranging perspective and effective at doing so. Had they been allowed to compete in the battle of ideas, the American Revolution might well have failed to materialize.

The question for the reader is: do they persuade you?
Learn more about God Against the Revolution at the University Press of Kansas website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 12, 2018

Elliott J. Gorn's "Let the People See"

Elliott J. Gorn is Joseph A. Gagliano Chair in American Urban History at Loyola University Chicago. He is author of several books, including Dillinger's Wild Ride: The Year that Made America's Public Enemy Number One.

Gorn applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Let the People See: The Story of Emmett Till, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Let the People See: The Story of Emmett Till, defense attorney Sidney Carlton questions Moses Wright, trying to shake his testimony.

Fourteen-year-old Emmett Till came down to the Mississippi Delta from Chicago to spend time with his extended family in August, 1955. At a crossroads store in the town of Money, he whistled at the young woman behind the counter. A few days later, her husband and his brother—Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam—kidnapped Till, beat him until his skull cracked and his eye popped out of its socket, shot him in the head, weighted his body down, and threw it in the Tallahatchie River.

Less than a month later, to everyone’s surprise, including their own, the brothers were tried for murder. Called to the witness stand and asked to identify the men who forced their way into his home and kidnapped Emmett Till at gunpoint, Moses Wright, a sharecropper and preacher, respected throughout his community, rose, pointed to each of his nephew’s abductors, and said twice in a loud clear voice, “there he is.” The all white jury sat dead silent.

No one could remember when if ever in Mississippi, white men stood trial for murdering an African American. And certainly a black man rising from the witness stand and identifying white criminals was unheard of. Renowned New York City journalist Murray Kempton covered the Mississippi trial, and he concluded that Moses Wright, unbowed, had just endured, “the hardest half hour in the hardest life possible for a human being in these United States.”

Wright’s testimony did not matter. The all-white, all-male jury took an hour to find the brothers innocent (for a few thousand dollars, they confessed to Look magazine four months later). But news of the verdict spread, made headlines across America and around the world. The “Emmett Till generation” of black activists carried his memory into the coming Civil Rights struggles. And in our own day, the story of Emmett Till is better known than at any time since 1955, an exemplum of white supremacist brutality, of the failures of the criminal justice system, but also of the hope that racism is exposed, named, called-out and resisted.
Learn more about Let the People See at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Fernando Santos-Granero's "Slavery and Utopia"

Fernando Santos-Granero is a senior staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama City, Panama, and a specialist on the Yanesha of Peruvian Amazonia. His books include Vital Enemies: Slavery, Predation, and the Amerindian Political Economy of Life.

Santos-Granero applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Slavery and Utopia: The Wars and Dreams of an Amazonian World Transformer, and reported the following:
I was not sure whether Ford Madox Ford’s Page 99 Test would apply to a scholarly historical work like Slavery & Utopia. But when, for fun’s sake, I tried it, I found that page 99 indeed contained what I consider the crux of the story of José Carlos Amaringo Chico, aka Tasorentsi, the indigenous shaman-chief, whose followers hailed as a divine messenger and world transformer after the collapse of the Amazonian rubber economy in the 1910s. In that page, I discuss one of the central elements of Tasorentsi’s first reported speech to his Ashaninka followers. The message was short and uncompromising: “expel white people from their properties, burn their bones, and seize their children as servants”. For years, throughout the rubber boom era, white and mestizo extractors had been capturing indigenous children and young women to raise as concubines and future “civilized” servants. Slavers violently extricated hundreds of children from their families every year and sent them far away to rubber camps and riverine towns to serve their new masters. This human traffic was conducted mostly by the wealthiest rubber extractors, but also by their local partners, indigenous warriors who raided their own people for their own benefit. It also involved river merchants, ship owners, and even corrupt local authorities. Constant slave raids were a permanent drain on indigenous populations, for raiders not only abducted women and children but also killed all adult men who opposed them. Armed with rifles against bows and arrows, slavers usually won. In page 99, I argue that this system subsisted through much of the rubber boom era because the loss of children and women was somewhat compensated by the wealth in industrial goods obtained by working for rubber extractors. When the rubber economy collapsed, in 1910, and rubber extractors could no longer pay their peons, the system was revealed in all its crudeness. Chief Tasorentsi’s call to seize the white people’s children as servants must be seen as an attempt to recover the vitality stolen by rubber extractors and slavers in previous years. This is Slavery and Utopia’s leitmotif, to wit, Tasorentsi’s permanent struggle through different means –warfare, shamanic rituals and Christian preaching– to redress the unbalanced flowed of vitality between white and native Amazonian people.
Learn more about Slavery and Utopia at the University of Texas Press website.

My Book, The Movie: Slavery and Utopia.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Michael Braddick's "The Common Freedom of the People"

Michael Braddick is Professor of History at the University of Sheffield, and has held academic positions and visiting Fellowships in the USA, France, and Germany. He has published widely on the social, political, and economic history of British and American society in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. His books include The Oxford Handbook of the English Revolution and God's Fury, England's Fire.

Braddick applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Common Freedom of the People: John Lilburne and the English Revolution, and reported the following:
“It was easy to believe this was scant reward for his sufferings”.

On page 99 we find Lilburne in prison in Newgate, while a London congregation prays for him, a petition is mobilised on his behalf on the streets and in the taverns, and fellow travellers write pamphlets in support of his cause. It is his fifth imprisonment of the year, all of them imposed for what he has published rather than anything he has actually done. It is the parliamentary regime which does this, although Lilburne is supposedly on their side in the civil war being fought against the King. In fact, until the previous year, he had been active in the parliamentary army, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He is released from Newgate in October, after three months, without any charge having been laid against him.

Five years earlier parliament had granted him compensation and reparations for his sufferings under Charles I—sufferings that epitomised the misgovernment that eventually led parliament to war against the King. Lilburne had gone to war without hesitation and fought bravely. Now though he finds he still has no reparations (and is in fact owed further arrears of pay and damages for his military service), and that the parliamentary regime is seemingly as ready to lock him up as Charles I had been. In fact, it uses some of the same legal officers to do it.

This is his Animal Farm moment—the realisation that the parliamentary pigs are just as capable of tyranny as the royalist humans had been. He now sees that the war is not really between King and Parliament, but between the people and tyranny. A radical new politics is about to be born, supported by citizen mobilisation in the churches, taverns, streets and presses of revolutionary London. Arguments will be made that resonate far beyond the politics of England in the 1640s.
Learn more about The Common Freedom of the People at the Oxford University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: The Common Freedom of the People.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Hannah Pollin-Galay's "Ecologies of Witnessing"

Hannah Pollin-Galay is senior lecturer in the Department of Literature at Tel Aviv University, where she teaches on Yiddish, oral narrative, and memory.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Ecologies of Witnessing: Language, Place, and Holocaust Testimony, and reported the following:
From page 99:
The witness goes on to tell that his grandfather, a representative of an even older generation, also supports his leap: “And my grandfather got involved and said that when I’m in Israel I should remember that [his] son is there, your uncle.” Next and last, Kalman’s father helps him execute the escape.
Then my father, quietly, in his calm manner, said, “Yes. Come, I’ll lift you up.” I tried to pack myself in like my cousin with my head first. This I remember very well. He said, “No, Kalmanke, not with your head, with your legs.” Today, I understand that…He lifted up my legs and at the moment I looked around. I wanted to get support. Nobody cried. A kiss or a hug or something? I don’t know what I was expecting.
Kalman’s father gives him the proper physical instructions that allow him to survive the jump, showing the kind of bodily aptitude so valued in the Zionist ethos. He gives Kalman permission to both literally and figuratively leave the family and move on. The family resists embracing Kalman at this moment, redefining filial love as calm, tactical support.

Kalman’s daring leap from the window closely fits one version of Zionist historical progress: a transfer of agency from older Eastern European Jewish society, which is sadly going to the extermination camp, to the young and the brave who are going to remake Jewish society in Eretz Yisrael. Most important to our discussion here is the manner in which Kalman uses family relations to dramatize the march of history and conversely, employs broader ideological frameworks to remember his intimate family. It is precisely the kind of parental love that Kalman receives that allows him to make his escape successful. Likewise, his family’s supportive behavior demonstrates the integrity in his survival and aliyah to Israel, proof that this shift, no matter how drastic, is nonetheless in confluence with the Jewish past.

This moment marks a clear transition in Kalman’s testimony. After this scene, he ceases to remember himself as a member of the previous polity, the “we” that includes the ghetto, the family, and his school friends, and begins to speak of an independent struggle for survival.
Page 99 of Ecologies of Witnessing presses on several tough questions: What is the connection between the experience of Holocaust victimhood and Zionism? What is the connection between politics and personal emotions?

Here, Israeli Hebrew-speaking Holocaust survivor Kalman Perk recollects the last moment he ever spent with his family. The Perks are in a cattle car, among the last Jews to be expelled from their beloved hometown of Kovna, Lithuania. Though they are unaware at the time, they are on their way to Dachau. Perk is the only one in the car who manages to jump out of a high, narrow window. As Perk recalls it, jumping out the window not only meant saying goodbye to his dearest ones, but starting Jewish history all over again.

Perk depicts his jump in way that is both monumental and intimate: The political and the familial are inseparable for him. As a last show of love, his family instructs him in the proper jumping technique and tells him whom to greet when he arrives in Palestine. Clearly, this story tightly correlates with a Zionist approach to history. But, this framework is completely spontaneous and necessary for Perk; He cannot remember without it.

Other parts of the book show how survivors from different places recall parallel moments of family separation with different lessons in mind. Yiddish speakers who stayed in Lithuania, for instance, speak more about maintaining a low profile in order to survive. Rather than narrating heroic leaps, solo journeys into the unknown, they focus on the distant relatives or neighbors who adopt them. Their stories are about reintegration, rather than reinvention.

We are accustomed to talking about memory “constructs,” as if they are purposeful distortions. This book does not. No witness is whitewashing or distorting her past; She is making honest use of the normative and conceptual resources in her ecology.

Interestingly, some lecture audiences have understood this passage about Kalman Perk to be a harsh critique of Zionist historical imagination, while others see it as a vindication of the same. Many audience members have trouble locating this page on their ideological spectrum. That is precisely the uncomfortable space that I want people to enter when they read this page, and when they read this book. The stories should pull readers so deeply into the logic of each ecology of memory, that they cannot help but suspend their typical modes of judgement.
Learn more about Ecologies of Witnessing at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Darryl Jones's "Sleeping with the Lights On"

Darryl Jones is Professor of English and Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at Trinity College Dublin, where he teaches nineteenth-century literature and popular fiction. His books include Horror: A Thematic History in Fiction and Film, the Oxford World's Classics editions of M. R. James's Collected Ghost Stories, and Horror Stories: Classic Tales from Hoffmann to Hodgson.

Jones applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Sleeping with the Lights On: The Unsettling Story of Horror, and reported the following:
What’s happening on page 99? This page is towards the end of a chapter entitled ‘Horror and the Body’, and it’s part of a discussion of the very troubling post-millennial subgenre known as ‘torture porn’, exemplified by films such as Martyrs, The Human Centipede, Hostel, or Funny Games. Throughout the book, I’m concerned with defending horror against the generally ill-informed reactions of those who do not understand it, or who fear it, who think it is a dangerous genre because they believe that a tendency to watch violent acts leads inexorably to a tendency to commit violent acts. ‘The history of horror is also the history of outraged responses to horror’, I suggest. Torture porn, I think, comes closest to realizing the fears of censors and moral majoritarians that horror is simply empty sadism.

More specifically, page 99 begins by contextualizing torture porn within the post-9/11 ‘War on Terror’, in a post-millennial culture of the normalization of torture, taking in, for example, photographs of abused prisoners from Abu Ghraib, the continuing extrajudicial use of Guantanamo Bay, media discussions about the ethics and utility of waterboarding, and the popularity of counter-terrorist entertainment thrillers such as 24. I initially thought 24 was a superbly-made series, with a brilliant real-time conceit, and a revelatory central performance by Kiefer Sutherland. But at some point I just stopped watching, as Jack Bauer increasingly relied on torture as a first resort, to be used immediately on whoever got in his way, including members of his own family. This struck me as deranged.

The page closes with a meditation on pain and the human body. Studies by, for example, Bob Brecher or Shane O’Mara have demonstrated that arguments for torture are philosophically empty, and that torture has no efficacy as a means of information gathering. But that’s not the point. The point is to demonstrate that the torturer has no moral limits, and thus to spread fear. The page closes with these words, which sum things up for me:
Our pain is inexpressible. Having no straightforward linguistic object, it lies beyond the limits of language, articulable only through imprecise similes (it is like burning, it is like torture, it is like death, it is worse than death), or else non-verbally (we scream, we howl, we cry). In our pain, we are uniquely alone and vulnerable. To exploit this vulnerability, knowingly to inflict extreme pain on others, is to place oneself beyond the boundaries of humanity.
Learn more about Sleeping with the Lights On at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 2, 2018

Eiko Maruko Siniawer's "Waste: Consuming Postwar Japan"

Eiko Maruko Siniawer, Professor of History at Williams College, specializes in the history of modern Japan. Her first book (Ruffians, Yakuza, Nationalists) examines issues of political violence and democracy through a focus on violence specialists, or the professionally violent. The book explores the ways in which ruffianism became embedded and institutionalized in the practice of modern Japanese politics and argues that for much of Japan’s modern history, political violence was so systemic and enduring that Japan can be considered a violent democracy.

Her new book, Waste: Consuming Postwar Japan, is about conceptions of waste and wastefulness in Japan from the 1940s through the present. By considering shifts in what was considered to be waste and wasteful (be it resources, time, or material objects), her work explores people’s struggles to find value, meaning, and happiness in a post-industrialist, capitalist, consumerist, and affluent Japan.

Siniawer applied the “Page 99 Test” to Waste and reported the following:
On page 99 of Waste, we are thrust into the middle of a war. The combatants were the residents of two different wards in Tokyo that were at odds about who should be responsible for making garbage go away, for shouldering the burdens of waste disposal. At this point in the early 1970s, Kōtō ward decided that it no longer wanted to serve as the literal dumping ground for the rubbish produced by the more wealthy Suginami: “the confrontation between citizens of Kōtō and Suginami wards ... heightened the visibility of the garbage problem even as it was about who should be obliged to render garbage invisible. In late May 1973, when Kōtō again refused to accept garbage from a Suginami that had not yet agreed to house its own incinerator, people opened their newspapers and turned on their televisions to witness members of the Kōtō ward assembly in helmets, physically barring entrance to Landfill Number Fifteen. And for at least the few days when collection was suspended, denizens of Suginami ward encountered piles of garbage spreading across their sidewalks.” This conflict between Kōtō and Suginami wards was part of a larger Garbage War—a battle against “the sheer volume and unceasing accumulation of garbage” launched by Tokyo Governor Minobe Ryōkichi in 1971.

Captured on this page is a pivotal moment in the history of thinking about waste in postwar Japan. Through the Garbage War, rubbish came to be understood as a problem of postwar modernity, as a consequence not of civilizational inadequacy but of rapid economic growth and the recent achievement of relatively affluent, mass-consuming lifestyles. Sanitation experts began to view garbage as a product of civilizational excess and their industry as one of environmental protection. And for the residents of Tokyo, waste was rendered visible.

Yet there is much about the book that is not revealed by page 99. Waste is not centrally concerned with garbage so much as it is the idea of waste—about what was considered to be waste and to be wasteful in Japan from the mid-1940s to the present day. It considers waste in terms of stuff, money, possessions, resources, and time. Page 99 does hint at the ways in which ideas of waste shifted and how they were bound up with understandings of wealth, consumption, and environmentalism. But to read the book as a whole is to see more keenly the deep embeddedness of waste in the decisions, values, aspirations, and disappointments of everyday life in postwar Japan.
Learn more about Waste: Consuming Postwar Japan at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Christopher Herbert's "Gold Rush Manliness"

Christopher Herbert is associate professor of history at Columbia Basin College.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Gold Rush Manliness: Race and Gender on the Pacific Slope, and reported the following:
Gold Rush Manliness is an examination of the creation of white manhood in two related gold rushes: California from 1848 to 1858 and British Columbia from 1858 to 1871. Page 99 falls near the start of the third chapter which deals with the development of the colonial state in British Columbia and how that process interacted with the redefinition of what it meant to be white and manly.

Specifically, page 99 falls in the middle of a discussion of a fascinating moment in British Columbia gold rush history when African American immigrants, fleeing the persecution of antebellum America, arrived in Victoria, the capital of the colony. They arrived at an opportune moment. Although the colony did not have a naturalization process, the colonial elite decide to grant African Americans the right to vote because, they claimed, the Dred Scott decision had stripped African Americans of their American citizenship. Not uncoincidentally, the newly-enfranchised black settlers cast their ballots in a solid block for the government, enabling the colony’s elites to hold on to power. This event set off a firestorm within the colony over the meaning of power and identity. Ultimately, the relative privileging of black immigrants over white Americans would prove to be short-lived as British perceptions regarding race and nationality evolved over the course of the rush.

In both California and British Columbia, the social and cultural disorder caused by the gold rushes encouraged gold rushers of all backgrounds to experiment with what it meant to be white and manly within the context of emerging systems of colonial domination and power. Gold Rush Manliness explores these themes through an examination of both locations, suggesting that events like the gold rushes need to be taken seriously as places where race and gender were made and remade in sometimes startling ways.
Learn more about Gold Rush Manliness at the University of Washington Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 29, 2018

Ellen Winner's "How Art Works: A Psychological Exploration"

Ellen Winner is Professor of Psychology at Boston College and Senior Research Associate at Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education. She directs the Arts and Mind Lab, which focuses on cognition in the arts in typical and gifted children as well as adults. She received the Rudolf Arnheim Award for Outstanding Research by a Senior Scholar in Psychology and the Arts from Division 10 in 2000.

Winner applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, How Art Works: A Psychological Exploration, and reported the following:
On page 99 of How Art Works: A Psychological Exploration, I pose a paradox. Why do we enjoy experiencing pain in art, but seek to avoid it at all costs in “real life.” Why are we drawn to paintings like Picasso’s Guernica, which depicts the horrors of war? Why do we read tragic novels and listen to sad music? And why do we go to movies that make us cry, or movies that shock and terrify us? Page 99 comes after I have explained the studies that psychologists have carried out to answer this question.

Here is part of page 99:
Key to why we seek negative emotions in art, yet avoid them in life, is that art provides a safe space to experience these emotions and to turn inward to savor them— safe because we know it is art, not reality. This knowledge allows us to observe the art and our negative reactions with a kind of disinterestedness, to use the words of Kant.

Art with negative content invites us to introspect about our negative emotions, and to imagine how these responses are shared by others responding to the same work of art. While it’s appropriate to focus on how moved and empathetic and horrified we feel looking at a tragedy on stage, responding this way when witnessing an actual tragedy would be inappropriate— indeed, narcissistic.

The explanation for our attraction to negative themes in art applies across art forms. Knowing that it’s art and not reality makes all the difference.
The evidence shows that when we enter a fictional, make-believe world about pain and suffering and tragedy (and so much art is about pain and suffering and tragedy), we experience both negative and positive emotions. Oddly, the more negative the content, the more it is that positive emotions are evoked in combination with the negative ones. And the positive emotions are due to the feeling of being moved -- and feeling moved is pleasurable. We feel moved by tragedy in art. We do not feel moved when tragedy strikes us personally, and hence we feel nothing positive. Psychologist Paul Rozin has referred to this effects as “benign masochism” in a safe context.

This is an example of one of the many puzzles about the arts that I discuss in the book. Most of the puzzles discussed are ones that philosophers have debated (and have reached no agreement): e.g., Does reading fiction make us more empathic once we close the covers of the book? What’s wrong with a perfect forgery? If I say that Agatha Christie is a greater writer than Shakespeare, could you prove me wrong? To answer these questions, I turn to the growing field of empirical aesthetics – a field in which psychologists are applying the tools of social science (observation and experimentation) to find out how ordinary people untrained in art respond to these age-old questions. And some of the answers about how art works on us may surprise you!
Learn more about How Art Works at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Peter Hart-Brinson's "The Gay Marriage Generation"

Peter Hart-Brinson is Associate Professor of Sociology and Communication/Journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Gay Marriage Generation: How the LGBTQ Movement Transformed American Culture, and reported the following:
I have to say, page 99 is far from my favorite page in the book, but it does get at the book’s essence. In The Gay Marriage Generation, I explain the historic and unprecedented rise of gay marriage in the United States. I show how young cohorts who reached adulthood after 1992 came of age imagining sexuality as an identity—who you are—rather than a behavior—what you do. And I provide historical, quantitative, and qualitative evidence to show how that generational change caused public support for gay marriage to increase so quickly.

Page 99 only alludes to that, via a discussion of the culture wars. Gay marriage was one of the two main battles in America’s culture wars of the 1990s and 2000s. And unlike abortion, in which the two sides are fairly entrenched and reproduce themselves over time, gay marriage ended in a decisive victory for the supporters. The reason is because of generational change: as older Americans who thought of homosexuality as a behavior died off, they were replaced in the population by younger Americans who imagined homosexuality as an identity.

It took two decades for this combination of births and deaths—what social scientists call cohort replacement—to produce majority support among the American electorate. But once it happened, gay marriage supporters began winning victory after victory. Thus, I wrote, “because cohort replacement is continually strengthening one side and weakening the other, we begin to see why the culture war—as loud and intractable as the fighting seems—ended so quietly and so suddenly.”

For a time in American politics, the culture wars seemed like they would never end. But there’s nothing inevitable about them. They arose under particular historical conditions; they were sustained by how the political and religious groups on each side argued against one another; and the actions of the LGBTQ movement that caused the gay marriage generation to emerge brought one front in the war to a close.

With the resolution of the gay marriage debate, the battleground has shifted slightly: to issues of transgender rights, among other things. But the political power of the religious orthodox in the U.S. has evaporated with the rise of Trump and his brand of xenophobic nationalism. It’s hard to fathom how the Religious Right’s claim to the moral high ground will survive the fact that they have turned a blind eye to President Trump’s moral failings—from putting babies in cages to extramarital affairs with porn stars. But it’s equally hard to fathom a more peaceful political future.
Learn more about The Gay Marriage Generation at the NYU Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Holly Case's "The Age of Questions"

Holly Case is an associate professor of History at Brown University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Age of Questions: Or, A First Attempt at an Aggregate History of the Eastern, Social, Woman, American, Jewish, Polish, Bullion, Tuberculosis, and Many Other Questions over the Nineteenth Century, and Beyond, and reported the following:
The “Page 99 Test” apparently has some followers over at Lapham’s Quarterly, because an excerpt from my book published there includes page 99. The page lays out a paradox. In the words of Emil Hammacher, a young German philosopher writing in 1914, there are “questions and tasks whose solution is felt as a need and a necessity”; he listed the social, woman, and worker questions among them. “[N]ever before,” he continued, “have there been so many riddles storming the people as there are today.” But even as questions proliferated and seemed to demand immediate redress, there was a mounting loss of faith in the Lösung (solution). “[I]t’s not so much that now a question appears with unprecedented intensity,” Hammacher wrote, “but rather that absolutely all handed-down solutions of world- and life-problems have become doubtful.”

Loss of faith in solutions did not turn Hammacher into a pessimist, however. In place of the Lösung, he fantasized about Auflösung (dissolution, or giving over). “[T]he self-same conditions that pave the way to the end also lead to the highest maturation of mystical experience; it is in the state of Auflösung that individuals can achieve a higher perfection than ever.” Hammacher saw the potential for Auflösung in the Great War, in which he fought and died. “Is the war that [a state] fights for its own self-assertion or aggrandizement an amoral or at least fatuous residue of barbarism? […] Is eternal peace the highest ideal?” Hammacher echoed Germany’s emphatic “no” to both questions.

On page 99 we learn that it was not just Germans like Hammacher, but also many non-German Europeans had ceased believing in solutions to the questions of their time. The chapter explains how this general loss of faith in definitive solutions ended in the “Final Solution”—the Holocaust. Genocide, in other words, was the endgame of the “age of questions.”

So yes, page 99 does seem to capture the “quality of the whole.” But The Age of Questions is a wily book. Each chapter makes a different argument regarding the essence of the age, and each is also periodically engaged in an argument (dispute) with the others. The final chapter integrates all these arguments into a single, higher-order one. So the argument that appears on page 99 is a bit like Hammacher; destined to struggle and go under, but with an eye to achieving Auflösung—dissolution, or giving over to something higher—in the final chapter.
Learn more about The Age of Questions at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

George R. Mastroianni's "Of Mind and Murder"

George R. Mastroianni was trained as an experimental psychologist and conducted empirical research in a variety of areas related to human performance as an Army scientist. He taught a variety of subjects in psychology at the US Air Force Academy in twenty years of classroom teaching, and now teaches leadership in the Psychology of Leadership Program at Pennsylvania State University.

Mastroianni applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Of Mind and Murder: Toward a More Comprehensive Psychology of the Holocaust, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Of Mind and Murder occurs at the end of a chapter on the methods psychologists and others have employed in studying the Holocaust. The discussion on this page focuses on the difficulties that may be encountered when scholars in disciplines such as psychology and history cross disciplinary boundaries, as when psychologists take sides in historical disputes or historians favor particular psychological explanations for human behavior in their work over others. There often are subtleties and complexities within disciplinary discourse opaque to the “outsider” that, when brought to light, can enrich and balance discussions that take place at the boundaries or intersections of disciplines.

Surely someone has previously noted the conceptual relationship between the “Page 99 Test” and holography: if you cut a hologram into many pieces and choose one (say, the 99th ) the image reconstructed will be the same one seen had the hologram been left intact, albeit with less resolution and detail. Books are not holograms, though, and had we chosen pages 299 or 399, each of which contain only lists of references, the exercise would have been less informative. Of Mind and Murder discusses many specific topics that are not found on page 99: page 199, for example, addresses the roots of prejudice and racism in basic human cognitive adaptations, the ways we perceive and think about the world, that lead us to categorize and classify the objects and people we find in it.

But the “Page 99 Test” applied to this book does capture one vital and global characteristic of the work: Of Mind and Murder self-consciously attempts to be a psychological book that includes, respects, and sometimes confronts the perspectives of those in other disciplines, especially history, in understanding the Holocaust. Along the way, there is also a fair amount of confrontation with psychological perspectives, both old and new.
Learn more about Of Mind and Murder at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Michelle Pannor Silver's "Retirement and Its Discontents"

Michelle Pannor Silver is an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto in the Department of Sociology and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Health and Society.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Retirement and Its Discontents: Why We Won't Stop Working, Even if We Can, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Retirement and Its Discontents focuses on Allison, a retired Olympic gymnast, who describes how alone she felt in the wake of her athletic career. At 25 years old, she was recovering from an addiction to pain killers and trying to figure out how to find work that would help her make ends meet and fill some of the void created by no longer being able to perform at an elite level. Though Allison is quite distinct from the other people interviewed in the book, this page sets the stage for the thinking about the deeply challenges faced by accomplished retirees as it illustrates the importance of personal identity in forging sustainable social norms around retirement.

Retirement and Its Discontents is about how we confront the mismatch between idealized and actual retirement. Michelle Silver’s book follows doctors, CEOs, elite athletes, professors, and homemakers during their transition to retirement as they struggle to recalibrate their sense of purpose and self-worth. Drawing on in-depth interviews that capture a range of perceptions and common concerns about what it means to be retired, Silver emphasizes the significance of creating new retirement strategies that support social connectedness and personal fulfillment while countering ageist stereotypes about productivity and employment.
Visit Michelle Pannor Silver's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 19, 2018

Elizabeth Segal's "Social Empathy"

Elizabeth Segal is a professor in the School of Social Work at Arizona State University. She is the author of Social Welfare Policy and Social Programs: A Values Perspective, fourth edition (2016) and coauthor of Assessing Empathy (2017).

Segal applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Social Empathy: The Art of Understanding Others, and reported the following:
I opened Social Empathy to page 99 and reread the story about my first year as a college professor when I had a class that involved students going out into the community to learn about a social concern. The students were invited to pick their own topic. When they suggested that they wanted to study homelessness in the community, I was a bit snooty. I had just moved to this small college town from Chicago, and I was convinced that I knew real homelessness. What could these students find in a small college town that looked at all like homelessness? That was my hubris, my arrogance, I knew it all.

Luckily, my newness on the job infused a competing healthy dose of insecurity, and so I let the students go on and convince me that they had a solid topic. That was my humility, that just maybe I was wrong and they were right. The story on p. 99 tells the reader how wrong I was, and in that process of letting my humility overtake my hubris, I experienced empathy. I listened. I took their point of view. I walked in the shoes of my students. I still had a lot to learn about teaching. But infusing empathy into my teaching helped me to see that my students deserved to be treated with the same academic respect that I wanted. From that class I learned the connection between humility and empathy. What a gift my students gave me.

When we are so sure of ourselves that we disregard the opinion of others or the feelings of others, so full of hubris, we are not being empathetic. However, when we respect the experiences of others, no matter how different they are from us, we show humility, we show that we don’t know everything and that their opinions and feelings matter. And that shows empathy.
Learn more about Social Empathy at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Steven Ujifusa's "Barons of the Sea"

Steven Ujifusa is the author of Barons of the Sea: And Their Race to Build the World’s Greatest Clipper Ship. Barons of the Sea tells the saga of the great 19th century American clipper ships and the Yankee merchant dynasties they created. It is a story of high-stakes competition on the high seas, groundbreaking technical innovation in shipbuilding, and intense family rivalries. Nathaniel Philbrick described it as “A fascinating, fast-paced history…full of remarkable characters and incredible stories” about the nineteenth-century American dynasties who battled for dominance of the tea and opium trades.”

Ujifusa applied the “Page 99 Test” to Barons of the Sea and reported the following:
From page 99:
Palmer estimated that his new ship could bring fresh tea from China to New York in fewer than a hundred days, a faster voyage than the Paul Jones and other ships in her class. The relatively flat-bottom contours of Palmer’s prototype created the interior volume needed for greater carrying capacity. His new model would be ideal for hauling the maximum number of tea chests with the minimum amount of wasted space. And there was another factor at work. Some sailors on the China run had noticed how their ships sailed differently with a cargo of tea versus bulk goods. “A ship with a tea cargo is very buoyant and is not deep in the water and sails very well,” the young sailor Charlie Low observed. This enabled tea ships to make nine or ten knots sailing large in a quartering wind—compared with six or seven knots for merchant ships loaded with heavier cargo. Imagine how fast a better-designed ship could be.

Such was the ship that Captain Nathaniel Palmer envisioned while slogging homeward on John Murray Forbes’s brand-new Paul Jones. With luck, Palmer reasoned, a sharp-bowed ship could average twelve or thirteen knots in a fresh breeze—possibly even faster—when loaded with a full cargo of tea. The question was whether a ship with such sharp ends would lose crucial buoyancy and become unstable or structurally deficient in bad weather, especially when fully loaded with cargo.

Late in 1843, a newly disembarked William Henry Low turned up at the South Street offices of A. A. Low & Brother, sadly without the competence he had sought in China, but bearing Captain Nat’s model ship. His brother Abbot controlled the family purse strings, and after careful examination and consultation with the East River shipbuilders Brown & Bell, he gave his approval for building this experimental craft. Captain Nat would design the new vessel and supervise her construction at the shipyard.
Page 99 of Barons of the Sea discusses how a few strokes of imaginative thinking on the part of an experienced sea captain (Nathaniel Palmer) and two brothers from a prominent New York shipping family (William Henry Low and Charles Porter Low) led to the construction and financing of one of the earliest clipper ships: the Houqua of 1843, named after China’s wealthiest merchant. Because of her revolutionary design, Houqua could sail from China to New York in less than 100 days, which became the new gold standard for the passage, when only a few years earlier six months was considered an average run. Houqua helped touch off a race to built the fastest tea clipper, which culminated in the Sea Witch of 1846, which sailed between Hong Kong and New York at an astonishing 74 days, a record which stood for over 150 years.

A clipper ship is a three-masted, full-rigged sailing vessel built for speed at the sacrifice of capacity. To achieve speeds of 13 knots plus, a clipper ship’s bow and stern had sharp lines rather than the traditional full ones. These sharp lines had their origins in the small, schooner rigged “opium clippers” owned by the Lows, fast boats that smuggled the Indian drug into China to pay for the tea. A clipper ship’s keel had to be strong to compensate for the loss of buoyancy at the bow and stern. Clipper ships also carried a much larger spread of canvas than a typical vessel, which meant a larger crew and higher operational costs. To make a clipper ship’s great speed pay, the cargo had to be extremely valuable. First, it was high quality tea from China to be sold at auction in New York or Boston. Then, during the California Gold Rush, this meant dry goods and provisions to be sold to miners in booming San Francisco to be sold at sky-high prices.

The American clipper ship revolutionized world trade similarly to the way Amazon has in modern times by greatly speeding up the global supply chain The men who owned and operated clippers were bare-knuckled, laissez-faire capitalists. Ships were built with great skill and creativity, for speed and profit first, safety last. There were no trial voyages, government inspections, or labor regulation. Crew life was harsh and dangerous: one misstep ten stories above the ocean meant near-certain death.

These innovative clippers made the Lows and a handful of other families (including that of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s grandfather) fabulously wealthy, and established America as a global economic superpower. Due to the advent of steam, railroads, and changing economic conditions, the clipper ship era only lasted about two decades, but these beautiful ships live on in art, song, and the family fortunes that they produced. They were the perfect blend of art and commerce. As maritime historian Samuel Eliot Morrison wrote, “These were our Gothic cathedrals, our Parthenon; but monuments carved from snow. For a few brief years they flashed their splendor around the world, then disappeared with the finality of the wild pigeon.”
Visit Steven Ujifusa's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 15, 2018

Helmut Norpoth's "Unsurpassed: The Popular Appeal of Franklin Roosevelt"

Helmut Norpoth is Professor of Political Science at Stony Brook University. He is the co-author of The American Voter Revisited and author of Confidence Regained: Economics, Mrs. Thatcher and the British Voter.

Norpoth applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Unsurpassed: The Popular Appeal of Franklin Roosevelt, and reported the following:
From page 99:
By October 1940, support for aiding Britain was the popular option, while opposition, commonly called isolationism, was in a minority. The balance in favor of aiding Britain was three to two in the October 1940 Gallup poll. Had it been the reverse, this issue would have doomed FDR's reelection prospect in 1940.
This passage from page 99 of Unsurpassed: The Popular Appeal of Franklin Roosevelt highlights the critical importance of public opinion about foreign policy for FDR's approval and electoral success. Had he not run and won a third term in 1940, FDR would not have been commander in chief when the United States entered the war. History might have turned out quite differently.

In 1940, as shown by ample polls, the American people said good-bye to isolationism and embraced a policy of doing everything, even at the risk of war, to help Britain win against Nazi-Germany. For example, in an October 1939 poll, 67 percent opposed such a policy, while a year later, 62 percent approved it. This was not a forgone conclusion. Leaders of the isolationist movement like the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh and Montana Senator Burton Wheeler attacked FDR as a warmonger bent on saving the British Empire at America’s expense. But it was Roosevelt who commanded the “bully pulpit.” A master of the new medium, radio, he appealed to Americans at their homes with his fabled “fireside chats.” It was an invention of his own that typically reached more than turned out to vote. In those chats and other addresses that were broadcast the President pleaded his case that helping England in the war was helping the United States avert grave and imminent peril. It was imperative, in his words, to turn the United States into the “arsenal of democracy.” Almost every time FDR spoke to the American public or gave an address to Congress that was broadcast he chipped away at the rock of isolationism.

Roosevelt also took advantage of a new device for feeling the public pulse. He eagerly embraced polling, not simply what he could glean from reports of Gallup polls in the press. In early 1940, he enlisted the personal services of Princeton Professor Hadley Cantril’s operation to brief him on what polls revealed about the views of Americans on foreign policy issues. So this captain was not operating in the dark about the passages and shoals of public opinion. FDR was able to divine which actions most Americans would support and which ones not, whether it was repeal of Neutrality Acts, military spending, the draft, Destroyers-for-Bases, Lend-Lease or a declaration of war, among other things. At the same time, public opinion in 1940 also registered a reversal on the question of giving FDR a third term. He learned of this change of heart, too, removing what had looked like an immovable obstacle to an unprecedented third term.
Learn more about Unsurpassed at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Connie Y. Chiang's "Nature Behind Barbed Wire"

Connie Y. Chiang is Professor of History and Environmental Studies at Bowdoin College.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Nature Behind Barbed Wire: An Environmental History of the Japanese American Incarceration, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Nature Behind Barbed Wire describes the agricultural labor problems in the Japanese American incarceration camps during World War II. The War Relocation Authority (WRA), a federal civilian agency, oversaw the administration of the ten camps and developed extensive agricultural programs at each one. The WRA’s goals were two-fold: to make the camps self-supporting and to provide worthwhile jobs for Japanese American detainees. However, as page 99 makes clear, WRA officials could not secure adequate Japanese American workers to maintain maximum production. At the behest of the WRA, many were leaving the camps to take outside employment. As a result, “the camp labor pool sometimes became drained at inopportune times in the planting and harvesting cycle.” Indeed, it was crucial to find workers at specific times of the year—when the environmental conditions were ideal for sowing and reaping.

Page 99 thus hints at the environmental underpinnings of the WRA’s agricultural challenges. The labor supply needed to align with nature—that is, the changes in the seasons. As I show elsewhere in this chapter, other environmental considerations affected farm production. Some Japanese Americans rejected agricultural work because of the harsh weather. They also found that their previous agricultural expertise—honed in more temperate locales along the Pacific Coast—was not applicable to the arid conditions in the camps. In fact, most of the camps were located in areas that were ill-suited for farming, with short growing seasons or poor soil. The environment, in other words, shaped the quantity and quality of farm labor. This interplay between humans and nature in the operation of the camps is central to the book’s narrative. Nature Behind Barbed Wire argues that the Japanese American incarceration was fundamentally an environmental story, shaped by the lands and waters of the Pacific Coast and the inland camps.
Learn more about Nature Behind Barbed Wire at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Loren Schweninger's "Appealing for Liberty"

Loren Schweninger is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, where he taught for forty years. He was Director of the Race and Slavery Petitions Project from 1991-2009, creating the Digital Library on American Slavery during his tenure, and is the author of numerous books, including the Lincoln-Prize winning Runaway Slaves: Rebels in the Plantations (2010), co-authored with John Hope Franklin.

Schweninger applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Appealing for Liberty: Freedom Suits in the South, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Nancy’s term of service would have expired the same year Smith received his “instrument of freedom,” but, like him, she remained in bondage another twenty years, until the mid- 1830s.

In perhaps the strangest case of inordinate term servitude, a Virginia woman named Nan claimed that, according to a deed, she was bound to serve a term of twelve years, whereas her children’s terms would end on their reaching age twenty- eight. In 1817, Nan was released and registered in Rockingham County as a free person of color, but long after Nan’s death, her daughter Gracey and Gracey’s nine children remained enslaved. Not until 1859 were they freed, when the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals declared that there was nothing in the case to show that Nan was a slave, “except the fact of her color and African descent”— a presumption “repelled by the other facts proved in the case.” More than four decades after Nan had gained her freedom, her children and grandchildren won theirs.

Many of the slaves kept in bondage long after their terms had expired had in fact been sold as slaves for life. Often they were conveyed to states where the laws prohibited or inhibited the ability of African Americans to file freedom suits. In Louisiana, for example, slaves could not be freed prior to reaching age thirty unless special permissions were granted. When term slaves were permitted and able to bring suits in their home communities, the courts sometimes failed to provide assistance or relief, especially when time-limited servants had not yet served out their terms. Even under the most frightful circumstances, when blacks feared being taken out of county or state and enslaved for life, courts might decline to issue injunctions of protection. In such cases, the slaveholders retained ownership rights over their human property and the courts could offer that property no alternatives.

Among the most vexing questions in the law of emancipation was whether children born to female slaves who had been promised their freedom in the future were entitled to the same benefit. The question arose almost entirely in the Upper South, where manumission continued during the nineteenth century. The laws covering emancipation differed from state to state, as did the precedents established by the courts. In 1799, in Pleasants v. Pleasants, the Virginia Chancellor George Wythe and Appeals Judge Spencer Roane offered the opinion that as soon as the right of the mother to future freedom had been determined, she was free, as were any children born to her, and testators had no power to “impose any servitude on them.” In short, they ruled that “the present right to future freedom is present freedom.”

This view was repudiated in Virginia in 1824 in the case of Maria v. Surbaugh, wherein Virginia Judge Spencer Green decided that the children born to female term slaves during the mother’s term of servitude were born in, and remained in, bondage. The case was complicated, stretching back to 1790 when, in his
Page 99 in Appealing for Liberty: Freedom Suits in the South is a good reflection of the volume which examines how illegally held slaves in the southern states sued in various courts for their freedom. Among them were black people who were supposed to be freed after a term of years as indicated in deeds of manumission and last will and testaments and what happened to their children if born during the term before their release, at least in Virginia law. (For other topics covered in the book, see the table of contents.)
Learn more about Appealing for Liberty at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

T.V. Paul's "Restraining Great Powers"

T.V. Paul is James McGill professor of international Relations, McGill University, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. His most recent book, Restraining Great Powers: Soft Balancing from Empires to the Global Era, discusses the different soft balancing and hard balancing strategies that states have used from Concert of Europe to Contemporary Era.

Paul applied the “Page 99 Test” to Restraining Great Powers and reported the following:
From page 99:
American interventionist policies, whether in the Persian Gulf or in Kosovo, act as catalysts to some extent in determining whether soft balancing efforts occur. Whenever the U.S. has engaged in aggressive unilateralism, some of the affected great power states have responded with temporary coalition building at the diplomatic level… The U.S. case exemplifies that the first two decades of the post-Cold War era featured balancing against threat, not against power.
Page 99 of Restraining Great Powers: Soft Balancing from Empires to the Global Era discusses the attempts by secondary states, both allies and adversaries to restrain the U.S. from intervening militarily in theaters of the world, especially it the Middle East. It asks the question why the U.S. was not militarily balanced by other states, despite the cardinal argument inherent in balance of power theory and policy that power will be met with power. The different answers provided by scholars on this puzzle range from the huge capability discrepancy between the U.S. and its rivals, America’s internal democratic order and the liberal characteristic of U.S. hegemony enabling it not posing a fundamental threat to the state system. The page initiates these points, but subsequently the chapter contends that the U.S. was balanced, but not through military buildup or formal alliances. The U.S. interventionist policies produced responses by affected states, first by Russia and China during the US intervention in Serbia to prevent a military backlash on Kosavar Albanians, and later, prior to the Iraq War of 2003. This time around, U.S. allies Germany and France also joined in that endeavor to restraining America using institutional means. Russia and China used their veto power in the UN Security Council to deny a resolution authorizing the US the right to intervene and thereby denied the international legitimacy it sought for military action. This US case is one of the key examples of soft balancing discussed in the book. Previous chapters dealt with soft balancing theory, the ideal conditions that led to this approach, and the use of institutions from Concert of Europe and the League of Nations as well as Nonaligned countries during the Cold War era. Subsequent chapters discuss the soft balancing efforts by and against China and Russia.
Visit T.V. Paul's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Catherine Reef's "Mary Shelley"

Catherine Reef is the author of more than 40 nonfiction books, including Noah Webster: Man of Many Words, Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life, Florence Nightingale: The Courageous Life of the Legendary Nurse, Victoria: Portrait of a Queen, and other highly acclaimed biographies for young people. She lives in College Park, Maryland.

Reef applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest young adult biography, Mary Shelley: The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein's Creator, and reported the following:
A reader opening Mary Shelley: The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein’s Creator to page 99 will find Mary and Percy Shelley in Florence, Italy, in December 1819. The weather is unusually harsh, but then Italy seems determined to treat the Shelleys cruelly. Disease claimed their daughter, Clara, in Venice, and their son William in Rome. There is no way they can know that another devastating surprise awaits them off the coast of Livorno. So, ignorant of the future, they are cautiously optimistic. Mary has just given birth to another boy, Percy Florence, who thrives. She stays indoors to care for him while Percy, who can never be still, wraps himself in a cloak to take a visiting cousin and Mary’s ever-present stepsister, Claire Clairmont, sightseeing.

Page 99 is a narrow window, but a reader peering through it can spot recurring trends or themes in Mary Shelley’s life. One of these is isolation. Mary and Percy “see no company and live quite to themselves,” notes the cousin, Sophia Stacey. They began their relationship by running away to France when Mary was sixteen and Percy was a married man of twenty-one. Polite society shunned them and continued to do so even after circumstances allowed the couple to wed. In Italy they have some open-minded friends, but just a few.

A second theme that page 99 touches on is tragedy. Other children whom Mary knows and loves will die as well, and so, famously and at a young age, will Percy Bysshe Shelley. Drownings, suicides, and premature deaths from disease are all part of Mary Shelley’s story—there are too many of them, really, to list here.

Also, a theme that will feature prominently in the second half of the narrative makes its debut on page 99. It is the hope Mary invests in her infant son, Percy Florence, who will sustain her through the misfortunes to come. “Poor Mary begins (for the first time) to look a little consoled,” Percy Shelley writes to a friend, in a letter quoted at the top of the page. Being a single parent to her only surviving child will force Mary to be strong and carry on. Needing to support him will ensure that she keeps on writing.

Writing: it gets a lot of attention in this biography of a novelist married to a poet, but there’s little mention of it on page 99. Sophia Stacey does remark that Percy Shelley “is always reading, and at night has a little table with pen and ink, she [Mary] the same.” The curious can find out what Mary Shelley wrote after the publication of Frankenstein if they turn the page and go on reading.
Visit Catherine Reef's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Catherine Reef & Nandi.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 5, 2018

"Technicolored: Reflections on Race in the Time of TV"

Ann duCille is Emerita Professor of English at Wesleyan University and author of Skin Trade and The Coupling Convention: Sex, Text, and Tradition in Black Women's Fiction.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Technicolored: Reflections on Race in the Time of TV, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Technicolored falls in the middle of a chapter on Shirley Temple as an American icon whose films from the 1930s were regularly shown on television in the 1950s and ’60s of my impressionable youth. I am concerned here—as I am throughout the book—with issues of racial representation and Hollywood’s fondness for what I call “stigmatic blackness,” mass mediated depictions of African Americans as the dominant culture’s “low-Other.” Little Shirley Temple, whose biographer describes her as “perfect 10”—“everything parents want their children to be”—was often surrounded onscreen by imperfect black caricatures, whose dark skin, bulging black eyes, lumbering gaits, and stammering speech worked to highlight Temple’s snow-white perfection and overdetermined precocity.

This excerpt from page 99 critiques a scene from The Littlest Rebel (1935) in which the distinction between perfect-10 whiteness and stigmatic blackness is played out in the contrast between Temple as Virginia “Miss Virgie” Cary, the bright, bubbly plantation mistress who is celebrating her birthday in the big house with ice cream and cake served by waiting slaves played by Willie Best and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, the latter of whom entertains the birthday girl and her guests with a buck-and-wing tap dance on command.
Called from the lavish festivities inside, Miss Virgie is met on the front porch of her plantation manor by a group of slave children who have come to the big house bearing birthday greetings and a gift for their little mistress. But Sally Ann, the designated spokesperson, can’t manage to get out the simple salutation. Although older and much taller than the diminutive Miss Virgie, Sally Ann stumbles over a simple and presumably well-rehearsed greeting. “Miss Virgie. Please, ma’am,” Sally Ann says. “We all done come hereto wish you many happy... happy...”

“Returns,” the bubbly, hyper-articulate Miss Virgie interjects.

“That’s it,” Sally Ann musters. “We all done made you a doll and here it is,” she adds, holding out a black golliwog rag doll. “There was more I had to say, but, Mammy, I forgot it,” she cries, dissolving into tears and burying her face in Mammy’s skirt.

The magnanimous Miss Virgie, cradling the black doll against her white dress, tells Sally Ann not to worry: “This is the very nicest present I got. Thank you ever so much.” She exits, promising over her shoulder to save Sally Ann and the other slave children some birthday cake, which makes [them] dance with joy. As a child watching the film on TV in the 1950s and ’60s, I might have thought Miss Virgie’s promise of birthday cake played like a modern-day version of Marie Antoinette’s apocryphal pronouncement “let them eat cake.” But as a critic, I know the gesture is meant to make Miss Virgie loom all the larger for her largess to dimwitted [slaves], who thrill at the thought of crumbs.
I go on to point out in the ensuing analysis that the willing deference and submission of happy slaves depicted in such scenes are critical to the ideological schemes of early cinema and wholly in keeping with the benevolent portrait of the South’s “peculiar institution” presented on television and in our textbooks and songsters at midcentury. But because Technicolored is part memoir as well as cultural critique, I also confess my own vexed relationship to Shirley Temple. As a young viewer, I didn’t worship the wunderkind child star like Pecola Breedlove, the ill-fated protagonist of Toni Morrison’s first novel, The Bluest Eye (1970), but I did covet those fifty-six blonde curls and that irresistible come-let-us-adore-you cuteness, even at one point asking Mrs. Ellison, the church lady who pressed and curled hair in her kitchen, to give me a headful of ringlets like Shirley. The result was an early admonishment to be careful what you wish for. I emerged from the hairdresser’s chair several hours later sporting a rat’s nest of tight, greasy coils atop my head that was anything but cute. In attempting to look like the white starlet, I had succeeded only in making my black difference ridiculous.
Learn more about Technicolored at the Duke University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Timothy J. Lombardo's "Blue-Collar Conservatism"

Timothy J. Lombardo is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of South Alabama.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Blue-Collar Conservatism: Frank Rizzo’s Philadelphia and Populist Politics, and reported the following:
Blue-Collar Conservatism: Frank Rizzo’s Philadelphia and Populist Politics examines post-World War II Philadelphia to explain how working- and middle-class whites turned to the right in the last half of the twentieth century. It focuses on the white ethnic and blue-collar supporters of Frank Rizzo, Philadelphia’s controversial police commissioner turned mayor in the 1960s and 1970s. Rizzo was an archetypal example of late twentieth-century populist conservatism and a champion of “law and order.” As police commissioner, Rizzo earned a national reputation for his tough stance on crime, the heavy-handed tactics of his police force, and his openly hostile treatment of civil rights activists. Page 99 finds then-Deputy Commissioner Rizzo commanding the police response to civil rights protests demanding the integration of Girard College, an all-white boarding school for orphaned boys in the heart of all-black North Philadelphia.

Page 99 begins by describing Girard College as looking “like a fortress, with high white walls protecting expansive grounds and mansion-like structures from the surrounding neighborhood” and calling the boarding school an “architectural manifestation of African Americans’ exclusion from the city’s white power structure.” Willed as a whites-only institution by nineteenth-century financier Stephen Girard, the integration of Girard College had long been a goal of Philadelphia’s African American community. By the mid-1960s, the effort to integrate Girard College came under the direction of the fiery leader of local NAACP, Cecil B. Moore. Outspoken and brash, Moore led daily marches outside Girard College between May and December of 1965. While his marches and speeches inspired civil rights activists, they also drew the anger of white Philadelphians that viewed Girard College as a cherished local tradition. Moore’s protests also brought him face-to-face with Frank Rizzo. The regular confrontations secured Moore’s role as the leader of the more militant movement for civil rights in Philadelphia. They also established Rizzo’s reputation as a protector of tradition among white, blue-collar Philadelphians.

The snapshot of Rizzo and Moore outside the walls of Girard College hints at the conflict at the heart of Blue-Collar Conservatism. While maybe not fully revealing “the quality of the whole,” page 99 provides a glimpse of the book’s central focus on the various ways blue-collar whites reacted and responded to the changes wrought by the civil rights movement. It also offers an early look at why Frank Rizzo became such an important figure in Philadelphia’s white blue-collar politics and the broader rise of blue-collar conservatism.
Learn more about Blue-Collar Conservatism at the University of Pennsylvania Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 1, 2018

David Kloos's "Becoming Better Muslims"

David Kloos is a researcher at the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) in Leiden.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Becoming Better Muslims: Religious Authority and Ethical Improvement in Aceh, Indonesia, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Becoming Better Muslims describes a conversation I had with a young man called “Fendi.”
“My father is a good man. He hates injustice, but he is too stubborn in his opinions. If he wants to go to [the city of] Banda Aceh, he will go to Banda Aceh. Whether it rains or whether it storms, he will go. This time it is not different.”
The conversation took place in the wake of a great drama. A few days earlier, Fendi’s younger brother had been caught red-handed stealing from a large Islamic boarding school nearby. The brother was arrested, held for a few days, and the case was eventually solved within the village through a peace-making ritual. Fendi’s family was angry and distressed. The theft was petty, but Fendi’s brother was treated as a criminal. Fendi’s anger, however, was directed at his father. In his view, the treatment of his brother was due to the fact that his father had failed to maintain good relations with the head of the school, who was also one of the most powerful Islamic leaders in the province.

Fendi’s remark is indicative of a broader generational difference. More than their elders, young people like Fendi are prepared to view religious leaders as agents of the state, and thereby as brokers of power and resources. At the same time, the section on village conflicts – of which the story is part – opens up a larger discussion about religious lives as long-term “projects” of ethical formation. Personal projects of religious becoming, like other projects, lie idle sometimes, and they meet with unexpected setbacks. This is a socially accepted reality, and it is important to observe the flexibility inherent in this view in a place like Aceh, where state and religious leaders have progressively intruded in local communities and individual lives.

Because of my own age and gender, I connected well with people like Fendi. We had things in common. The prospect of a married life and a family. The conundrums of adulthood. On page 99 I express my irritation with his views and behavior. We sat behind the house, relaxed as usual, but our conversation was different in tone. It was edgy. I asked him how people would be able to stand up to the rich and powerful if everyone shared his views. I remember how he looked at me and I think he suddenly realized how little I understood. I didn’t really understand the stakes involved. He was more cool to me that evening but I was very thankful later for his patient countering of my presumptuousness during a phase of life of which he himself didn’t know exactly what to make.
Learn more about Becoming Better Muslims at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue