Sunday, March 30, 2008

Doree Lewak's “The Panic Years”

Doree Lewak's writing work has appeared in Glamour, Entertainment Weekly, Time Out New York, NY Daily News, Metro, The Jerusalem Post and more.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, The Panic Years: A Guide to Surviving Smug Married Friends, Bad Taffeta, and Life on the Wrong Side of 25 without a Ring, and reported the following:
Don’t compromise your values, beliefs or ethics in the pursuit of marriage:

Ethics are for suckers, you say? Perhaps. They have no relevance in today’s society? Well, not on my watch, they don’t. Even if you do subscribe to a certain moral code, remember that no PF is worth shelving the inveterate code of ethics you’ve upheld for the past few years, or weeks, of your life. Are you selling yourself short – and compromising your principles – in the interest of landing a PF?

Other No-Nos: Where You Have to Draw the Line:

He claims he’s Seth Green’s half brother.

The above excerpt from p. 99 is certainly representative of the Panic Years experience. When an SPS (or self-pitying spinster) is in the throes of The Panic Years, it’s all too easy for her to discard any and all discretion in the PF (potential fiancé) hunt. Sometimes a panicker doesn’t just lower the bar, but digs deep – really deep – in the hopes of realizing her dream – her diamond engagement bling.

And this is the quintessential quandary of a panicker: she who so badly wants to marry, but checks all good judgment at the door in her effort to hurtle to her “happily ever after.” This unfortunate byproduct of the Panic Years doesn’t dig her out of the Panic quicksand, but conversely it engulfs her even more. Is personality really that pliable? Or, more to the point, should it be for the sake of landing a ill-suited man with whom you have no fundamental connection? Well, the answer depends on the panicker, I guess, but I try to encourage women to be true to themselves. Like usually attracts like in this world, so if you know who you are and stick to your guns on the issues that matter most, the right guy will surface.
Read an excerpt from The Panic Years, and learn more about the book and author at The Panic Years website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 28, 2008

Nick Smith's "I Was Wrong"

Nick Smith is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of New Hampshire.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, I Was Wrong: The Meanings of Apologies, and reported the following:

On page 99 I’m in the thicket of discussing the sorts of emotions appropriate to apologies. Let me put that in context, and apply it to Elliot Spitzer’s recent apology.

I devoted much of the book to the inexact science of parsing the distinct spheres of meaning from each other. I began by considering how an apology can explain the history of an injury. Contested facts often lie at the heart of moral conflicts, and the offender’s explanation of the nature of her wrongdoing can in certain circumstances be the most significant and hardest-earned aspect of an apology. I then braved the knotty question of the relation between apologies and responsibilities. I subdivided this into concerns regarding 1) the distinction between accepting blame and expressing sympathy, as we often find in the form of “I am sorry that X happened to you”; 2) the general relationship between causation and moral responsibility; 3) the status of accidents and surprisingly common denials of intent in the form of “I didn’t mean to X”; and 4) the problem of standing, where one person apologizes for another. I then noted the significance of identifying each moral wrong in the act to be apologized for, which entails both explicitly naming the offense as a blameworthy violation of a moral value and naming each violation rather than covering over a host of wrongs with an undifferentiated and generic statement of contrition. In addition, a regretful offender believes her actions were wrong and she would not undertake them again if confronted with similar circumstances and temptations. I then considered the various ways in which the performance of the apology can alter meaning. The problems of reform and reparation presented numerous points of discussion, as did questions regarding the emotions and intentions of the apologizer. Collective apologies, such as those from corporations or nations, compound these issues.

Spitzer helped himself to various “emotional amplifiers” in his recent statements, indicating that he is “deeply sorry” and that he “sincerely apologizes.” I discuss the emotional components of apologies in some detail on page 99, but we can appreciate the difficulty of determining whether Spitzer has experienced emotions of contrition with sufficient intensity. His use of “deeply sorry” and “sincerely apologize” does little to provide us with a window unto his emotional and mental states. I generally resist the idea that apologetic emotions are retributive in nature—the apologizer deserves to suffer acute humiliation—but his remarks about “rising every time we fall” seemed so self-assured that they risked appearing to minimize the seriousness of offense. At times his statements sounded like a celebration of a hard fought campaign upon honorably conceding to a formidable foe. So page 99 is pretty useful.

Read an excerpt from I Was Wrong, and learn more about the book from the Cambridge University Press website.

Visit Nick Smith's faculty webpage and personal website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Robert Paarlberg's "Starved for Science"

Robert Paarlberg is the Betty Freyhof Johnson Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Starved for Science: How Biotechnology Is Being Kept Out of Africa, and reported the following:
Page 99 is halfway through my new book, and helps build the central argument, which is that poor farmers in Africa are getting bad advice today from prosperous countries in Europe and North America. Africans are being told by activist organizations from Europe such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth that they should not trust modern agricultural science, and should rely instead on their own traditional crop varieties and techniques. Too bad, since without modern agricultural science farmers in Africa today have crop yields only one tenth as high as in Europe, earn on average only one dollar a day, and one third are malnourished.

Food production in Africa has fallen ominously behind population growth. Total farm production per capita is nearly 20 percent lower today than it was 35 years ago. As a consequence Africa must depend more and more on imported food aid. Yet, as page 99 of my book argues, rich countries have mostly stopped providing assistance for agricultural modernization in Africa. As late as 1980 the U.S. Agency for International Development was still devoting 25 percent of its development assistance to agriculture, but last year it was just 1 percent. It is understandable if overfed Americans and overfed Europeans come to the conclusion that they don’t need any more agricultural science for themselves at home, but this is an attitude they should not be exporting to underfed Africa.

At other places in the book I address directly the controversial matter of genetically engineered agricultural crops, known as GMOs, but page 99 is part of a larger argument, that even non-GMO agricultural science has recently been kept out of Africa.
Read an excerpt from Starved for Science, and learn more about the book at the Harvard University Press website.

Visit Robert Paarlberg's faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 24, 2008

Samantha Hunt's "The Invention of Everything Else"

Samantha Hunt is the author of the acclaimed first novel The Seas, and her short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker and McSweeney’s and on This American Life.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new novel, The Invention of Everything Else, and reported the following:
The Invention of Everything Else is a novel where the real life inventor Nikola Tesla meets the fictional chambermaid Louisa at the Hotel New Yorker in the first week of 1943 – the last week of Tesla’s life. The man who brought the world radio and AC electricity has been forgotten, living alone in a hotel room he can’t afford, talking to pigeons.

Louisa has sneaked into Mr. Tesla’s room and — as is her chambermaid wont — she’s been shuffling through his things, riffling his drawers, reading his papers. She’s just been caught perusing some sort of journal that details Tesla’s long-ago relationship with Katharine and Robert Underwood Johnson. The evidence seems to indicate to Louisa that Tesla was once in love with his best friend’s wife.

When she poses the question to Mr. Tesla on page 99 Tesla asks:

"You’ve been in love?"

"No but I can recognize it."

"Hmm." He makes his lips as thin as a blade. "No. That was not love you read. Love is impossible."

Tesla remained a bachelor his whole life. Even during the peak of his powers, when he was considered one of New York’s most eligible young men, he regarded social interactions as thieves that stole energy from his work. Tesla chose invention over love. He thought that inventors should never have wives. Still, he found companionship with a gray pigeon. Her wings were tipped with white. She was lovely and he has said that he thought of her as his wife.

On page 99 the question of love still pesters and distracts him. He’s anxious to be alone again and shows Louisa to the door. But she is wily. She inserts her foot in the jamb before he can close the door. She’s got one more question concerning a blackout that plunged the entire hotel — except for his room — into darkness the previous day.

"Sir, can I ask you, I was wondering, how did you steal the electricity yesterday?"

He smiles at the very mention of it, color comes to his cheeks, electricity makes him blush. "Steal?" he asks. "I didn’t steal it, dear." He steps closer to Louisa so that she is forced out into the hallway. "It was always mine," he says and shuts the door between them.
Read an excerpt from The Invention of Everything Else, and learn more about the book and its author at Samantha Hunt's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Greg Mitchell's "So Wrong for So Long"

Greg Mitchell is the editor of Editor & Publisher, the journal of the newspaper business which has won several major awards for its coverage of Iraq and the media. His books include Hiroshima in America (with Robert Jay Lifton) and The Campaign of the Century: Upton Sinclair's Race for Governor of California and the Birth of Media Politics, and his articles have appeared in dozens of leading newspapers and magazines.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits--And the President--Failed on Iraq, and reported the following:
Perhaps unlike some authors, I would be perfectly happy if someone followed the “page 99” rule and turned there in picking up my new book, So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits — and the President — Failed on Iraq (Union Square Press). The book includes 80 essays — as well as a lot of new material, a foreword by Joe Galloway and a preface by Bruce Springsteen — and one of the pieces actually starts at the very top of the page, a rarity here. The essay in question captures the general theme of the book perfectly. Written in September 2004, it describes how a private email from a Baghdad correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, Farnaz Fassihi, had become public. Why did it matter? While her writing, and that of most reporters, for publication was very “balanced” about conditions in Iraq and the state of the war effort, in her private letter she painted the outlook in extremely dark tones. Among other things she wrote that the “genie of terrorism and chaos” unleashed by the US invasion...can’t be put back into a bottle.” So I’d be happy to have that speak for the entire book — from page 99.
Read an excerpt from So Wrong for So Long at Salon, and learn more about Greg Mitchell at his blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Matthew Connelly's "Fatal Misconception"

Matthew Connelly is an associate professor of history at Columbia University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population, and reported the following:
This is a book about how people came to believe that problems like war and poverty were rooted in biology and could be solved through social engineering. They made common cause with likeminded elites all over the world, created a kind of shadow world government, and carried out a series of astonishing experiments to remake humanity. Their ideas live on, and not just in China’s one-child policy, and new worries about the demographic decline of the West. We see them every day when people blame their problems on good or bad genes, and feel pressured to have perfect children.

When you turn to page 99, you find a central protagonist, Margaret Sanger, acting locally but thinking globally as she taps wealthy British patrons for a campaign to bring birth control to India:

Sanger appealed to the British Eugenics Society through C. P. Blacker, explaining that she had two aims and both merited their support: “first, to bring to the poorer and biologically worse-endowed stocks the knowledge of birth control that is already prevalent among those who are both genetically and economically better favored; and secondly, to bring the birth rates of the East more in line with those of England and the civilizations of the West.” She mentioned only the first when she stopped in London and described her plans in a BBC radio address. She was going to India, she announced, not because it suffered from any absolute overpopulation, but rather because birth control could bring happiness to individual families. But in India, as in the West, it was unevenly distributed, leading to “dysgenic” differential fertility between the “well endowed” and the “not so well endowed.” She would therefore encourage its dissemination among “the social, economic and biological classes in which it is most urgently needed.”

Sanger has so often been quoted out of context that critical readers suspect every ellipsis. But this long quotation makes clear how she made population control appealing to different people, even if that required speaking out of both sides of her mouth. For imperial powers like Britain, it promised to keep poor colonies from growing out of control. For Indian elites, on the other hand, eugenic family planning would regenerate the nation. But all this entailed endless fundraising, raising expectations to ever greater heights:

Sanger received a tremendous send-off in several London fund-raisers, the most glittering of which took place in the onetime operating theater of the Barber-Surgeons’ Hall. “When the history of our civilization is written it will be a biological history,” H. G. Wells declared, “and Margaret Sanger will be its heroine.” Julian Huxley thought she had affected the structure of the world more profoundly than Franklin Roosevelt. Perhaps after one too many toasts from Henry VIII’s Royal Grace Cup, Wells insisted her historical importance would surpass that of Alexander and Napoleon.

Wells was not the most objective observer – he was one of Sanger’s lovers. But he saw something that most historians still miss: Sanger and her struggle were at least as significant as the “great men” who preoccupy the reading public. After all, she helped more than half of humanity to gain control of their own bodies, which has shaped the population of this planet more than all the wars put together. While the book is critical of the compromises she made in pursuit of that cause, it also shows what she was up against. This included not just the Catholic Church – and the Vatican secret archives show just how much they hated and feared her – but also charismatic nationalist leaders, such as Mohandas Gandhi.

On her arrival in Bombay, Sanger disembarked from the Viceroy of India and was met by a delegation of almost fifty along with a personal invitation from Gandhi. Though she would address sixty-four meetings over the following nine weeks and travel ten thousand miles, she knew the journey to the Mahatma’s ashram in Wardha would attract the most attention. She was assisted by a publicist who wrote daily press releases, and some 377 American newspapers in forty-three states reported her travels. But Sanger’s encounter with Gandhi was the one that made headlines.

Sanger had been warned of what to expect. When Gandhi had argued
with How-Martyn earlier that year, he had complained that, rather than seeking to convert him through their correspondence, Sanger had “cursed” him in the newspapers. Gandhi, for his part, had condemned contraceptives as a curse of modernity, making possible the celebration of sensual pleasure as an end in itself. This only exhausted body and mind. Gandhi echoed many of his contemporaries, like Oswald Spengler, who linked the rational control of reproduction to the decline of spiritualism and predicted the ultimate demise of modern civilization. But whereas Spengler equated fertility with the vital force of a people, Gandhi thought spiritual life required mastering “animal passions.” In fact, he thought Indians should have smaller families, which would also be healthier families. But the only acceptable means was abstinence. When How-Martyn had pointed out that some women might be at the mercy of their husbands, he insisted that no woman could ever be raped if she were prepared to die fighting. Margaret Cousins considered Gandhi and his “medieval views” on women to be “the greatest stumbling block to the B.C. movement in India.”

The fate of empires, the defense of patriarchy, the rise of nations, the decline of the West, the taming of sex – these are the motifs that run through this page, and through this history. But it is not a biological history. Rather, it is a very human story, all too human.
Read an excerpt from Fatal Misconception and learn more about the book at the Harvard University Press website.

Visit Matthew Connelly's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Marcia Preston's "Trudy's Promise"

Marcia Preston's novels include The Butterfly House, The Piano Man, and the just-released Trudy's Promise.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to Trudy's Promise and reported the following:
Trudy’s Promise (titled West of the Wall in Great Britain) is set primarily in 1963 Berlin. The story centers on a young mother, Trudy Hulst, who becomes separated from her baby by the Berlin Wall. An East Berlin police official, a dedicated communist, becomes an unexpected ally in her struggle to regain her son.

On page 99, Wolfgang, the East Berlin Vopo, has just learned about the shooting of a teenager who tried to breach the Wall and escape to the West; his body was left hanging in barbed wire while he bled to death. Wolfgang’s childhood friend Rolf, Trudy’s husband, was killed earlier at the Wall. On this page, Wolfgang reflects on his role in these deaths, especially Rolf’s, and feels the weight of his responsibility.

It is early morning, and he’s just sent his lover home before daylight. Weeks ago, she had revealed to him that Rolf was the head of an underground movement that helped East Berliners escape across the Wall. “He lit another Caro and inhaled the caustic smoke. Ironically enough, Nadia had set off the whole chain of events, though she didn’t know it. She wasn’t aware that Wolfgang knew the man she’d offered up to save her brother.”

The passage on page 99 is significant because it marks the beginning of an erosion of Wolfgang’s faith in the Communist leadership of East Germany. Eventually that disillusionment and his innate compassion propel him to a series of dangerous actions to reunite Rolf’s widow with her baby son – west of the Wall.
Read an excerpt from Trudy's Promise, and watch a brief video about the background of the novel.

Learn more about the novel and author at Marcia Preston's website. Preston, writing as M.K. Preston, is also the author of a mystery series featuring Chantalene Morrell, daughter of a Gypsy mother and a redneck father. Song of the Bones won the 2004 Mary Higgins Clark Award for suspense fiction and the 2004 Oklahoma Book Award in fiction. The first book in the series, Perhaps She'll Die, was nominated for the 2002 Mary Higgins Clark Award, and for Macavity and Barry awards in the Best First Mystery division.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 17, 2008

Brian Fagan's "The Great Warming"

Brian Fagan is emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His books on the interaction of climate and human society have established him as a leading authority on the subject; he lectures frequently around the world. He is the editor of The Oxford Companion to Archaeology and the author of Fish on Friday: Feasting, Fasting, and the Discovery of the New World; The Little Ice Age; and The Long Summer, among many other titles.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, The Great Warming: Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations, and reported the following:
The Great Warming tells the story of four centuries between A.D. 800 and 1200, when global temperatures were, at times, a little warmer than today. This-so-called Medieval Warm Period witnessed year after year of bountiful harvests in Europe. Medieval populations rose rapidly, thousands of hectares of forest vanished before the axe. Cereal crops grew in Norway, vines in Central England. Page 99 takes us to the Arctic, where ice conditions were more favorable during the warm centuries, a time when Norse voyagers sailed to Iceland, Greenland, Labrador and Newfoundland. The Norse also came in contact with Inuit hunter in Baffinland, who craved iron and exchanged it for walrus tusks. Why walrus tusks? Because they were the way in which the Greenland Norse paid tithes to the mother church in Norway.

Page 99 is in the middle of Chapter 5, which describes how warmer conditions in the Far North led to major changes in Norse and Inuit society, many of them revolving around trade in iron artifacts and iron ore. Europe and the Arctic may have flourished during the warmer centuries, but, while researching the book, I was astounded to find evidence of widespread, even epochal, drought throughout much of the Americas, into the Pacific and Asia. The Great Warming tells the story of these droughts and points that computer projections for future droughts make those of a thousand years ago look puny in comparison. This is the silent elephant in the room, a major consequence of global warming that has not received the public attention it deserves.
Read excerpts from The Great Warming and learn more about the author and his work at Brian Fagan's website and his blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Seth Harwood's "Jack Wakes Up"

Seth Harwood teaches writing and literature at the City College of San Francisco and Chabot College. In July 2006, he began the Jack Palms Crime Podcast Series.

His new novel, Jack Wakes Up, debuts today. Harwood applied the "Page 99 Test" to the book and reported the following:
From Page 99:

Jack slides his coffee cup back within easy reach, adds some sugar and milk.

Hopkins drinks, sets his cup down on the table. “Now you’re waiting, Jack. What’s the next question?”

“Someone tipped them off about our meet. Say they popped Ralph, now someone’s looking to sour his deal, hit his supplier and take him out of the picture. Why?”

Hopkins shrugs. “The way these things go? My guess is we follow this long enough, we find someone’s trying to take over the action in this town. That’s the supply line we want, because that’s the one who’s going to be big. Castroneves? He doesn’t give a shit about San Francisco. He’ll be gone in a week. We want the local line.”

Someone had to tell them about our meet.” Jack makes sure he’s looking Hopkins in the eye when he asks, “You know who dropped that tip?”

Hopkins shakes his head. “I’m with you. Either we got a hole somewhere in our force, or this club owner, guy who owns The Mirage, wants a raid and
a shooting in his place in one night.” He shakes his head. “I’m not banking on that one. He wants bad elements out, he calls us. He’s not looking to call in a murder.”

An officer from a booth across the aisle gets up, comes over to Jack’s side of the table. “You Jack Palms?” he asks, extending his hand with a pen in it and pushing a beverage napkin across the table toward Jack. “My kids loved your movie.”

I’d say this is a great representative sample of Jack Wakes Up. For one, Jack’s meeting with someone to find out what’s happened, trying to piece together the events that happened in his life the night before. That’s a lot of what Jack spends his time doing: trying to catch up to what’s already happened and putting the pieces together. Seems like he’s always half-a-step behind.

The second reason this is representative is it finds Jack in another one of the awkward situations of his semi-stardom. Having made the one hit action movie a few years back, and very little else but bad tabloid headlines, people recognize Jack and know his name, but not always in the best ways. Here, the cop wants Jack’s autograph for his daughter. What else can he do but sign?

And why not? He’s just found out he’s chasing after one of San Francisco’s biggest and most ambitious drug dealers.
Read an excerpt from Jack Wakes Up at Spinetingler Magazine, and learn more about the book and its author at Seth Harwood's website, his blog, and his MySpace page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 14, 2008

Sally McMillen's "Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women’s Rights Movement"

Sally McMillen is the Mary Reynolds Babcock Professor of History and Department Chair at Davidson College. She specializes in Southern and women's history, with an emphasis on the nineteenth century. Among her publications are Motherhood in the Old South: Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Infant Rearing, Southern Women: Black and White in the Old South, and To Raise Up the South: Sunday Schools in Black and White Churches, 1865-1915.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to her latest book, Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women’s Rights Movement, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my new book, Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women’s Rights Movement, reveals only a snippet of what the book covers. It identifies the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, the first public meeting held to demand women’s equality, as a pivotal moment in American history. Ultimately it changed the lives of half our nation’s population.

The book covers the nineteenth-century women’s rights movement, first revealing how laws, scripture, and tradition kept women in a dependent state. They lacked access to higher education and to equal wages; they were excluded from most professions. They could not vote or hold public office. If married, their husbands claimed their possessions and wages. Gradually, through their involvement in the anti-slavery struggle, a few women awakened to the fact that they were nearly as oppressed as the slaves they were trying to free. That realization galvanized several women, including four heroines of this tale—Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, and Susan B.Anthony. They and other women and a few men worked tirelessly throughout most of their adult lives to win equal rights and opportunities for women.

Page 99, which falls in the third chapter covering the Seneca Falls Convention, reveals public reactions to that meeting. Admittedly, as the page reveals, a few newspapers gave the Convention positive press, but most Americans were appalled at such daring challenges to women’s secondary status. Former slave Frederick Douglass, who attended the Convention and supported women’s demands, is quoted on that page. He hit the nail on the head when he observed with a touch of cynicism: “A discussion of the rights of animals would be regarded with far more complacency by many of what are called the wise and good of our land, than would be a discussion of the rights of women.” He added that someone would be accused of evil thoughts who dared “think that woman is entitled to rights equal with man.”

The remainder of the book details the protracted and difficult struggles as activists held annual conventions, petitioned, lectured, wrote, and pleaded with Congress and state governments to give them the right to vote. Their tale is an inspiring one—and provides an understanding of how a few brave and tireless women fought for their rights. So resistant was this nation to female equality that it took seventy-two years, from 1848 until 1920 and the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, to achieve the rights that women enjoy today.
Read more about Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women’s Rights Movement at the Oxford University Press website, and learn more about Sally McMillen at her faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Kim Harrison's "The Outlaw Demon Wails"

Kim Harrison is the dark urban fantasy author of the New York Times bestselling For a Few Demons More and other works.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new novel, The Outlaw Demon Wails, and reported the following:
From Page 99:

The shrill shout was punctuated by a flash of dust I could see even in the strong afternoon light. “It gets better,” I said, stepping into the empty street and heading for the tired, sixty-plus-year-old house Ceri and Keasley shared. “He wants me to go into the ever-after to get a sample so their child will be born without any effects of the curse. Tried to guilt me into it.” And it almost worked.

“Pregnant?” Jenks repeated, his angular face showing his shock. “I gotta smell her.”

The scraping of my boots on the pavement faltered. “You can smell it when someone’s pregnant?” I said, somewhat appalled.

Jenks shrugged. “Sometimes. I don’t know about elves.” He darted to the sidewalk, then back to me. “Can you walk a little faster? I’d like to get there before the sun sets and that thing in the eaves wakes up.”

My gaze went three houses down to fi nd Keasley outside enjoying the fall weather, raking leaves. Great, he’d seen me tear into here like a bunny on fire. “Jenks,” I said suddenly. “I’m going to do the talking. Not you.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he said, and I fixed my gaze on him with a threatening sharpness.

“I mean it. Ceri might not have told him yet.”

The hum of his wings dropped in pitch, though he didn’t lose a millimeter of height. “Okay,” he said hesitantly.

My boots hit the sidewalk and the dappled pattern of sun that made it through the colored leaves still clinging to the dark branches. Keasley is Leon Bairn? I thought as I looked him over. Leon was the only other person besides me to quit the I.S. and survive, though he’d apparently had to fake his death to do it. I was guessing that Trent knew it because he had helped. He would have been about fifteen then, but just coming into his parents’ legacy and eager to show his stuff.

I glanced at Jenks, remembering how mad the pixy had been when I hid from him that Trent was an elf. If Keasley was Leon, then he was a runner. And Jenks wouldn’t violate that trust for anything.

“Jenks, can you keep a secret?” I said, slowing when Keasley saw us and stopped his work to lean on his rake. The old man suffered from....

In this passage, Rachel is going to confront her neighbors about something she just discovered about each of them, relating her new gossip to her business partner on the way. Ah, he’s a pixy. It’s complicated, but trust me, it really works, and I have a lot of fun with these characters.

As far as the balance of action, dialog, and plot, it’s a pretty good representation of the book as a whole. But what’s being said in this single page is a remarkable representation of what Rachel is dealing with herself.

Some of the strongest plot threads of The Outlaw Demon Wails revolve around procreation. Not the “bumping uglies” part of it, though there is this one scene ... No, the book touches on the passing on of ourselves, our ideas, our physical traits, talents, and morals. Seeing Rachel going to confront Ceri about her pregnancy relates to this nicely.

The second plot thread here is that of Keasley’s past. Again, Rachel is returning to an ongoing theme in the book of discovering her own past and coming to grips with it as she goes to confront Keasley with the knowledge of his past.

The Outlaw Demon Wails is strongly concerned about the struggle to pass on something of ourselves, and how the past can shape the future. This small passage here is concerned with just that, the same issues that Rachel is dealing with — discovering her past, seeing her future, and finding a way to reconcile that with who she wants to be. So in this case, I’d say that the page 99 test works well as far as content. As far as quality? I’d rather the reader decide that.
Browse inside The Outlaw Demon Wails, and learn more about the author and her work at Kim Harrison's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

David Perlmutter's "Blogwars"

David D. Perlmutter is professor and associate dean for graduate studies and research at the William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications, University of Kansas.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his latest book, Blogwars: The New Political Battleground, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book Blogwars catches the action in the middle of one of the most interesting — to me anyway — instances of what I call blogthroughs. These are events that showed the true powers and potentials of interactive media like weblogs and allowed bloggers to nimbly outpace (and even embarrass) so-called "big" media. Some background: earlier in the book, I talked about how blogs have often been accused by traditional media and traditional journalists of being a bunch of hotheaded amateurs screaming at each other. (Think beer-sodden fans in the bleachers yelling advice to pro-baseball players on the field). On Election Day 2004 when bloggers outed exit polls early, allegedly showing John Kerry's imminent victory in the presidential race, the big media backlash was fierce. But I spend part of a chapter (the home of p. 99) showing that blogs were hardly the villains of the great exit poll controversy of 2004. In fact, one particular blog, Mark Blumenthal's mysterypollster was instrumental in explaining the nuances, complexities and limitations of reporting exit polls while voting was still going on. Page 99 picks up when I'm talking about the fact that blogs were simply reporting what was already known commonly during elections to reporters in Washington. Except, this time, the leaks were going to the general public. Blogwars is an investigation of many such blogthroughs, from the Howard Dean campaign through Obama's early rise to prominence and preeminence.

Page 99, Blogwars:

Then there is the open-source argument [about outing exit polls]. Kos himself said that his site was essentially just putting the numbers out there, letting the public see the same thing that politicians and journalistic and academic elites were already being leaked, and that open access was “all that matters.”68 Indeed, around every presidential election, those who know anybody in campaigns or parties can call and ask, “Heard anything from the exit polls?” Now, legally, exit polls are owned by the news organizations that pay for them. But too many people are privy to the incoming results for them to be kept secret until after polls close, although reforms instituted in 2006 almost achieved this goal.* The difference on November 2, 2004, was that blogs existed to “out” leaks to lots of folks who had no acquaintances among the media or political elite. Maybe instead of blaming bloggers for being ignorant about what polling numbers mean, we should do a better job of educating everyone, including CNN commentators, about what polling numbers mean. Plenty of influential bloggers, such as Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs, were denying the validity of the exit polls, at least the early ones, and Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds simply refused to publish them. Probably most important, the single wisest statement made about exit polls, which within hours propagated throughout the bloglands, was by a blogger himself, who was anything but an amateur. If you consider the circumstances of his posting — what might be ranked now among the ten or so “posts that shook the world” — he qualifies as a blog hero.

Mark Blumenthal’s Mystery Pollster site was only two months old at the time, but he conscientiously explained to the blog nation that early exit polls are not meaningful and should not cause anyone to gloat…

*The exit polling company in fact kept its staff compilers sequestered and claims that no leaks came from its organization. If that was the case, the leaks came, as they traditionally do, from the news groups receiving the data feed. According to one of the exit poll directors I interviewed: “In 2006 we instituted a ‘quarantine room’ in which only two people from each NEP member (twelve people total) were given restricted access to the early exit poll numbers before 5 p.m. EDT. The people in the ‘Q-room’ were required to give up all means of outside communication — cell phones, BlackBerries. As a result, no leaked data reached the Internet in 2006 until 5:30 p.m., just thirty minutes before the first polls started closing in Kentucky and Indiana.”
Read more about Blogwars at the Oxford University Press website.

Learn more about David Perlmutter and his work at his faculty webpage, at PolicyByBlog, and at the blog of the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas, which he edits.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 10, 2008

Walter Hixson's "The Myth of American Diplomacy"

Walter Hixson is professor and chair of the Department of History, University of Akron. He has published numerous books and articles on the history of U.S. foreign policy, including the prize-winning George F. Kennan: Cold War Iconoclast.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, The Myth of American Diplomacy: National Identity and U.S. Foreign Policy, and reported the following:
Turning to page 99 of my new book, The Myth of American Diplomacy: National Identity and U.S. Foreign Policy (Yale University Press, 2008), I discovered a Currier and Ives print from 1876 entitled “The Cradle of Liberty.” As I note below the print — and it should be readily obvious to any observer — “This lithograph symbolizes the nation’s power, patriotism, and justice.”

The Myth of American Diplomacy features eight illustrations along with some 320 pages of text, all of which complement my central argument. Below “The Cradle of Liberty” on page 99, I also wrote, “The Union victory in the Civil War ultimately affirmed the imagined community and the Myth of America.” My book focuses on national identity, the imagined community of the United States and how it drives and affirms the nation’s foreign policy.

I argue that a “myth of America” — the notion that the United States is a chosen nation destined to lead the world — lies at the heart of national identity and of a militant U.S. foreign policy. Discourses and representations of racial superiority, masculine power, and providential destiny permeate American history and foreign policy. Finally, I have found remarkable continuity throughout the modern era, from early “settlement” (ethnic cleansing of Indians) to the Iraq War of today. While not everyone agrees with national foreign policy, and prolonged engagements like the war of today do become relatively unpopular, the foreign policy is hegemonic and thus enduring because it is a reflection of the nation’s very identity.
Learn more about The Myth of American Diplomacy at the Yale University Press website, and visit Walter Hixson's faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 8, 2008

David Maine's "Monster, 1959"

David Maine is the author of The Preservationist, Fallen, and The Book of Samson.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new novel, Monster, 1959, and reported the following, beginning with a passage from Page 99:
Ash: —They said they didn’t want to move prematurely, sir. If the monster falls off the platform, they don’t want it to be too far offshore.

Betty: —What are you talking about? What are you planning here?

Captain: —Let’s hope they get the voltage right.

Betty: —You mustn’t hurt him!

Johnny: —Easy darling. No one’s going to hurt Romeo here. Billy’s got a nice place for him in the warehouse district.

Billy: —A regular Waldorf-Astoria, doll. And it cost about as much!

Johnny, placing a hand on Betty’s shoulder: —But we’ve got to knock him out to get him under control. Surely you can see that.

Billy: —It’s not like we can carry him up another cliff and throw him over again, can we?

Impatient, Betty shakes off Johnny’s reassurance. Sometimes—only sometimes, but more and more often lately—her husband feels like a complete stranger to her.

The exchange doesn’t go unnoticed. Billy studies his friends from the corner of his eye. He notices the tension locking Betty’s shoulders, the stubborn set of Johnny’s jaw, the professional calm of the captain. Billy figures he knows a thing or two about human nature, about how people react under stress. Johnny’s bull-headedness, an asset in some circumstances (on the island, pursuing Betty and the monster) can be a drawback at other times (sinking every penny he owned into a single safari, a one-shot that gambled everything. And lost). Johnny just doesn’t know when to quit, how to say enough is enough. But then anybody who has ever watched him drink, or play poker, or mix with the girls, knows that already.

Billy also knows a thing or two about Betty’s overgenerous heart. How she’ll give the benefit of the doubt to anyone. Or in this case anything, especially anything male.

There was a professor at my college who liked to say that you could measure the greatness of a culture by counting the number of cheeses it produces. (US = 1; Britain = 2; France = 273). It was a funny line but I never quite believed it, and I feel the same way about Ford’s idea. Great quote, it’s pithy and memorable. But accurate?

My book Monster, 1959 is something of a kaleidoscope. Or, as one reviewer put it, it’s “all over the map.” She meant that as a criticism, but I don’t take it that way. The book is all over the map, both in terms of theme and content, and incorporates lots of things — a pastiche of monster movie clichés, a contextual smattering of contemporary events, faux documentary elements, pop culture references, a wildly intrusive third person narrator. The viewpoint character can’t think or talk. The narration veers wildly in both tone and content. Is it possible to encapsulate all that in any single page? Probably not.

Here on page 99, we find ourselves with the human characters as they watch the 40-foot-tall radiation monster, K., that they have abducted from his island home and towed by steamship back to the USA. There is a terse exchange between these characters, then the POV shifts to one of them as he reflects on he conversation.

Is this representative? In some ways, sure. The situation and dialogue mimic a cheesy 1950s B-movie — this conversation is even written as a script — but then I try to twist those conventions, as Billy’s reflections suggest. But there is much you don’t see on this page, most obviously the monster, the glue that holds the story together. Or the peripheral 1950s context of the story: the nuke tests, the desegregation of public schools, the Suez War, and much else. The stories used to re-tell and distort the original story — comic books, newspaper reports, a stage play — are all missing. Which is, maybe, just a way of saying the obvious: that one page cannot hope, really, to represent 242. This doesn’t apply only to my book, either; I can think of many that simply contain too much to be distilled down to a single page.
Read more about Monster, 1959 -- and learn more about the author and his work -- at David Maine's blog, The Party Never Stops.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Allen C. Guelzo's "Lincoln and Douglas"

Allen C. Guelzo is the Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College, where he also directs the Civil War Era Studies Program and The Gettysburg Semester. He is the author of Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President (1999) and Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America (2004), both of which won the Lincoln Prize. He has written essays and reviews for the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Time, the Journal of American History, and many other publications.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates That Defined America, and reported the following:
This may be one case in which Ford Madox Ford’s "page ninety-nine" rule fails us, because page 99 of Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates That Defined America deals only with what Lincoln and Douglas looked like on the debate platform, and there is more, and of greater moment, to the Lincoln-Douglas debates than what they looked like, standing beside each other. The debates are one of the most mythical moments in American political history, since they are often cast as a sort of premonitory tremor of the Civil War, or as a the American equivalent of a platonic symposium. That forgets that these seven debates in the summer and fall of 1858 were part of two politicians’ campaigns for a U.S. Senate seat, and political campaigning in 1858 had no more to do with Plato than it does now. There was hoopla, heckling, noise, race cards, voter fraud, brass bands, banners, sexual innuendo, even an October surprise – not to mention interparty turmoil behind both candidates’ backs. But the Lincoln-Douglas debates really did have at least some element of a symposium. Each lasted for three hours (no soundbites, no journalist moderators), before crowds that varied in size from 1500 to 25,000, and each was devoted to only one subject – what was to be done about slavery in America. And even beyond this, both Lincoln and Douglas moved their debates to the very core of what it means to be a democracy – is democracy, as Douglas maintained, purely a matter of determining whatever it is a majority of the people want, and giving it to them? Or is it, as Lincoln argued, a means for realizing the inherent natural rights of all men to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Douglas, of course, won the election to the Senate. But Lincoln won the attention of the nation, and was elected president in 1860. And the debate over the nature of democracy continues to-day.
Learn more about Lincoln and Douglas at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

C.J. Lyons' "Lifelines"

C.J. Lyons is a physician trained in Pediatric Emergency Medicine and a debut medical suspense novelist.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to her newly released first book, Lifelines, and reported the following:
Oh boy, I was worried about this one! Typical doctor, right? Got to sweat out every test, aim for the top!

Then I opened Lifelines to page 99 and voila! It's a major turning point in the book where the emotional arc, the romantic elements, the plot and theme all intersect.

Up to this point, we've followed Pittsburgh ER doctor, Lydia Fiore, as she struggles to clear her name after losing a patient. She's fiercely independent and, as a newcomer, she has no idea who to trust. Nor does trust come easily to her.

On page 99 she makes the decision to reveal some of her past to Trey Garrison, a paramedic who also cared for the dead patient. We learn more about Lydia on this single page than we have so far in the book.

"Yeah, I heard that you put yourself through school." He paused but didn't look away, kept staring straight into her eyes. "And that you came out of the foster care system, lived on the streets before that."

"Stop looking at me like I was raised by wolves. It's not like it sounds. I just had an—" How to describe Maria to this stranger? "I had an unconventional mother. That's all." She felt his gaze on her, raised her chin. "Some days I wish I stayed out on the streets. More fun, less lawyers."

"No, you don't. I saw you last night. You live for this sh**."

"Yeah." She managed a half-smile. "Too bad I might be out of a job. Permanently."

The theme of Lifelines is family — building connections, learning that you can't go it alone, that we all need lifelines.

Page 99 is the first time we see Lydia lowering her guard, allowing someone else to get close. Further on down the page she and Trey share their first kiss, cementing the importance of this moment for Lydia. And this page is when she makes a full commitment to risk everything in order to solve the mystery behind her patient's death.

As soon as she makes this decision, the door opens (literally) and everything changes as the plot speeds forward.

Character, theme, plot all colliding to take the book in a different direction from here on out. Wow! Who knew one little page could work so hard?

Thanks, Page 99!

And thanks to everyone for reading!
Read an excerpt from Lifelines, and learn more about the author and her work at C.J. Lyons' website and her blog, Vital Signs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 3, 2008

Ha-Joon Chang's "Bad Samaritans"

Ha-Joon Chang is Reader in the Political Economy of Development at the University of Cambridge.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism, and reported the following:
P. 99 of Bad Samaritans is representative of the book in one important sense but not in another.

While Bad Samaritans deals with big themes -- the history of capitalism, globalisation, the future of world development -- its conclusions are drawn on the basis of careful and detailed examination of empirical evidence, both historical and contemporary. P. 99 happens to provide such an examination in relation to the dominant neo-liberal dogma that trying to regulate foreign direct investment in a globalising world is futile. In this sense, the page is representative of the book's careful empiricism.

However, there is one important sense in which p. 99 is not very representative of Bad Samaritans. Given what it does, p. 99 happens to be rather dry (I wouldn't say boring), which much of the book is not. The book has been written with the general reading public in mind. It deploys quite a lot of popular cultural references in order to sustain the non-specialist reader's interest through many necessary but tedious economic arguments: I don't think you will find many economics books that feature Alexander Hamilton, Orson Welles, Tom Cruise, Monty Python, and Muhammad Ali, to name just a few. Despite this, sometimes the discussion inevitably become a little too dry, and p. 99 happens to contain one of those exceptions. The good news for the reader is that there are not many pages like p. 99 relative to the many more lively pages in Bad Samaritans.
Read an excerpt from Bad Samaritans, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

Watch a video of Ha-Joon Chang discussing his book.

Learn more about Ha-Joon Chang's research and publications at his Cambridge webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Steve Hockensmith's "The Black Dove"

Steve Hockensmith is the author of the novels Holmes on the Range, On the Wrong Track, the newly released The Black Dove, as well as numerous short stories. Holmes on the Range, the first novel featuring Big Red and Old Red, was a finalist for the Edgar, the Anthony, the Shamus and the Dilys Award.

Hockensmith applied the "Page 99 Test" to The Black Dove, and reported the following:
Well, I don’t know what Ford Madox Ford would’ve thought -- somehow I doubt he was a fan of mysteries, and mysteries starring squabbling cowboys would’ve been a real stretch for a guy like him. But hey, maybe he would’ve found something to like on page 99 anyway. I know I kind of dig it.

Here’s the first paragraph:

The street emptied out onto a bigger, busier thoroughfare running at a slant -- Columbus, most likely. Which put us a stone’s throw from the corner of the Coast called “The Devil’s Acre.” You’d have plenty of reason to throw stones there, too, for you could hardly take two steps without someone trying to rob you, kidnap you, or just kill you for a giggle. It was the kind of place even the police wouldn’t go without a rifle squad and a priest at the ready.

Right there you (hopefully) get a feel for the gritty setting (1893 San Francisco, actually) and the narrator’s way with words. Over the next few paragraphs, the situation becomes more clear, too: The heroes are trying to follow a mysterious old man through the streets of Chinatown only to have him duck into a building with a pair of menacing “lugs” loitering out front.

It was obvious who they were because they wanted it obvious.

The newspapers would’ve labeled them “highbinders” or “hatchet men.” In less colorful language, they were hired guns for the tongs. Or, to be even plainer still, killers.

The old man breezed right between them without so much as a nod in their direction, scuttling up the steps they were guarding and disappearing through the door beyond.

End of chapter! I know it’s not exactly Raiders of the Lost Ark, as far as cliffhangers go, but I do think it establishes a nice aura of exotic menace.

Is “the quality of the whole” revealed? Not really. There are other pages that are more funny and more exciting and more poignant, too. But the appeal of the whole comes through, I think. If you like what you see on page 99, odds are you’ll like the book.

And if you don’t like it ... well, maybe you’re Ford Madox Ford. In which case, I suspect it’s not for you anyway.
Read an excerpt from The Black Dove, and visit Big Red's blog to learn more about Steve Hockensmith and his writing.

The Page 69 Test: On the Wrong Track.

My Book, The Movie: Holmes on the Range.

--Marshal Zeringue