Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Frank Prochaska's "The Eagle and the Crown"

Frank Prochaska is lecturer and senior research scholar in the Department of History, Yale University. His books include Royal Bounty: The Making of a Welfare Monarchy and Christianity and Social Service in Modern Britain: The Disinherited Spirit.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Eagle and the Crown: Americans and the British Monarchy, and reported the following:
Ford Madox Ford would have taken a particular interest in page 99 of The Eagle and the Crown, for it discusses the burgeoning transatlantic culture of Anglo-Saxonism and the role played in it by Queen Victoria: ‘Proponents of a distinctive Anglo-American friendship saw the rule of law and the liberty of the individual as supreme contributions of the English-speaking people to mankind. They found a priceless focus of sentiment in the Queen, who was hailed for her seminal role in spreading Anglo-Saxon civilization.’ It is a premise of the book that ties of kinship between Britain and the American republic reawakened soon after the Revolution, prompted in part by George III, who believed that Britain might reap more advantages from Americans as friends than had been derived from them as colonists. Indeed, the monarchy played a major role in the comity between the two nations, and served as a kind of lodestar for Americans, who, despite their democratic sentiments, fell in love with royal tradition from the lofty heights of republican virtue. The love-hate relationship with the British monarchy has been part of America’s conversation about itself for centuries. The book is an account of that conversation, of a nation that overthrew British rule only to become captivated by the magnetic attraction of royal renown.
Read an excerpt from The Eagle and the Crown and learn more about the book at the Yale University Press website.

Visit Frank Prochaska's faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 29, 2008

Tony Spinosa’s "The Fourth Victim"

Reed Farrel Coleman, Brooklyn born and raised, is the former Executive Vice President of Mystery Writers of America. He has written ten novels in three series including two under his pen name Tony Spinosa, including the recently released The Fourth Victim.

Coleman applied the “Page 99 Test” to Spinosa's The Fourth Victim and reported the following:
“You’re a suspicious bastard.” [says Joe Serpe]

“Just my nature, but I never let my suspicions get ahead of the facts,” Healy said. “I got pretty far by following the evidence where it took me, not by where I thought it should go.”

“One thing, though, before we get too wrapped up in this. I was thinking last night that the money and the condo are all very interesting, but that’s not why Monaco was killed. He was robbed and murdered because he drove an oil truck down the wrong dark street in the wrong neighborhood on the wrong night, not because he owned a condo he couldn’t swing or he had a bag full of cash.”


Ford Madox Ford must have read Tony Spinosa’s The Fourth Victim, because I doubt there are any pages in any of the novels I’ve written under my own name or Tony’s that so perfectly lays out the book’s major dilemma. First, a bit of a summary recap:

Four home heating oil drivers on Long Island have recently been robbed and murdered as they made evening deliveries in rough neighborhoods. The fourth victim, Rusty Monaco, is an ex-NYPD detective. Monaco was a racist, violent bastard, but had been deeply involved with the book’s co-protagonists, Joe Serpe and Bob Healy, also former NYPD detectives who are partners in their own oil delivery business. However, their relationships with the late Det. Monaco were vastly different. Monaco had once saved Serpe’s life during a drug raid. Bob Healy, ex of Internal Affairs, had tried unsuccessfully to have Monaco thrown off the force. Serpe feels he owes it to Monaco to pay back the debt and Healy, as Serpe’s friend and partner, feels obliged to help.

Here on page 99, they’re discussing the less obvious possible motives for the murders. In fact, since Monaco’s death, there’s been a fifth robbery-homicide. Healy and Serpe suspect the fifth incident might be a copycat crime, but the really interesting part of this page is that—although they don’t yet know it—they actually have a better understanding of how things will eventually play out.

“What do you mean, maybe?” Serpe asked.

“I mean maybe. You weren’t the only one doing some thinking last night. After I spoke with Blades [a current NYPD IAB detective], I tried to get some things straight in my head. Look, Alberto Jimenez [the fifth victim] was killed because he had cash in his pocket and he was a target of convenience, but his murder wasn’t directly connected to the other four, not really.”

“Yeah, okay, I’m with you so far.”

“I was thinking that maybe the other four murders were connected, but not in the obvious ways. Sure, on the surface they all seem like robberies where the perpetrator killed the victims so there’s be no witnesses. But I got this crazy idea in my head that maybe they were homicides first and—”

“—robberies second,” Serpe said.

“Right. That there was only one intended target and that the other robberies and homicides were window dressing done just to throw off the cops.”

It’s a great idea the two ex-detectives are working on, but at this point in the novel, I doubt they could have had any notion of where this theory might take them and who would lead them there.
The Fourth Victim is published by Bleak House Books and is available in three editions: Collectors Numbered, Cloth and Trade paper.

Learn more about the book and author at Reed Farrel Coleman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Jacalyn Duffin's "Medical Miracles"

Jacalyn Duffin, physician and historian, holds the Hannah Chair for the History of Medicine, Queen's University, Ontario.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Medical Miracles: Doctors, Saints, and Healing in the Modern World, and reported the following:
In the late 1980s, I was asked to read some bone marrow samples from a single patient over eighteen months ending a decade earlier. It was in a fallow period of my career, and I eagerly accepted, hoping to prove my skills and curious about why a ‘blind witness’ was necessary. The marrows showed aggressive acute leukemia, a short remission, a relapse, and another remission. I assumed that the patient was dead and that, sadly, someone was suing a doctor for malpractice in a condition always marked by short survival--especially after relapse.

My assumptions were wrong – the patient was still alive, but she attributed her cure to the intercession of Marie Marguerite d’Youville. This event eventually became the final miracle in the dossier of d’Youville who was canonized as the first Canadian-born saint in December 1990.

I was surprised by the up-to-date medical science used in that investigation. The historian in me wondered about all the other miracles used in previous canonizations. Was this case typical, or an exception? How many others were healings with medical care? What diseases were cured? Did other skeptical doctors like me have to reconcile themselves to testifying? What were the gestures of appeal to candidates for sainthood, and how did they interact with medical care?

Hoping to find answers to some of these questions, I went to the Vatican Archives where I was given generous access to the canonization records covering the past four centuries. Nearly twenty years and 1400 miracles later, I can say with confidence that over ninety-five per cent of modern miracles entail cures from physical illness; an increasingly high proportion rely on testimony from physicians.

Medical Miracles is the result of that research. It is dedicated to four kind hematologists who were utterly baffled by my taking on such a ‘superstitious’ topic. Their entrenched skepticism helped me write the book--to them and for them together with a reading public of believers and nonbelievers alike.

Page 99 comes near the end of Chapter 3 on the types of diseases cured miraculously and how they changed through time. It concludes the section on miraculous cures of mental illness—never frequent and declining over time. It begins the section on the delicious example of miraculous cures of ‘iatrogenic disease,’ which are ailments caused by doctors—also rare but in contrast, rising through time.
Learn more about Medical Miracles at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Ariela J. Gross's "What Blood Won't Tell"

Ariela J. Gross is John B. & Alice R. Sharp Professor of Law & History at the Gould School of Law, University of Southern California.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, What Blood Won’t Tell: A History of Race on Trial in America, and reported the following:
What Blood Won’t Tell is a history of race and racism in the United States, told through the stories of trials of racial identity, cases where courts or administrative bodies had to figure out whether someone was white, black, or Indian. The book asks the question, Is race something we know when we see it? In 1857, Alexina Morrison, a slave in Louisiana, ran away from her master and surrendered herself to the parish jail for protection. Blue-eyed and blond, Morrison successfully convinced white society that she was one of them. When she sued for her freedom, witnesses assured the jury that she was white, and that they would have known if she had a drop of African blood. One explained that a native of Louisiana can sense African blood “the way an alligator knows a storm is coming.” That notion of race as common sense, something we know when we see, is remarkably persistent. Morrison’s court trial—and many others over the last one hundred fifty years—involved high stakes: freedom, property, and civil rights. And they all turned on the question of racial identity. Like Morrison’s case, these trials have often turned less on legal definitions of race as percentages of blood or ancestry than on the way people presented themselves to society and demonstrated their moral and civic character, drawing an imaginary connection between racial identity and fitness for citizenship. This false equation of whiteness and citizenship remains potent today and continues to impede racial justice and equality.

Page 99 of the book concerns a 1925 trial in New York City that got a lot of attention because it involved a wealthy socialite, Leonard Rhinelander, trying to get out of his marriage to Alice by claiming that she deceived him about her “colored blood.” On page 99, I talk about the trial in terms of what it tells us about racial common sense.

The jury deliberated on four specific questions: whether Alice had concealed her “colored blood”; whether she had represented to Leonard that she was not of “colored blood”; whether she did so in order to induce him to marry her; and whether he would have married her if he had known the truth. The jury answered the first three questions in the negative, and the final one affirmatively; in other words, they believed that Leonard must have known that Alice was “colored” and married her anyway. Like the Southern women accused by husbands of racial fraud, Alice Jones benefited from the community’s wish to see race as knowable and so she won her case, although she paid a steep price in public humiliation, disrobing in court as Alexina Morrison had done sixty years before. As the black newspaper the Amsterdam News commented, “Few women of any race would have paid so dear a price.”

The Rhinelander case drew wide public commentary in New York. W.E.B. Dubois commented, “If Rhinelander had used this girl as concubine or prostitute, white America would have raised no word of protest ... It is when he legally and decently marries the girl that Hell breaks loose and literally tears the pair apart.” White author U.S. Poson used the case to show the inevitability of miscegenation. “America is a melting pot, and in the process of melting it is only natural for the colored race to become part of the process.” But the most enduring significance of the Rhinelander case is that even in the Northeast, racial “common sense” required constant shoring up. The reassurance whites sought that race could be known by association could not be achieved without acknowledging that interracial intimacy did take place even in the era of Jim Crow.
Read an excerpt from What Blood Won't Tell, and learn more about the book and author at Ariela Gross's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

W. Wallach and C. Allen's "Moral Machines"

Colin Allen is a Professor of History & Philosophy of Science and of Cognitive Science at Indiana University. Wendell Wallach is a consultant and writer and is affiliated with Yale University's Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right from Wrong, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Moral Machines coincides with the beginning of Chapter 7: "Bottom-up and Developmental Approaches." It's at the heart of our discussion of how, practically, one might go about engineering "artificial moral agents" — machines that have some facsimile of moral decision making capabilities. In Chapter 6, top-down approaches, decision procedures based on traditional moral theory, are shown to be unworkable for computers (and, we think, for people too). Human beings become moral agents through a process of learning and development in nurturing environments. They have the capacity to do so because of an evolutionary endowment. Bottom-up approaches to artificial moral agents attempt to use the principles of learning and evolution. But to understand the practicality of building machines on such principles, it is necessary to survey what is known about their operation in human beings. Hence Chapter 7.

On page 99, we mention DNA, moral evolution, moral development, and psychopathy. We dismiss the simplistic nature vs. nurture opposition, and we refer to the fearsome complexity of gene, environment, and culture interactions. We quote Alan Turing's classic 1950 article that set the agenda for artificial intelligence: "Instead of trying to produce a programme to simulate the adult mind, why not rather try to produce one which simulates the child's?" Can it be done?

Moral Machines is not about science fiction (although Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, Commander Data, C3PO, and RoboCop all appear). The book is about the very real insertion of autonomous machines into many aspects of home, commerce, healthcare, warfare, and more. We think that the task of making these autonomous systems act ethically requires the deepest reflection on how it is that humans sometimes manage to acquire "a modicum of decency," as we put it in the opening paragraph on p.99. If there's nothing of interest on that page, Moral Machines is not the book for you. But for readers who want a guided tour of the relevant parts of computer science, neuroscience, psychology, biology, and philosophy, we think that p.99 provides a good example of what you're in for.
Read "6 Ways to Build Robots that Will Not Harm Humans" and other book-related posts at the Moral Machines blog.

Learn more about Moral Machines at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 22, 2008

Eric J. Sundquist's "King’s Dream"

Eric J. Sundquist is UCLA Foundation Professor of Literature, UCLA. He is author or editor of eight books on American literature and culture, including the award-winning volumes To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature and Strangers in the Land: Blacks, Jews, Post-Holocaust America.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, King’s Dream, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book King’s Dream addresses a question central to any evaluation of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington. When he departed from his prepared text and spoke the words for which he is best remembered, what was the source of his famous words? My page 99 consists mostly of the following paragraph:

At the same time, Carey was careful to specify the limits of his demands. His answer to the question “What does the Negro-American want?” rejected any form of favoritism. All blacks want, he argued, is “the right to live and work and play, to vote and get an education and be promoted, to fight for our country and hope to be President, like everyone else. More than that we do not ask, but with less than that we shall never be content.” Still, it would be a mistake to assume that Carey’s espousal of colorblind equal opportunity was a partisan position. On this point and others his speech and King’s had much in common. Few listening in 1963 to King’s famous wish that one day his children “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” not to mention those listening to Carey in 1952, would have openly advocated racial favoritism. King’s answer to the question “When will you be satisfied?” was more militant than Carey’s answer to the question “What does the Negro want?” So, too, his warning to those who “hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content” was somewhat more threatening than Carey’s assertion that the Negro “shall never be content” with less than equal rights as citizens. The differences in tone help to explain why King sounded radical to many, but they must also be measured against the fact that King, no less than Carey, made the Declaration of Independence his principal touchstone, while Carey, just as emphatically as King, underscored the unredeemed promissory note held by black Americans.

Here I am addressing a speech given by Archibald J. Carey, Jr., a black Chicago pastor and alderman, at the 1952 Republican National Convention, from which King borrowed virtually the whole of his own speech’s conclusion, from “My Country, ’Tis of Thee” through the incantation “Let freedom ring.” Beyond the other points of comparison that may be noted between the two speeches, King’s borrowing of the “Let freedom ring” cadenza, which followed upon his reiterated declaration of “I have a dream,” as I go on to argue, is just one of many occasions on which African Americans used lyrics from the popular song “America” to state their demands for freedom and equality.

In making Carey’s words resonate in more powerful ways, King also harked back to the Liberty Bell itself, which had been frequently invoked by antislavery activists a century earlier. And he harked back to James Weldon Johnson’s turn-of-the-century Negro National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which asks that heaven and earth “ring with the harmonies of liberty.” And he alluded to the contemporary song “If I had Hammer,” made popular in 1962 by Peter, Paul, and Mary, which speaks of the “the bell of freedom” being heard “all over this land.” When King rang the bell of freedom and portrayed the nation as a set of interconnected mountain ranges from the “heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania” to Stone Mountain of Georgia, he likewise made an argument of constitutional significance. He demanded national African American rights by rejecting the segregationist doctrine of states’ rights.

Without the magnificent concluding lines of his speech, borrowed from Carey but refashioned in King’s own terms, his speech would not have been as powerful and as widely remembered as it is today.
Read an excerpt from King’s Dream, and learn more about the book at the Yale University Press website.

Learn more about Eric J. Sundquist's research and scholarship at his faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Kirsten Hoving's "Joseph Cornell and Astronomy"

Kirsten Hoving is the Charles A. Dana Professor of the History of Art and Architecture at Middlebury College. She is the author of Fables in Frames: La Fontaine and Visual Culture in Nineteenth-Century France.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Joseph Cornell and Astronomy: A Case for the Stars, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Joseph Cornell and Astronomy is part of an extended discussion of an image-text essay Cornell produced for View magazine that was published in 1943. In particular, I explore a "word tower" that Cornell created--an imaginary pagoda-shaped astronomical observatory for the imaginary child-astronomer, Berenice. The tower's visual form is a pagoda of typed words or parts of words that reflect the artist's life-long interest in gravity. On page 99 I explore the word tower's references to gravity by way of Mme Blanchard (an early balloonist who rose above the roofs of Paris), circus acrobats and trapeze artists who fly through the air, and even Blondin and Maria Spelterina, both nineteenth-century aerialists who crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope. I also examine other words in the word tower that suggest that momentary release from the bounds of gravity could also be found in the arts, with references to Carlotte Grisi's "aerial flights" and Charles Lamb's essay, "In Praise of Chimney Sweeps." Finally, I close with a paragraph that suggests that the word tower's kaleidoscopic variety of associations is meant to take us on a trip to Coney Island's Luna Park, one of the artist's favored haunts.

Page 99 is a snapshot of the book as a whole, which explores Cornell's creative process of "cross-indexing" and "compounded interest," to use two of his many terms for describing the imaginative leaps that inspired his works. In particular, it shows how Cornell's engagement with astronomy enabled him imaginatively to move back and forth in time and space, with nostalgic references to the past and scientific references to cutting-edge advances in modern science. In his work, he often combined past and present to produce complex, erudite works that encourage meditation on the stars and planets and our physical and spiritual relationship to them.
Learn more about Joseph Cornell and Astronomy at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bob Smiley's "Follow the Roar"

Bob Smiley is a TV writer and golf columnist for

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Follow the Roar: Tailing Tiger for All 604 Holes of His Most Spectacular Season, and reported the following:
P. 99 – Follow the Roar:

7:45AM • Next to the first tee sits the powder blue Walter Hagen Cup, the official trophy of the Accenture Match Play. It's made from Wedgewood china, making it the most fragile trophy in golf. Before the final match begins, the two girls in charge of seeing it's not broken spin it around so Tiger and Stewart Cink can pose next to it on the first tee. It's considerate of the tournament directors to give Cink his chance to see it up close, just once.

Feeling too drained after yesterday to take on another new fan, I've given my extra Sunday ticket to George again and tell him to feel no obligation to keep up with me. But he's still with me on the 1st green, so I ask about his Saturday night. Apparently, he drove to Mexico to place a sports bet, then he and his buddies stayed up late drinking, two of them passed out on the ground after fighting about who would drive to the gun show, he fell asleep on the couch, and the last guy was playing online poker until 5 a.m. I waited for him to add, "Isn't that crazy?" He didn't. I had the impression that that wasn't much different from every other Saturday night.

8:08AM • Tiger birdies the 2nd. One up.

8:50AM • Tiger birdies the 5th. Two up.

9:14AM • Tiger birdies the 7th. Three up.

9:22AM • Cink three-putts the 8th. Four up.

9:55AM • Tiger sticks it on the 11th. Five up.

9:56AM • Keep in mind that NBC's coverage doesn't start for two hours. Somewhere in the media trailers behind number 12, a producer is frantically trying to figure out how he can fill the last three hours of the network's four-hour broadcast.

While I can't imagine any of the words on page 99 of Follow the Roar being etched into my headstone, it does provide a glimpse of what I think my book does best, which is bounce happily between an eyewitness chronicle of Tiger Woods' amazing 2008 and my own demented travelogue.

Driven by unemployment, the TV Writers' Strike, and the defeated notion that perhaps I could learn something from Tiger, I set out in late January to follow him from the gallery for every hole of his season. It was something that no writer or golf fan had ever done, let alone attempted.

By Page 99 of my journey, Tiger had already won his first event in San Diego by a record margin and followed it up the next week by coming from 4 shots back with 9 holes to go to win the Dubai Desert Classic. Three weeks later, after escaping certain elimination two different times, Tiger arrived at the Championship Match of the Accenture Match Play in Tucson and everyone (probably even his opponent Stewart Cink) had accepted the fact that Tiger would win yet again. He was only getting better.

Of course, this was long before he mysteriously lost his ability to putt at the Masters and then underwent his first knee surgery of the year. When Tiger reappeared in June for the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, no one really knew what to expect out of him. What he gave sports fans was 91 holes of the most gripping golf anyone had seen in 50 years. And I cover every moment of it, things you saw and things you didn't, in Follow the Roar.
Browse inside Follow the Roar or read an excerpt at

Visit Bob Smiley's Fore Right blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Vincent Rougeau's "Christians in the American Empire"

Vincent Rougeau is associate professor of law at the University of Notre Dame. He teaches a law and religion seminar on Catholic social thought, as well as courses in contract law and real estate transactions. He currently directs the Center for Law and Government at Notre Dame Law School, and previously served as associate dean from 1999-2002.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Christians in the American Empire: Faith and Citizenship in the New World Order, and reported the following:
On page 99 of my book I consider the different ways a liberal, democratic state might deal with the special concerns of minority groups, while still remaining true to a commitment to the equality of all persons. This is from a chapter that looks at the debate over affirmative action in the United States as part of a larger struggle to understand the role of collective identity in what has long been a very individualistic American culture.

One important argument I make in Christians in the American Empire is that the fierce devotion to individual autonomy in American law and public policy exists in deep tension with the communal notion of human dignity in many Christian traditions, particularly Catholic social thought. Individual autonomy, and the drive for unlimited economic expansion unchecked by a strong sense of responsibility for the community or the public good, have been cornerstones of the economic and foreign policies of American political and economic elites for decades, particularly those on the political right. The current economic meltdown is just one of the devastating consequences of this ethos.

Another important part of my book is a critique of the uncritical association of conservative Christians--the Religious Right--with the aggressive militarism and neo-liberal, free market economic policies of the Republican party despite obvious conflicts with traditional Christian teaching. Christians in the American Empire challenges American Christians and others of goodwill to resist becoming apologists for political agendas that serve the powerful and to develop more complex notions of religious engagement in American political life. This means bringing Christian values like human dignity, economic responsibility, solidarity, and meaningful participation for the poor into decisions about law and policy, not only in the United States, but also worldwide. Indeed, Christians need to recognize the international implications of their values and see themselves as important voices in discussions about the global common good.
Read more about Christians in the American Empire at the Oxford University Press website.

Learn more about Vincent Rougeau's research, teaching, and publications at his Notre Dame faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Jeffrey Wasserstrom's "Global Shanghai"

Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom is a Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Global Shanghai, 1850–2010: A History in Fragments, and reported the following:
Page 99 comes midway through Chapter 6—a look at Shanghai in 1975. It only contains one full paragraph, as the page is taken up partly by a photograph [below right, click to enlarge] of a mass rally denouncing Confucius—the same sage that the Communist Party, in a startling about-face, now venerates. The photo, showing workers raising their fists, comes from a rare 1975 English language guide to Chinese cities, which was published in Beijing and I bought at a Shanghai flea market.

That guidebook is mentioned on page 99, but the main paragraph focuses on a different book: a polemical Chinese language work from the mid-1970s. In a section that serves as an epigraph to the chapter, that book claims that whenever the Maoist theme song “The East is Red” rang out from the chimes of the city’s most famous clock (an old one that used to symbolize foreign domination), local residents were inspired to accomplish great things. Here is the page’s main paragraph in full:

The History of the Bund and Nanjing Road, the second text quoted at the start of this chapter, is filled with often-lurid details of myriad ways that predatory foreigners and unpatriotic Chinese mistreated and humiliated Shanghai’s working classes prior to 1949. But it also contains small signs of being produced at a moment when the possibility of a future rapprochement with the West was in the air. For example, after pointing to the wondrous effects on the local populace of hearing the strains of ‘The East is Red,’ it speaks of how impressed by the recent improvements to Shanghai’s two most famous districts, the Bund and Nanjing Road, all open-minded foreigners will be—including overseas Chinese returning to see the homeland they left behind and Westerners who once spent time in the city during its decadent treaty-port incarnation.

Page 99 is representative in one way. It finds me grappling with how Shanghai was shaped by or opened itself to international flows during a year that fell at either the start or midpoint of a decade. Wanting to cover a long stretch yet avoid providing a comprehensive blow-by-blow account of a complex city’s life, I imposed a special structure on Global Shanghai. All chapters other than the “Introduction” and a forward-looking “Conclusion” take the form of “snapshots” of the metropolis in seven individual years, running from 1850 (when the city’s first newspaper started) to 2000 (when the first Starbucks arrived).

Some of these “snapshot” years are obviously important ones. 1925, for example, witnessed a general strike that paralyzed the metropolis. Other years, including 1975, were less special. This is not surprising, since I picked the years by following a simple mathematical device—they come at quarter-century intervals.

There are two ways that Page 99 is quite unrepresentative. First, the book has a fair number of illustrations (18), but that means only the rare page contains an image. Second, nearly all other illustrations draw attention to features of Shanghai that set it apart from other Chinese urban center at a given point in time. The shot of the rally, by contrast, could have been of any number of cities. This reflects the fact that the heyday of Maoism saw Shanghai, which has so often marched to its own beat, falling line much more than usual with national rhythms.
Read a brief history of Shanghai's future, part of an essay based on the themes of Global Shanghai.

Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom's other publications include China's Brave New World and Student Protests in Twentieth-Century China: The View from Shanghai. He is a regular contributor to academic journals and has also written for a variety of general interest periodicals, including Newsweek, The Nation, the TLS, New Left Review, the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Los Angeles Times and the Christian Science Monitor. He also writes at The China Beat.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Geoff Nicholson's "The Lost Art of Walking"

Geoff Nicholson is the author of many books, including Sex Collectors, Hunters and Gatherers, The Food Chain, and Bleeding London, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Lost Art of Walking: The History, Science, Philosophy, and Literature of Pedestrianism, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Lost Art of Walking runs thus:

was ever recognized by fellow walkers.

“For a period I kept bumping into people somewhere around Shoreditch,” he said, “who were actually walking about with books of mine, doing various projects from the books, but I haven’t of late seen any.”

And did he reveal himself to them?

“A couple challenged me, and one I saw just reading the book and talked to him and pointed something out that he was looking for, and a couple of times on the canal too, a guy on a bike who was cycling through one of the books and ticking things off. He practically ran into me. But I think there are huge numbers of people walking, not my books, but walking and doing their own endlessly strange projects across London.”

I mentioned reading D.H. Lawrence’s “Sons and Lovers” when I was a teenager, and being amazed by the huge distances the hero Paul Morel would walk in order to go and see his girlfriend Miriam. Sinclair’s eyes lit up. Yes indeed, he said.

The fictional Miriam is closely based on Lawrence’s own girlfriend, Jessie Chambers. Morel’s mother says, “She must be wonderfully fascinating, that you can’t get away from her, but must go trailing eight miles at this time of night.”

And she’s right, of course. Miriam is wonderfully fascinating. The evenings together, Paul and Miriam’s, D.H.’s and Jessie’s, were intense and passionate, and one of the passions was for literature. In Jessie Chambers’ memoirs she mentions the books they discussed. Turgenev’s “Fathers and Sons” was one of them, its title perhaps an inspiration for Lawrence’s own novel.

Iain Sinclair got up, left the room we were sitting in and came back a minute or two later with a small, blue, hardback copy of “Fathers and Sons.” He opened it up and held it out to me. There on the flyleaf was the signature “Jessie Chambers.” This was Jesse Chambers’ own copy of “Father’s and Sons.” This book had belonged to the woman for whom Lawrence was prepared to do so much walking. Iain Sinclair had been given the book by a dealer, as a thank you for carrying a box of books across the street for him.

(Actually it cuts off at the beginning of that last paragraph but I’ve included all of it for the sake of being comprehensible).

Page 99 of my book The Lost Art of Walking finds me in conversation with the great English writer, walker (and sometimes psychogeographer) Iain Sinclair, author of Lights Out For the Territory and London Orbital among other works of fiction and non-fiction.

Sinclair is a crucial, looming presence for anyone who tries to write about walking and/or London. He has a stomping ground that’s very much his own but his influence is ubiquitous for the would-be London literary pedestrian. That’s why I wanted him in the book rather than outside it.

On page 99 we’re talking about DH Lawrence. There was a great temptation for many young English men of a certain generation and class to think of ourselves as Lawrencian heroes. They were sensitive, creative, did a lot of walking, had a tough relationship with their father, but also had a lot of sex. I wanted to be like that and sometimes flattered myself that I was.

When I was seventeen I started dating a somewhat posh girl who lived on the other side of the city: this was Sheffield, England in the seventies. Of course I had no car, and so from time to time, having missed the last bus, I’d walk home across the city: probably five miles of so, and up some very steep English hills.

I was able to console myself by thinking I was treading, metaphorically, in Lawrence’s footsteps. And then my English teacher introduced me to TS Eliot’s poetry especially “Rhapsody on A Windy Night.” As the years have gone by I’ve become far less certain what this poem is “about” but back then it seemed a not too complicated poem about a nocturnal walk across London. Walking home through the night, sharing territory with Lawrence and Eliot I felt my epiphany as walker and aspiring writer was just about complete. I had a lot to learn.

Oddly enough, or perhaps not, this page is actually fairly representative of what I’m trying to do in the book, combining anecdote, factual material, personal experience and literary allusion. Ford Madox Ford had a good point.
Read more about The Lost Art of Walking, and learn about the author and his work at Geoff Nicholson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 15, 2008

Robert A. Saunders' "The Many Faces of Sacha Baron Cohen"

Robert A. Saunders is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History, Economics & Politics at Farmingdale State College-SUNY.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Many Faces of Sacha Baron Cohen: Politics, Parody, and the Battle over Borat, and reported the following:
Ford Madox Ford’s “Page 99” test works quite well with my book The Many Faces of Sacha Baron Cohen: Politics, Ethnic Pantomime, and the Battle over Borat. On that particular page [below right, click to enlarge], I address the first public spat between the Kazakhstani government and the ribald British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, the creator of Borat as well as Ali G and Bruno. The text begins with a quote from Talgat Kaliyev, the First Secretary of Kazakhstan’s embassy to the United Kingdom, in which he asserts that his country is nothing like the post-Communist phantasmagoria depicted in Baron Cohen’s Da Ali G Show. The remarks followed the 2000 premiere of the program in the UK. Kaliyev states: “We can take a joke like anyone else. But this has gone too far—it’s a form of racism.... My country is a young country, so you have to understand that we are sensitive to such matters. We do not like the behavior, the manners of this character. He has no idea how to behave in society, asking such questions as he does. We are a secular, modern state, not a state of such barbarians. If this were in a newspaper, this would not be so bad because people might forget it the next day. But this is broadcast to a huge audience.” Building on this quote, I discuss how the diplomat’s attempts to counter the Boratistan parody fell on deaf ears in the West. Still obsessed with Cold War tropes of crumbling gray buildings, bushy-browed party officials, and forlorn citizens, the British press used Kaliyev’s indignation to frame Kazakhstan—a progressive and welcoming country by post-Soviet standards—in a most unflattering way. I write: “Such coverage had a decisively counter-productive effect vis-à-vis the intentions of the diplomatic corps. Rather than reversing negative stereotypes generated out of thin air by Sacha Baron Cohen, the media attention affirmed and/or reinforced generic perceptions of the country as a Sovietesque, tin-pot dictatorship.” Near the end of the page, I analyze how Kazakhstan’s tentative first steps in engaging Baron Cohen’s parody—which included an ill-conceived demand that the British government put a stop to his antics—floundered: “The notion that Borat would or could be banned was taken as incontrovertible evidence that the Kazakhstani government was still suffering a post-totalitarian hangover.” As the face of the new Kazakhstan, Kaliyev himself even came under scrutiny. As he tried to defend his country, he was alternatively portrayed as a blustering buffoon or an iniquitous enemy of free speech. Overall, this page provides the reader with a brief but evocative morsel. One of my principle aims in writing this book was to explore the impact of the spread of global media on 21st century statecraft. This selection provides a keyhole glimpse of one aspect of this phenomenon: the current difficulties of combating mass-mediated threats to a country’s national image or—to use a more appropriate term for our times—its “brand.”
Read more about The Many Faces of Sacha Baron Cohen, and learn more about the author and his work at Robert A. Saunders' faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Mary Beard's "The Fires of Vesuvius"

Mary Beard has a Chair of Classics at Cambridge and is a Fellow of Newnham College. She is classics editor of The Times Literary Supplement and author of the blog “A Don’s Life.” Last year she applied the Page 99 Test to The Roman Triumph.

Now she has applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found, and reported the following:
My own Page 99 would, I think, have pleased Ford Madox Ford. For it does indeed miraculously capture what my Fires of Vesuvius is trying to do.

Fires is meant not only as an introduction to Pompeii for those who have visited and for those who haven’t – but also as exploration of everyday life in an ordinary Roman town. (Pompeii is very special now, but it was very ordinary indeed 2000 years ago.) I try to show that an awful lot of what we are told about the ancient city and Roman life in general is (sadly...?) fantasy. Or at least it is a projection of our own world onto the Romans.

But I’m determined not to be one of those gloomy scholars who leaves every myth destroyed and nothing much in their place. Lots of the things we thought we knew about Rome aren’t true. But there are lots of unexpected things we CAN still discover. I mean Fires to be an entry point to a familiar and simultaneously quite alien world.

Page 99 hits that message home. We are in the middle of a discussion of “House and Home” at Pompeii. Who lived in the large Roman houses that we now see preserved there? What kind of families? Where did they drink, cook, eat and sleep? What was ‘home life’ at Rome like?

Well, for a start, as Page 99 insists, these families were not like ours (or like the stereotype of ours…). Large houses in Pompeii were not occupied by Mum and Dad, with a couple of kids (plus, this being Rome, a couple of slaves). The Pompeian house contained not so much a ‘household’, as a ‘houseful’. It was an agglomeration of people living behind the same front door -- a nuclear family, plus slaves, ex-slaves and a whole variety of hangers on, many acting as servants, but others running shops or commercial enterprises attached to these elite houses. (In some ways it was a bit like modern Naples, where you often find a carpenter’s shop or hardware store on the ground floor of grand homes.)

So – one difference between us and Rome lies in family and social structure.

Another is in domestic life and layout. Modern visitors tend to walk into the surviving houses at Pompeii and try to identify the bedrooms, the kitchen, the lounges and so on. Actually it’s harder than that. Most rooms in an ancient house were ‘multi-functional’, and we honestly have little idea of where people slept and how.

There are puzzling absences. As I observe on Page 99, there appears to be no such thing as a double bed in Pompeii. Did man and wife just squash up? And where did the slaves sleep? Perhaps on upper floors (most of which don’t survive), or maybe on the floor outside the master bedroom?

Intriguing questions.

Overall Page 99 offers a glimpse of a Roman life that we can understand and easily reconstruct – and yet is always tantalizingly just beyond our reach.
Read an excerpt from The Fires of Vesuvius, and learn more about the book at the Harvard University Press website.

Visit Mary Beard's University of Cambridge faculty webpage and read her blog, “A Don's Life.”

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 12, 2008

Fairlie & Robb's "Race and Entrepreneurial Success"

Robert W. Fairlie is Professor of Economics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an adjunct researcher at the RAND Corporation. Alicia M. Robb is a Research Associate in Economics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a senior economist with Beacon Economics.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Race and Entrepreneurial Success: Black-, Asian-, and White-Owned Businesses in the United States, and reported the following:
Page 99 is a summary page on how we explore the relative underperformance of black-owned businesses. So, it’s not too bad of a page to look at to get a feel for the book.

About the book:

Thirteen million people in the United States—roughly one in ten workers—own a business. And yet rates of business ownership among African Americans are much lower and have been so throughout the twentieth century. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, businesses owned by African Americans tend to have lower sales, fewer employees and smaller payrolls, lower profits, and higher closure rates. In contrast, Asian American-owned businesses tend to be more successful. In Race and Entrepreneurial Success, minority entrepreneurship authorities Robert Fairlie and Alicia Robb examine racial disparities in business performance. Drawing on the rarely used, restricted-access Characteristics of Business Owners (CBO) dataset compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau, Fairlie and Robb examine in particular why Asian-American owned firms perform well in comparison to white-owned businesses and black-owned firms typically do not. They also explore the broader question of why some entrepreneurs are successful and others are not.

Selected Findings from the Book:

• African-American owned businesses have lower sales and profits, hire fewer employees, have smaller payrolls, and have higher closure rates than white-owned businesses.

• Asian-American owned firms have higher sales, profits, employment, and survival rates than white-owned firms.

• Family links in business ownership are strong. Half of all business owners had a self-employed family member prior to starting their business, and entrepreneurs who work in family businesses have business outcomes that are 10-40 percent better.

• Education and prior work experience in a similar type of business are also important for entrepreneurial success.

• Access to startup capital is essential for success in business. Firms with higher levels of startup capital are less likely to close, have higher profits and sales, and are more likely to hire employees.

• Black-owned businesses start with substantially lower levels of financial capital than white-owned firms, which is the single largest factor contributing to racial disparities in business performance.

• Black business owners are less likely to work in family businesses, negatively affecting black business outcomes.

• Black business owners are found to have lower levels of education than white business owners, on average.

• The most important factor in contributing to the higher survival rates, profits, employment, and sales of Asian-owned firms is that Asian-American entrepreneurs invest more startup capital in their firms than white entrepreneurs.

• Nearly half of all Asian business owners are college educated, which is a major reason Asian-owned businesses are successful.
Read the Preface and Introduction to Race and Entrepreneurial Success, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Stuart Banner's "Who Owns the Sky?"

Stuart Banner is Professor of Law at the University of California, Los Angeles. His publications include The Death Penalty: An American History, How the Indians Lost Their Land: Law and Power on the Frontier, and Possessing the Pacific: Land, Settlers, and Indigenous People from Australia to Alaska.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Who Owns the Sky?: The Struggle to Control Airspace from the Wright Brothers On, and reported the following:
Who Owns the Sky? is about an important but largely forgotten legal problem in the early years of flight. English and American common law had always said that landowners owned the airspace above their land, with no height limit. As the ancient maxim put it, cujus est solum ejus est usque ad coelum – he who owns the soil owns up to the sky. If that remained true, the new airplanes would have nowhere to fly, because they would be trespassing almost everywhere they went. The government couldn’t simply take the airspace away from landowners and give it to pilots without violating the constitution, lawyers worried, because airspace was a kind of property, and a taking of property required compensation. So how would the planes ever get off the ground?

The issue was intertwined with all sorts of broader questions being debated at the time, some of which had to with the nature of the common law itself. Where exactly did the common law come from? Was it something judges found or something they made? And how did it change? Page 99 comes near the end of a chapter about these questions.

Condemning the airspace, however, would have been an enormous administrative burden. R. Floyd Clarke shuddered at the prospect of “the description in a petition of condemnation of all the parcels of real estate throughout the State and notice to all the owners, mortgagees, etc.” Just notifying the landowners, Clarke despaired, would be “a stupendous and almost impossible undertaking.” And even if that hurdle could have been mounted, condemnation might well have required separate hearings, and possibly even jury trials, for each individual landowner, at which each would have the opportunity to establish the amount of loss that he or she would individually suffer from overflights. For anyone who gave thought to the time and expense that would be involved in condemning enough airspace to allow commercial air travel, the use of the state or federal government’s eminent domain power was not an attractive option. Promoters of aviation were back to the constitutional problem. A statute abrogating the cujus est solum maxim, by allowing aviators to fly over private land, ran a considerable risk of being held unconstitutional.

This was why lawyers in the 1910s and 1920s paid so much attention to the common law. Because of the fiction that judges did not make the law but found it, a judicial determination that aviators could fly over private property was not susceptible to constitutional challenge. If a judge, rather than a legislature, were to modify the cujus est solum maxim, the surface discourse of the legal system would not deem him to be changing the law at all. He would instead be understood to be discerning what the law had always been.
Read an excerpt from Who Owns the Sky?, and learn more about the book at the Harvard University Press website.

Visit Stuart Banner's UCLA Law faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 8, 2008

David Hempton's "Evangelical Disenchantment"

David Hempton is Alonzo L. McDonald Family Professor of Evangelical Theological Studies, Harvard University. His book Methodism: Empire of the Spirit, published by Yale University Press, was awarded the Jesse Lee Prize.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Evangelical Disenchantment: Nine Portraits of Faith and Doubt, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book deals with a conversation between two of the most important early feminists in the United States about the role of religion, particularly evangelical Christianity, in advancing or retarding the aspirations of women. The advice given to Sarah Grimké, a female pioneer of the anti-slavery movement, was that “Doctrines, which occupy so prominent a place in Christianity, have eaten the life out of pure love. Let them go dearest.” Grimké obeyed her correspondent’s charge, eventually forsaking evangelicalism for spiritualism, and repression for emancipation, a route many other women have taken over the years.

Evangelical Disenchantment: Nine Portraits of Faith and Doubt looks at evangelicalism, one of the most powerful religious traditions in the United States and the wider world, through the eyes of well-known individuals who once embraced the evangelical tradition but later repudiated it. I recount the faith journeys of nine creative artists, social reformers, and public intellectuals of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries including Sarah Grimké, George Eliot (the English novelist), Elizabeth Cady Stanton (America’s most famous suffragist), Vincent Van Gogh (the Dutch painter), and James Baldwin (the African American writer). In the process the book opens up issues of race, gender, and power, and looks at evangelicalism’s relationship to fundamentalism, other world religions, and secularization. Through the writing of compelling mini-biographies, my aim is to shed fresh, and more profoundly personal, light on the evangelical movement and its relation to the wider culture. These portraits of faith and doubt are moving, and at times heartbreaking, accounts of how some evangelical Christians encountered the complexities of their worlds.
Read an excerpt from Evangelical Disenchantment, and learn more about the book at the Yale University Press website.

Visit David Hempton's Harvard Divinity School faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Andrew R. Murphy's "Prodigal Nation"

Andrew R. Murphy is Associate Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University, New Bruswick. He is the author of Conscience and Community: Revisiting Toleration and Religious Dissent in Early Modern England and America, the co-editor of Religion, Politics, and the American Identity: New Directions, New Controversies, and the editor of The Political Writings of William Penn.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Prodigal Nation: Moral Decline and Divine Punishment from New England to 9/11, and reported the following:
Opening Prodigal Nation to p. 99 lands the reader in the middle of a discussion of the Christian Right narrative of American moral decline. While Jerry Falwell laments the sexual revolution, Pat Robertson paints with a broader brush:

Until modern times, the foundations of law rested on the Judeo-Christian concept of right and wrong and the foundational concept of Original Sin.... Modern, secular sociology, however, shuns such biblical teachings in favor of an evolutionary hypothesis based on the ideas of Darwin, Freud, Einstein, and others. This view, often called “secular humanism,” takes the view that man has evolved from the slime and that with time and ever greater freedoms, mankind will ascend to the stars. These ideas, which are contrary to the Word of God, have led directly to the bitter conflict and social chaos of our day....

The legacy of the 1960s is still with us today. The free-love, anti-war, psychedelic 1960s proclaimed not only the right of dissent but the right to protest against and defame the most sacred institutions of the nation.... Free love, the rise of pagan cults, and the New Age movement have all thrived in this atmosphere of defiance. And what may prove to be the greatest holocaust in history—the abortion movement—is one of its most sinister expressions. [Robertson, quoted in Prodigal Nation, p. 99]

Page 99 comes near the end of Part I of the book, which presents three important episodes in American history in which the jeremiad (a form of political rhetoric that laments the present, looks to the past for guidance, and calls for reform) has played a key role: early New England, the Civil War, and the rise of the Christian Right. Even when lamenting the nation’s decline, however, and interpreting calamities as God’s punishment on a wayward people, the jeremiad reaffirms America’s role as a “city on a hill” with a special role to play in God’s plans for human history.

To be honest, though, I’d rather direct the reader ten pages forward, to p. 109. That page opens Chapter 5, which I think is Prodigal Nation’s most important chapter. In Chapter 5, I distinguish between two types of American jeremiad. The traditionalist jeremiad is the type seen on p. 99, in which the solutions to present-day problems lie in a return to “the way things used to be.” The traditionalist jeremiad offers a political agenda using the past as a blueprint for the future (for the Christian Right, outlawing abortion and same-sex marriage, supporting prayer in public schools, and so on). But there is another way of looking to the past for insights into contemporary problems, and Prodigal Nation also traces a progressive jeremiad throughout American history, epitomized by Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King. This progressive jeremiad looks to the past, not as a blueprint or model for the future, but as the source of principles of liberty and equality inherent in the American founding, which hold the key for moving the nation forward into a diverse and pluralistic future. Rooted in different ways of understanding the American past, these two types of jeremiads in turn offer sharply contrasting visions for the American future. The remainder of the book argues that the progressive jeremiad offers the most promising way forward into the twenty-first century American future.
Read more about Prodigal Nation at the Oxford University Press website, and learn more about Andrew R. Murphy's research and publications at his faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 5, 2008

Richard Price's "Making Empire"

Richard N. Price is Professor in and Chair of the Department of History at the University of Maryland.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Making Empire: Colonial Encounters and the Creation of Imperial Rule in Nineteenth-Century Africa, and reported the following:
If you open my book, Making Empire: Colonial Encounters and the Creation of Imperial Rule in Nineteenth-Century Africa, at page 99 you will find part of a story about a nineteenth century African chief. His name was Maqoma, and he was a member of the Xhosa peoples who occupied the south eastern part of what is today South Africa. The story concerns his relationship with two missionaries, James Read and Henry Calderwood. On the same page you will also find a brief account of Maqoma’s negotiations with the British imperial state, and the page ends with the opening sentences of an account of how missionaries and other agents of the British colonial presence sought to understand the Xhosa peoples that they encountered in the eastern part of the Cape Colony in the first half of the nineteenth century.

Those stores capture the key themes that run through my book. I called the book “Making Empire” because it tells how the British came to rule the Xhosa peoples of Southern Africa. And the first words of its subtitle, “Colonial Encounters,” suggest that this process happened through the interactions between British missionaries, colonial officers, military men and others.

The stories of encounter that form the core of the book were researched in Cape Town and elsewhere. I wanted to understand the process by which an empire was created. I was fortunate enough to find records that detailed what the missionaries and others were thinking as they tried to deal with the complexities of Xhosa politics and culture, and as they were driven to conclude that the only way to deal with these people was to subdue and subjugate them to British rule.
Visit Richard Price's faculty webpage, and learn more about Making Empire at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

James Boyle's "The Public Domain"

James Boyle is William Neal Reynolds Professor of Law, Duke University School of Law, and co-founder of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind, and reported the following:
I don't think page 99 [inset, below right] proves Ford's assertion.

I'd prefer page the first page of the preface. It reads:

Each person has a different breaking point. For one of my students it was United States Patent number 6,004,596 for a “Sealed Crustless Sandwich.” In the curiously mangled form of English that patent law produces, it was described this way:

A sealed crustless sandwich for providing a convenient sandwich without an outer crust which can be stored for long periods of time without a central filling from leaking outwardly. The sandwich includes a lower bread portion, an upper bread portion, an upper filling and a lower filling between the lower and upper bread portions, a center filling sealed between the upper and lower fillings, and a crimped edge along an outer perimeter of the bread portions for sealing the fillings there between. The upper and lower fillings are preferably comprised of peanut butter and the center filling is comprised of at least jelly. The center filling is prevented from radiating outwardly into and through the bread portions from the surrounding peanut butter.1

“But why does this upset you?” I asked; “you’ve seen much worse than this.” And he had. There are patents on human genes, on auctions, on algorithms.2 The U.S. Olympic Committee has an
Visit James Boyle's faculty webpage, and learn more about The Public Domain at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 1, 2008

Daniel Everett's "Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes"

Daniel L. Everett is the Chair of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at Illinois State University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle, and reported the following:
Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes is a book about living among the Piraha people of the Brazilian Amazon and the discoveries, scientific and personal, I made during the thirty years of regular contact with them. My family and I lived among the Pirahas for nearly eight years.

On page 99 I am talking about an incident that taught me a great deal about Piraha culture and my own views of parenting. Here is part of what I say on that page:

Piraha parenting involves no violence, at least in principle. But my model of parenting did. It is worth contrasting the two here because ultimately I have come to believe that the Pirahas have a healthier attitude in many ways than I did at the time. I was a young father - Shannon was born when I was nineteen. And because of my immaturity and Christian parenting framework, I thought that corporeal punishment was appropriate and useful, following the biblical injunction that to spare the rod was to spoil the child. Shannon, as my oldest child, often suffered the worst of this phase of my life. In the village one day, she said something to me that I thought entitled her to a spanking. I got a switch and told her to meet me in the bedroom. She started yelling that she didn't need a spanking. The Pirahas came quickly, as they always did when we sounded angry.

'What are you doing, Dan?' a couple of women asked.

'I'm, uh, well ...' Hmm. I didn't have an answer. What the hell *was* I doing?

Anyway, I felt the weight of the Bible and so I told Shannon, 'OK, no spanking here. Meet me at the end of the airstrip and pick another switch along the way. I will meet you there in five minutes!'

As Shannon started out of the house, Pirahas asked her where she was going.

'My dad is going to hit me on the airstrip,' she replied with a mix of irritation and glee, knowing what the effects of her words would be.

Piraha children and adults came running behind me when I left. I was defeated. No more spankings..."

What I go on to discuss on that page is how I learned from the Pirahas corporeal punishment was a strange and ineffective way to teach children about life. Since I had believed so strongly in this and its biblical foundation prior to my confrontation with the Pirahas it was a direct challenge to my philosophies of child-rearing and indeed my philosophy of life to think that there were other ways of helping children develop into responsible adults.

The Pirahas don't coerce children, just as they don't, by and large, coerce anyone in their society. There are always exceptions, of course, but children are not 'beaten into submission' by their parents. So how do Piraha children learn responsibility? They are given tasks relating to the well-being of the family, such as gathering fruits and nuts, fishing, collecting firewood, and so on. If they fail, everyone suffers, including them. They can be scolded, as any other member, but the main lesson they learn is by doing without something crucial because of their own irresponsibility. They mature quickly.

My daughter, Shannon, tells me that I did not learn this lesson as quickly as I imply in the book, however. I suppose that this is the way that many of us create our reality - we learn a lesson and then perhaps remember that lesson being in our lives longer than it actually has been.

One question that has occurred to me and to generations of philosophers is whether or not people are really capable of changing their minds, at least about things that are truly significant to them. Another way of putting this is whether people are capable of recognizing errors in their thinking so egregious that the only way to change course is to make an epistemological 180 degree turn. I think that being in a closed environment that is radically different from the environment that we were raised in is a possible situation in which such change might occur.

From the simple lesson on p99 of my book about spanking/smacking my child other, equally profound models of being a human being on this planet were brought into focus.

The Pirahas have taught me, as so many other groups have taught foreigners out of their element over the years, about parenthood and life, among many other things. Encounters with 'the Other' in literature and life are vital components of our growth in life and thought.
Read more about Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes at the Knopf website.

--Marshal Zeringue