Monday, October 31, 2011

Lisa A. Keister's "Faith and Money"

Lisa A. Keister is a Professor in the Department of Sociology and Director of the Markets and Management Studies Program at Duke University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Faith and Money: How Religion Contributes to Wealth and Poverty, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Faith and Money represents the book remarkably well.

In this book, I ask: how are religion and personal wealth accumulation related? To answer the question, I analyze several data sets and provide detailed empirical evidence that there is a very strong association among religion, saving, and wealth.

There are two broad reasons that religion and wealth are related. First, religion affects wealth indirectly through its effect on education, marriage, family size, and women’s decisions to work or stay home with their kids. Second, religion affects wealth directly by influencing orientations toward work and money which are evident in approaches taken by people of different faiths toward jobs and careers, saving, giving, and accumulation.

For example, Conservative Protestants tend to have relatively low educations, large families, and traditional family structures (women stay home, men work). Conservative Protestants also tend to believe (and report in my survey data) that money belongs to God, and people are managers of the money. It follows that asking for God’s guidance in making financial decision makes sense. It also follows that accumulating large amounts of personal savings may not be the best use of the money.

Consistent with these patterns, Conservative Protestants are more likely than other groups to accumulate few assets during their lives. For those who do accumulate wealth, Conservative Protestants tend to follow a somewhat traditional wealth accumulation trajectory involving early ownership of cash accounts followed by eventual homeownership. They are unlikely to follow a path that involves early ownership of high-risk financial assets.

Table 99 includes a table that summarizes the wealth accumulation trajectories of Conservative Protestants and the other religious groups that are the focus on the book. The remainder of the book explains why these patterns are so clear.

Naturally, these relationships and processes are much more nuanced than a single table can summarize; there are variations within each religious group, and patterns are constantly changing. However, my results suggest that the relationship between religion and wealth is very strong and underscore the importance of personal beliefs in shaping social and economic inequality.
Learn more about Faith and Money at the Cambridge University Press website, and visit Lisa A. Keister's Duke University webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ken Ballen's "Terrorists in Love"

Kenneth Ballen is President and founder of Terror Free Tomorrow, a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization, which investigates the causes of extremism. Since 2004, Terror Free Tomorrow's research has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, CBS, NBC, and cited by Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, among others. Ballen has spent two decades on the frontlines of law enforcement, international relations, intelligence oversight and congressional investigations. As a federal prosecutor, Ballen successfully convicted international terrorists. He also prosecuted major figures in organized crime, international narcotics, and one of the first cases in the United States involving illegal financing for Middle Eastern terrorists. Ballen served as Counsel to the House Iran-Contra Committee under Chairman Lee Hamilton, where he was a lead investigator questioning witnesses during the nationally televised hearings.

Ballen applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Terrorists in Love: The Real Lives of Islamic Radicals, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Terrorists in Love begins with the following sentence: “Malik waited for a sign from God but had no dreams.”

Malik is a Taliban fighter, former commander of the religious police, and most importantly, seer to the leader of the Taliban, Mullah Omar. He is the Taliban Chief’s “Rasputin,” and he gives us the very first inside account of the elusive Taliban leader, whose fighters the U.S. has now fought against in Afghanistan for ten years. It is America’s longest war, and Terrorists in Love allows us to witness the secret war councils of the Taliban as never before.

After the initial American victory in Afghanistan at the end of 2001, Mullah Omar was devastated by the Taliban's defeat. Paralyzed by inaction, Mullah Omar could not decide what to do, waiting patiently for a "true night dream" from God. It was not until Malik recounted his dream, more than a year after the Taliban fled Afghanistan, which is chronicled starting at Page 99, that Mullah Omar decided to lead the fight against Americans inside Afghanistan.

Like the rest of the book, this scene reveals the hidden world of the Taliban. But Malik and Mullah Omar are not alone. We also witness firsthand the deepest secrets of other Taliban and Al Qaeda radicals, from Ahmad Al-Shayea, an Al Qaeda suicide bomber who survives his attack only to become fiercely pro-American, to Zeddy, who trained terrorists while being paid by America’s ally, the Pakistani Army, and Kamal, heir to the Jihadi throne and fortune. Mystical dreams and visions, the demonic figure of the United States, intense sexual repression, crumbling family and tribal structures, the book chronicles the intimate lives, loves, frustrations, and secrets of “Terrorists in Love.”
Learn more about the book and author at the Terrorists in Love website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 28, 2011

James S. Bielo's "Emerging Evangelicals"

James S. Bielo is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Miami University. His books include Words Upon the Word: an ethnography of Evangelical group Bible study (NYU, 2009) and The Social Life of Scriptures: cross-cultural perspectives on Biblicism (Rutgers, 2009).

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Emerging Evangelicals: Faith, Modernity, and the Desire for Authenticity, and reported the following:
Emerging Evangelicals is a book about religion, social change, and the cultural conditions of contemporary America. The ethnography focuses on Evangelical Protestants who have consumed and enacted knowledge produced by the diffuse, yet pervasive Emerging Church movement. Readers will encounter a range of phenomena: from faith narratives to Evangelical uses of popular culture, linguistic practices and ideologies, worship styles, congregational restructuring, Evangelical engagements with gentrification, debates with conservative Christian factions, senses of place, and more.

Page 99 is the second page of chapter four, which examines an identity claimed by many Emerging Evangelicals: being a new monastic. While there is much in the book that is not glimpsed on page 99, several key points are present. We hear a house church pastor articulate his distaste for mainstream Evangelical politics; unlike Religious Right advocates, Emerging Evangelicals seek alternative ways to impact the public sphere. We see the connection between Evangelical politics, a highly visible expression of faith, and more quotidian matters (in this case, why a house church pastor chose to be a bus driver); in good Evangelical fashion, the front and back stages of life are equally invested with meaning. We see the central value that Emerging Evangelicals debate, a desire for authenticity; this search for authentic spirituality, community, and identity reveals the deeply modernist character of the movement. And, we hear about how the past, in this case early monastic Christianities, becomes a key resource for continuing in a life of faith; the new monasticism, much like other expressions of the Emerging movement, is fueled by an embodied social memory.

My hope is that readers find a vivid, insightful portrait of Emerging Evangelicals, and are prompted to explore how religious change is taking place elsewhere among American Christians, and elsewhere.
Learn more about Emerging Evangelicals at the NYU Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 27, 2011

William G. Thomas's "The Iron Way"

William G. Thomas is professor of history and the John and Catherine Angle Chair in the Humanities at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Iron Way: Railroads, the Civil War, and the Making of Modern America, and reported the following:
On page 99 of The Iron Way, you will find a 3/4 page map of the Shenandoah Valley in 1862. The map features the Virginia Central Railroad and its Blue Ridge Tunnel. This is startlingly appropriate as it turns out. The book explains the rise of railroads in the U.S. in the 1850s and the simultaneous effects they had in the North and the South. The Iron Way considers how the Civil War and the railroads were "twin engines in the development of modern America, operating with independent causes and effects but simultaneously and in relation to one another." It is the story of technology, war, and modern nation making.

Amazingly enough, page 99, through this map, signals the original point of my departure for researching this book. I was one of the co-editors for "The Valley of the Shadow Project" at the University of Virginia. This digital project compares two communities in the coming, fighting, and aftermath of the Civil War--one in the North, one in the South. In the course of that research ten years ago, I was struck by finding repeated references in the U.S. Slaveowners Census to railroad companies employing slaves. In fact, we were studying Augusta County and my initial foray into this question surrounded the Virginia Central Railroad. "Mrs. Rhodes" and "Mrs. Lindsay" each sent two enslaved men to work on the Virginia Central in 1860. One of the wealthiest men in Augusta, C. R. Mason, had 18 enslaved men working on an "unnamed R.R." that same year in the mountains of Allegheny County.

I wanted to know more about railroads in the South and their ownership of slaves, and I started by investigating the building of the Virginia Central and the Blue Ridge Tunnel using the records of Virginia Board of Public Works in the Library of Virginia. The Blue Ridge Tunnel became symbolic for me of the South's 1850s push to enhance its slavery-based society with railroads. The tunnel was built by slave laborers working on one side of the mountain and Irish laborers on the other. Gradually, the chief engineer, Claudius Crozet, dispensed with Irish labor and turned exclusively to slave labor wherever possible. At the time of its completion, the Blue Ridge Tunnel was the longest in the United States and an engineering achievement of great consequence. The white South gained confidence in the 1850s from these public works, as the region laid thousands of miles of railroad track with slave labor and broke through the mountain barriers, uniting cities and states for the first time. Although abandoned, and difficult to find today, the Blue Ridge Tunnel marked at the center of the map on page 99 stands in many ways at the center of the book and I think it figures prominently in the story of Confederate nation-making.

This map also hints at the methods of analysis I used for some of the book's main arguments--Geographic Information Systems (GIS). I wanted to recreate the year-by-year building of the rail network and worked with the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities at the University of Nebraska and with my collaborator at the University of Portsmouth Department of Geography, Richard Healey. We tried to build a network GIS of the growth of the railroads over the period 1840 to 1861, and our historical GIS includes depots and line segments for the entire South and large parts of the North. Although the map on page 99 does not show the depots, it does show the principal junctions. Figuring out where all of the junctions, depots, and end points of railroad building exactly where at any point in time proved especially difficult. This map hides much of that painful process. But the map on page 99 indicates how central mapping is to the analysis behind the book.

Finally, I think page 99 encompasses some of the main themes of the book--that railroads were symbolic technologies for Americans, that the period was one of massive technological transformation, that the South, in particular, heavily participated in adopting these new technologies, and that the Civil War unfolded on and around the "second nature" system of rail and telegraph. In 1861 the geography of rail became almost overnight the geography of war. Although the focus of page 99 is Stonewall Jackson's 1862 Valley Campaign, northern commanders eventually came to understand that to defeat the South they would need to master its nature, to dominate, control, and comprehend its landscapes, its systems, its networks, and its people. They would need to capture the Blue Ridge Tunnel, the Virginia Central Railroad, and the whole "nervous system" of the Confederacy's modern infrastructure--what I call its "second nature" borrowing the term from William Cronon. In this way the Civil War was a modern conflict, one between contending nation states, one structured around symbolic technologies, one in which both sides exuded confidence, and one with important ideas at stake. Slavery's apparent adaptability to modern institutions and technologies, such as the railroads, suggested that it would not die out naturally, gradually, or non-violently.
Learn more about The Iron Way at the Yale University Press website and the Railroads and the Making of Modern America website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Joseph A. McCartin's "Collision Course"

Joseph A. McCartin is Associate Professor of History at Georgetown University and Director of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor. His books include Labor's Great War: The Struggle for Industrial Democracy and the Origins of Modern American Labor Relations, which won the 1999 Philip Taft Prize for best book in American labor history.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike that Changed America, and reported the following:
From Page 99:
PATCO leaders felt betrayed. Some returning controllers were threatened with indictment and firing unless they signed statements admitting their culpability. More than 150 ended up claiming their Fifth Amendment rights when asked whether they had been aware of plans for a concerted job action. Outraged at the pressure controllers were receiving from their managers, PATCO leaders threatened to bring air traffic ‘to a stop’ on Monday June 23 if the government did not cease such harassment. The FAA was ‘sitting on a time bomb and this thing might go off at any moment,’ Rock warned.
This passage from Collision Course brings out one of the main themes of the book: the historic 1981 conflict between President Ronald Reagan and the members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) that did so much to change American labor relations and politics was in the making for more than a decade. The passage describes what happened after PATCO leaders called off a “sickout” staged in 1969 by several thousand PATCO members, air traffic controllers employed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The controllers had called in sick en masse to protest the FAA’s failure to honor promises it had made to them a year earlier. The onset of the job action, like much of this book’s narrative, was surprising and unusual: controllers called in sick after hearing a code phrase uttered by their legal adviser, the famous trial lawyer F. Lee Bailey, during an appearance on the “Tonight Show,” the late night television talk show hosted by Johnny Carson, who then served as an honorary member of the PATCO board of directors. The sickout was called off after the FAA promised there would be no reprisals. Yet, as the passage suggests, reprisals came nonetheless.

Collision Course tells the fascinating story of air traffic controllers like Mike Rock (mentioned in the passage) who built a union in the federal service against great odds in the 1960s. It shows how their relationship with their government employer deteriorated over time. It recounts how they forged an unlikely alliance with presidential candidate Ronald Reagan in 1980, in hopes that he would help them win long-sought goals, including higher salaries and reduced workplace stress. It explains how miscalculations by both the Reagan administration and the controllers led to the historic strike of 1981, which Reagan dramatically broke by firing the strikers. And it describes how this momentous conflict changed the course of American labor relations and politics. Through the story of the air traffic controllers and Reagan, the book in turn gives us a sobering glimpse into what has happened to working-class America, the labor movement, and our nation’s politics over the last half-century.
Learn more about the book and author at Joseph McCartin's Collision Course blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

David Welky's "The Thousand-Year Flood"

David Welky was born and raised in St. Louis, the consummate Midwestern river town. He received a BA in history from Truman State University in Missouri and a MA and PhD, both in history, from Purdue University. He has written widely on American culture and society in the interwar era and is the author of Everything Was Better in America: Print Culture in the Great Depression and The Moguls and the Dictators: Hollywood and the Coming of World War II. He is currently associate professor of history at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Arkansas.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Thousand-Year Flood: The Ohio-Mississippi Disaster of 1937, and reported the following:
The Thousand-Year Flood traces a largely forgotten disaster that rocked the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys in 1937. That Depression-era crisis—the greatest river flood in American history—killed hundreds, affected thousands of towns, and sent a million Americans running for their lives. It also exposed class and racial divisions throughout the region while changing the course of the New Deal. The flood’s aftereffects resonate throughout the area to this day.

I had two main goals in writing The Thousand-Year Flood. First, I wanted humanize a massive catastrophe by taking readers inside various locations along the flood’s path. Each affected city had its own unique story, and I hoped to share their tales of heroism and cowardice, fortitude and greed.

Second, I felt that to truly understand the flood, and the responses to it, I needed to situate the crisis within a long-term perspective. Decisions made as far back as the 1700s laid the foundations for the horrors of January 1937. Only by starting at the beginning can we understand why people settled in such dangerous locations and why no one had provided adequate flood protection in the two hundred years since Americans began building towns along the river.

The Thousand-Year Flood is a cautionary tale about how past failures can haunt us. It sounds a warning that man must learn to live with nature rather than ignore it or try to dominate it.

By a stroke of luck, page 99 touches on both of my goals. It takes place in Shawneetown, Illinois, a small community established on a floodplain in the early 1800s with support from the federal government, which wanted to exploit nearby saline springs. In 1937 the Ohio River put Shawneetown under twenty feet of water. The page opens with Cap Lambert ferrying residents to safety as the waters rise:
Lambert…was amused one night when he discovered a goat splashing alongside the Margaret J. The captain hauled the goat up by its horns. With temperatures hovering just above zero, its coat almost instantly froze into solid ice. Lambert brought the unfortunate beast into the engine room and pushed it near the stove to thaw it out. He kept his new friend on board two or three days before depositing it on high ground. One observer swore the goat offered a bleat of thanks as it stepped off the gangplank….

Almost everyone was gone. A few dozen people huddled in the upper stories of the Riverside Hotel, the third floor of the bank, and a handful of private homes. They knew a repeat of the 1898 levee collapse would wipe the town off the map, to say nothing of the buildings sheltering them. Without any public discussion, without taking any votes, the town’s elite decided to dynamite the wall and let the water ease in.
This moment of decision connects 1937 to several local and national narratives: misguided settlement patterns, a refusal to accommodate the river, the nature of Shawneetown’s class system. Once again, the past has defined the present.

To find out what happened to Shawneetown and other imperiled communities…well, you’ll just have to go on to page 100.
Learn more about The Thousand-Year Flood at the the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 24, 2011

Teofilo F. Ruiz's "The Terror of History"

Teofilo F. Ruiz is Distinguished Professor of History and of Spanish and Portuguese at UCLA. His many books include Spain's Centuries of Crisis and From Heaven to Earth. In 2007, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and selected as one of UCLA's Distinguished Teachers.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Terror of History: On the Uncertainties of Life in Western Civilization, and reported the following:
Page 99 explores the relationship between pleasure and culture. How we react to, and deal with, catastrophes is deeply imbedded in class distinctions, economic well being, and education. Nonetheless, we live in permanent tension between rational individualism (the Nietzschean Apollonian ideal and the source of culture in Classical Greece) and our yearnings for community and the transcendental obliteration of the self through pleasure.

On the book: The Terror of History reflects on Western humanity's efforts to escape from history and its terrors. I explore the embracing of religious experiences, the pursuit of worldly success and pleasure, and the quest for beauty and knowledge as the three primary individual and collective responses to the nightmares of history and the oppression of time. The book is a reflection, a meditation, on how men and women in Western society sought (and still seek) to make meaning of the world and its disturbing history. Chapter one attempts to explain what I mean by the Terror of History, while chapter two examines orthodox and heterodox forms of spirituality, apocalyptic movements, and other supernatural beliefs as the means to deal with the burdens of history and the passing of time. Chapter three looks at the pleasures of the flesh or of material possessions as a way to escape history and time, while chapter four explores the manner in which cultural production, writing itself, is a form of exorcizing or coping with our frightening history.
Learn more about The Terror of History at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 23, 2011

William Ian Miller's "Losing It"

William Ian Miller is Thomas G. Long Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School. His books include The Anatomy of Disgust, which was named 1997 best book in anthropology/sociology by the Association of American Publishers.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Losing It, in which an aging professor laments his shrinking brain, which he flatters himself formerly did him noble service: a plaint, tragic-comical, historical, vengeful, sometimes satirical and thankful in six parts, if his memory does yet serve, and reported the following:
Were I to have read p. 99 of Ford Madox Ford’s great Parade’s End without the first 98 pages in my head I would never have gone to page 1 to start, and I would have been poorer for not having read it. But you know what he means, don’t you? Given my confusing numbers, wandering mind, or not seeing as clearly as I once did, I mistook the request to contribute to this blog as a p. 69 rule. That page in Losing It has some nice stuff: how “wise” and “wisdom” were just as likely to describe the skill it took to pierce a Viking through the neck, as to give tedious advice in the style of Polonius.

But p. 99 has its points too. This part of book deals with complaining, its various styles, from whines to laments. Specifically, p. 99 deals with moaning and groaning. An old dying saint complains about the pain he is in. He wishes he had died younger as a martyr, a much nobler death, than the death by dysentery which is taking months to finish him off. He complains that God promised him martyrdom and He has reneged, thus turning his lack of saintly stoicism in the face of this kind of death into something to blame God for. The good saint, Anskar is his name, could have easily assured himself a martyr’s crown when young, because his mission was to proselytize pagan Vikings and Slavs, who were not loathe to making martyrs of such types as he; but Anskar apparently was too likeable to get himself whacked. I must confess the paragraph to follow starts on p. 98 and hobbles over to 99:
Anskar’s complaint about not having died a martyr is a double complaint. It can be taken at face value as sincerely meant. At some level of his consciousness, he wanted a martyr’s crown. But lamenting his failure to get killed by pagan Swedes or Slavs is also very much a complaint about his present physical discomfort: “Oh God, why couldn’t I have been killed in an honorable way, dying a holy martyr, over in an hour at most, instead of this drawn-out illness with its piercing pain and degrading lack of bowel control? Let me die already, I can’t take it anymore.” Without wishing to impugn the sincerity of his faith and his commitment to laboring ably and tirelessly for his church, a desire to have been a martyr is not the same as a desire to be a martyr; a desire to have died young cannot meaningfully be acted upon, unless you can travel backwards in time.
My Uncle Louie used to have a mantra, 99, 99, 99, which was meant to get him alive to that age. He only got to p. 79 of his life. I am at p. 65, and the page does not warrant turning over too many more, unless the story gets better fast.
Learn more about Losing It at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Robert H. Frank's "The Darwin Economy"

Robert H. Frank is an economics professor at Cornell's Johnson Graduate School of Management and a regular "Economic View" columnist for the New York Times, and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos. His books, which have been translated into 22 languages, include The Winner-Take-All Society (with Philip Cook), The Economic Naturalist, Luxury Fever, What Price the Moral High Ground?, and Principles of Economics (with Ben Bernanke).

Frank applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Darwin Economy is the last page of chapter 6 and has only a few lines of text. So rather than cherry-pick some other page to write about, what follows is a brief description of one of the main ideas in the book.

Conservatives cite Adam Smith’s invisible hand theory, which says that unregulated markets channel self-interest for the common good. We could all do better, they say, if we pushed government aside and let markets work their magic. Liberals counter that markets aren’t truly competitive. We need extensive regulation, they insist, to prevent exploitation by powerful elites.

Here the impulse to assume that the truth lies somewhere in between is misguided. Markets are far more competitive than ever, just as conservatives claim, but they’re also dramatically more wasteful.

That’s because market failure stems not from any shortfall of competition, but from the very logic of competition itself. As the pioneering naturalist Charles Darwin saw clearly, individual and group interests sometimes coincide, as in Smith’s framework. But often they diverge sharply, and in those cases, competition not only fails to promote the common good, it actively undermines it.

Consider the massive antlers of bull elk—which often span four feet and weigh more than 40 pounds. Bull elk, like most vertebrate males, take more than one mate if they can. But if some succeed, others are left with none, making them the ultimate losers in the Darwinian tournament. So bulls fought bitterly for females, and because relative antler size was often decisive, an arms race in antlers ensued. Bulls as a group would fare better if their antlers were all smaller by half, since the outcome of each fight would be the same, and the added mobility would help them evade predators. Yet any individual with relatively small antlers wouldn’t win a mate.

Similar conflicts spawn wasteful arms races in the marketplace. If you’re one of several qualified applicants seeking the same investment-banking job, you want to look good during your interview. But looking good is a relative concept. If others wear $500 suits, you’ll be more likely to get a callback if you wear one costing $2,000.

These incentives create a wasteful arms race, because job applicants are no more likely to get the positions they seek when all spend more. But from each individual’s perspective, that’s no reason to regret having bought the more expensive suit.

As Darwin understood, non-human animals could do little to discourage such wasteful behavior. But humans have better options. Simple, unintrusive steps could liberate literally trillions of dollars of additional resources each year. All citizens could pursue their own visions of the good life more fully with no need for painful sacrifices from anyone. These claims evoke the alchemist’s promise to turn lead into gold. But as I explain in The Darwin Economy, they rest on sound logic and compelling evidence.
Learn more about the book and author at Robert H. Frank's website.

Writers Read: Robert H. Frank (July 2007).

Writers Read: Robert H. Frank (October 2011).

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 21, 2011

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst's "Becoming Dickens"

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst is Fellow and Tutor in English, Magdalen College, Oxford.

His media work includes writing arts features and reviews for the Daily Telegraph, contributing to UK and US radio and television programs, and acting as the historical advisor on recent BBC adaptations of Jane Eyre (2006) and Emma (2009).

Douglas-Fairhurst applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist, and reported the following:
I was intrigued – as well as relieved – to see that page 99 of Becoming Dickens is like a miniature of the book as a whole, which looks at how differently Dickens’s life could have ended up, and how obsessed he was with “what might have been, and what was not” (Dombey and Son). The page begins with Dickens’s memory of how he once had the ambition of being a professional actor. He was ill on the day of the audition and, he told his friend John Forster, “ never resumed the idea … See how near I may have been to another sort of life”. However, Dickens didn’t give up acting altogether; page 99 goes on to quote his daughter’s recollection of how he wrote his novels:
…. my father wrote busily and rapidly at his desk, when he suddenly jumped up from his chair and rushed to a mirror which hung near, and in which I could see the reflection of some extraordinary facial contortions which he was making. He returned rapidly to his desk, wrote furiously for a few moments, and then went again to the mirror. The facial pantomime was resumed, and then turning toward, but evidently not seeing, me, he began talking rapidly in a low voice.
Seen in this way, Dickens didn’t so much reject acting as absorb it into his daily routine. Perhaps that’s why he enjoyed calling himself ‘The Inimitable’. He was the man of a thousand voices, a thousand faces, and for him the blank page was a funfair mirror in which every grimace and snarl could be captured for posterity. To borrow the advertising slogan used by Victorian photographers, each sheet of paper was a ‘mirror with a memory’.
Read more about Becoming Dickens at the Harvard University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: Becoming Dickens.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Steven Nadler's "A Book Forged in Hell"

Steven Nadler is the William H. Hay II Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include Rembrandt's Jews, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Spinoza: A Life, which won the Koret Jewish Book Award; and The Best of All Possible Worlds: A Story of Philosophers, God, and Evil in the Age of Reason.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza's Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age, and reported the following:
A Book Forged in Hell is about the Theological-Political Treatise (published in Amsterdam in 1670) by the seventeenth-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677). The Treatise was, without question, regarded by Spinoza's contemporaries all across Europe as the most dangerous book ever published. They perceived it to be full of godless atheism and licentious immorality and bound to corrupt citizens of all ages; theologians, academics, civic leaders, and fellow philosophers (even those of a liberal persuasion) were all lined up against a work that one religious critic called "a book forged in hell by the devil himself." On p. 99, we are right in the middle of Spinoza's discussion of miracles. In the minds of his critics, this was one of the most incendiary parts of the book. Spinoza denied that miracles are possible. According to his metaphysics, there is no God that transcends nature—all there is is nature and whatever is within nature. There is no divine being able to step in and suspend nature's operations for some providential purpose. Therefore, whatever happens in nature is necessitated by nature's own laws, and there can be no exceptions to these laws. The belief in miracles, Spinoza argues, is grounded in ignorance, not piety. It is generated by a lack of understanding of what nature is and what God is, along with the irrational emotions of hope and fear. On p. 99, I discuss how according to Spinoza one does not even have to accept his own idiosyncratic philosophical conception of "God" (as Nature) to see that the traditional religious view of miracles is mere superstition. Spinoza implies that even someone who believes in a providential God should see that the wisdom and power of such a God is best expressed in the ordinary operations of the nature that He has created.
Learn more about A Book Forged in Hell at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Steven Nadler's The Best of All Possible Worlds.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Denise Gigante's "The Keats Brothers: The Life of John and George"

Denise Gigante is Professor of English at Stanford University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Keats Brothers: The Life of John and George, and reported the following:
Autumn, 1817.

The early life of the Keats brothers: three orphans, living in London.

Their mother, Frances Keats, dead of consumption (tuberculosis), having never recovered from the tragic accident that took their father—

Thomas Keats, thrown from his horse, headfirst against cobblestones.

Tom, the youngest brother, is an artistic soul dying of consumption at the unripe age of seventeen.

George, the middle brother, is twenty and unemployed. He thinks more highly of himself than anyone will later on, after his own death from consumption.

John is still an unknown poet. At twenty-two, he has been badly bruised, but he is aware of strange powers that he is determined to use. He is racing to finish his first epic poem, Endymion, before the end of the year. Unconsciously, he is aware that the family killer is stalking; he will die in three years, of consumption.

Page 99:
The noble natures that John had once admired had shown the weakness that adheres to all flesh. The world now seemed to contain ‘no quiet nothing but teasing and snubbing and vexation.’ He concluded his address to the melancholy English Muse with a humble confession: ‘I move to the end in lowliness of heart.’ Without inspiration or hope, he was limping, doggedly, to the end.

By November 18, Tom’s eighteenth birthday, Portugal had come to seem impractical. The cold weather had arrived, and with it danger to Tom’s chance of survival. In the medical wisdom of the day, different ‘airs’ were thought to have different effects on the body. Charles Brown later summed up the situation facing the brothers when he said that Tom’s ‘ill state of health required a mild air.’ Sea air was supposed to be more temperate than inland air, and Rice, Reynolds, and Bailey had all spoken highly of Devonshire. Winters there were supposed to be warmer than elsewhere in England, and Teignmouth, sheltered by bluffs from the east wind that blew down the English Channel, was said to be particularly mild. One local guide praised ‘the life-giving and altogether unrivalled climate’ of the town at the mouth of the Teign, which it boasted was ‘visited by the most genial airs only’.

Winter would be too chilly for Tom to take advantage of any of the sixteen bathing machines in operation at Teignmouth in 1817, but the town also had steam-driven indoor baths. Baths, like airs, were specialized provinces of medical knowledge. Dr. William Turton, a physician at Teignmouth, a specialist in consumption, and a connoisseur of the subtle element, was also a specialist in baths. In A Treatise on Cold and Hot Baths: With Directions for Their Application in Various Diseases (1803), Turton had written: ‘General directions for bathing to the invalid it is impossible to give, as they must be governed by a multitude of circumstances which can only be appreciated by a careful examination of existing appearances, and a knowledge of the causes of previous indisposition.” If Dr. Turton knew as much about airs as he did about baths, perhaps he was the right doctor for Tom.

A few days after Tom’s birthday on November 18, 1817, therefore, John left Tom in the care of George and got off the stagecoach at Dorking, a small coaching town nestled between the Greensand Hills and the North [p. 100] Downs on the old Roman road that ran southwest from London. John still had five hundred more lines of verse to go before reaching a goal that had once been a ‘great end’ but that had since become an uninspired, snail-paced journey, made in lowliness of heart.
Learn more about The Keats Brothers at the Harvard University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: The Keats Brothers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Jean-Vincent Blanchard's "Éminence: Cardinal Richelieu and the Rise of France"

Jean-Vincent Blanchard is Associate Professor of French Studies at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania. Born in Canada and raised in Europe, he earned his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1997. He is a specialist on pre-revolutionary France, with particular emphasis on the seventeenth century, and has published on a broad range of subjects in politics, history, religion, philosophy, and the arts.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to Éminence: Cardinal Richelieu and the Rise of France, his first book in English, and reported the following:
As I opened Éminence on page 99, I was reminded of the hardest challenge of writing this biography: how to weave the many threads of Cardinal Richelieu’s wildly eventful life—politics, military history, court intrigues, and personal life—to produce a good narrative of how he laid the foundations of France as we know it today, and emerged as the legend that inspired Dumas’s The Three Musketeers.

The following passage comes from a very important chapter in Richelieu’s story: the siege of La Rochelle, an Atlantic port that Richelieu viewed as too politically independent. At La Rochelle, the cardinal showed that he was a daring man of resources. He built a colossal bulwark across the Bay of La Rochelle to isolate the city and prevent an English rescue. France’s enemies took this opportunity to make a few moves of their own. Spanish minister Olivares laid claim to the Italian Duchy of Mantua, in spite of French duke Charles de Nevers’ own rights over the strategic territory.

Adding to the narrator’s burden at this point are the shenanigans of the French royal family. King Louis XIII was depressed and had decided to go hunting in the north. Gaston d’Orléans, the king’s brother and sole heir to the throne, then proved again that he was a perennial troublemaker:
In the months following the death of his wife, while he assiduously patronized those dubious Parisian hangouts “where one very much fears the police chief,” Gaston did not neglect the salons of the aristocracy. Perhaps at the Hôtel de Rambouillet, a woman caught his eye: Marie Louise de Gonzague, who was none other than the daughter of Charles de Nevers. After an intense courtship, Gaston figured he was destined to wed Marie. Her father, of course, viewed this as a positive development at a time when he needed help to secure his hold on Mantua. But given the burden of sustaining La Rochelle’s siege, a prospect made notably longer by the king’s absence, Richelieu could only express sympathy to the duke while skirting any promise of an military intervention in Italy. As far as Gaston’s marriage project was concerned, both Louis and Richelieu would have none of it. The 1626 Conspiracy of the Dames had amply proven the highly sensitive nature of matrimonial alliances. The heir to the French throne was kindly asked not to think of getting married for the moment.

With the king out of sight, and with mounting problems in Italy, Richelieu realized that he had to speed up the siege.
What follows is a scene where Richelieu’s dons his finest armor and decides to mount a direct attack of La Rochelle.

Eventually, Richelieu succeeded in taking La Rochelle, and then he quickly went on to challenge Olivares in Italy. Historians view these decisive actions as milestones in how Richelieu made France a prominent European power.

Inserting a secondary story into a general narrative line might seem like an easy task. But after writing Éminence, I can assure you that doing it at the right time, and with effective transitions, is much harder than it appears!
Learn more about Éminence at the publisher's website and the book's Facebook page.

Writers Read: Jean-Vincent Blanchard.

My Book, The Movie: Éminence.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mark D. Steinberg's "Petersburg Fin de Siècle"

Mark Steinberg is professor of history at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and editor of the journal Slavic Review. He is the author of The Fall of the Romanovs and Voices of Revolution, 1917, both published by Yale University Press, and of Proletarian Imagination: Self, Modernity, and the Sacred in Russia, 1910–1925.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Petersburg Fin de Siècle, and reported the following:
A page beginning with the words “knife cuts” and ending with talk of street “performance” might not seem a typical or even serious way to write about the years of turmoil and consequence in Russia between the 1905 and 1917 revolutions. The stories between these words might seem more like curious and sensational asides: a worker who pretends to the police to have been mugged so that he can steal money he was delivering for his boss, an elderly former teacher who offers free lessons to an unemployed youth she meets in church who then goes to her home and smashes in her skull with a heavy cobblestone to rob her, a war refugee who swallows poison on a crowded street and then steals from the kind stranger who took her home to nurse her. But perhaps these stories are more telling of the historical meaning of that place and time than more conventional accounts of leaders and big events. Such stories, everyday stories obsessively reported in the daily papers (my main source in this book), seemed to speak of matters of great historical and even philosophical significance: evidence of ubiquitous deception and falseness in modern life; of the painful loss of certainty about what is true and real, of the whole of the modern age as an illusion of progress—all arguments made at the time by ordinary observers. Stories like this, along with others in the book about, for example, decadence and a growing crisis in the public mood or about “epidemics” of violence and suicide, spoke of “disenchantment” (a very common term in the Russian press then) with the promise that modern civilization and progress would bring greater happiness. That a socialist revolution ended these years reflected this disappointment. But the results of the revolution would also come to prove the truth of such doubts. Of course, the realization that progress is often an illusion, that modernization leaves so many ruins in its wake, is not only a Russian story.
Learn more about Petersburg Fin de Siècle at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Michael Bowen's "The Roots of Modern Conservatism"

Mike Bowen received his Ph.D. in American History in 2006 from the University of Florida under the direction of Brian Ward. He is currently a visiting assistant professor at Westminster College and previously served as assistant director of the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida. He specializes in political and cultural history.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Roots of Modern Conservatism: Dewey, Taft, and the Battle for the Soul of the Republican Party, and reported the following:
As the subtitle indicates, The Roots of Modern Conservatism tells the story of two powerful politicians vying to lead the Republican Party with each hoping to steer the GOP in opposite directions. Page 99 of the book passes Ford Madox Ford’s famous test and, in many ways, encapsulates the entire work.

Page 99 begins at the end of one of the critical vignettes in the book, New York Governor and two-time presidential candidate Thomas Dewey’s much-publicized 1950 lecture series at Princeton University, and ends with the start of the Republican National Committee’s congressional campaign from the same year. Ohio Senator Robert A. Taft, two-term Senator from Ohio and Dewey’s chief rival, had controlled the RNC through a surrogate since Dewey’s loss in the 1948 presidential election. In the scope of that one page, the reader can see the stark contrast the factions presented during this crucial, yet under-studied, election year.

Dewey’s four talks at Princeton were his most forceful defense of what he termed “liberal Republicanism,” a philosophy that accepted certain tenets of the Democratic program, strove to make the GOP more inclusive, and plotted a moderate course between New Deal liberalism and the free-market conservatism Taft advocated. Though he had lost the 1944 and 1948 elections, Dewey believed that voters had rejected the party’s traditional pro-business agenda. He thought that a conservative platform would alienate voters and his Princeton lectures were part of a concerted effort to rebrand the GOP as a centrist organization.

Meanwhile, New Jersey businessman Guy Gabrielson chaired the RNC and had drafted a conservative platform that attacked Democrats for the “loss” of China and general fiscal malfeasance. Taft and his associates believed that only a campaign illustrating the differences between New Deal liberalism and traditionalist Republican policies would woo voters.

The Roots of Modern Conservatism tells the story of this political chess match from both sides and, in just over a decade, the cracks in party unity from 1950 would grow into a deep, insurmountable chasm. Though Dewey and his moderate views carried the day in the short-term through Dwight D. Eisenhower’s term, Taft’s brand of conservatism evolved after his death and inspired a new generation of right-wing politicos to capture the nomination for Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater in 1964. The conservatives haven't looked back.
Learn more about The Roots of Modern Conservatism at the University of North Carolina Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Richard Noll's "American Madness"

Richard Noll is Associate Professor of Psychology at DeSales University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, American Madness: The Rise and Fall of Dementia Praecox, and reported the following:
From Page 99:
Two things immediately strike the reader of Noble’s paper. The first is that he does not regard the fact as troubling that he is finding more dementia praecox at his institution than Kraepelin is finding at his. He believes he understands Kraepelin’s diagnostic concepts and that he and his medical staff are applying them correctly. Exactly how they are doing this is left unsaid. Noble instead alludes to possible demographic differences between Heidelberg and Middletown. Second, he is equally untroubled by the fact that, prior to introducing Kraepelin’s classification into Middletown, the diagnoses of mania and melancholia made up 50 percent (and often more) of the admissions. Dementia praecox and periodical insanity (later manic-depressive illness) simply took their place in the statistical tables of that asylum. Half of the madness in an asylum could be accounted for by either of two terms. Where Kraepelin’s terms seemed to have an advantage— perhaps the only advantage over the older terms— is that they implied something about prognosis.

This had two advantages to American alienists toiling away in asylums, one humane and one inhumane. First, both patients and their family members could be told something about the future. Would the patient get better? A diagnosis of manic- depressive insanity would give qualified hope. Second, and this is the shadow that dementia praecox would cast over the next century, Kraepelin’s dire prognosis for as much as a quarter to a half of the institutionalized insane rationalized their nontreatment, mistreatment, and failure to improve. From the political perspective of asylum management, dementia praecox could be a useful construct.
Much to my amusement, the Page 99 Test worked! The two paragraphs on page 99 were fractals of themes reiterated throughout the entire book: the arbitrary and unreliable application of diagnostic concepts for inexplicable, incurable madness, which seem to wax and wane depending on who applied them and where they were being applied; and the dual medical and bureacratic nature of diagnosis, which in the case of dementia praecox meant that a presumedly incurable mental disease could be invoked to justify the progressive deterioration and neglect of patients in asylums and state hospitals. But suppose dementia praecox simply didn't exist? These are the issues I raise in my book.
Learn more about American Madness at the Harvard University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 14, 2011

Philip Kitcher's "The Ethical Project"

Philip Kitcher is the John Dewey Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Ethical Project, and reported the following:
The Ethical Project attempts to offer a novel understanding of ethics, one that questions the idea of ethical expertise and proposes that ethics is something people have worked out, and continue to work out, together. The book begins with a history of how we could have come to the ethical practices we have, uses that history to consider the possibility of ethical progress, and concludes by reflecting on how we might go on from where we are. Because many different sorts of discussions are involved, no page, not even page 99, can be typical.

Page 99 discusses an important moment in our ethical history. Our remote hominid ancestors lived like contemporary chimpanzees, in small groups mixed by age and sex. To do that required a capacity for identifying and responding to the needs and goals of others. But, as our evolutionary cousins show us so clearly, that capacity was limited. The result was trouble. The social fabric was constantly ripped by anti-social actions, and time-consuming efforts at peacemaking were required to mend it.

Human beings transcended that dismal condition by acquiring a capacity to give themselves rules and to be able (sometimes) to control their behavior according to those rules. Page 99 is focused on the social shaping of this capacity, on the ways our ancestors, the ethical pioneers, worked out the answers to their conflicts together. Limited altruism made us social. If we had not escaped from the limitations, human life as we know it would be impossible. Conversations about the rules for our conduct were part of a social technology for liberating us from the dismal predicament of breaking up and making up.

That was just the start. After page 99, it’s important to understand how we got from conversations in a small group to the ethical complications of today, how some (but not necessarily many) of the steps we took made ethical progress, and how, if we put our minds to it, we might take further progressive steps. That’s quite a lot to do – which is why there are 300+ more pages.
Read more about The Ethical Project at the Harvard University Press website.

The Page 69 Test: Philip Kitcher's Living With Darwin.

Writers Read: Philip Kitcher.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dava Sobel's "A More Perfect Heaven"

Dava Sobel is the bestselling author of Longitude, Galileo’s Daughter, and The Planets, coauthor of The Illustrated Longitude, and editor of Letters to Father. She lives in East Hampton, New York.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos, and reported the following:
Before I knew that Ford Madox Ford endorsed this method for judging a book by its inside, I came up with my own version of the technique: I open a potential next book at three random places, start to read, and see whether the style and content pull me in. It never fails me. But until now I had never tried it on one of my own books.

Page 99 of A More Perfect Heaven landed me in Act One, scene 3 of the play-within-the-book, called "And the Sun Stood Still." Since the book started out as a stand-alone play to explore the events that made Copernicus publish his crazy idea, this page indeed reveals the whole.

The two characters arguing with each other on page 99, Copernicus and Rheticus, are the real historical figures who introduced a shocking new cosmic order to an unreceptive public in the mid-sixteenth century. The rest of the play imagines the lost content of their actual collaboration. The rest of the book -- the non-fiction narrative that surrounds the play -- tells the story of Copernicus's life, the genesis of his ideas, and the impact of his seminal book down to the present day.

The page-99 dialogue includes mention of Wittenberg, the German city where Rheticus taught mathematics at Martin Luther's own university. Rheticus's faith made his presence illegal in Copernicus's part of Catholic Poland, where the angry bishop had banned all Lutherans from the diocese. This is why Copernicus, having only just allowed Rheticus in, is already desperate to get rid of him.

A stage direction notes that when Copernicus opens the door to send Rheticus away, "daylight floods the room." This is the true Sun's cameo appearance, which causes Copernicus to hide Rheticus till dark, rather than expose him to the risk of arrest. Events of that day compel Copernicus to keep his unexpected visitor in residence, regardless of the consequences.

Another telling word on page 99 is "Heaven," uttered as part of an expletive ("Oh, for Heaven's sake!"), but summoning all the astronomy, astrology, and theology that collided when Copernicus made the Earth move.
Learn more about the book and author at Dava Sobel's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Peter Van Buren's "We Meant Well"

Peter Van Buren has served with the Foreign Service for over 23 years. He received a Meritorious Honor Award for assistance to Americans following the Hanshin earthquake in Kobe, a Superior Honor Award for helping an American rape victim in Japan, and another award for work in the tsunami relief efforts in Thailand. Previous assignments include Taiwan, Japan, Korea, the UK and Hong Kong. He volunteered for Iraq service and was assigned to ePRT duty 2009-10. His tour extended past the withdrawal of the last combat troops.

He applied “Page 99 Test” to his new book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, and reported the following:
Ford Madox Ford said "Open a book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you."

The guy had a point. Page 99 of my book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, is typical of what you’ll find on the other 287 pages. My writing hopes to evoke the scrappy, profane, lonely atmosphere of being assigned to a forward operating base in war-torn Iraq, and page 99 speaks to that. Haircuts were a requirement of military life, and the loneliness of being out in the desert, far from home, was expressed by the soldiers’ desire to believe that maybe, somehow, there might be some relief. My book is not for children, or people who prefer to pretend soldiers don’t curse, or miss home in all its forms, and that shows through on page 99 as well. Page 99 also shows that the book is funny, not hah hah funny, but maybe (in places) Catch-22 funny.

By the way, if you have never read Catch-22, go read that first. It’s better than my book.

Page 99 is a good page, and is reproduced in its entirety below for you to judge for yourself. More excerpts from the book are online at my blog:
The Iraqi barber on Forward Operating Base Falcon, like his barber brothers from Sri Lanka at other bases, had a vocabulary of about six English words, all synonyms for short. He favored the phrase too easy, meaning something you requested would be easy to deliver. “Can you cut my hair short?” “Too easy.” “Can you cut my hair quickly?” “Too easy.” Haircuts with this guy were indeed too easy because he seemed to deliver a shorter version of whatever your hair looked like, no matter what you asked for. It took only a few minutes given this efficient system, so this was the place to go when you were in a hurry. He also gave the closest shaves, scraping away with a single- edged razor blade he pinched between two fingers. Let a guy whose language you did not speak shave around your lips and up your neck with a single- edged piece of steel and you need never again prove your courage in any way.

At Forward Operating Base Hammer the Iraqi- run barbershop was endlessly rumored to be a front for prostitution. The deal was that you waited until the other customers were not listening, then asked the barber for a “special massage.” Having spoken the code, you were led to a back room for paid sexy-time fun. The barbershop operated out of a steel shipping container and so even the stupidest person knew there was no back room, or any room, absent the one you were sitting in. That time after time the barber would answer “no special massage here” just made the rumor more compelling, as not just anyone could order up a girl. The rumor would shift: sometimes it was only officers who could get a girl, or the girls would not service tall soldiers, or they would go only with civilians. But in fact no one could name a single person who ever got anything more than a mediocre haircut. I have no doubt that out there in the desert soldiers even today are convinced that sex is available for sale through that barber. You just want to believe.
(c) Copyright 2011, Peter Van Buren
Learn more about the book and author at the official We Meant Well website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Lloyd J. Dumas's "The Peacekeeping Economy"

Lloyd J. Dumas is Professor of Political Economy, Economics and Public Policy at the University of Texas at Dallas. Dumas has published eight books and over 120 articles in 11 languages in books and journals of 7 different disciplines. He has discussed the policy implications of his work on more than 300 TV and radio programs in the U.S., China, Russia, Canada, Europe, Latin America and the Pacific.

He applied “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Peacekeeping Economy: Using Economic Relationships to Build a More Peaceful, Prosperous, and Secure World, and reported the following:
The idea that military strength is virtually synonymous with security is deeply entrenched and widely held. In the dogged pursuit of security by primarily military means, we have spent many thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. But while the threat or use of military force may sometimes be necessary, it cannot keep us as safe as building relationships that replace hostility with a sense of mutual purpose and mutual gain. The central argument of this book is that economic relationships can offer far more effective means of maintaining security that are also much less costly in blood and treasure.

Having earlier defined the right kind of economic relationship for peacekeeping – one that is balanced and non-exploitative, emphasizes development, and minimizes environmental damage, page 99 is the second page in a key chapter that addresses pragmatic approaches to establishing and maintaining such relationships. The preceding page raises an important question:
If it is true that the four [peacekeeping] principles are really as compatible with market capitalism as I have argued, then it is reasonable to begin this discussion by asking why capitalism hasn’t already created a peacekeeping international economy. The first part of the answer is that much of what is needed to make a peacekeeping economy work is already in place. We do not need an entirely new economic or political system. The principles… are designed as guidelines to help correct some of the most serious conflict-generating tendencies of the present international economic system, while greatly enhancing the positive incentives that system already creates to keep the peace within nations and among them…. The greater part of the answer is that the narrow short-term interest of those who run market enterprises often diverges from what is in the short and long-term interest of the wider society.
Page 99 goes on to say,
This can lead to the adoption of practices that run counter to the peacekeeping principles. For example, establishing unbalanced exploitative economic relationships with suppliers in other countries violates the first principle of a peacekeeping economy. But it serves the short-term interests of the firm by allowing it to pay less for the resources it requires, and thus presumably make a greater short-term profit. The fact that this exploitation might generate hostility that is counterproductive to the security interests of their home country does not necessarily enter into the firm’s decision-making process. In an economist’s terms, it is a “negative externality” --- a side effect of the actions of one party that imposes an unintended cost on another….

…we cannot simply rely on the ordinary, unrestricted operation of the market system to create forces that will ultimately lead to the evolution of a highly effective peacekeeping economy. But neither do we have to unduly interfere with the operation of the forces of self-interest that…
The thought then finishes on page 100:
...propel the market system forward and give it its creativity, flexibility, and vigor. Instead we have to try to create the right context by finding ways to establish and encourage adherence to “rules of the game” that allow for the motivational advantages of self-interested economic activity, while embedding the peacekeeping principles that lead naturally to the development of a full-blown peacekeeping economy.
The remainder of the chapter elaborates on those “ways to establish and encourage adherence to those ‘rules of the game’. And the rest of the book elaborates on the challenges and advantages of the transition to a peacekeeping economic security system.
Learn more about The Peacekeeping Economy at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sylvia Longmire's "Cartel: The Coming Invasion of Mexico’s Drug Wars"

Sylvia Longmire was a Special Agent in the Air Force and a senior intelligence analyst for the state of California. She has been interviewed on Geraldo at Large, CNN and CNN International, BBC World Radio, and her writing is regularly featured in Homeland Security Today magazine. Currently, Longmire is an independent consultant, and testifies as an expert witness on U.S. asylum cases.

She applied “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Cartel: The Coming Invasion of Mexico’s Drug Wars, and reported the following:
My new book Cartel is an overview of why the violence is happening in Mexico, who the cartels are, and most importantly, how the drug war is having an impact on the United States. What many people seem to forget is that millions of innocent Mexican citizens are living in fear every day, and this war is affecting them in unprecedented ways.

Page 99 of Cartel is in the chapter titled “The Mexican People,” under the subheading “Destroying the Mexican Way of Life.” The page contains a great snapshot view of the situation from the perspective of those suffering south of the border:
Those who decided to stay in Juárez have made profound changes to their daily lives. For example, “83 percent of people said they stopped giving personal information over the phone, 75 percent do not talk to strangers, and a similar percentage stopped going out at night. More than half of respondents said they stopped carrying cash, don’t allow their kids to walk the streets alone, and stopped attending public events.”

Even the city government has acknowledged it can’t do much to stop things from getting more out of control. In late August 2010, it canceled the traditional festivities surrounding Mexico’s day of independence. On the eve of September 16, mayors in Mexico normally lead crowds at city hall esplanades in the traditional ceremony of grito de independencia, or call to independence. To celebrate, every year thousands of Juárez residents flock to city hall to attend the night festival, where mariachis, folk dancers, and singers perform on that evening. Sadly, 2010 was the first time in almost a century that the festivities were cancelled—and all due to the narcos.

Mexicans are not happy with this situation in their country. According to a Pew Research Center poll, almost 80 percent aren’t satisfied with the way the drug war is going. 80 percent fully support the use of the army to fight the cartels, and 55 percent believe the military is making progress. 78 percent of respondents support US assistance in training the Mexican military, 57 percent support American funds going toward Mexico’s efforts, and 26 percent support the deployment of US troops to Mexico. This is unexpected for a country that has historically had a great of deal of tension with the United States stemming from its interventions in Latin American affairs. For a country that abhors US involvement in domestic issues, the support of one out of every four Mexicans for a US military presence on their soil is a big deal, and it shows just how bad things have gotten there.
The contents of Page 99 also highlight the fact the drug war isn’t just Mexico’s problem; it’s a joint problem and a joint responsibility. Most people in the United States either know someone from work, church, social groups, etc. or come across someone from Mexico, and who likely still have family living there. Odds are, those same Mexican neighbors or coworkers or people who work at the local store have been negatively impacted in some way by the drug war.

This isn’t a conflict happening across the globe in the Middle East or Asia; it’s happening in our back yard, and in many cases, it’s sitting comfortably in our living room. Cartel explains to Americans how drug cartels have infiltrated neighborhoods in all fifty states, and why they should aware of and concerned about what our government and law enforcement agencies are trying to do to prevent the drug war from spreading any farther north than it already has.
Learn more about the book and author at Sylvia Longmire's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 8, 2011

David King's "Death in the City of Light"

David King's books include Finding Atlantis and Vienna 1814.

A Fulbright Scholar with a master's degree from Cambridge University, King taught European history at the University of Kentucky before becoming a full-time writer. He lives in Lexington, Kentucky with his wife and children.

He applied “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris, and reported the following:
On March 11, 1944, police had been called around to a town house in the heart of Paris's fashionable 16th arrondissement. A thick black smoke had been pouring out of its chimney. When the patrolmen entered, they found a horrific scene: hands, feet, skulls, and bodies in various states of decomposition. Within minutes, the search was on for the owner of the property: a respectable family physician named Marcel Petiot.

On page 99, with Dr. Petiot still at large, the police visit a cafe owned by two of his friends. There the detectives learn the identity of one of the suspect's companions and receive a tip that "might have resulted in an early apprehension of the suspect, had the investigators pursued it."

While Petiot's whereabouts remained unknown to the police, readers learn exactly where he was hiding. He was spending the day mostly inside a friend's apartment, reading police novels, working on crossword puzzles, and making dice for his probability calculations (one of his many interests). At night, he slept on a mattress on the floor of his dining room. He had grown a beard and sported dark glasses so that he would not be recognized when he went out. His photograph was everywhere.

So how accurate is the Page 99 Test for Death in the City of Light? We gain a glimpse of the cat-and-mouse game of the police search and learn something about the suspect's strategy for evading detection. What the page does not reflect, however, is the seamy underworld of Gestapo, gangsters, resistance fighters, pimps, prostitutes, and other shadowy figures who make up the book's cast of characters. We also don't get a sense of the book's tour through wartime Paris from the dark days of the Nazi Occupation to the thrilling autumn of 1944 when the city is liberated and the suspect finally captured. But a single page can suggest only so much about a book - and, for such a snapshot, the Page 99 Test is not bad.
Learn more about the book and author at David King's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 7, 2011

Paul R. Pillar's "Intelligence and U.S. Foreign Policy"

Paul R. Pillar is visiting professor and director of studies in the Security Studies Program at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University. He served in several senior positions with the CIA and the National Intelligence Council and is a retired army reserve officer. He is the author of Terrorism and U.S. Foreign Policy and Negotiating Peace: War Termination as a Bargaining Process.

Pillar applied “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Intelligence and U.S. Foreign Policy: Iraq, 9/11, and Misguided Reform, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Intelligence and U.S. Foreign Policy addresses the Cuban Missile Crisis, the dramatic Cold War showdown in 1962 in which the United States and the Soviet Union came to the brink of nuclear war. The question at hand, and a central question that the book applies to the making of all U.S foreign and security policy, is: where did American decision-makers get the images—of the adversary and of the situation they were confronting—that guided their decisions? The usual answer for foreign policy is that the images come from an intelligence service. But intelligence played almost no role in how President Kennedy and his advisers handled the crisis. They were guided instead by their own conceptions of human behavior and by historical analogies. For Kennedy, the most important analogy was how European powers stumbled into World War I—the subject of Barbara Tuchman's then-new book on the subject, The Guns of August.

My book, elsewhere in the same chapter, reviews how intelligence similarly was largely irrelevant to other great decisions in U.S. foreign policy, including ones that came out well, such as the missile crisis, and ones that did not, such as the Vietnam War. And yet, a recurring theme in American discourse about foreign and security policy is that when bad things happen to the United States, such as woebegone wars or terrorist attacks, the problem is misinformation from a broken intelligence service and the solution is to “reform” intelligence. This belief functions as a national myth, serving to reassure Americans that the right fix to a broken bureaucracy will prevent bad things from recurring. The myth has several harmful effects, including misunderstanding of the real sources of images that matter and adoption of policies that overreach the inherent limits of our understanding of the outside world.

As the subtitle indicates, the Iraq War and 9/11 receive the most attention in the book, both because they have heavily shaped current popular attitudes about intelligence and because I have direct personal experience with both. The war was launched in spite of, not because of, most of what U.S. intelligence said about Iraq. And the terrorist attack occurred despite strong strategic warning from intelligence about the threat.
Learn more about Intelligence and U.S. Foreign Policy at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Graham Jones's "Trade of the Tricks"

Graham M. Jones is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He applied “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Trade of the Tricks: Inside the Magician's Craft, and reported the following:
This is a book about secrets. Magicians use secret procedures, concealed maneuvers and veiled intentions to create illusions. A part of the thrill of a magic show is the intense curiosity their hidden skills provoke. Some of magicians’ secrets have been in circulation for hundreds of years, but magic is also a generative system in which new sleight-of-hand techniques or illusionary gimmicks are developed all the time. These new secrets have a special cachet among magicians, who crave cutting-edge illusions and who are fascinated by technical innovation.

Studying the secretive subculture of entertainment magicians in contemporary France as an anthropological fieldworker, I learned just how fragile secrets are. There are no effective legal protections for magicians’ intellectual property, so they secure secrets in other ways. While the circulation of secrets seems confusing and disorganized, there are some basic principles at work beneath the surface.

Page 99 is one of the most exciting pages in the book, because it details a particular instance of a magician revealing a secret to several novices. He cites the name of the person who invented the secret and taught it to him, articulating a lineage of transmission into which the recipients are now inscribed. He authorizes them to use it in performing for non-magicians, but forbids them from showing it to other magicians. Such qualifications restrict the free flow of information, but they also tacitly convey the value of the secret and the moral responsibilities associated with receiving it. Repeatedly participating in interactions like this instills a strong vocational sensibility and inspires a sense of membership.

Magicians I worked with worry about the long-term effects of mass media on the way that secrets circulate. It's now possible to buy or otherwise access secrets over the Internet without ever encountering another magician. Some older magicians are concerned that this kind of depersonalized, commoditized circulation fundamentally changes the significance of secrets by detaching them from social relationships and community norms. In this way, the case of magic offers a surprisingly rich vantage for thinking about the cultural consequences of information technologies.
Learn more about Trade of the Tricks at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Patricia J. Fanning's "Influenza and Inequality"

Patricia J. Fanning is professor and chairperson of the Department of Sociology at Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, Massachusetts and the author of Through an Uncommon Lens: The Life and Photography of F. Holland Day.

She applied “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Influenza and Inequality: One Town’s Tragic Response to the Great Epidemic of 1918, and reported the following:
The US populations most seriously affected by the influenza epidemic of 1918 were young adult, lower class, and foreign born. My book, Influenza and Inequality, is the only account of a local response (Norwood, Massachusetts) to that outbreak and thus gets to the heart of the experience. When the epidemic struck and its primary victims were identified as immigrants, the official response was quick and sharp. An Emergency Hospital was opened; theaters, churches, and soda fountains were closed. More telling, newspapers and reports suggested that unsanitary living conditions, deficient personal hygiene, and a lack of assimilation were the causes of the spread of influenza and the victims were blamed for their plight. Authorities searched only immigrant neighborhoods and transported the sick, often against their will, to the Emergency Hospital where they received minimal attention due to overcrowding. Uninformed and failing to comprehend the crisis, immigrants became fearful and resistant. On Page 99 we learn about the results of these actions: over half the town’s deaths occurred among the Lithuanian, Polish, and Italian immigrant populations. On the facing page, there is a map of the town which includes the locations of influenza victims’ residences, significantly clustered in the segregated ethnic enclaves.

To bring the story to life, I utilized primary sources including official reports and minutes, newspaper accounts, death and cemetery records, diaries and memoirs. I also collected family stories to piece together the lives of those left behind. Page 99 includes a few of these accounts:
For those who had lost loved ones in the epidemic, life would never be the same. Emma Maki's seven children were taken in by relatives and friends. Anna Cvilikas's sons grew to adulthood believing their stepmother was their mother. Other children were raised by grandparents, relatives, and friends. Mary Drummey, the child whose mother had died at Norwood Hospital after giving birth, recalled that, although her father visited her often, she never lived with him; instead, her grandmother raised her. These and other families set about the task of trying to survive. As one Lithuanian-American woman recalled, “The old timers would get together at our house and talk quite a bit about the old country, coming here and the early times. There were hard, difficult times both in Lithuania and here. The flu was always spoken of as one of the hardships, just one more hardship that had to be faced.”
I hope that my book’s close examination of one town’s struggle illuminates how even well-intentioned elite groups may adopt and implement strategies that can exacerbate rather than relieve a medical crisis. It is a cautionary tale about community, disease, and our options for judging individual lives as either dispensable or of consequence.
Read more about Influenza and Inequality at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Adam Winkler's "Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America"

Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at the University of California, Los Angeles, has been featured on CNN and in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic.

He applied “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Gunfight, you’ll find this sentence: “Those who looked into the history of the Second Amendment discovered that the right to bear arms was a lot older than most Americans ever imagined.” Indeed, Gunfight reveals that so much of what Americans imagine about guns and our gun culture is wrong—and that the true story is a lot more interesting and nuanced than either side in the gun debate acknowledges.

Although the Supreme Court only recently declared that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to own guns, the right is one of our oldest, most well-established rights. Nearly all the states’ own constitutions include a guarantee of an individual right to bear arms and, as Gunfight details, the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution was motivated by the desire to protect the freedmen’s rights, including specifically their right to bear arms (which was being threatened by racist posses, like the KKK).

Yet gun control is as much a part of the story of guns in America as the Second Amendment and six-shooter. The Founding Fathers had gun control laws so restrictive that if Madison, the author of the Second Amendment, were running for office today, the NRA wouldn’t endorse him. The Wild West, the heart of America’s gun culture, had the most burdensome and vigorously enforced gun control in the nation. For most of its history, the NRA was a proponent of gun control; it wasn’t until an internal “coup” by hard-line members in 1977 that the organization became the no-compromises opponent of gun safety laws we know.

Gunfight shows that we’ve always balanced gun rights and gun control—and that these efforts have shaped America in fascinating and surprising ways.
Learn more about Gunfight at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue