Sunday, August 30, 2009

John Kenneth White's "Barack Obama's America"

John Kenneth White is Professor of Politics at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Barack Obama's America: How New Conceptions of Race, Family, and Religion Ended the Reagan Era, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Barack Obama's America is late in a chapter titled "Redefining Relationships." On the page is a description of how the dissolution of marriage knows no political or cultural barriers. Indeed, divorce is more likely to occur in George W. Bush's Texas than in John Kerry's Massachusetts. Similarly, conservative Christians (particularly Baptists) are also more likely to divorce than atheists. Divorce, cohabitation, hookups, and same-sex relationships are part of a redefinition of the American family. Today one-third of families describe themselves as consisting of a "Mom, Dad, and kids." Meanwhile, every other version of the family predominates, including single moms and dads, grandparents, step moms or step dads, and significant others. In fact, when Americans are asked to describe their families, the most common (and apt) description is love.

The reformation of the American family is only one of several revolutions reshaping our society. Another is race. The white/black world of the 1960s is receding thanks to immigration and interracial marriages. By mid-century whites will be a minority throughout the U.S., and by 2030 Hispanics are estimated to constitute one-third of the population. That transformation has found its way into the electorate: in 2008, whites were the smallest proportion of the vote in history, and in the coming years their percentage of the voting population will slowly, but surely, decline. Add to this a gay rights revolution and a transformation of the ways in which Americans worship and you have the makings of a reshuffling of the extant political order.

The country that twice elected Ronald Reagan president has receded into history. Reagan himself left the political stage twenty years ago, and Republicans have been searching for a leader ever since. Meanwhile, Barack Obama's personal story is reflective of larger changes at work in American society. His victory in 2008 validates an old political rule: demography is destiny.
Learn more about Barack Obama's America at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 28, 2009

John Buntin's "L.A. Noir"

John Buntin writes about crime and urban affairs for Governing Magazine.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America's Most Seductive City, and reported the following:
Page 99 of L.A. Noir takes us deep into the mind of one of the book's two main figures, the mobster Mickey Cohen. The year is 1943. Mickey has been working as Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel's muscle for nearly six years, helping Siegel slowly take control of the L.A. underworld. For the most part, it's been easy, pistol-whipping deadbeats with gaming debts, extorting money from cowering businessmen, and facing down local toughs. But Mickey's more recent work has made the diminutive hoodlum (who stood 5' 5" — in lifts) uncharacteristically nervous. Siegel's been "beefing" with the boys in Chicago, and even a headstrong young punk like Cohen knows how dangerous the Outfit can be. So Mickey decides to bail out — by joining the Army:

Mickey wasn't exactly a model candidate (though there was no denying his efficiency as a killer). So he decided to grease the skids. It just so happened that his old "Big brother," fight referee Abe Roth, was a former Army officer with considerable pull in high places. Cohen asked the silver-tongued Siegel (who, somewhat surprisingly, supported Mickey's decision to enlist) to give Roth, as Mickey put it, "all that anti-Nazi shit and stuff." Roth was amenable to Mickey's request. Even better, he had a connection who could ensure the Mickey's criminal background didn't raise any alarms. Mickey was delighted. Assured that "the fix was in," he headed to Boyle Heights to report to the neighborhood draft board.

"Lookit," he told the ladies manning the draft desk. "I want to get in the Army."

"What's your draft status?" he was was asked in reply.

"I ain't been home for some time," Mickey replied evasively. (In fact, he had recently been on the lam.) "What's the big fuss about?" he continued, still confident in his fix. "I want to get in the Army. I'm ready to get in right now. What do I gotta do?"

The woman behind the desk asked for his name and then vanished into a back office. She emerged with a file—"kind of laughing and smiling."

"You can't get into the Army." The woman was holding his file. She showed it to him and then explained what it contained. The draft board had designated him a 4-F — not qualified for service in the armed forces—on grounds of mental instability. This was embarrassing, to say the least. Rather than confess, he called his wife and informed her that he'd been made a general. Then he rushed out and purchased a $150 raincoat ("beautiful... tailored real good")— with epaulettes. He arrived home to find his spouse on the phone, calling everyone she knew and telling everyone, "He's in the Army! He's going away again."

It was, Mickey thought, a helluva good joke.

Meanwhile, Cohen's nemesis, William H. Parker, the man who would later create the Dragnet-era LAPD (and later still become a subject of great controversy for the role he played in the Watts riots), is shipping off to Sardinia, there to commence a military career that would eventually take him to the beaches of Normandy and beyond.
Read more about L.A. Noir at John Buntin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

James Belich's "Replenishing the Earth"

James Belich is professor of history at the Stout Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington. He previously held the inaugural Keith Sinclair Chair in History at the University of Auckland, and has held visiting positions at Cambridge, Melbourne, and Georgetown Universities. His earlier books, all award-winners, include a two volume general history of New Zealand, Making Peoples and Paradise Reforged, and The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian Interpretation of Racial Conflict, winner of the Trevor Reese Prize for an outstanding work of imperial or commonwealth history published in the preceding two years.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Anglo-World, and reported the following:
Ford Madox Ford’s Page 99 test does not work too well for my new book, Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Anglo-world, 1783-1939. My Page 99 is of course mostly endnotes, which are no-one’s favourite reading. But they are necessary to back up the book’s sweeping new claims about the shaping of the modern world, particularly the English-speaking world. The Anglophones, I argue, were the prime beneficiaries of a forgotten “Settler Revolution”, which repopulated roughly half the world in the 19th century.

Ten pages back (oh for page 89, not page 99) you’ll find a summary of the form the settler revolution took, in a neat table. Twenty great ‘rounds’ of frontier boom and bust rollicked across America’s Great West and across Britain’s far-flung settler ‘wests’: Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. Ten pages forward (oh, for page 109, not 99) – you get a description of how old and new technologies worked alongside each other for a time to create revolutionary new means of mass transfer: of people, money, ideas, and status.

But Page 99 does have a few lines of text, perched above the endnotes, and they do hint at the broader thesis and the hard questions it tries to answer.

“We need to explain why settlement took off in 1815, before industrialization in general and steam transport in particular could provide much help. Just to make matters more difficult, we need to ensure that our explanation works for both British and American Wests, and possibly other ‘wests’ as well, in both the age of sail and the age of rail. Still worse, we have compatibly to explain not only the general take-off of 1815, but also the ongoing rounds of boom and bust. The next three chapters address these issues”.
Read more about Replenishing the Earth at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Rick Grannis' "From the Ground Up"

Rick Grannis is assistant professor of sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, From the Ground Up: Translating Geography into Community through Neighbor Networks, and reported the following:
On the one hand, page 99 is only a small part of an argument involving multi-staged neighboring relations, network influence theory, and the special role of children, an argument that accounts for where neighborhood communities come from, why certain effects (e.g. segregation, social capital, collective efficacy, etc.) bundle together in some neighborhoods and not in others, and why neighborhood communities often outlive the residents who comprise them.

On the other hand, page 99 is quite appropriately a neighborhood map. It’s not a map of a real-estate neighborhood or a school catchment or a census tract, however, but rather a map of how one resident understood her neighborhood. One of the activities conducted during the many data collections reported in this book asked people to draw maps of their neighborhoods and to locate neighbors they knew on these maps. This respondent’s map shows that, like thousands of others interviewed for this book, a small set of interconnected face blocks and intersections delimited how she cognitively understood her neighborhood.

In this way, page 99 nicely illustrates (literally) one of the central messages of the book: that residents’ understanding of their neighborhood communities are experientially based, constantly developing as they interact with and observe each other on the streets and walkways surrounding their residence.

These walking arenas guide the evolution of neighbor networks, formed by the passive transmission of norms and values, and thus constrain the neighborhood communities which emerge as a bi-product. Furthermore, walking arenas form substrates for neighborhood community networks, substrates which remain relatively stable even as the residents comprising them are constantly in flux.

Neighboring’s passive nature gives walking arenas this power. Residents didn’t typically go searching for specific others to become neighbors. They accepted whomever they met while living out their life along the streets in their neighborhood; or they didn’t. Either way, few went looking for neighbors. The only active choice most residents made about whom to interact with as neighbors involved choosing where to live in the first place.

In the end, perhaps the book’s most intriguing argument is that, in our age of cell phones, blogs, and twitter, when we can choose to become part of any electronic community we desire, some of the most important communities in our lives are relatively non-volitional. They are formed for us by the subtle geography of neighborhood streets.
Read an excerpt from From the Ground Up, and learn more about the book at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 24, 2009

Lawrence Glickman's "Buying Power"

Lawrence B. Glickman is professor of history at the University of South Carolina. He is the author of A Living Wage: American Workers and the Making of Consumer Society.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Buying Power: A History of Consumer Activism in America, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Buying Power is atypical in a number of ways but it nonetheless illustrates the central thesis of the book. Two illustrations fill the top third of the page: one an advertisement from the Charleston Mercury in 1850 advertising luxury goods from New York and Philadelphia; the other an ad from South Carolina’s Yorkville Enquirer in late 1860 for a “Warm Secession Suit” manufactured in the “Southern Confederacy.” The text at the bottom third of the page discusses white Southern critiques of Northern materialism. “The licentious spirit of the North must be rebuked,” I quote one rabble rouser from the Barnwell district of South Carolina who was promoting Southern “non intercourse” with the North. The essence of this non intercourse movement, as I show in “Rebel Consumer,” the chapter of which p. 99 is a part, was a boycott of Northern goods that lasted from the 1820s through the onset of the Civil War. The non intercourse movement not only promoted a boycott of the North but encouraged Southern consumers to “buy Southern.”

Two things about the Southern non intercourse movement are significant for the broader argument of my book. First, one of the aims of my book is to show that consumer activism is not the exclusive province of the left. Throughout American history boycotts have been employed by groups across the political spectrum. Indeed, this chapter on Southern boycotts of the North is paired with a chapter on abolitionist boycotts of slave-made goods. Second, this movement illustrates a tension that punctuates the entire history of consumer activism, namely the seemingly contradictory simultaneous suspicion of consumption alongside the employment of consumerist tactics. The main goal of the white Southern boycotters of the North was to “rebuke” Northern materialism by stoking Southern consumerism.

The two advertisements on p. 99 illustrate other tensions. The ad for Northern luxury goods revealed that calls for the boycott were not universally heeded. The Mercury was the newspaper of the Southern firebrands and a leading advocate of the boycott. The fact that its pages were filled with such ads demonstrated that not all Southern consumers supported the boycott, which helps explain why this campaign, like most of the boycotts I examine in the book, failed to achieve their objectives.
Learn more about Buying Power at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Allison Burnett's "Undiscovered Gyrl"

Allison Burnett is a screenwriter, journalist, poet, director, and novelist and short story writer.

His novels include Christopher: A Tale of Seduction, a finalist for the 2004 PEN Center USA Literary Award in Fiction, and The House Beautiful: A Novel of High Ideals, Low Morals, and Lower Rent.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new novel, Undiscovered Gyrl, and reported the following:
I think both page 69 and page 99 of Undiscovered Gyrl are vivid proof of Ford Madox Ford’s maxim, but I have selected page 99 to discuss. Here our teenage blogger protagonist, Katie Kampenfelt, is brutally frank in her depiction of sex’s aftermath, as well as realistically proud of her own assets (pun intended.) We learn that she is reckless when it comes to birth control, and liberal when it comes to statutory rape. We learn also that her lover reminds Katie of an angry parent, and that Katie is the sort of girl who smuggles beer into her school locker. And yet we must admire that at her tender age Katie is intuitive enough to know what is coming and canny enough to dissemble at a moment’s notice. What makes the book a page turner, for those who describe it as such, is the character of Katie. They simply cannot get enough of her -- even when they want to strangle her. In this page we are given a generous helping of some of her most beguiling and most maddening qualities.

We laid there kissing and breathing until I felt some dribbling and excused myself. I walked slowly to the bathroom because I didn’t want to leak on the floor and because I wanted him to get a good look at my ass. I read once in one of my mom’s Cosmo magazines that a good trick is to hold an open hand across your ass like a fan and sort of skip all the way to the john, so the guy won’t see your cellulite.. Since I don’t have any I walked slowly with no hand.

When I came out of the bathroom Dan had his jeans back on and looked really freaked out.

“I wish that hadn’t happened,” he said.

“You mean no condom? Don’t worry. My period ended this morning.”

“No, I meant--

“Oh, you mean jail? Don’t worry. I turn 18 in a few hours. I’m basically legal.”

“Sit down, Katie..”

I hated the serious look on his face. It was the kind your mom gives you when she got a call from the principal’s office about the beer they found in your locker. It was not the look you want from a person five minutes after you make love for the first time.

“Here’s the thing. I like you, Katie. A lot but--

I knew what he was about to say. My heart stopped. But I pretended to be really calm.

“Listen, before you dump me, let me just say something,
Read an excerpt from the novel, and visit the Undiscovered Gyrl website and Allison Burnett's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 21, 2009

Jim Noles' "Mighty by Sacrifice"

James L. “Jim” Noles, Jr., is a partner in the Environmental & Natural Resources Section of former Army officer, he is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and the University of Texas School of Law. To date, his books have covered a variety of non-fiction subjects and his Balch & Bingham, LLP, in Birmingham, Alabama. An Army brat and articles have appeared in such diverse publications as the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Smithsonian Air & Space, Preservation, Urban Land, Continental, Thicket, Portico, Executive Traveler, Alabama Heritage, Mental Floss, America’s Civil War, and the Birmingham News.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Mighty by Sacrifice: The Destruction of an American Bomber Squadron, August 29, 1944, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Mighty by Sacrifice literally and figuratively drops the reader into the blue waters of the Adriatic Sea. At that point in the narrative, Ed Smith, formerly a freshman at Ohio's Miami University and now a navigator in the U.S. Army Air Forces, is forced to bail out of his burning B-17 Flying Fortress after a raid on Ploesti, Romania.

"By the time he hit the water, everything seemed to go wrong -- an unsurprising outcome in light of the minimal parachute training aviators such as Smith had received. Still affixed to his harness, he found himself being pulled backward through the water as the chute sailed in the wind."

Smith eventually managed to free himself of his parachute, only to find himself weighed down by his heavy flight suit and boots while he struggled to inflate his Mae West life vest -- a task made difficult by the fact that the valves on the vest were open. Fortunately, he managed to shed his heavy flight gear while treading water in the gentle swells and to inflate the vest. Equally fortunately, other bombers in the formation reported his location and, within a few hours, a PBY Catalina search and rescue plane landed to pluck Smith and the other six survivors from the water. Three of their comrades were not so lucky.

So does page 99 capture the essence of Mighty by Sacrifice? Absolutely (thank goodness). The intent of the book is to tell the story of the Allies' Combined Bomber Offensive during World War II through the prism of the microcosmic experiences of one particular squadron and its aviators on one particular climatic mission. Page 99 offers such a view. Smith's story is a personal one, but it provides a glimpse at the larger risks these aviators faced and, in this particular instance, how the air-sea rescue teams worked to alleviate those risks to the limited amount that they could.
Learn more about the book and author at Jim Noles' website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Joseph Bergin's "Church, Society, and Religious Change in France"

Joseph Bergin is professor of history at the University of Manchester, and a Fellow of the British Academy. His books include Cardinal Richelieu, The Making of the French Episcopate and Crown, Church and Episcopate under Louis XIV.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Church, Society, and Religious Change in France, 1580-1730, and reported the following:
The seventeenth-century French church took the post-Reformation process of reform and religious innovation much further than any other part of Catholic Europe. But after the ravages of the wars of religion the obstacles were numerous and formidable, and nowhere more than among the religious orders inherited from the Middle Ages, the subject of Page 99. France was home to some of Europe’s greatest monastic orders (e.g. the Benedictines, Cistercians), whose influence outside of France was of great importance to both the French monarchy and the French church. But these orders also belonged to the age-old benefice system inherited from earlier centuries, one which the monarchy as well as the social and ecclesiastical elites had powerful vested interests in preserving. Such interests were a major obstacle to successful reform among the orders, yet such reforms did materialise during the seventeenth century, notably among the Cistercians. One of their most celebrated reformers was Abbot Rancé of La Trappe, a well-born cleric who experienced a personal conversion in the early 1660s and who subsequently reformed La Trappe itself. But having reformed his abbey, he refused the usual and expected role of leader of a reform movement, but settled instead for that of a mentor and spiritual writer of wide-ranging influence. This case-study suggests how slow-burning a process the reform of French Catholicism in general was, yet by the early eighteenth century, many of the educated elites of Catholic Europe regarded it as the model to follow. My book offers an in-depth analysis and explanation of this unlikely transformation.
Learn more about the book at the Yale University Press website.

Read about Joseph Bergin's teaching and research at his University of Manchester faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

David B. Williams' "Stories in Stone"

David B. Williams is the author of The Seattle Street-Smart Naturalist and A Naturalist's Guide to Canyon Country. He has written for Smithsonian, Popular Mechanics, and National Wildlife, and is a regular contributor to Earth.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Stories in Stone: Travels through Urban Geology, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Stories in Stone: Travels Through Urban Geology occurs near the middle of a chapter titled, The Clam that Changed the World. After inhabiting Florida for over a century, the Spanish are building a fort, their tenth, out of stone. Like the other nine chapters in the book, The Clam tells the story of one type of stone and weaves together natural and cultural history to show how it was used as a building material. The page 99 stone is known as coquina, which is made of billions and billions of bivalves, including the world-altering clam.

Neither well-compacted nor well-cemented, coquina has the consistency of a Rice Krispy treat or a granola bar with shells and shell fragments replacing the oats. And yet, it made a wonderful building material in late 1600s Florida. On page 99, the Spanish colonists in St. Augustine have finally gotten permission, money, and craftsmen from Spain to build what would become known as the Castillo de San Marcos.

The castillo had its first test in 1702 when the British attacked. Over the next 40 days, they pummeled the fort with cannons but discovered that instead of breaking or cracking when hit by cannon shells, the cavity-rich coquina absorbed or deflected the iron projectiles. The British ultimately retreated. They tried another attack 38 years later, which also failed because of the unusual properties of coquina. Except for 20 years, the Spanish retained Florida into the nineteenth century, all because of the clams.

Throughout Stories in Stone, I wanted to combine history, science, personal observation, humor, interviews, and architecture. Page 99 showcases many of these aspects of the book. And, if you want to read the other 249 pages, you will find discussions of the brownstones of New York, a petrified wood gas station in Colorado, the great poet Robinson Jeffers’ home of granite boulders, the travertine of the Getty Center, and a 3.5-billion-year old, pink and black gneiss from Minnesota. All combine to show that interesting stories of natural history are just around the corner, if we take the time to look, to ask questions, and to wonder about the world.
Read descriptions of Stories in Stone's ten chapters, and learn more about the author and his work at David B. Williams' website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Eric Kurlander's "Living With Hitler"

Eric Kurlander is associate professor of history at Stetson University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Living with Hitler: Liberal Democrats in the Third Reich, and reported the following:
Nearly every new book on the Third Reich presumes one basic question: how could the heirs to Kant, Beethoven, and Einstein support Adolf Hitler? How could so many educated, “liberal”-minded Germans be complicit in the twentieth century’s most terrible crimes? Page 99 of Living With Hitler speaks to this question, which lies at the heart of my new book. On page 99 we find one of Germany’s leading liberal feminists and social progressives pulling no punches, criticizing the Third Reich’s discrimination against women in terms of equal opportunity in higher education, hiring, and pay. Particularly interesting is her call for employers “to offer the possibility of half- and part-time jobs … so women who needed extra income might still balance their work and family life for offering flexible working hours.”

The fact remains, however, that Bäumer and her liberal colleagues wanted women to become more involved in the war effort, an endorsement of Hitler’s foreign policy that drew the ire of Allied authorities. At the same time, Bäumer and company argued that discriminating against women in education and employment would undermine the strength of German science, economy, and society. That such participation would help perpetuate, not undermine, the regime goes without saying. Thus, for all their progressive convictions, Bäumer and her colleagues embraced central tenets of the Nazi worldview, from a more socially egalitarian racial community (Volksgemeinschaft) to the aggressive restoration of Germany’s great power status.

In short, page 99 articulates rather well three of the four main claims of the book. First, that there were clear ideological continuities between German left liberalism and National Socialism that made political accommodation more attractive than one might expect. Second, that these affinities were not necessarily reactionary, but sometimes “progressive” in nature. Whether one is discussing the Nazi attitude towards science and technology, the separation of church and state, social welfare, industrial organization, even women and the family, there were more than passing affinities between liberal and Nazi programs. Third, page 99 reflects the ample space for liberal criticism and everyday opposition in the Third Reich, especially before the outbreak of the Second World War. When liberals like Bäumer failed to resist, at least intellectually, it had less to do with fear of arrest than a tacit desire to accommodate specific policies.

What page 99 does not reveal is that most liberal democrats who acquiesced in some aspects of the Nazi “revolution” eventually rejected it because of their individual experience of National Socialism. There were various points at which liberals, confronted by the abject criminality of the regime, reëvaluated their position and turned away from even a tentative endorsement of Nazi policies. It may seem remarkable that liberals rationalized and even defended elements of Hitler’s foreign and domestic policy after 1933. But rather than dismiss their ambivalence as a sign of German peculiarity vis-à-vis the “West,” we should take it as a warning of the susceptibility of liberal democracy to fascism, particularly in times of economic distress and political chaos.
Learn more about Living With Hitler at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 14, 2009

Kathryn Casey's "Blood Lines"

Kathryn Casey is a former magazine reporter and the author of five true crime books.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new novel, Blood Lines, and reported the following:
Blood Lines is the second in the Sarah Armstrong mystery series. In the first book, Singularity, Texas Ranger/profiler Sarah tracks a delusional serial killer. In Blood Lines, she investigates two cases: a questionable suicide and the stalking of a teen pop star. Sarah’s personal life runs through the book as well, including her relationship with her daughter, Maggie, the precarious health of a fragile colt born on the ranch and Sarah’s uncertainty about the state of her once promising relationship with FBI profiler David Garrity. On page 99, we’re traveling in a car with Sarah and David, who are on their way to interview a victim’s family:

“You know, when you stopped calling, I was surprised,” I said. “I’d thought that maybe we’d….”

“I did, too, Sarah. I really did,” he interrupted. I glanced over, and David stared at me. He looked sad, distant, yet I had the sense that he wanted to reach out, to touch me. And there was something, something on the tip of his tongue, waiting to be said. But what? I considered pulling the car over, but we were right around the corner from Faith and Grant Roberts’s house, and they were waiting.

“If there’s something you need to tell me, you should just say it, David,” I said.

“There’s nothing I can tell you, Sarah. I wish there were,” he said. “Sometimes, what we want isn’t as easy as it should be. Sometimes there are other people involved.”

“What does that mean?” I asked, but he said nothing, only shook his head. “David, I’m a grown woman. There’s no need to mince words. If you found someone else or changed your mind about how you feel about me, I understand. I know I wasn’t particularity available.”

“It’s not as clear cut as that,” he said, as I pulled into the driveway of a square, box of a house, two stories and redbrick, in a quiet middle-class neighborhood, the kind with tree-lined streets and sidewalks, where neighbors pick up each other’s newspapers and mail when they go on vacations.

I turned off the engine, but didn’t get out of the car. I wanted an answer. When he went to open the door, I flipped the locks.

He looked startled at first, but then smiled. “What is this? Am I being kidnapped? You know, that’s a federal crime.”

“Time to fess up,” I said. “I need to understand where we are, what changed.”

What I enjoy about this particular exchange is that it gives insight into my protagonist. As a profiler, Sarah assesses crime scenes, reviews photographs and evidence, to gain insight and focus investigations. Her assessments help find the bad guys, get the psychos off the streets.

In her work, Sarah cuts through the distractions, attempting to interpret what is real, to draw an accurate picture of some pretty frightening scumbags. Still it’s not always easy to decipher what’s truly transpiring, and Sara misinterprets and stumbles. As she works her way through a shadowy maze of clues, she can be surprised.

The same holds true for her personal life. Here Sarah tries to pin David down, to get at the truth, but he isn’t cooperating. She finds this not only infuriating but also confusing. As with the cases she investigates, Sarah finds life multi-layered and often more complicated than she’d like.
Read an excerpt from Blood Lines, and learn more about the book and author at Kathryn Casey's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Singularity.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Vincent Phillip Muñoz's "God and the Founders"

Vincent Phillip Muñoz is Tocqueville Associate Professor of Religion & Public Life in the Department of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, God and the Founders: Madison, Washington, and Jefferson, and reported the following:
Page 99 is revealing indeed! It is where I begin my critique of Thomas Jefferson’s duplicity on the matter of church and state.

God and the Founders attempts to explain the church-state positions of three of America’s most important Founders: Madison, Washington and Jefferson. The book articulates each Founder’s church-state philosophy, applies those competing philosophies to actual religious liberty Supreme Court cases, and then evaluates each Founder’s position.

The book aims to show how the Founders agreed and disagreed (a point that prior studies have failed to understand). In doing so, I also attempt to reveal how the Founders have been used and misused by members of the Supreme Court, left and right. I contend that if we are going to consult the Founders to guide contemporary jurisprudence, we ought to: A) interpret the Founders correctly, and B) evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each Founder’s position. God and the Founders attempts to provide the foundation to do just that.
Read an excerpt from God and the Founders, and learn more about the book at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

William Patry's "Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars"

William Patry is Senior Copyright Counsel at Google Inc. He previously served as copyright counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary, a Policy Planning Advisor to the Register of Copyrights, a law professor, and in the private practice of law. He is a prolific scholar of copyright, including being the author of an eight-volume treatise and a separate treatise on the fair use doctrine.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars sketches out one the central messages of the book: that copyright is a set of social relations, intended to serve the important social goals of furthering knowledge and creativity. Approaching copyright this way avoids the “them versus us” dichotomy we currently face where copyright owners claim copyright is a form of Blackstonian private property over which they can exercise absolute dominion, and conversely, where those attacking what they regard as excessive copyright protection regard copyright as an evil monopoly to be repealed.

Instead, the book explains why copyright should be regarded as a government program, intended to provide incentives for socially useful purposes. As a set of social relations, we must accept that copyright should be regulated in order to ensure it is serving its valuable public purpose. This means that calls for stronger copyright, just like calls for weaker copyright miss the point entirely; we have need only of effective copyright laws, with effective being measured by whether our copyright laws are serving their intended purpose.

In making this determination of effectiveness, we should use quantitative criteria, and where the data show the need for necessary adjustments, we should make them just as we do for other government programs: if there was a government program to increase low-income housing, and credits were given to developers for that purpose, we would want Congress, before the program was authorized to conduct a study to see if low-income housing would in fact been increased, and whether the amount of the credit provided was the right amount. Copyright should be treated the same way.

Unfortunately, debates over copyright have taken the form of rhetorical battles whose purpose is to shut off the only type of discussion worth having: an economic analysis of what is the right type of incentive. The book unmasks these rhetorical tactics in the hope of getting the debate back on solid footing.
Learn more about the book at the Oxford University Press website and at the Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 10, 2009

Bill Streever's "Cold"

Bill Streever is a biologist who lives and works in Alaska. He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Cold: Adventures in the World’s Frozen Places, and reported the following:
From page 99 of Cold: “During the Little Ice Age, the cod fishery in Iceland failed as certain fish moved south to warmer water.” But the page also mentions birds, the red fox, the brown bear, the tiger, the Norse abandonment of Greenland, and the polar explorers De Long, Greely, Peary, Cook, Amundsen, Scott, and Shackleton.

So, does page 99 capture the essence of Cold? Yes and no. It hints at the book’s diversity and its density. It aligns with Mary Roach’s description in the New York Times Book Review, which describes Cold as “a love song to science and scientists, to Earth and everything that lives on and flies over and tunnels under it.” And it wraps around to previous passages and foreshadows passages to come, displaying one mechanism that allows Cold to barrage readers with information while avoiding the full frontal attack of a textbook.

On the other hand, page 99 misses the first person nature of Cold. Alternating sections of Cold begin in the first person, pulling readers into a frigid setting. From page 169: “It is February twentieth and forty-one below in Fairbanks.” It is largely these first person passages that led another New York Times reviewer, Dwight Gardner, to write, “Streever’s prose does what E.L. Doctorow said good writing is supposed to do, which is to evoke sensation in the reader—‘not the fact that it is raining but the feeling of being rained upon.’”

Here is one way to apply the page 99 test: Could a lazy reviewer, reading only page 99, write a decent review? For Cold, I think the answer can only be no. Sorry Ford Madox Ford, but to appreciate Cold, one has to read all 243 pages and all twelve chapters. But on the upside, one can skim the thirty-four pages of notes and, to save time, the index can be skipped in its entirety.
Read an excerpt from Cold, and learn more about the book and author at Bill Streever's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Marcus Sakey's "The Amateurs"

Marcus Sakey's first novel, The Blade Itself, was featured on CBS Sunday Morning and NPR, and chosen both a New York Times Editor's Pick and one of Esquire magazine's "Top 5 Reads of 2007." Ben Affleck's production company bought the film rights for Miramax. The Chicago Tribune called his second novel, At the City's Edge, "nothing short of brilliant." His third book, Good People, came out to wide critical acclaim, with movie rights selling to Tobey Maguire. All three novels underwent “The Page 69 Test.”

Sakey applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new novel, The Amateurs, and reported the following:
Ford Madox Ford believed that if you "open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you." According to Ernest Hemingway, Ford also had really bad breath. I mean, swamp water breath. August corpse breath. Trench foot breath.

The one has nothing to do with the other. I'm just easily amused.

As far as the truth of his statement--Ford's, not Hemingway's--I suppose it depends what he meant by quality. Page 99 of my new book, The Amateurs, is quite short:

Ian leaned forward, picked up the mirror, held it to his nose, sucked in a long rail of white, and then another in the same nostril. His left had started bleeding earlier, and he had a Kleenex twisted into it, the end hanging out like a tail. He wiped the bitter coke residue on gums gone numb, then set the mirror on the coffee table. Beside it, three pistols lay in a neat line, the metal gleaming dull.

Outside the windows, the city burned.

Obviously, such a brief passage can't really reflect the larger arc. And since the book is an ensemble piece about four best friends who become the most dangerous kind of enemies, focusing on just one is a little misleading.

On the other hand, we do have drugs, guns, bad decisions, and the suggestion of worse things to come. All elements the book is rife with. So the statement isn't totally bogus.

That said, having tried both this and the Page 69 test, I don't really buy them. Of course, Ford would probably tell me that my Pages 69 & 99 are lousy. To which I would be forced to haughtily reply:

Read an excerpt from The Amateurs, and learn more about the author and his work at Marcus Sakey's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Stephen H. Norwood's "The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower"

Stephen H. Norwood is a history professor at the University of Oklahoma and the author of a number of books, including Strikebreaking and Intimidation: Mercenaries and Masculinity in Twentieth-Century America, Labor’s Flaming Youth: Telephone Operators and Worker Militancy, 1878-1923, which won the Herbert G. Gutman Award in American Social History, and Real Football: Conversations on America’s Game.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower: Complicity and Conflict on American Campuses, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower focuses on Columbia University president Nicholas Murray Butler’s expulsion of Robert Burke for leading a student protest against his sending a delegate to Germany to celebrate Heidelberg University’s 550th anniversary, a carefully orchestrated Nazi propaganda festival. Despite a vigorous student protest campaign on his behalf, Columbia never readmitted Burke.

The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower examines how America’s preeminent institutions of higher learning, including Harvard, Columbia, Yale, and the Seven Sisters colleges, along with state universities and Catholic schools, forged friendly ties with Nazi Germany during the 1930s, enhancing its image in the West. By warmly receiving top Nazi officials on campus, university administrators signaled to the Hitler regime that savage beatings of Jews, and the expulsion of Jews from universities and the professions, were not their concern.

I demonstrate that from the very beginning, the Hitler regime made clear its determination to eliminate Germany’s Jews through forced migration and economic strangulation. Even in 1933 and 1934, many Americans suggested that the Nazis’ ultimate intention was the wholesale extermination of Jews. I contrast the significant American grassroots protest against Nazism that began as soon as Hitler assumed power with campus quiescence.

Burke’s expulsion is symptomatic of the pervasive indifference in American higher education during the 1930s to Nazi persecution of the Jews. President Butler praised Hitler’s ambassador Hans Luther after German universities had staged massive book burnings, but refused to meet Gerhart Seger, who had escaped from Oranienburg concentration camp, when a student group invited him to campus. Harvard’s administration warmly welcomed Hitler’s foreign press chief, Ernst Hanfstaengl, to campus, invited Nazis to its tercentenary celebration, and was among over twenty American colleges and universities to send a delegate to Heidelberg. Felix Frankfurter accused Harvard of “tying a tail to the Nazi kite” when its Law School Dean formally accepted an honorary degree from the Nazified University of Berlin, presented by Hitler’s ambassador on the Harvard campus. MIT welcomed cadets of the Nazi warship Karlsruhe to campus.

The Seven Sisters colleges spearheaded student exchanges with Germany’s Nazified universities, which they continued until the onset of World War II. Their students often returned home as apologists for the Hitler regime. The Seven Sisters colleges in turn enrolled German students sent as Nazi propagandists.
Read an excerpt from The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower, and learn more about the book at the Cambridge University Press website and from "Higher Ed and the Third Reich."

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

J. L. Schellenberg's "The Will to Imagine"

J. L. Schellenberg is Professor of Philosophy at Mount Saint Vincent University and Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Graduate Studies at Dalhousie University. He is the author of Prolegomena to a Philosophy of Religion, The Wisdom to Doubt: A Justification of Religious Skepticism, and Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Will to Imagine: A Justification of Skeptical Religion, and reported the following:
The Will to Imagine is Book III of a philosophical trilogy that aims to take us through skepticism to a faith that can exist only on the other side. Page 99 is indeed revealing and I’ll get to how in a moment. But first let me provide some context.

In the early going of the book, I show that because of the immaturity of our species and the open evolutionary future, any faith that could possibly be rational for us will be skeptical in two ways: both nonbelieving and unwilling to commit itself to any sectarian content. It involves embracing in imagination – which remains to us even when belief is left behind – the more basic proposition all detailed, sectarian religious propositions can be seen as gesturing toward: that what is ultimate in reality is also of ultimate value and the source of an ultimate good for humanity and the world. I call this proposition ultimism. Ultimism, it’s worth noting, could be true even if traditional theism (the claim that there is a person-like God) is false or seriously questionable.

In the second part of the book I rebut criticisms designed to prove that imaginative faith focused on ultimism is in as much rational hot water as its sectarian, believing cousins. After showing how surprisingly easy it is to deal with these arguments, I turn in the third part, which page 99 introduces, to defending a central move of the book: the claim that old arguments for theism, refuted many times over, can be recast – adapted – in such a way as to strongly support skeptical religion.

The important point here is that not only can skeptical religion easily turn aside challenges; it can effectively issue its own challenge to all who are rationally and imaginatively minded, in the names of Anselm, Leibniz, Paley, Pascal, Kant, James, and many others. The common theme of the challenge, issued in these diverse ways, is that with skeptical faith we are in the best position to express and celebrate and also further develop all facets of the unique complexity of human lives and human communities.

It follows that the very religious arguments critics like Richard Dawkins love to disparage can rise again in a new case for skeptical religion that, quite ironically, is bursting with powerful evolutionary credentials. And all this is there on page 99!
Learn more about The Will to Imagine at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Gerry Kearns' "Geopolitics and Empire"

Gerry Kearns is currently Professor of Government and International Affairs and Director of the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, USA. He previously lectured in Geography at the universities of Cambridge, Wisconsin-Madison, and Liverpool.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Geopolitics and Empire: The Legacy of Halford Mackinder, and reported the following:
Geopolitics and Empire is about the life, work, ideas and legacy of Halford Mackinder, the founder of Geopolitics. Geopolitics approaches international relations by describing the spatial relations and environmental determinations of the foreign policy of states. Halford Mackinder was a geographer at the University of Oxford from the late nineteenth century. Geopolitics, then, was the geographical lessons that Mackinder wanted to teach British politicians as they responded to the challenge of preserving British global supremacy and the British Empire in the face of competition from newly industrializing rivals such as Germany, Japan, and the United States.

On page 99, I describe Mackinder’s speech to the Royal Geographical Society when he announced the triumph of becoming the first European up Mount Kenya, the second highest peak in East Africa. Mackinder presented this as a scientific, patriotic, and manly achievement. In sum, this feat illustrated the chauvinist masculinity of the patriotism that fueled inter-imperial rivalries. Science and force could, it seemed, secure the permanent global superiority of the British.

Today, as some within the United States seek to prolong the uncontested global hegemony that the country inherited with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mackinder’s ideas are back in vogue. With a few alterations they might now serve US rather than British imperialism. In Geopolitics and Empire I describe why and how Mackinder’s ideas have found this new audience. I also look at contemporaries who challenged Mackinder’s belief in force, masculinity, race, and colonialism and who urged instead a global order based on cooperation, justice, national self-determination, and fair trade. I end by sketching this alternative Progressive Geopolitics and point to the modern trends and institutions which show it to be a realistic alternative.
Learn more about Gerry Kearns' scholarship at his faculty webpage, and read more about Geopolitics and Empire at the Oxford University Press website. Listen to Kearns' interview with the BBC.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 3, 2009

Christopher Davidson's "Abu Dhabi: Oil and Beyond"

Christopher M. Davidson is a fellow of the Institute for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Durham University and a visiting associate professor at Kyoto University. A former assistant professor of political science at Sheikh Zayed University in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, he is the author of Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success and The United Arab Emirates: A Study in Survival.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Abu Dhabi: Oil and Beyond, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Abu Dhabi: Oil and Beyond is a perfect microcosm of the 260 page volume. It a snapshot of a complex, multi-page narrative of who's who and who is doing what in mega oil-rich Abu Dhabi's ruling Al-Nahyan family: one of the world's few remaining dynastic traditional monarchies. In many ways the page's first paragraph contains one of the book's key lines, explaining what succession arrangements took place preceding the great Sheikh Zayed's death in 2004, and predicting who will become the future ruler of Abu Dhabi:

[the] aging Zayed took the unprecedented step of announcing Muhammad as his deputy crown prince in early 2004. This decision may have taken place as early as 1999 at a meeting in Geneva attended by members of the Al-Nahyan and Dubai’s Al-Maktum rulers. Regardless of the exact circumstances, Zayed had undoubtedly recognized a future ruler and had decided to find a compromise solution that would strengthen Muhammad yet protect Khalifa in equal measure.

The page's second paragraph then proceeds to list crown prince Sheikh Muhammad's full brothers and closest allies, detailing their various portfolios and appointments within Abu Dhabi's labyrinthine government and also the federal government of the United Arab Emirates, which is shared with Dubai and five smaller emirates. We learn, for example, that these brothers control foreign affairs, secret intelligence, the chairmanship of Abu Dhabi's second largest sovereign wealth fund – the International Petroleum Investments Company, the directorship of the UAE's presidential office, and the UAE's largest charitable organization – the Red Crescent Society. For readers in the US these sheikhs are now of particular relevance, as they are the most influential half brothers of Sheikh Issa, whose graphic and disturbing torture tapes were broadcast on ABC News and CNN earlier in 2009. Crucially, copies of these tapes were supplied to the crown prince and his brothers over a year ago and were also posted on, a site now blocked in the UAE. But Issa was only placed under house arrest in May 2009 when it seemed that the lucrative US-UAE nuclear deal might be derailed as a result of Abu Dhabi's indifference to the rule of law.
Read more about Abu Dhabi: Oil and Beyond at the Columbia University press website.

Visit Christopher M. Davidson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Elijah Wald's "How the Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n' Roll"

Elijah Wald has been a musician since age seven and a writer since the early 1980s. He has published more than a thousand articles, mostly about folk, roots and international music for various magazines and newspapers. He won a Grammy Award for his album notes to The Arhoolie Records 40th Anniversary Box.

Wald's books include Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues, Josh White: Society Blues, Global Minstrels: Voices of World Music, Dave Van Ronk's memoir The Mayor of MacDougal Street, River of Song: Music Along the Mississippi, which accompanied the PBS series of the same name, and Narcocorrido, a survey of the modern Mexican ballads of drug smuggling and social issues.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ’n’ Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music, and reported the following:
As it turns out, the page 99 test hits my book at a perfect point. The previous page deals with the typical jazz critic rap that even the greatest, hottest bands were forced to play some sappy music to please the girls. So page 99 begins:

But something can be true and still be misleading. Male dance band fans studied their heroes with a devotion that seems to have been rare among their female friends (if they had any), and in their reminiscences about the era one constantly comes across variations of the phrase ‘Kids talked big band personalities like they talked baseball players.’ What that means is that a lot of kids knew every trumpeter and drummer by name, but the choice of simile points up the extent to which this knowledge was part of being in the boys’ club. Dance band records were like baseball cards, and their collectors had the same contempt for girls who couldn’t name the Casa Loma Orchestra’s rhythm section that they had for girls who couldn’t name the Dodgers’ infield…. But even such college-boy favorites as Casa Loma were kept alive not by the few fanatical admirers who crowded around the bandstand but by the hundreds of couples swirling in each other’s arms or necking in the corners. And when the swing era brought faster, hotter rhythms to the fore, it was still generally the women who pulled their boyfriends onto the dance floor…

That split between the day-to-day realities of the pop music world, in which female fans have virtually always been the main audience, and the way the music is covered by male critics and historians—many of whom spent their high school years huddled over their bedroom phonographs rather than going out on dates—forms one of the central arguments of my book.

When we get to the Beatles, it is a bit of an oversimplification to say that as long as they were a rock ‘n’ roll band their main audience was screaming teenage girls but when they got arty their audience became largely male and the girls defected to Motown. But, though I try to paint a more complex picture in the book, a lot of women who were teenagers in the mid-to-late 1960s recall that as pretty much what happened.

And by my teen years in the 1970s the split was complete, with the girls dancing to disco and the boys listening to Springsteen or punk rock--while (male, rock-loving) critics created complex arguments to explain how disco was betraying its African-American heritage and the white rockers were the true heirs to Little Richard and Chuck Berry.

Now I have to go check page 99 of my other books….
Read more about How the Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n' Roll at Elijah Wald's website.

--Marshal Zeringue