Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Wendy Moore's "How to Create the Perfect Wife"

Wendy Moore is a writer and journalist. Her work has been published in a range of newspapers and magazines, including the Guardian, the Observer and the British Medical Journal and has won several awards. Her books include The Knife Man and Wedlock.

Moore applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, How to Create the Perfect Wife: Britain's Most Ineligible Bachelor and his Enlightened Quest to Train the Ideal Mate, and reported the following:
Thank you Ford Madox Ford! His page 99 test may not work in every case but my latest book, How to Create the Perfect Wife, passes with flying colours. Nearly one-third of the way through the book, p. 99 opens at a crucial crossroads in the story. This is the precise point at which Thomas Day, an eccentric Georgian English poet and radical, has to decide which of two young girls he should pick to craft into his ideal wife.

My book relates the incredible true tale of Day’s efforts to find a soulmate to live with him in austere isolation devoted to doing good works. Day had a fixed idea of how he wished to live and a firm notion of the woman with whom he wished to share that life. She should be beautiful like a goddess and pure like a peasant maid. She should be clever enough to appreciate his superior intellect and hardy enough to survive a rough comfortless existence. And above all she must always defer to him. By the age of 21, Day had come to the conclusion that this fantasy creature did not exist in Georgian high society. And so he came up with a brilliant wheeze.

In June 1769 Day visited two orphanages – in Shrewsbury and London – and there he selected two girls. One was aged 12, with chestnut curls and brown eyes; the other was aged 11, with blond hair and blue eyes. He would educate them both and then choose the best pupil to train into his perfect wife. By page 99, Day is living in France, in a ménage á trois with his two young girls, poised to decide which of these prepubescent dolls – whom he had renamed Sabrina and Lucretia - would blossom into his future bride.
To make Day’s dilemma worse, the girls had equally pleasing but completely opposite characters too. So although he found himself drawn toward plump, fair-haired Lucretia with her sunny, jolly personality, he was also attracted to slender, chestnut-haired Sabrina with her quieter, more reserved nature and her eagerness to learn. What was a man to do?
By the end of page 99 Day has made his decision. He picks the girl he would then try to fashion into his perfect wife. Who was she? That would be telling.
Learn more about the book and author at Wendy Moore's website.

The Page 99 Test: Wedlock.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 29, 2013

David Malet's "Foreign Fighters"

David Malet is Associate Director of the School of Government and Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Melbourne.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Foreign Fighters: Transnational Identity in Civil Conflicts, and reported the following:
Foreign Fighters examines how rebel groups in armed conflicts persuade individuals to travel from other countries to join their fight. While the term is equated at the moment with Islamist jihadis fighting in Syria, Iraq, and Pakistan, there have been foreign volunteers in a significant number of modern civil wars fighting for causes ranging from international Communism to national independence for ethnic groups. Evidence from both current and historical cases show that most foreign fighters receive little pay; they are not mercenaries, but are motivated by appeals to defend their group against what recruiters portray as an existential threat to their community worldwide. Foreign Fighters presents a historical overview of this phenomenon, and examines current issues in counter-insurgency by comparing today’s jihadis to recruitment in four historical cases: The 1836 Texas Revolution, the 1936 Spanish Civil War, the 1948 Israeli War of Independence, and the 1980s Afghanistan War.

Page 99 picks up in the middle of an account of one of the more famous foreign fighters, author George Orwell, who joined a Marxist militia in Spain to stop the advancing threat of fascism. Communist Party members believed that the formation of the International Brigades to fight in Spain was a fulfillment of the Marxist call “Workers of the World, Unite!” It describes the recruitment effort being handled by the transnational Communist International (Comintern), and how its leaders strategically framed the conflict as one that was vital to people living in democratic societies and not just to Communists. The Comintern’s American branch created public front organizations in the United States to generate public support, and to direct donations to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, the military unit of American volunteers who were fighting in Spain. Page 99 is representative of the book as a whole, and of how insurgencies recruit transnationally and expand their pool of potential volunteers using strategic message framing.
Learn more about Foreign Fighters at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Elinor Lipman's "I Can't Complain"

Elinor Lipman is the author of ten novels, including The View from Penthouse B and The Inn at Lake Devine; one essay collection,  I Can't Complain; and Tweet Land of Liberty: Irreverent Rhymes from the Political Circus. She lives in Massachusetts and New York City.

Lipman applied the “Page 99 Test” to I Can't Complain and reported the following:
Page 99 of I Can't Complain is not only the opening page of an essay, but the gateway to the section titled "Coupling Columns." They were all written for the Boston Globe Magazine, a gig in which I was one of five rotating writers representing different relationship categories (gay, straight, married, single, and long-married, which was me). This one, "Boy Meets Girl," was my audition, the 750 words that landed me the job. Campaigning against comradeship of the athletic sort, I wrote, "I'm not against hobbies, just the elevation of them to a relationship prerequisite. My bias springs from my own lack of intergender interests and my conviction that togetherness is overrated. My parents were happily married for 45 years. Did my mother ever toss a football around with my father? Did he knit or sew or tend the tomatoes? He'd been a tennis player before he broke his ankles in the war; she never held a racket unless it was used to dislodge a cobweb from a light fixture." The whole section, written in 2005-2006, now has a poignancy I couldn't anticipate. These nine essays were about my marriage and--by definition and as good material--starred my husband. I had no idea as I wrote them that he would not live to see them collected.
Visit Elinor Lipman's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Family Man.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Philip Lieberman's "The Unpredictable Species"

Philip Lieberman is the George Hazard Crooker University Professor Emeritus at Brown University. His books include Toward an Evolutionary Biology of Language and Eve Spoke: Human Language and Human Evolution.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Unpredictable Species: What Makes Humans Unique, and reported the following:
People can do, think of, or create the oddest things.

In language stripped of jargon, The Unpredictable Species introduces the reader to current research on how brains work and the evolution of the attributes that set us apart from other living species – enhanced cognition and cognitive flexibility. Darwin got it right. Natural selection acted on existing neural structures, some of which date back to the time of the dinosaurs, to craft the human brain.

Complex aspects of human behavior such as walking, talking, or comprehending this text are not regulated by localized “organs.” For example, Broca’s area is not the seat of language. Nor does the functional architecture of biological brains resemble that of digital computers. It instead reflects the opportunistic, Rube Goldberg, “logic” of evolution. Neural circuits linking activity in the cortex with the basal ganglia, structures usually associated with motor control, were modified to confer the enhanced cognitive flexibility that sets us apart from other living species. Ongoing research points to transcriptional genes that affect how other genes ultimately form muscles, bones and brains, enhancing information transfer and plasticity in human basal ganglia circuits about 250,000 years ago. In effect, mutations on transcriptional genes, such as FOXP2, supercharged existing neural circuits, creating brains that can form and learn new concepts, conceive and carry out novel acts, create new forms of art, and unpredictably turn on a dime.

The pace of human invention, expressed in different epochs and places in new stone tools, digital computers, new art forms or music, complex civilizations, or this season’s style of jeans, stems from these supercharged neural circuits. Fashion, ever changing, is a mark of human creativity Contrary to the theories proposed by Steven Pinker and in other recent books, there are no specific genes that make us moral, monogamous, or determine our taste in art. Culture is a potent force in shaping human behavior. Language does not entail having specific knowledge preloaded into one’s brain, as Noam Chomsky proposes. These new findings also provide insights on wide-ranging topics including Aphasia, Parkinson disease, associative learning, transcriptional factors, epigenetics, cognitive confusion on Mount Everest, developing the skills of a Samurai, and why we are susceptible to choking on food.

As is the case for the books of Ford Madox Ford's close friend, Joseph Conrad, no single page of my book will reveal its full message.
Learn more about The Unpredictable Species at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 26, 2013

Drew Maciag's "Edmund Burke in America"

Drew Maciag has taught history at the University of Rochester, SUNY Geneseo, and Nazareth College.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Edmund Burke in America: The Contested Career of the Father of Modern Conservatism, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Edmund Burke in America concludes the tale of Supreme Court justice Joseph Story, one of the three main characters in chapter 5: “American Whigs: A Conservative Response.” Each of these pre-Civil War politicos (the other two were Edward Everett and Rufus Choate) was an admirer of the British Whig politician Edmund Burke during the age of liberal Jacksonian democracy.

Joseph Story had been a reasonable man, a respected legal scholar, a judicial nationalist (no fan of states’ rights), and he was less nostalgically conservative than some of his Whiggish contemporaries. His late-career turn to the ideological right is surprising unless one understands that American recourses to Burke’s anti-revolutionary philosophy usually coincided with perceived threats to the social order. During the Cold War, the threat would be communism; after the 1960s it would be liberalism run amok. But in Story’s day it was the threat of abolitionism, which could precipitate civil war, and of radical democratization, which challenged the rule of established elites (as demonstrated by Dorr’s Rebellion in Rhode Island). Page 99 states the matter plainly:
Like Edmund Burke—in fact like most men—Joseph Story had found it easy to be moderate in moderate times. But as the general heat of ideology returned in the late antebellum period, the temperature of Story’s opinions rose along with those of the nation at large.
After 1840, the Era of Good Feelings was only a memory and the more contentious “second two-party system” of Whigs and Democrats was in full force; worse, the westward expansion of slavery was back on the agenda. Within this context (again to page 99):
Story linked abolitionism with Dorr’s Rebellion and saw them both as evidence of “The tendency to ultraism of all sorts.” [He further stated…]“The spirit of the age has broken loose from the strong ties, which have hitherto bound society together by mutual cohesions and attractions of habits, manners, institutions, morals, and literature.” He called for a return to the values of Burke…and a rejection of “those mad men, who…in the name of conscience, liberty, or the rights of man…are willing to bid farewell to that Constitution…which I trust may be transmitted, unimpaired, from generation to generation for many centuries to come.”
Story’s words contain, in microcosm, the theme of Edmund Burke in America: When conservatives evoked Burke, it was out of fear that stability, order, tradition, or hierarchy, were at risk. When liberals evoked him (which was less often and less urgently), they recalled his own reform efforts and humanitarian sensibility. The “real” Edmund Burke was often in the eye of the beholder. Liberals were less compelled to cite his legacy because they drew from a larger list of “heroes,” “fathers,” or ideological predecessors than was available to conservatives—especially in a nation founded by revolution and devoted to freedom, equality, and the personal pursuit of happiness. When Americans contested the philosophy of Edmund Burke, they were really debating alternative moral visions, historical interpretations, and national ideals. In short, citizens’ opinions about Burke reflected their own conceptions of what it meant to be an American.
Learn more about Edmund Burke in America at the Cornell University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: Edmund Burke in America.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Daniel Kilbride's "Being American in Europe, 1750–1860"

Daniel Kilbride is an associate professor of history at John Carroll University in Ohio. He is the author of An American Aristocracy: Southern Planters in Antebellum Philadelphia.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Being American in Europe, 1750–1860, and reported the following:
Why would Americans in the decades before the Civil War travel to Europe? It was hard to do in those days – you didn’t board a plane in Chicago, watch a few movies and have a couple of drinks, and land at Heathrow eight hours later. Also, Americans in those days were hard-core patriots. Visitors like Alexis deTocqueville were continually pestered by Americans to affirm their smug convictions of their superiority to the supposedly feeble, corrupt, and despotic Old World. And if Americans were inclined to listen to their intellectuals, they would have gotten the same message: “It is for want of self-culture that the superstition of Travelling, whose idols are Italy, England, Egypt, retains its fascination for all educated Americans,” Ralph Waldo Emerson insisted.

In researching Being American in Europe, 1750-1861, I discovered neither creaky ships, patriotism, nor intellectual nagging kept Americans from sailing abroad: they went, and they went in ever larger numbers. What were they doing there? It turns out that American exceptionalism was more flexible than we have been accustomed to think. Yes, Americans saw themselves as special. But they also thought that, over time, other peoples would share in that specialness: they would become more democratic, more egalitarian, and more progressive. From the 1750s and 60s, when Americans went abroad to affirm their Englishness, until 1860, when Americans had developed a mature sense of their national identity vis-à-vis Europe, travelers struggled to situate themselves within western civilization. How could Americans reconcile with Britain? How could they see Catholicism as anything but superstition? How could they accommodate themselves to gentility? What did Europe mean to them? Those are the questions that I address in Being American in Europe.

Page 99 explores these themes nicely. There, we find Americans struggling to come to grips with European corruption. Martha Richardson, a refreshingly realistic woman, does not expect her nephew to avoid vice: she just implores him not to dive in head first. Joshua Fisher unconvincingly tells his mother from Paris that the “haunts of vice” have no allure for him. And Elizabeth Salisbury begs her son to resist temptation by clinging to faith. All those negative associations of Europe, it is important to note, didn’t stop these young men (and an increasingly large number of women) from going: they visited anyway, because the imperative to connect the young nation to Europe was stronger than the impulse to separate.

From page 99:
It was the rare family that did not fret for the moral health of traveling sons. Martha Richardson told her nephew, “I would not keep you from a knowledge of vice,” but she hoped he would not indulge so deeply that he would spurn the path of righteousness. Most advice givers thought it was best to avoid temptation altogether. As her son Stephen set off on an extensive tour, Elizabeth Salisbury implored him to shun sinfulness. She admonished her young son to “resist temptation and return to your widow’d mother improved in every venture which can adorn the man--fix’d or established in religious principles.” Young men tried to reassure their families on this point. Joshua Francis Fisher told his mother that every day he spent in Paris taught him to appreciate the “worldly advantage & pleasure that is to be derived from religion and virtue.” Although as an explorer of sorts he felt compelled “to visit many of the haunts of vice,” he reassured his mother--not very convincingly--that they would “offer no allurements” for him.

Americans struggled to explain the extent of crime, prostitution, sexual license, and other forms of vice they saw abroad. Henry Colman saw things in Edinburgh’s slums he hesitated to describe in print lest the paper become “absolutely offensive to the touch.” Poverty was to blame, he concluded: only “the most disgusting and loathsome forms of destitution” could explain the depths of depravity he witnessed. Charles Rockwell, a U.S. Navy chaplain, thought that standing armies, and the monarchies they supported, created a demand for mass, almost institutionalized, vice. Separated at a young age from family and community, soldiers became corrupted by their comrades, resulting in “a kind of systematic and licensed concubinage, as directly opposed to the principles of morality as it is to the cultivation of all the higher social and domestic virtues.” Few Americans failed to blame the Catholic Church for the Continent’s low moral state. John Clark specifically blamed Rome for corrupting Europe’s women. Catholicism--what Clark called “Heathenism and paganized Christianity”--reduced women to the level of a slave, he explained. Only Protestantism elevated women to “the sphere for which she was intended by her Creator.” Travelers’ favored explanations for European vice--poverty, militarism, and Catholicism--served to underscore the distance between the Old and New Worlds.
Learn more about Being American in Europe, 1750–1860 at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Steven Nadler's "The Philosopher, the Priest, and the Painter"

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; The Best of All Possible Worlds: A Story of Philosophers, God, and Evil, and A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza's Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Philosopher, the Priest, and the Painter: A Portrait of Descartes, and reported the following:
The book is a study of Descartes, but (I admit) a rather eccentric one. It takes as its starting (and ending) point a portrait of Descartes painted by a great Dutch master and uses questions about the biographical and historical context of this painting as a frame for looking into Descartes's life and thought. The "philosopher" of the title is, of course, Descartes; the painter is Frans Hals, arguably the greatest portrait painter of his time; and the "priest" is Augustijn Bloemaert, a friend of Descartes's living in Haarlem who reportedly wanted a keepsake by which to remember the philosopher when the latter left for Sweden in 1649. The book looks at Descartes's life in seventeenth-century Holland and the political and religious turmoil of those decades (ca. 1620s to 1650); it also offers, for the general reader, an accessible overview of Descartes's philosophical and scientific ideas. This book thus brings together philosophy, art history, and religious and political history to create what I hope is a rich portrait of the "father of modern philosophy" and his times.

What the reader will find on p. 99 is Descartes at the beginning of his philosophical project of trying to determine if and how true knowledge is possible. At this point, he is considering, in his Meditations on First Philosophy, what he really knows for certain, and therefore is seeing how far he can take skepticism before he hits upon an indubitable certainty -- which he will, with "I am, I exist" (or, "I think, therefore I am").
Learn more about the book and author at Steven Nadler's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Best of All Possible Worlds.

The Page 99 Test: A Book Forged in Hell.

Writers Read: Steven Nadler.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Thomas O. McGarity's "Freedom to Harm"

Thomas O. McGarity holds the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Endowed Chair in Administrative Law at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law. He is the author of The Preemption War: When Federal Bureaucracies Trump Local Juries and Reinventing Rationality: The Role of Regulatory Analysis in the Federal Bureaucracy.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Freedom to Harm: The Lasting Legacy of the Laissez Faire Revival, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Freedom to Harm is the first page in a chapter on environmental regulation. That chapter contrasts the potential of the environmental statutes enacted during the Public Interest Era (the late 1960s and early 1970s) to protect human health and the environment with the reality of the implementation of those statutes by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Corps of Engineers, the Office of Surface Mining, and the Minerals and Management Service (the agency responsible for the regulatory failure that led to the Deepwater Horizon disaster).

The book argues that these regulatory failures and those of many other federal agencies was the result of a 35-year campaign by the American business community and its allies in conservative think tanks and the media to roll back federal regulation and the civil justice system to a late nineteenth century laissez faire benchmark.

Six similarly organized chapters document the impact of the resulting laissez faire revival on the agencies responsible for worker safety, drug and device safety, food safety, transportation safety, financial protection, and consumer protection and on the state courts that are responsible for administering the nation’s civil justice system.

Each of these chapters also details the adverse consequences of the three assaults that the business community and its allies launched against federal regulatory programs and the common law system of civil justice. The result was a “confluence of crises” during the last half of the first decade of this century that had the potential to inspire legislation bringing about fundamental changes in the incentives motivating American companies.

Instead of enacting fundamental changes, however, Congress and the Obama Administration put into place “patch and repair” fixes designed to address the narrow problems that caused the particular crises.

We are now in the midst of a fourth assault on the governmental institutions that were designed to protect vulnerable workers, consumers and neighbors from irresponsible companies and to hold them accountable when they behave irresponsibly. In anticipation of the next confluence of crises, I offer suggestions for more comprehensive governmental protections for consumers, workers, and the environment.
Learn more about Freedom to Harm at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Bending Science: How Special Interests Corrupt Public Health Research by Thomas O. McGarity & Wendy E. Wagner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 22, 2013

Eran Shalev's "American Zion"

Eran Shalev is a senior lecturer in the History Department at Haifa University, Israel, and the author of Rome Reborn on Western Shores: Historical Imagination and the Creation of the American Republic.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, American Zion: The Old Testament as a Political Text from the Revolution to the Civil War, and reported the following:
Page 99 of American Zion introduces us to the rich biblical imagination of antebellum Americans, who consistently understood themselves as the New Israel, a nation favored by God and guided by providence. The page examines a long-winded History of the Late War (1819), an account of the War of 1812 against Britain, which was thoroughly written as a biblical text: the language, diction, rhythm and verses are all recognizably biblical, while the content of that history is, of course, American. That patriotic tract was not a parody or satire. In referring to modern inventions such as cannons as “battering rams” who “cast forth weapons of destruction, which were not known in the days of [biblical] Jehoshophat,” The History of the Late War rendered a biblical-American chronicle, which was intended to manipulate readers into understanding their nation as a latter day Israel set to inherit the American Promised Land. The significance of this pseudo-biblical style is evident when recognizing the abundance of similar texts that are detailed and contextualized in the pages surrounding 99. This distinct pseudobiblicism compelled Americans to articulate their history and present it as if it belonged to a sacred historical dimension. It provides a good example of the other now alien manifestations that demonstrate the centrality of the Old Testament as a political text. That eccentric biblical imagination, exemplified by The History of the Late War, stand at the core of American Zion and constitutes an important aspect of the formation of American nationalism. Test 99 prevails!
Learn more about the book and author at Eran Shalev's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 21, 2013

David Igler's "The Great Ocean"

David Igler is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine. His books include Industrial Cowboys: Miller & Lux and the Transformation of the Far West, 1850-1920 and The Human Tradition in California.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Great Ocean: Pacific Worlds from Captain Cook to the Gold Rush, and reported the following:
It’s a good thing that Ford Madox Ford did not make his test based on page 98, which is left blank in The Great Ocean. I might have had nothing to say at all. Instead, page 99 opens a chapter titled “The Great Hunt” and it begins with one of my favorite lines in the entire book: “Tiger, 1845-1848. Like many whaling voyages, this one involved a fair measure of human bloodshed and an enormous amount of blubber.” The Tiger was a whale ship out of Stonington, Connecticut, and alongside the various crewmembers (who spent almost three years killing whales in the Pacific Ocean) was the captain’s wife, Mary Brewster, who kept a superb journal of the voyage. I use her experiences and observations as a narrative device for much of the chapter. It was a true pleasure to have such an articulate voice for the exceedingly grim subject matter of whaling.

This chapter of The Great Ocean focuses on whaling as well as the wholesale slaughter of other Pacific marine mammals during the early 19th century. The book, however, is a broader history of the Pacific Ocean from the 1770s to the 1840s. Structured thematically rather than chronologically, the chapters deal with exploration, trade, the introduction of diseases to indigenous populations, the taking of captives, the work of trained scientific naturalists, and of course, the “Great Hunt” for marine mammals. As much as anything else, it’s a history of what happens when Pacific indigenous groups encounter foreigners (mostly Europeans and Americans). Diseases decimate many native populations. Atlantic-based empires extend their power into the Pacific. Violence in its many forms is rampant throughout the Pacific.

And Mary Brewster directly observes some of this violence. She watches from the Tiger’s deck as a young man name John Perkins (also introduced on page 99!) is crushed by the tail of whale. Weeks later she witnesses the first whales taken by the ship’s crew and describes the killing, the “cutting in” process, and the arduous “boiling down” of blubber into whale oil. Months after that the Tiger arrives in a small bay on the coast of Baja California, and Mary sees men killed by whales as well as many, many gray whales slaughtered while they attempt to protect their newborn calves. If not quite a Herman Melville, Mary Brewster is certainly a capable narrator for this heyday of whaling in the Pacific Ocean.

No single page can encapsulate an entire book, but page 99 (and the chapter it opens) certainly invites a conversation about the Pacific Ocean and the American demand for various natural resources, including blubber.

Excerpt from page 99 of The Great Ocean:
Tiger, 1845-1848. Like many whaling voyages, this one involved a fair measure of human bloodshed and an enormous amount of blubber. The profitable cargo at the journey’s end delighted Captain William E. Brewster, but his wife, Mary, expressed no particular sentiment as the Tiger entered the harbor of Stonington, Connecticut, on March 8, 1848. “We went in so quickly and so still—We soon left our old home [the Tiger] and found our friends all well—and glad to see us,” she wrote in her journal. Mary Brewster had certainly anticipated this homecoming for well over two years. She was now a seasoned voyager, a “sister sailor” who experienced the extremes of oceanic conditions and witnessed the gruesome business of whaling as well as the depravity of masculine behavior aboard ship. Very little could now startle this twenty-five-year-old woman, and perhaps this explains her lack of sentiment. It had been a long voyage.

Two years earlier the Tiger entered the Pacific with a typical complement of experienced officers, skilled tradesmen and harpooners, and novice crewmen who signed on with varying degrees of willingness. Headed for the Northwest Coast of North America and planning to hunt sperm whales on the way up the South American coast, the Tiger’s crew was notably unsuccessful through the spring of 1846. Some crewmembers quietly spoke of deserting the ship at the first opportunity. There was “not very good feeling between the officers and boatsteerers,” noted John Perkins, a Yale College dropout and twenty-year-old green-hand sailor. Mary Brewster only made matters worse: a woman’s mere presence on the ship, Perkins alleged, turned “every danger double.” The Tiger’s whaleboats chased numerous whales in the southeast Pacific but came up empty, forcing the captain to report “clean”—the whalemen’s term for “no oil”—during a stopover in Hawai‘i.
Learn more about The Great Ocean at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Thomas Doherty's "Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939"

Thomas Doherty is a professor of American Studies at Brandeis University. His books include Pre-Code Hollywood: Sex, Immorality, and Insurrection in American Cinema, 1930-1934, Cold War, Cool Medium: Television, McCarthyism, and American Culture, and Hollywood’s Censor: Joseph I. Breen and the Production Code Administration.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939, and reported the following:
Damned if Ford Madox Ford ain't right: page 99 of Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939 is a fair sampling of the other 428 pages. The book is about the ways Hollywood mediated Nazism in the 1930s, both as an ideology and a business-- how the motion picture industry depicted Nazism on screen (or more usually avoided doing so) and how the studios reacted to a once reliable overseas business partner suddenly gone pathological. It ends where most books on Hollywood and Nazism begin, with World War II.

The page in question comes from a chapter on the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League of the Motion Picture Industry (HANL), the white-hot center for Popular Front activism in the company town during the Great Depression. Here's a representative passage:
Not least, [the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League] pioneered the celebrity-centric, pseudo-eventful tactics that have since become commonplace for progressive causes that grip the social conscience of famous entertainers: the deployment of star power to publicize and validate a political agenda, with the body of the celebrity dangled as bait. While flashbulbs popped and cameras whirred, HANL stage-managed events where stars presided over rallies, orated from the podium, pled for donations, and signed petitions. If near enough to a famous face, a placard or slogan might avoid being cropped from a syndicated wire photo.
HANL was the group that set the agenda for the cadre who would later ruefully dub themselves "premature anti-Fascists." The outfit was co-founded in 1936 by MGM screenwriter Donald Ogden Stewart, a secret member of the Communist Party USA, and Dorothy Parker, the famed wit and screenwriter, but it was in many ways the brainchild of a mysterious former member of the German Communist Party named Otto Katz. Many of the directors, screenwriters, and actors who later ran afoul of the House Committee on Un-American Activities in the late 1940s and early 1950s were involved with HANL, including the Hollywood Ten.

Conservative historians would later label HANL a "communist front group" and, to be sure, communists were animating founders and active members. Yet HANL attracted a remarkably broad spectrum of support from standard-issue liberals, conservative Catholics, and hard-nosed moguls, all of whom had good reason to oppose Nazism.

However, at the height of its influence and prestige, the local arm of the Popular Front suddenly become far less popular after the announcement on August 23, 1939 of the Soviet-German Non Aggression Pact, the accommodation that gave the green light for World War II. The news hit the stateside Popular Front like a lightning bolt-- forever shattering the alliance of convenience between men and women of the Left. The party liners hastily fell in line with the new party line: the committed interventionists became anti-interventionists, the ardent warriors ardent pacifists, and the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League re-branded itself as the Hollywood League for Democratic Action.

Shocked by the sudden switch in loyalties, the authentic liberals bolted from HANL. Membership dwindled and soon the group fizzled out. (Predictably, in June 1941, when the Nazis invaded Russia, the Hollywood party liners reversed themselves again and called anew for the policies they had opposed in the 1939-1941 interim.)
Learn more about Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939 at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 19, 2013

Colin G. Calloway's "Pen and Ink Witchcraft"

Colin G. Calloway is Professor of Native American Studies and John Kimball Jr. Professor of History at Dartmouth College. His books include One Vast Winter Count: The American West before Lewis and Clark, for which he won the Merle Curti Award and the Ray Allen Billington Prize, The Shawnees and the War for America, The Scratch of a Pen: 1763 and the Transformation of North America, and New Worlds for All. He recently won the 2011 American Indian History Lifetime Achievement Award.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Pen and Ink Witchcraft: Treaties and Treaty Making in American Indian History, and reported the following:
As it happens, Pen and Ink Witchcraft does pass the page 99 test. Page 99 contains the following statement:
The power dynamics that had produced the intercultural diplomacy of the colonial era were changing. Americans were eager to expand and impatient with long-winded protocols that allowed all parties ample time for reflection and discussion. As American power increased, respect for Indian customs and concerns diminished and long-standing practices and rituals of reciprocity eroded. More and more often, treaties were conducted on American terms and by American schedules. Treaties established boundaries but the boundaries became ever more permeable and impermanent.
The book examines the development of Indian treaty making and how negotiations were conducted. It focuses on three major treaties as case studies that not only illustrate how treaties were made, by whom, and why but that also trace how treaty making changed over time, from early colonial treaties where Indian forms and rituals shaped a new American diplomacy, to treaties in the early US that primarily targeted Indian land, then removed Indian peoples to the West, and finally to treaties that confined Indian peoples in the West. The statement on page 99 pretty well reflects the story.
Learn more about Pen and Ink Witchcraft at the Oxford University Press website.

Also see: Colin G. Calloway's five top books on Native Americans and colonizers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Emily Anthes's "Frankenstein’s Cat"

Emily Anthes is a science journalist and author. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, Scientific American, Psychology Today, BBC Future, SEED, Discover, Popular Science, Slate, The Boston Globe, and elsewhere. Her new book, Frankenstein’s Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech’s Brave New Beasts, was published in March 2013 by Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux. She is also the author of the Instant Egghead Guide: The Mind.

Anthes applied the “Page 99 Test” to Frankenstein’s Cat and reported the following:
Frankenstein’s Cat is an exploration of how biotechnology is shaping the future of animals, and it covers everything from genetic engineering to animal prostheses, from cloning to remote-controlled, cyborg critters. Page 99 of Frankenstein’s Cat comes toward the end of a chapter about scientists who are trying to use cloning to save endangered species—and even revive extinct ones. (Could there be cloned mammoths and dodos in our future?) It’s a sexy idea—the notion that we can use biotechnology to protect threatened wildlife—but it’s also a hugely controversial one, even among conservation biologists. Page 99 introduces some of their criticisms: “To many biologists, cloning is all sizzle and no substance, a high-tech spectacle that fails to address habitat loss, poaching, pollution, and the other human activities that put wildlife at risk in the first place.”

This debate over whether cloning has a role to play in conservation illustrates a theme that arises repeatedly in Frankenstein’s Cat: Even among those who love animals, there can be—and often is—legitimate disagreement about how best to safeguard their welfare and wellbeing. Biotechnology is giving us profound new power over animal lives and bodies. How should we be deploying these high-tech tools? In short: What does it really mean to be good stewards of this planet and the creatures with whom we share it?
Learn more about the book and author at Emily Anthes's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Emily Anthes & Milo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Derek S. Hoff's "The State and the Stork"

Derek S. Hoff is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Kansas State University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The State and the Stork: The Population Debate and Policymaking in U.S. History (University of Chicago Press) and reported the following:
Page 99 of The State and the Stork details the intellectual backdrop of the New Deal’s efforts to relocate rural Americans from “distressed” lands (e.g., the DustBowl of the southern Great Plains) to government-sponsored new towns and “subsistence homesteads.” I became nostalgic when rereading this page because it contains what must be the oldest paragraphs in the book—it’s a good thing MS Word has backwards compatibility! I started out writing a book about American population policies strictly speaking: those related to birth control, immigration, and, in this case, population relocation. But gradually the project morphed into a study of how economists and intellectuals and policymakers—from the colonial era to the 1970s—have thought about the relationship between America’s remarkable population growth and its economy. The book shows how the nation’s current widespread celebration of never-ending population growth is of very recent vintage, dating only from the conservative ascendancy of the 1970s.

Birthrates declined significantly during the 1930s Great Depression, and demographers erroneously predicted that America’s population was headed toward stabilization or even decline. The key idea in chapter 3, which contains page 99, is that disparate commentators welcomed the expected population stabilization. To date, historians have focused on “pronatalist” or pro–population growth arguments of the 1930s, especially famous British economist John Maynard Keynes’s view that population growth would bolster economic confidence and spur recovery. But many articulated what I call “Stable Population Keynesianism”—the idea that a stable population is not only harmless but in fact promotes economic growth and a more equitable society assuming that the state promotes mass consumption.

Page 99 itself is one of those pages that historians write reviewing other people’s work before they reveal their own findings. I describe some well-known desires behind New Deal population-relocation efforts: agricultural crisis and environmental exhaustion; “romantic esteem for the countryside”; the decentralization of industry from city centers to what we now call exurbs; and a desire to help target the worst regional pockets of poverty, for example in Appalachia. But this page also links to the central ideas of The State and the Stork by noting that that we should see resettlement programs as part of a campaign to manage and benefit from the expected end of zero population growth. Historians, I write on page 99, “overlook how New Deal population redistribution also reinforced the prevailing idea that the United States was already sufficiently populated as a whole. Relocation policy was Stable Population Keynesianism in practice.”
Learn more about the book and author at the official The State and the Stork website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Kate Brown's "Plutopia"

Kate Brown is Associate Professor of History, University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of A Biography of No Place: From Ethnic Borderland to Soviet Heartland, winner of the American Historical Association's George Louis Beer Prize. A 2009 Guggenheim Fellow, her work has also appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, American Historical Review, Chronicle of Higher Education, and Harper's Magazine Online.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters, and reported the following:
The premise of Plutopia is that the Soviet and American nuclear weapons facilities, though designed to destroy one another, rotated around each other on a common axis. The plutonium plants and cities built alongside them developed in tandem during the Cold War as spies and planners from each country closely watched developments in the other. Page 99 illustrates that connection. It depicts Lavrentii Beria, often described as Stalin’s henchman, but here serving as the efficient and commanding shadow minister of the secret Soviet bomb project. Beria is making a first inspection tour of the plutonium plant site in the remote forests of the southern Russian Urals. Beria’s cement-lined Cadillac has already gotten stuck on the muddy log road into the site and he is not impressed with anything else he sees. At the time, the slow pace of construction of the plutonium plant was braking the whole Soviet Manhattan Project, and Beria had come to speed it up. What he finds sends him into a fury. Not only is the plant nothing more than a swampy pit in the ground, but most of the construction workers were Gulag prisoners, hungry, dressed in rags, and sure, Beria suspected, to give away the secret of the Soviet bomb.
Learn more about Plutopia at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 15, 2013

Peter Crane's "Ginkgo: The Tree That Time Forgot"

Peter Crane is Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. Dean of the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Professor of Botany at Yale University, and former director of The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Ginkgo: The Tree That Time Forgot, and reported the following:
There is much that could be said about Ginkgo. It has one of the most fascinating evolutionary and cultural biographies of any tree (the focus of Ginkgo: The Tree That Time Forgot), but perhaps nothing is quite so stark as what comes through in one of the very few diagrams in the book, which just happens to fall on page 99!

On page 99 we see a simple classification of all the plants in the world into just twelve major groups. Just five of these are seed plants: cycads, with about 300 species, conifers with about 600 species, a strange group, the Gnetales, with about 100 species and flowering plants with about 350,000 species. The fifth “group” is Ginkgo - with its single living species Ginkgo biloba. So, in one sense Ginkgo is just one species among a few hundred thousand, but in another equally valid sense this singular species comprises a fifth of the diversity of all living seed plants.

To a botanist Ginkgo is an evolutionary treasure and one that we are fortunate to still have as part of the living world of plants. Once widespread across the planet, Ginkgo almost went extinct during the great Ice Ages and survived as a relic in only two places in China. Since then, and especially over the last 1,000 years, with the help of people, Ginkgo has been renewed. The nuts became a delicacy and were used for oil and in medicine. With its distinctive leaves and great longevity the tree also took on symbolic meaning in Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism and Shintoism. And in the eighteenth century Ginkgo was introduced from Asia to Europe and North America. In little more that 250 years, Ginkgo has returned to many of the places from which it had once been extinguished.

Today, interest in growing Ginkgo, what it stands for scientifically, and the ways in which it might be useful has never been higher. Ginkgo has become recognized as a valuable street tree and is widely planted in many of the world’s cities. It has also become the source of a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry. At the same time it enriches our gardens and our lives. The biography of Ginkgo is a story of resilience and resurgence. It is a tree that people have saved and is a source of hope for other botanical biographies that are still being written.
Learn more about Ginkgo: The Tree That Time Forgot at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Jay Ingram's "Fatal Flaws"

Iconic broadcaster Jay Ingram is one of Canada’s best-known and most popular science personalities. Ingram has hosted both the premier radio science program in Canada, CBC’s Quirks and Quarks, and its TV counterpart, Discovery Channel Canada’s Daily Planet. In 2010, Ingram was appointed as a member to the Order of Canada for a lifetime of service in science communication. He has received several awards for his work, including honorary degrees from Carleton University, McGill University, McMaster University, King’s College and the University of Alberta.

A prolific author, Ingram has written 12 books – most recently, Fatal Flaws: How a Misfolded Protein Baffled Scientists and Changed the Way We Look at the Brain – most of which have been best-sellers. His books have been translated into 12 languages.

Since 2005, Ingram has been Chair of the Science Communications Program at the Banff Centre. He is also co-founder of the arts and engineering festival called Beakerhead, beginning in 2013 in Calgary.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to Fatal Flaws and reported the following:
Page 99 of Fatal Flaws is an example of the challenges of writing about science, especially science that dwells in dimensions beyond our daily experience. This book is about prions. These disease agents are directly responsible for Mad Cow, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease and many others, but also may hold clues to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. No question prions deserve our attention, but they are mere protein molecules. By contrast, the much more elaborate viruses and bacteria, as micro as they are, can be characterized as malevolent presences equipped with genomes evolved to attack and destroy. They have, to stretch the point a little, personalities.

But a molecule? One whose impact on living things is dependent on its shape? Science writers are familiar with the fact that readers often bring little context to the subject, and that is especially true of biochemistry. Proteins are familiar as the ingredients of muscle-building shakes, not as chains of amino acids folded just so, (or in the case of prions, misfolded).

On page 99 I establish some of that context by using the different qualities of two familiar pieces of clothing, a wool sweater and a silk shirt, to illustrate the differences in the fundamental structure of their respective proteins.
Wool and silk are both proteins, but the way they’re put together is so dramatically different at scales of a trillionth of a meter that you can feel it when you hold them in your hands. Wool is largely arranged as helices, coils of amino acids winding around each other and bonded to other coils. These coils can be stretched, sometimes up to twice their natural length, but they will nonetheless spring back when released. On the other hand, they are not all that strong. Silk is a different story: it is extremely strong because it is arranged, not in coils, but in sheets that are extensively cross-linked for reinforcement. Silk doesn’t stretch nearly as much as wool, nor does it have the same elastic response. Pull on a silk fiber, and it will first resist, then break.
Happily, wool and silk are a perfect pair to contrast, because when the prion protein misfolds into its infectious form, it trades in some of its coils for sheets, altering the structure of the protein dramatically and conferring disease-causing properties upon it.
Learn more about the book and author at Jay Ingram's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 12, 2013

Patrick J. Murphy and Ray W. Coye's "Mutiny and Its Bounty"

Patrick J. Murphy is associate professor of management, DePaul University. He is chair of the Management History Division in the Academy of Management. Ray W. Coye is associate professor emeritus of management, DePaul University. The authors each have maritime service backgrounds and seafaring experience.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Mutiny and Its Bounty: Leadership Lessons from the Age of Discovery, and reported the following:
Mutiny and Its Bounty examines mutinies that occurred on seafaring ventures led by Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan, Sebastian Cabot, and Henry Hudson during the Age of Discovery. We mined voluminous primary sources from these enterprises, which were undertaken 500 years ago, to generate deep insights into how those mutinies occurred. The book’s principal contribution is an illustration of the function of mutiny on those ventures. Unlike today, mutiny was not always seen as bad. To the contrary, it could be good for an enterprise. The best leaders of the era were experts at quelling mutiny or harnessing it for the good of the venture. Today’s entrepreneurs, who are also leading risky ventures into uncertainty, have much to learn from this history.

On page 99, we find a critical juncture in one of the book's richer cases: Cabot's venture for Spain into the Rio de La Plata (April 1526-July 1530). A subsection begins there entitled “The Voyage Home.” It was October 6, 1529, and Cabot had just decided to return to Seville.

When it comes to managing the impressions of people in power for one’s own benefit, few people throughout history can match Sebastian Cabot. He was son of Italian John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto) who landed at Newfoundland for England five years after Columbus’s most famous voyage. Using his father’s achievement, Cabot undertook an amazing career that began in England, shifted into Spain, and then back into England, where he re-founded the “Company of Merchant Adventurers” with Henry Hudson’s grandfather.

For the enterprise we find on page 99, Cabot had convinced most of Spain that he was an expert seafarer. His need for achievement compelled him to apply to lead a high-profile venture inspired by Magellan’s circumnavigation a few years earlier. It intended to trace Magellan’s route, cross the Pacific, and draw new charts to safeguard Spain’s claims in the Spice Islands. However, Cabot’s actual expertise was nothing compared to his ability to influence others. The venture made it halfway down the South American coast, where it entered the Rio de La Plata (between Argentina and Uruguay). There, it fumbled for three years. Whole ships and many members were lost. Mutiny was an omnipresent threat, and Cabot’s steps taken to remain as leader were breathtaking even by the standards of the time. History caught up with him back in Seville, but he soon fled to England, where he again became famous.
Learn more about Mutiny and Its Bounty at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Derek Sayer's "Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century"

Derek Sayer is Professor of Cultural History at Lancaster University and a former Canada Research Chair at the University of Alberta. His books include The Coasts of Bohemia: A Czech History and Capitalism and Modernity. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Sayer applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century: A Surrealist History, and reported the following:
Walter Benjamin dubbed Paris "the capital of the nineteenth century." My book nominates Prague as a capital for the much darker twentieth century. Located at the crossroads of democratic, fascist, and communist visions of the modern, twentieth-century, Prague was a city where the idling flâneur might reveal himself to be a secret policeman at the drop of a hat.

Page 99 closes a discussion of Vyšehrad, the seat of the city's mythical founder Princess Libuše, whose cemetery was turned into a "national" resting place for Czech writers, artists, and composers after 1861. I draw on one of Milan Kundera's essays to suggest that the "warm, watchful intimacy" of the cemetery is double-edged. In representing the nation as a family it excludes not only Bohemian Germans—who were expelled from the country after 1945—but also prodigal sons like Leoš Janáček (whose modernist music made him what Kundera calls an "internal exile") and Kundera himself, who has lived in France since 1975. Exile—and the complications of identity it brings—has been a recurrent element in Czech modernity. Ferdinand Peroutka, a prominent liberal journalist between the wars, spent World War II in German concentration camps and died in 1978 in the United States. His body was exhumed, flown home, and reburied in Vyšehrad in 1991. But no less grotesque are Vyšehrad's empty graves, like Milada Horáková or Josef Čapek's. A cubist painter (who incidentally gave the world the word “robot”), Čapek perished in Bergen-Belsen in 1945.

So yes, page 99 does give a flavor of some of the book's themes—the ironies and surrealities of modernity as exemplified in Prague's fractured twentieth-century history—as well as of its style. I build my narrative through a montage of details like these—places, people, buildings, street names, statues, paintings, operas. Missing from page 99, though, is any mention of the fact that between the wars, when Prague was the capital of Europe's most easterly democracy, it was a hotbed of artistic and architectural modernism and a center of surrealism second only to Paris. That is a story I tell, too—and for the first time in such detail in English.

From page 99:
[Vyšehrad Cemetery] materializes that warm, watchful intimacy in both its comforting presences and its spiteful absences. Kundera himself is unlikely to find rest in the Slavín, even if his claims to a Nobel Prize would be considered by many to be at least as good as those of Jaroslav Seifert. He is doubly unpopular, and doubly envied, among his compatriots: having first flourished as the literary golden boy of the 1968 Prague Spring, he went on to mint international celebrity out of the miseries of the land he abandoned when things turned sour. Not that Kundera would relish spending eternity among the whole company of our great minds anyway. He has been writing in French―the ultimate sacrilege in a nation whose language has been justly described as its “cathedral and fortress”―since 1990.

Ferdinand Peroutka found his way back to Vyšehrad from New York, where he had died in 1978, only in 1991. The former editor of Přítomnost took the long route home, spending World War II in Dachau and Buchenwald and the last thirty years of his life in the United States, where he found refuge after Victorious February. During his American exile Peroutka provided over 1,500 commentaries for Radio Free Europe. One of them, dating from 1956, drew a connection, unthinkable to many at the time―or since―between the postwar “transfer” of Czechoslovakia’s three million “Germans” and other forms of “life without rights or law” in the Czech Lands. “If it is possible to condemn a person for the fact that he belongs to a certain nation,” he wrote, “then it is also possible that he will later be condemned for belonging to a certain social class or political party.” Likely he had in mind, among many others, the National Socialist parliamentary deputy Milada Horáková, who was hanged in Pankrác Prison after the first great Czechoslovak communist show trial in 1950. Horáková, too, now has a place among the company of our great minds. A metaphorical place, that is: where her body disappeared to remains a mystery. Her gravestone was nevertheless placed in Vyšehrad in 1991 with the inscription “executed, but not buried.” Such substitutions of the signifier for the signified were not without historical precedent:

Here would have been buried Josef Čapek, painter and poet
Grave far away
18 23/3 87 19 -/4 45
Learn more about Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Elizabeth Schmidt's "Foreign Intervention in Africa"

Elizabeth Schmidt is Professor of History at Loyola University Maryland. She is the author of Cold War and Decolonization in Guinea, 1946–1958 (2007), which received the African Politics Conference Group’s 2008 Best Book Award, and Mobilizing the Masses: Gender, Ethnicity, and Class in the Nationalist Movement in Guinea, 1939–1958 (2005), which received Alpha Sigma Nu’s book award for history in 2008. Her 1992 book, Peasants, Traders, and Wives: Shona Women in the History of Zimbabwe, 1870–1939, was awarded a special mention in the Alpha Sigma Nu book competition for history, was a finalist for the African Studies Association’s Herskovits Award, and was named by Choice an “Outstanding Academic Book for 1994.”

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Foreign Intervention in Africa: From the Cold War to the War on Terror, and reported the following:
Foreign Intervention in Africa chronicles foreign political and military interventions in Africa during the periods of decolonization and the Cold War (1945–91), with a glimpse into the post-Cold War periods of state collapse and the “global war on terror” (1991-2010). During the first two periods, the United States, the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, and the former colonial powers entangled themselves in countless African conflicts. During the period of state collapse, African governments, sometimes assisted by extra-continental powers, supported warlords, dictators, and dissident movements in neighboring countries and fought for control of their neighbors’ resources. The global war on terror, like the Cold War, has increased the foreign military presence on the African continent and generated external support for repressive governments. The book argues that in each of these cases, external interests altered the dynamics of internal struggles, escalating local conflicts into larger conflagrations, with devastating effects on African peoples.

For this book, the Page 99 Test fails miserably. The ninety-ninth page, which includes a portion of the "Suggested Reading" section for Chapter 4, does not reveal anything significant about the quality of the book as a whole. However, if the reader turns back to page 98, the final page of a chapter titled "War and Decolonization in Portugal’s African Empire," the magnitude and consequences of foreign intervention in one internal African struggle are exposed. This page would pass the test with flying colors.

From page 98:
After independence, thousands of foreign troops poured into Angola. Having waited until November 11 to intervene directly, the Soviet Union embarked on a massive sea- and airlift, transporting more than 12,000 Cuban soldiers between November 1975 and January 1976. Moscow also sent military instructors and technicians, along with heavy weapons, tanks, missiles, and fighter planes. Meanwhile, thousands of South Africa troops and hundreds of European mercenaries, the latter recruited and paid for by the CIA, arrived to assist the MPLA’s rivals. In late November, with a final expenditure of $7 million for the Angolan operation, the CIA’s secret Contingency Reserve Fund was depleted. By that time, America’s once-covert role had been exposed. Embarrassed by the imbroglio, especially American collaboration with white-ruled South Africa, Congress passed two bills that banned further funding of covert activities in Angola, and a reluctant President Ford signed them into law. Abandoned by its allies, South Africa withdrew from Angola during the first few months of 1976. Without Pretoria’s backing, the FNLA and UNITA rapidly collapsed. By February 1976, the MPLA, with Cuban assistance, controlled all of northern Angola. Disgusted by the collaboration between the MPLA’s rivals and apartheid South Africa, the OAU and the vast majority of African nations recognized the MPLA government. By the early 1980s, only the United States and South Africa continued to withhold diplomatic recognition.
Learn more about Foreign Intervention in Africa at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Jonathan Sperber's "Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life"

Jonathan Sperber, the author of The European Revolutions, 1848–1851, is the Curators’ Professor of History at the University of Missouri. He has written extensively on the social and political history of nineteenth-century Europe.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Karl Marx: A Nineteenth Century Life deals with Marx’s first public writings about communism. These were formulated in the fall of 1842, when Marx was the acting editor of the Rheinische Zeitung (the Rhineland News) in the German city of Cologne,. The newspaper was sponsored and funded by businessmen and professionals in Cologne, who inclined to the liberal opposition in the kingdom of Prussia, to which the city then belonged. The newspaper’s editorial polices were a typical example of nineteenth century European liberalism, strongly supporting free trade and the free market economy (a characteristic feature of nineteenth century liberalism, very much unlike today, when we usually associate these ideas with conservatives) and calling for a constitution in Prussia, ruled at the time by an absolute monarch.

The occasion for the piece Marx wrote was an article in another, more conservative newspaper, attacking the Rheinische Zeitung for advocating communist ideas. Marx strongly denied was the case. He asserted that as a political movement communism was not particularly dangerous, because the army could always be called out to suppress a communist workers’ uprising. As an intellectual movement, he went on, it might be more dangerous, infiltrating its ideas into other political tendencies, and he suggested that it was conservatives who were actually propounding communist ideas.

The episode described on this page is an example of three major themes of the book. One is Marx’s political and intellectual development. When he first considered communist ideas he was definitely no sympathizer with them—quite the opposite. In his first public political role, Marx’s ideas were much closer to those of moderate liberal constitutional monarchists than to communists. In fact, during the revolution of 1848, when one of the moderate liberal leaders, Ludolf Camphausen, a banker and president of the Cologne Chamber of Commerce, was appointed Prussia’s Prime Minister, he actually asked Marx to come to Berlin and join his staff. By then, Marx was already a revolutionary communist, and chapters 3-6 of the book trace Marx’s development in that direction.

Another theme of the book from page 99 is the way that Marx used his own experiences as a basis for his political ideas. Five years after writing this article for the Rheinische Zeitung Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto, at the very beginning of which (the famous passage about the specter of communism haunting Europe) he asserted that conservatives denounced liberals and radicals as communists, and radicals hurled the accusation back at conservatives. It is certainly true that conservatives of the 1840s frequently denounced their opponents as communists, but the responding accusation was quite uncommon—except when Marx himself had done it.

This point brings up the third and most important theme of the book articulated on page 99—that Marx’s intellectual and political development needs to be understood in its nineteenth century context. Although we use the same phrases to describe political tendencies today as in the nineteenth century—phrases like conservatism, liberalism, radicalism or communism—their meanings are quite different. The nineteenth century capitalism Marx analyzed was very different from today’s globalized corporate capitalism. Marx’s own ideas were, in many respects, quite different from those of his twentieth and twenty-first century followers. For much of the twentieth century, the image and ideas of Marx had been caught up in the Cold War and the confrontation between the western powers and the eastern bloc. Twenty-five years after the end of the Cold War, this Marx biography seeks to return Marx to the nineteenth century matrix of his ideas and actions.
Learn more about Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 8, 2013

Alison Pearlman's "Smart Casual"

Alison Pearlman is a Los Angeles–based art historian and cultural critic who blogs under the name the Eye in Dining. She teaches modern and contemporary art and design history at Cal Poly Pomona.

Pearlman is the author of Unpackaging Art of the 1980s (University of Chicago Press, 2003) and numerous articles on contemporary art and consumer culture.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Smart Casual: The Transformation of Gourmet Restaurant Style in America, and reported the following:
On page 99, I attempt to reconcile two seemingly contradictory public faces of the restaurant chef. One arises from the design and use of display kitchens (open to the dining room). By page 99, I’ve shown a variety of ways these “theaters of manual labor” construct an idealized image of kitchen work as constantly sensuous, fast-moving, operating on an individual (single-plate) scale, and only loosely hierarchical. Careful syncing of atmospheres between kitchen and dining room likewise creates the impression that work is like the elective and joyous realm of leisure. Exhibition kitchens tend to hide those aspects of kitchen work that are inconsistent with this picture: tasks that are disgusting, slow-moving, industrial-scale, and sharply distinguishing of rank.

A contrasting chef image has proliferated via a type of behind-the-kitchen-doors memoir popularized by Anthony Bourdain in Kitchen Confidential (2000). In that genre we invariably find war stories: about years of cruel discipline amid dirt, noise, and heat; accidentally cut fingers; and self-subordinating, military-style hierarchies.

How can the same “foodie” audience embrace—and thus sustain—both faces of the chef? On page 99, I conclude that the images “are not contradictory but complementary. Like exhibition kitchens, agonistic accounts of kitchen life have boosted the image of chefs as accomplished professionals…while preserving fans’ own distance from their manual-labor trials.”

Page 99 does not suggest the full scope of Smart Casual. But it does represent the book’s emphasis on star chefs and chefs’ idealization by the foodies who support them. I see top chefs and foodies as the principal agents of the transformation in gourmet restaurant style that Smart Casual tries to describe and explain the motives for. Since the mid-seventies, traditional forms of luxury in restaurant décor, formality in attire, ceremoniousness in service, and a relatively rigid canon of cuisine have yielded to mixtures of highbrow and lowbrow elements, which express the creativity of individual chefs. In the book, I argue that this transition is a product of star chefs and the expanding base of gourmets asserting a set of shared and distinctively contemporary interests and values. Exhibition kitchens, for instance, reinforce their meritocratic admiration for professional achievement and self-determined, personally fulfilling work.
Learn more about the book and author at Alison Pearlman's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Cathryn J. Prince's "Death in the Baltic"

Cathryn J. Prince's books include A Professor, a President, and a Meteor: The Birth of American Science, Burn the Town and Sack the Banks: Confederates Attack Vermont!, and Shot from the Sky: American POWs in Switzerland.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Death in the Baltic: The World War II Sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, and reported the following:
On January 30, 1945, a Soviet submarine commander, Alexander I. Marinesko seeking to redeem his reputation, ordered his crew to fire on the Wilhelm Gustloff. His reputation was in shambles after military police found him drunk in a brothel. Marinesko knew he needed a victory; the Gustloff became the ideal target. Three Russian torpedoes struck the boat, causing catastrophic damage. The Gustloff sank and more than 9,000 people perished. In contrast, the Titanic claimed 1,500 lives in a peacetime disaster, and the Lusitania, claimed 1,198 lives in a military disaster.

On page 99 of Death in the Baltic readers find Alexander Marinesko, the Soviet Commander of the S-13, poised to attack the Wilhelm Gustloff. Just one command from Marinesko will decide whether thousands of people – mothers, children and wounded soldiers – will live or die. It’s tense and revealing.

Yet, because history is defined as much by what becomes part of the official record as by what is left unrecorded, few know this story. In this case, German censorship, Soviet suppression, and western indifference buried the Gustloff’s story. Refusing to let the flailing Third Reich hear of defeat, Hitler prohibited officials from reporting the sinking. The Soviet Union suppressed the story partly because it doubted the integrity of the submarine commander. In the West, the event remained buried, first because of war fatigue and then overshadowed by the Cold War.

After the sinking just about 1,000 people were rescued. After the war, many eventually escaped to the West, but not before enduring several more years under Soviet occupation. These real life characters and their human dramas resurrect history and raise provocative questions about loss, redemption, and survival. Yet, here on page 99 none of that has come to pass – no one aboard the Gustloff has any idea what of what awaits.

Excerpt from page 99:
Marinesko, diligent under the waves, borderline brash on the surface, saved his ship. And that is why Marinesko’s crews loved him even when the high command didn’t.

Marinesko’s maneuver on January 30 was a decidedly risky attack in shallow water. It was also the first time Marinesko had launched an attack in almost a month. He looked forward to a clean kill. Yet, he knew when the moment came to order his crew to fire the torpedoes, he had to remain cool, steady, and even aloof. He knew if he returned to port without a kill he could very well end up in Siberia.

So the sailor from Odessa slid his submarine along the port side of the Gustloff. The boat went unnoticed. Four torpedoes were positioned and ready to strike. He was a heartbeat away from becoming a hero.
Learn more about the book and author at Cathryn J. Prince's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Edward G. Goetz's "New Deal Ruins"

Edward G. Goetz is Professor of Urban and Regional Planning and Director of the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of Clearing the Way: Deconcentrating the Poor in Urban America and Shelter Burden: Local Politics and Progressive Housing Policy, and is the coeditor of The New Localism: Comparative Urban Politics in a Global Era.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, New Deal Ruins: Race, Economic Justice, and Public Housing Policy, and reported the following:
The first full sentence on page 99 is a quote from a private real estate developer describing a public housing redevelopment in New Orleans:
“This will not be the redeveloped St. Bernard. This will be a high-end residential neighborhood where St. Bernard once stood.”
This quote captures a great deal of what New Deal Ruins is about. In the book I document the large-scale demolition and dismantling of public housing across the U.S. Though frequently justified as an effort to improve the lives of low-income residents, the transformation of public housing over the past 20 years is better characterized as an effort to dramatically remake the American city. During the 1990s, for example, real estate pressures in and around public housing communities were an important factor in the demolition of that housing and the forced relocation of its residents.

Race, too, is an important factor in the dismantling of public housing. New Deal Ruins shows how low-income African-Americans have borne a disproportionate burden of displacement and forced relocation over the past 20 years. The projects we have demolished during this period have typically had higher proportions of African-American residents than similar developments left standing. Since 2000, the cities that have been most aggressive in removing public housing units are those where the racial profile of public housing is more distinctly African-American compared to the city as a whole.

Thus, in many cities, including New Orleans, Chicago and Atlanta (all three the subject of short case studies in chapter three where page 99 is located), local officials, with the support and funds of the federal government, have systematically dismantled their public housing systems, triggered dramatic changes in land and housing markets, and set off striking socio-economic changes in large swaths of core neighborhoods that had previously been home to very low-income residents.

Page 99 ends with a summary of the New Orleans case study that is an apt summary of the national experience as well:
In a relatively short period of time New Orleans has eliminated thousands of units of low-cost public housing, all of which had been inhabited by low-income African Americans. In New Orleans the dismantling of public housing was part of a larger dynamic about race and poverty in which transformation played a central role in a conscious effort to deconcentrate poverty and disperse low-income blacks. The New Orleans case illustrates how public housing removal is key to efforts to redefine the city. The remaking of New Orleans was put into stark relief by the rebuilding effort after Katrina. Questions about how black or how poor the city should be were given explicit attention in ways that did not occur in other cities. Yet the effort to reduce concentrations of poverty and disperse low-income black residents was similar to Chicago’s Plan for Transformation. The dismantling of public housing in both cities is part of a fundamental redefinition of the city and a forced mobilization of the poor and of people of color to suit a different vision of what the city should be.
Learn more about New Deal Ruins at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 5, 2013

Charles Fernyhough's "Pieces of Light"

Charles Fernyhough is an award-winning writer and psychologist. His book A Thousand Days of Wonder: A Scientist's Chronicle of His Daughter's Developing Mind was a Parade magazine pick of the week and has been translated into seven languages. The author of two novels, The Auctioneer and A Box of Birds, Fernyhough has written for the Guardian, the Financial Times, and the Sunday Telegraph; contributes to public radio's Radiolab; blogs for Psychology Today; and is a Reader in Psychology at Durham University, UK.

Fernyhough applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Pieces of Light: How the New Science of Memory Illuminates the Stories We Tell About Our Pasts, and reported the following:
Pieces of Light is a book about the science and stories of autobiographical memory. Many of us are still wedded to a view of memories as faithful representations of past events (for example, around half of people surveyed will wrongly liken memory to a video camera). I wanted to explore the new scientific consensus that memories are reconstructions, created in the present moment and shaped by who we are now. On page 99, I am about to indulge in that time-honored practice of psychologists experimenting on their own children. My father passed away some years before my kids were born, and I wanted them to have memories of him: not just factual knowledge, but real memories, in which they could picture him and hear his voice. There is plenty of scientific research to support the idea that it is possible to have vivid ‘memories’ of events that never actually happened or that you never genuinely experienced. Scientists understand these phenomena in terms of the brain stitching together many different kinds of information, some of which does not properly belong in the memory at all. If memories are reconstructions rather than literal records, I reasoned, it should be possible to give my kids the materials for making a memory of their grandfather, even though they never met him.

Ethically, of course, this is terribly problematic. What right do I have to try to ‘implant’ memories that my kids don’t genuinely have? I would argue that we are up to this kind of trick all the time. Parents are constantly making decisions, consciously or unconsciously, that will shape their children’s memories. Simply electing to take the video camera with you one day and not another; choosing what to talk about and what to cover up with silence: we are sculpting our children’s narratives of the past all the time, whether we mean to or not. And adults do the same with each other. I discuss some research that shows that adult siblings often claim another sibling’s memory as their own (often to portray themselves in a particularly good light). Just by talking about the past, we are constantly shaping each other’s take on it.

From page 99:
‘What did Grandad Philip always say?’

Isaac is doing some online shopping. He has some leftover holiday money to put towards a new game for the Wii, and I am trying to help him to work out whether, with a couple of weeks of pocket money thrown in, it will be enough.

‘Do I want it?’ His big sister starts enumerating criteria on a thumb and two fingers. ‘Do I need it? Can I afford it?’

I’m not sure that my dad always satisfied these three conditions when he went shopping. But his rule for parting with cash has become part of the children’s own decision-making processes. It is one of the mantras they know him by. He died more than a decade ago, too soon to get to know any of his grandchildren: Athena and Isaac, and their cousins Lucy and Annabel. As time has gone on, I have wondered more and more about how the children are to know him, how I myself should talk about him, and the rights and wrongs of negotiating the memory of someone who is no longer here.

Our memory of him is not a particularly visual one. We don’t spend a lot of time, as a family, going through photographs, and Dad died before digital pictures and video became ubiquitous. Talking to the children about Grandad Philip’s funny pronouncements means that he becomes more real for them than a photographic image. It allows the kids to own a bit of him, to incorporate him into their way of looking at the world. The stories of his outraged behaviour in restaurants and hotels, his subtle ploys for getting a drink when he needed one, have become real for the children, too. I want to say that they remember this affectionate, vulnerable, opinionated man, even though their stays on the planet did not overlap.
Learn more about the book and author at Charles Fernyhough's website.

--Marshal Zeringue