Saturday, November 25, 2017

Rachel Fulton Brown's "Mary and the Art of Prayer"

Rachel Fulton Brown is associate professor of history at the University of Chicago. She is the author of From Judgment to Passion: Devotion to Christ and the Virgin Mary, 800–1200 (2002) and coeditor of History in the Comic Mode: Medieval Communities and the Matter of Person (2007).

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Mary and the Art of Prayer: The Hours of the Virgin in Medieval Christian Life and Thought, and reported the following:
At the top of page 99 is the end of a quotation from one of the most famous passages ever written about what it means to pray to Mary. The speaker is the great Cistercian abbot Bernard of Clairvaux (d. 1153), and he is encouraging his audience to turn to Mary whenever they feel themselves overwhelmed by the tempests of life:
Asking her help, you will never despair. Keeping her in your thoughts, you will never wander away. With your hand in hers, you will never stumble. With her protecting you, you will not be afraid. With her leading you, you will never tire. Her kindness will see you through to the end. Then you will know by your own experience how true it is that “the Virgin’s name was Mary.”
This is the experience that my book attempts to capture for modern readers, but here, at the end of chapter 2, we have already come as far as most modern studies of the medieval devotion have been able to take us. We know by this point that every medieval Christian who could read—man, woman, or child; clerical, religious, or lay—would have known the Hours of the Virgin, the text at the core of their prayer books. We have also learned what we can about their experience of praying to her from the accounts that they gave of saying the invitatory antiphon at the first of these Hours and repeated by many throughout the day: “Ave, Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum.” Above all, we have noted, they reported sensations of lingering sweetness and exhilarating joy.

But why focus these prayers on the name of Mary? Most modern Christians, certainly most Protestants, think of Mary primarily as a humble maiden of Nazareth, remarkable only in that she was a virgin overshadowed by God—or raped, as certain feminist theologians have claimed. But medieval Christians had a whole range of other names for her—ark, tabernacle, temple, house, throne, city, mountain, river, tree, mirror, bride, queen—which they invoked to describe her relationship with God and which they professed to have found in the scriptures. As the book asks on page 99:
Where—other than in their desire to exercise their onomastic skills—did they get the idea to read the scriptures in the way that they did, as filled with names for her, almost none of which (other than her actual name) were invoked by the evangelists Matthew, Mark, or Luke?
The puzzle has been a persistent one ever since the eighteenth century, when philosophes like Casanova and Voltaire ridiculed interpreters like Sor María de Jesús de Ágreda (d. 1665) for imagining Mary as the Mother of Wisdom, filled with the knowledge of creation as God, the maker of heaven and earth, prepared her to be the temple of his Incarnate Son. The answer, as the remaining chapters of the book set out to show, lies in rethinking the history not only of the devotion to Mary, but of the origins of Christianity itself, grounded as it was in the recognition of Jesus not just as the Christ, but as the Lord worshipped in the psalms—and of Mary as the Mother of the Lord, the Lady of the temple in which the Lord became visible to the world. It is on page 99 that the full dimensions of this mystery first become clear and the doors of the temple begin to open wide.
Learn more about Mary and the Art of Prayer at the Columbia University Press website, and visit Rachel Fulton Brown's blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Daniel Siemens's "Stormtroopers"

Daniel Siemens is professor of European history at Newcastle University. His new book is Stormtroopers: A New History of Hitler's Brownshirts. He is author of three previous books and has published widely on European and U.S. history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Siemens applied the “Page 99 Test” to Stormtroopers and reported the following:
From page 99:
‘Only smoke your own brands. Do not spend money in other circles. To be a National Socialist means fighting and agitating until the last breath.’
This call is from an advertisement that ran in the early 1930s. It was directed at the rank and file Stormtroopers, or Brownshirts, the paramilitary wing of the Nazi party. Hitler and his followers had not yet taken power in Germany, but they were already a political force to reckon with. As I demonstrate in my book, the Nazis were not only skilled propagandists which since the late 1920s successfully reached out to a wide variety of German voters, they were also open to new business models. They centralized the sales of their uniform, of party badges and flags – similar to today’s sports clubs who make a fortune with cheaply produced shirts that bear the name of prominent athletes.
Stormtrooper cigarettes
The NSDAP also cooperated with a Dresden-based cigarette company that produced a variety of cigarettes exclusively marketed to appeal to Nazi supports.

It was a win-win situation: The party promised to order its quickly growing number of paramilitary supporters to smoke this particular brand of cigarettes, and in return the company employed Stormtroopers as salesmen and paid a share of its profits to the paramilitaries. What is more, such a cooperation fit with the Nazi propaganda of the pre-1933 era which accused big business and cartels to sell out the interests of the German workers.

After the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ in the summer of 1934 that cut the Stormtroopers of much of their previous influence, this business model quickly collapsed to the benefit of the traditional big players in the German cigarette business. Yet the idea that group identity and feelings of belonging can be stimulated by the consumption of specially tailored products has proven a great success ever since.
Learn more about Stormtroopers at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Jeanne Guillemin's "Hidden Atrocities"

Jeanne Guillemin is senior advisor at the Security Studies Program in the MIT Center for International Studies. Her books include Anthrax: The Investigation of a Deadly Outbreak (1999); Biological Weapons: From the Invention of State-Sponsored Programs to Contemporary Bioterrorism (2004); and American Anthrax: Fear, Crime, and the Investigation of the Nation’s Deadliest Bioterrorist Attack (2011).

Guillemin applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Hidden Atrocities: Japanese Germ Warfare and American Obstruction of Justice at the Tokyo Trial, and reported the following:
Hidden Atrocities is a book about how, with covert US intelligence intervention, Japanese World War II war crimes involving germ warfare were suppressed at the post-war Tokyo tribunal, the very trial where victims ought to have been vindicated. The Chinese delegation was convinced that the Japanese attacked four of their cities with plague in 1940-1941 and had told the world so. On page 99, it is March 1946 and a team of American prosecutors from the tribunal’s International Prosecution Section is about to set off on a month-long investigation in China for trial-worthy evidence. There is still time to select Japanese defendants and develop charges against them. But can David Nelson Sutton, the Virginia lawyer assigned to structure China’s case, penetrate the wartime secrecy that surrounded the Japanese-caused epidemics, which were passed off as natural outbreaks? As the reader is already aware (but Sutton and his team are not), in the name of national security and using its own channels of inquiry, US Military Intelligence is avidly pursuing former Japanese military scientists who organized the plague attacks, along with campaigns using anthrax, cholera, typhus, glanders and other infectious diseases against Chinese civilians. On page 99 the tension is established between the ideal of criminal justice—that solid evidence should lead to the just punishment of wrongdoers—and the political forces that can corrupt the judicial process.

The Tokyo trial, unlike the Nuremberg trial which took barely a year to complete, lasted for more than two years, with many stops and starts. Eleven nations had judges and prosecutors there: the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, China, France, the Soviet Union, India, and the Philippines. By April 1948, when the trial proceedings ended, many opportunities for introducing evidence about Japanese germ warfare crimes, including years of systematic human experimentation on Chinese captives, had passed with no initiative from the United States, the United Kingdom, or the Soviet Union, each of which might have acted on information they chose instead to repress.

In the 1970s, revelations about Japanese germ warfare crimes finally began to emerge, after the United States abandoned its once enormous biological warfare program and began to declassify its records. In the 1990s, the Japanese and Western media were revealing the full range of atrocities, backed by belated confessions from Japanese military men who in their youth had been complicit in them. In China, increasingly open to the outside world, activists for the victims brought law suits against the Japanese government, but without significant results. Japanese judges decided that terrible germ warfare crimes had taken place, causing great suffering and death, but refused compensation or apology.

The failure to prosecute these crimes in Tokyo left what seems a permanent injustice. In 1946, Japan and China were both wrecked by war, with broken economies. Today the two are major powers, with a legacy of unresolved war crimes still troubling their relations. Is any resolution possible? Perhaps, as some have argued, there is a role for an official Japanese apology, one in which the United States could participate—and finally honor the thousands of nameless victims ignored at the Tokyo trial.
Learn more about Hidden Atrocities at the Columbia University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: American Anthrax.

--Marshal Zeringue

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