Monday, September 30, 2013

Mark Larrimore's "The Book of 'Job': A Biography"

Mark Larrimore directs the Religious Studies Program at Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts. He is the editor of The Problem of Evil: A Reader and the coeditor of The German Invention of Race.

Larrimore applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Book of "Job": A Biography, and reported the following:
My book passes the test! Page 99 comes in a discussion of Thomas Aquinas’ understanding of the Book of Job, one of many places where I use a particular interpreter’s take to make a more general point. (The whole book is an argument against the supposed obsolescence of premodern ways of reading.) The point here is that since pain is real and has real effects, many premodern thinkers thought Job’s wildest words weren’t really his: It was the pain speaking. Aquinas – surprise! – endorses his suicidal wish not to be: “being and living in misery in a situation of this kind is to be renounced.” Job’s complaints are central to modern claims that he was commendably impatient and even impious, but Aquinas hears something else: even in pain, Job avoided cursing God. To premodern readers, Job was an example not of docile piety but of just how impassioned, even desperate, the words of a faithful person could be in the face of pain, loss and injustice. As Abraham teaches us what faith is, so Job – in his angy speeches as much as in his silences – defines patience.

Page 99 is representative also in drawing in earlier interpretations (the Babylonian Talmud, Gregory the Great) and engaging modern readings. My book is part of a series of “Lives of Great Religious Texts” which tries to make old interpretations relevant for contemporary debates without losing the sense of the pastness of the past. I’ve tried to bring together Jewish and Christian readings, as well as modern secular ones, without pretending they form a single story. Jews and Christians read the Book of Job differently, and should. The idea that anyone can or ought to read it on its own, without reference to the tradition-specific body of scripture and commentary in which they encounter it, is a distinctively modern idea – one I try to name and whose emergence I try to narrate.

Page 99 even discloses one of the main sources of my own way of reading readings. The phrase pain is real and has real effects alludes to William James’ conclusion, in The Varieties of Religious Experience, that “God is real because he has real effects.” My understanding of the history of religion is profoundly shaped by James’ pragmatist idea, earlier in that book, that “The gods we stand by are the gods we need and can use, the gods whose demands on us are reinforcements of our demands on ourselves and on one another.”
Learn more about  The Book of "Job": A Biography at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Matt J. Rossano's "Mortal Rituals"

Matt Rossano is head of the Psychology Department at Southeastern Louisiana University and the author of Evolutionary Psychology: The Science of Human Behavior and Evolution and Supernatural Selection: How Religion Evolved.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Mortal Rituals: What the Story of the Andes Survivors Tells Us About Human Evolution, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Mortal Rituals describes a series of studies in developmental psychology demonstrating that infants follow rules in their interactions with caregivers and they expect caregivers to follow those rules as well. For example, infants follow a simple “turn-taking” rule when interacting with mom. So mom makes a happy face at baby, then pauses and waits as baby makes a happy face in return. Then baby pauses while mom says something like “heeeellooohh.” Then mom pauses and waits as baby replies with “oooouuuuuu.” What these studies show is that baby gets upset if mom fails to wait and give baby his or her turn in the exchange which indicates that very early on baby forms rules about how these exchanges are “suppose” to go.

At first blush, this all seems quite distant from the harrowing story of the Andes’ crash survivors. But there is a deeply-rooted human connection here. Rule-following is one of the critical features of ritual. A well-done ritual choreographs every move, and it is through predictable, precisely-executed gestures that ritual achieves the power to inspire, strengthen, and emotionally elevate us. One reason why ritual possesses such power is that we are conditioned to be sensitive to its qualities very early in life. Our earliest social interactions – those between infants and caregivers – are ritualized affairs.

Having been violently and shocking severed from all the trappings of civilization, the Andes’ survivors clung to ritual as a tether to their very humanity. Nightly, as the dark and cold descended upon them, they would gather in the crumpled, putrid hulk of the plane’s fuselage – their mountain home. As they grew weary and ready to sleep, nineteen-year-old Carlitos Paez would pull out his prayer beads and lead them in reciting the rosary. Despite the wretchedness of their conditions and the gruesomeness of their acts (however necessary for survival), their rituals continually reminded them that they were still what had always been – just Catholic school boys.
Learn more about Mortal Rituals at the Columbia University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Supernatural Selection: How Religion Evolved.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 26, 2013

David T. Gleeson's "The Green and the Gray"

David T. Gleeson is Reader in American History at Northumbria University in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Green and the Gray: The Irish in the Confederate States of America, and reported the following:
As I open to page 99 of my book on Sept. 10, 2013, it’s appropriate to see an illustration of Lieutenant Richard ‘Dick’ Dowling of the Davis Guards from Houston, Texas. Just over 150 years ago on Sept. 8, 1863, he, and his 40 odd fellow Irish artillerymen, halted a Union invasion fleet of 5,000 on the East Texas Gulf Coast at Sabine Pass. Though ordered to evacuate their position they refused to do. Dowling wrote in his official report that “All my men behaved like heroes; not a man flinched from his post. Our motto was ‘victory or death.’” Through rapid and accurate fire the Irishmen disabled a number of Union boats precipitating the calling off of the attack and the capture of hundreds of prisoners. Coming just two months after the Confederate disasters at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, the victory at Sabine Pass was the first bit of good news for the Confederacy since those massive defeats. Confederate bond prices jumped in London and a grateful Confederate Congress and President sent their commendations to the Irish Texans. Sabine Pass was the most significant Irish military action on behalf of the Confederacy in the War.

Yet, my book tries to pull the Irish Confederate story away from the traditional one of the “Fighting Irish.” There is some truth in many stereotypes and a number of Irish Confederate soldiers performed outstanding acts of gallantry. In general though, they were more likely to desert than to fight and die in combat. If captured they were also far more likely to take the oath of Allegiance to the United States than native soldiers. The Irish Confederate story was thus a far more ambiguous one than many have acknowledged. My book also examines the role of Irish civilians and how their support for the Confederacy also flowed, ebbed, and eventually disappeared. All this ambiguity, however, became lost in the commemoration of the war after it had ended. The “Lost Cause” narrative of Confederate heroism in the post-War South did not have room for deserters and oath takers. Ultimately then, I conclude that, despite the bravery of Dowling and others, national identity and patriotism were very fluid concepts in mid-nineteenth century America both for the Irish and natives.
Learn more about The Green and the Gray at the University of North Carolina Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Alison Brysk's "Speaking Rights to Power"

Alison Brysk is the Mellichamp Professor of Global Governance in the Global and International Studies Program at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has authored or edited 10 books on international human rights, and teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on human rights, international relations, civil society, and Latin American politics. In 2013-2014, Brysk will be a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.

Brysk applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Speaking Rights to Power: Constructing Political Will, and reported the following:
I wrote Speaking Rights to Power to try to understand how human rights rhetoric works, and how to make it work better. I wanted to extract the lessons from twenty years of study of human rights campaigns, about how to give voice to the powerless in a way that will make the world listen. As I built out from my own studies of the power of symbolic politics for situations as diverse as Argentina's Mothers of the Disappeared, global indigenous rights, and campaigns against human trafficking, a pattern of communication politics emerged. Human rights campaigns can gain greater recognition and response when they combine compelling speakers, well-framed messages, recognizable patterns, public performances, skillful use of appropriate media, and the construction of attentive audience circuits.

Page 99 applies this framework to compare international response to two of the most urgent and massive episodes of human suffering of the past decade: Darfur and Congo. The title of the section that begins on that page is "Story vs. Silence"--the passage goes on to argue that the forms of abuse in both places had overlapping characteristics and causes, but that "what differed was not so much the reality as the representation." In this case, the power of framing the mass killing in Darfur as a genocide evoked much stronger international mobilization and a measure of intervention that contributed to a decline in the worst violence.

The implication of this analysis is that victims, advocates, and policymakers can learn better ways to construct political will to improve human rights conditions. Clearly this involves recognizing and resisting current violations—but it also means recognizing and empowering vulnerable people; speaking rights to the powers of speech, political participation, and social change to prevent future abuses.
Learn more about the book and author at Alison Brysk's website and the Speaking Rights to Power Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Farha Ghannam's "Live and Die Like a Man"

Farha Ghannam is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Swarthmore College and author of Remaking the Modern: Space, Relocation, and the Politics of Identity in a Global Cairo.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book,  Live and Die Like a Man: Gender Dynamics in Urban Egypt, and reported the following:
From page 99:
After marriage, relatives, neighbors, and friends keep a close eye on the relationship between the husband and wife and deploy several strategies such as joking and teasing, direct criticism, verbal instructions, and, in few cases, physical discipline, to ensure that the hierarchy between the two sides is maintained. They closely monitor the interaction between the couple and pay special attention to bodily gestures (such as the way she looks at him) and language exchanges (such as the wording and intonations of her reactions) to confirm that she shows deference and obedience.
This book shifts the attention to men, who are often taken for granted in the study of gender in the Middle Easy. It explores the changing norms, the multiple contexts, diverse agents, and competing discourses that inform men’s daily life and their standing as gendered subjects. In particular, it accounts for key structures, especially gender and class, which intersect in deep ways to shape men’s conduct and identifications in a low-income neighborhood in northern Cairo, Egypt. Through tracing trajectories of several men of different age groups, the book sheds light on the importance of work and economic productivity, engagement in community life, good grooming, management of urban life, proper use of violence, getting married, and becoming a father in the construction of a masculine identification. My ethnography illustrates that while a masculine identification is embodied by individual actors, masculinity is a collective project that is negotiated through interactions between the private and the public, men and women, young and old, parents and children, and neighbors and strangers.

Page 99 does indeed capture central points the book is making. In contrast to other studies, which tend to assume that masculinity is constructed by men for men and is largely articulated in public life, my analysis pays special attention to the multiple roles women play in the making of men. It shows that women are not merely an oppositional mirror against which masculine identifications are projected and redefined. Rather, mothers, sisters, and wives actively work to help their male relatives materialize the notion of the “real man” and contribute in important ways to their standing both in private and public. Through tracing changing relationships between men and women and closely looking at the husband-wife relationship, which is carefully monitored by other family members, I show that women’s instructions, criticisms, judgments, and moral and financial support are important part of the technologies that cultivate a masculine identity that is legitimized and recognized by others. It is thus through the interaction between men and women, not their separation or simple opposition, that gendered identifications are elaborated and reproduced.
Learn more about Live and Die Like a Man at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 20, 2013

Mark Denny's "Lights On!"

Mark Denny is a theoretical physicist who worked in academia and industry. His books include Gliding for Gold: The Physics of Winter Sports and The Science of Navigation: From Dead Reckoning to GPS.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Lights On!: The Science of Power Generation, and reported the following:
Lights On! is my tenth popular science book--the subject matter seems to be getting bigger with each publication, and in this case I examine the science of power generation. But to describe this subject as ‘big’ is like describing Attila the Hun as ‘confrontational’ or Warren Buffet as ‘well off’. The manner in which humanity generates the power it needs is a pressing matter, and will become more so soon enough. There is a crunch coming in a few years time, due to a combination of fossil fuels running out and climate change. We need to decide wisely and soon about how we are going to generate the power we need to maintain our civilization over the next several decades.

These notions are hardly new, but a lot of nonsense has been written about them by the extremists on both sides. My book takes a dispassionate look, from the point of view of a physicist from outside the power-generation industry, at our current means of generating power and the best ways for doing so in the future. The first few chapters explain present-day technology--coal, oil and gas, hydro, wind and solar--and how we move the energy sources or generated power around the world (supertankers, electricity pylons …). Then I investigate future technology trends and the best bets for the next generation. I don’t expect to win many friends with my conclusions.

Page 99 happens to land right in the middle of a coal-fired power plant. Coal is dirty but cheap: this page digs the dirt. The by-products of burning coal pollutes rivers, air and coal miners. One of the most important pollutants is heat: a picture on page 99 shows the steam rising from cooling towers of a coal-fired power plant. This is the only hot air in the book, I maintain.
Learn more about Lights On! at the Johns Hopkins University Press website and Mark Denny's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Science of Navigation.

Writers Read: Mark Denny (July 2012).

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Henry R. Nau's "Conservative Internationalism"

Henry R. Nau is professor of political science and international affairs in the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. His many books include The Myth of America's Decline, At Home Abroad, and Perspectives on International Relations.

Nau applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Conservative Internationalism: Armed Diplomacy under Jefferson, Polk, Truman, and Reagan, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Conservative Internationalism discusses the purchase of the Louisiana territory by Thomas Jefferson and notes that Jefferson expanded government, in this case by a $15 million debt for Louisiana, when it helped freedom. In this case, the Louisiana Purchase widened the vote for white male citizens by making land available, ownership of which in those days was required to vote. Jefferson opposed central government when it threatened freedom, as in the case of the Sedition Acts of the 1790s.

This book is about how Jefferson and other limited government conservatives have thought about US foreign policy ever since. It features James K. Polk, who thought very much like Jefferson, Harry Truman, who was a more conservative president than Franklin Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan who was the quintessential small government advocate at home and champion of freedom abroad. Each of these presidents combined a commitment to defend and spread freedom with a muscular foreign policy to confront despots and a willingness to compromise to keep the costs of foreign policy from undermining our domestic freedoms.

The book's message is more timely than ever. Libertarian, social, economic and reformed conservatives have far more in common with each other, on both domestic and foreign policy, than they do with liberals. This book helps them see that and hastens the day when Republicans can take back the reins of American foreign policy and at acceptable cost reassert American exceptionalism and leadership.
Learn more about Conservative Internationalism at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Karen M. Dunak's "As Long as We Both Shall Love"

Karen M. Dunak is Assistant Professor of History at Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio. She earned her BA in History at American University and her PhD in Modern US History at Indiana University.

Dunak applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, As Long as We Both Shall Love: The White Wedding in Postwar America, and reported the following:
Page 99 features one of my favorite sources used in As Long as We Both Shall Love: Robin Morgan’s “Barbarous Rituals.” Among those listed:
  • quarreling with your fiancé over whether “and obey” should be in the marriage ceremony
  • secretly being bitched because the ceremony says “man and wife” – not “husband and wife” or “man and woman.” Resenting having to change your (actually, your father’s) name
  • having been up since 6:00 A.M. on your wedding day seeing family and friends you don’t even really like and being exhausted from standing just so and not creasing your gown and from the ceremony and reception and traveling and now being alone with this strange man who wants to “make love” when you don’t know that you even like him and even if you did you desperately want to sleep for fourteen hours…
Coming toward the end of the third chapter – on the rise of hippie or alternative weddings – the page concludes a discussion of the influence of women’s liberation on the style of celebration emerging in the 1960s and 1970s. Morgan’s list reveals the limitations of the day assumed to be the crowning glory of every woman’s life. She critiqued the standard white wedding celebration with its focus on language, roles, and appearances marked by limited, old-fashioned expectations of gender. As other women read her list, they too identified with the confines of the celebration and realized they were not alone in their dissatisfaction with the celebration and all it communicated about men and women. Like other feminists of the era, Morgan suggested that not all women could be expected to desire the same experiences and that those who were looking for more egalitarian unions might need to develop an alternative to the standard wedding form.

As I argue throughout the book, the 1960s philosophy that the personal was political directly influenced men and women as they aimed to infuse their celebrations with individual touches that expressed something distinct about their relationships and expectations of married life. Women (and men) realized that they need not follow the cultural expectations laid before them. They could review and revise such expectations as they saw fit, and ultimately, this is exactly what couples did and what couples well beyond the 1960s and 1970s have been doing as they’ve celebrated their weddings and entered into marital unions.
Learn more about As Long as We Both Shall Love at the New York University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 16, 2013

Gary Klein's "Seeing What Others Don’t"

Gary Klein, a senior scientist at MacroCognition LLC, was instrumental in founding the field of naturalistic decision making. Klein received his PhD in experimental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh in 1969. He spent the first phase of his career in academia and the second phase working for the government as a research psychologist for the U.S. Air Force. The third phase, in private industry, started in 1978 when he founded Klein Associates, a research and development company that had grown to thirty-seven employees by the time he sold it in 2005. He is the author of Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions; The Power of Intuition; Working Minds: A Practitioner's Guide to Cognitive Task Analysis (with Beth Crandall and Robert Hoffman); and Streetlights and Shadows: Searching for the Keys to Adaptive Decision Making.

Klein applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Seeing What Others Don't: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights, and reported the following:
I accepted the challenge to perform the page 99 test – open my new book Seeing What Others Don’t to page 99 and see what that page tells about the entire book. Then I got a bit nervous because I hadn’t checked to see what was on page 99.

As it turns out, page 99 is a wonderful description of the book. The page starts a new section titled “Looking at the Stories.” This section falls within a chapter that describes different ways I tried to understand how we gain insights.

First, I examined the data I had collected from 120 actual incidents in which people arrived at insights. I had started with the formal coding I had performed on the data. I had derived 14 different categories and coded each incident on all 14. This approach produced some useful findings, but nothing exceptional.

Next I looked at the scientific literature on insight. Again, some nice information but mostly disappointment. The insight researchers had restricted their studies to simple tasks they could perform in a laboratory in an hour; these restrictions didn’t fit the kinds of incidents I had assembled.

Finally, I plunged into the 120 incidents themselves to see what I could learn. This is the section “Looking at the Stories” that begins on page 99. And here I hit paydirt. I discovered what the laboratory studies had been missing. I uncovered several different pathways for attaining insights.

The strategy of looking directly at the stories of how insights appeared isn’t as controlled as laboratory studies. You can’t define in advance how you’ll be running statistics. But what you get is the opportunity to make discoveries – to learn things from the stories that you hadn’t previously imagined.

Here is what I had to say about the story method on page 99:
Naturalistic methods can be a bit nerve-wracking because you never know what you are looking for. You sift through the stories, on the lookout for patterns that might be meaningful. When you do laboratory studies in psychology you define in advance what data you’re going to collect, what hypotheses you’re going to test, what statistics you’re going to use. But the story-based strategy leaves all of that open. You can’t define in advance how you are going to analyze your data because you don’t know what patterns might emerge. Reviewing the stories is scary and exciting.

The incident-based method is well-suited for the early stages of science in which you try to explore some phenomenon. I hoped to find some answers in the 120 stories of insights.
Learn more about Seeing What Others Don't at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Paul Schneider's "Old Man River"

Paul Schneider is the acclaimed author of Bonnie and Clyde, Brutal Journey, The Enduring Shore, and The Adirondacks, a New York Times Book Review Notable Book.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Old Man River: The Mississippi River in North American History, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Old Man River was one of the first pages of the book to be written. It falls near the beginning of a brief description of a voyage I took with my then-15-year-old son in kayaks on the Mississippi River from St. Louis, where the Missouri joins the river, to Cairo, where the Ohio arrives. We camped on sandbars, ran along the tops of boxcars on sidings above the river, or squirreled our boats among the weeds and crept into river towns like Huck and Jim might have if they carried credit cards that could buy them a night in a hotel and a steak dinner.

Old Man River is not, however, primarily a travel narrative: page 99 is one of a relatively few pages describing adventures up and down the watershed during the course of researching the role the river has played in the history of the continent. Far more pages are devoted to the ancient mastodon hunters and mound-builders, to the failed conquistadors and fearless French, the marching Anglos and enslaved Africans, the river rats and backwoods pirates. And of course to Twain, Dickens, Trollope, Melville, Audubon and the other 19th century riverboat tourists.

Yet, the moments of personal reflection on the river--whether in kayaks on the Lower Mississippi, in canoes on the Bayou Teche, in a tin-boat on the Ohio--are to me more than mere leavening for the more traditional “history.” I am not one who is particularly convinced by the argument that those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it: would that it were true that educated leaders could learn from the mistakes of the past.
For me the main reason to study history is to enhance our experience of the immediate present, which after all is a part of the past as soon as it is noticed. Just as a person who knows the ins and outs and rosters and rules of baseball is likely to enjoy the world series more than a neophyte, so a knowledge of where we have come from informs where we are.

So I travel. “As soon as you are on the coffee-colored water,” I wrote on page 99, “you know immediately that you belong to the Mississippi River.”
Learn more about the book and author at Paul Schneider's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Hilary Levey Friedman's "Playing to Win"

Hilary Levey Friedman is a Harvard sociologist and expert on popular culture encompassing childhood and parenting, competitive afterschool activities, beauty pageants, reality TV, education and more.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture, and reported the following:
I was excited to turn to page 99 of Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture to see what I wrote—and I was pleasantly surprised that the page captures one of the central ideas in the book! Playing to Win is based on my research with 95 families with elementary school-age children involved in competitive chess, dance, and soccer.

Over six chapters I explore why parents want their children to participate in these competitive afterschool activities (one of the major focuses is gaining admission to an elite college or university in the future). I label the lessons and skills that parents hope their children gain from participating in competitive activities “competitive kid capital.” The character associated with this competitive kid capital that parents want their children to develop is based on the acquisition of five skills and lessons, which emerged in conversations with parents: (1) internalizing the importance of winning, (2) bouncing back from a loss to win in the future, (3) learning how to perform within time limits, (4) learning how to succeed in stressful situations, and (5) being able to perform under the gaze of others.

Each chapter answers some overarching questions: Why have these competitive activities developed over time? How is the competition structured now, and in each research site? Why do parents believe these competitive activities and competitive kid capital to be so important in their children’s lives? How do parents make decisions about the specific competitive activities for their children? In what ways is there an industry behind these organized competitive activities? What do the children think about their participation in these competitive activities?

Page 99 appears in Chapter 3, “Cultivating Competitive Kid Capital: Generalist and Specialist Parents Speak” and it details the second part of Competitive Kid Capital—bouncing back from a loss to win in the future. The first quote on the page is one I often use in talks as it really captures the difficult, long-term futures Playing to Win parents envision for their kids.
Other parents expressed similar sentiments about the importance of learning about hard work and loss in childhood, highlighting the unpredictable nature of life: “The winning and losing is phenomenal. I wish it was something that I learned because life is really bumpy. You’re not going to win all the time and you have to be able to reach inside and come back. Come back and start fresh and they are able to. I’m not saying he doesn’t cry once in a while. But it’s really such a fantastic skill.”
The rest of Page 99 in its entirety:
Parents value these life lessons about persistence because of the way they view American society. Every single parent I interviewed stated that they find American society to be competitive. One dance mom exclaimed, “Hell, yeah, America is competitive! But the beauty of it is, if you’re mentally strong and if you’re prepared and if you are open to possibility, I think you can create your own destiny, whatever it is.”

Another mother and I talked about her views of this competitive society and how perseverance in competitive dance can help in the long term:
Mom: Academically, they’re so much more advanced than we were and that’s better as far as what they can do with their lives. I think it has gotten much better as opposed to what we, you know compared to when I grew up, there are more opportunities. But it’s hard. It’s a competitive world, you know? It’s a lot, it’s hard for them.

Hilary: Do you see dance fitting into helping her navigate that competitive world?

Mom: You know what, I think it helps with rejection, it helps with being able to handle it. You know she wants to compete in jazz. Well, if you want to compete in jazz you have to try even harder. I feel it teaches her that being able to handle the idea that, like, well she’s [another girl] is better than you. And there’s no question about it, so another girl is going to move on and you’re not. I think that kind of helps, you know? She learns not everything comes easy and you’re not going to always get what you might want, or maybe even you’re not trying hard enough.
Learn more about the book and author at Hilary Levey Friedman's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Anthony Gierzynski's "Saving American Elections"

Anthony Gierzynski (Jack) is a professor of political science at the University of Vermont and the Director of the James M. Jeffords Center's Vermont Legislative Research Service. His books include Harry Potter and the Millennials: Research Methods and the Politics of the Muggle Generation (2013), Money Rules: Financing Elections in America (2000), and Legislative Party Campaign Committees in the American States (1992), as well as a number of articles in peer-reviewed journals.

Gierzynski applied the “Page 99 Test” to his 2010 book, Saving American Elections: A Diagnosis and Prescription for a Healthier Democracy, and reported the following:
On page 99 the reader will find himself/herself in the “causes” section of the diagnosis of what ails American elections. The diagnosis is the core of the book. Reformers have been prescribing medicine for elections for decades, but unlike medical doctors, none of those remedies have been prescribed in the context of a full diagnosis of the patient. The purpose of the book is to address this shortcoming by working up a full diagnosis (using the extant research and data on elections) and then showing how we can use the diagnosis to examine prescriptions for improving the health of US elections. The diagnosis is broken down into symptoms (low voter turnout, a cynical and poorly informed public), the illness (uncompetitive elections, political inequality, an overwhelmed electorate, and failing supportive institutions), and the causes of the illness (privately owned news media, the behavior of politicians, habits of the electorate, electoral structure, and electoral law and administration). The specific “cause” that is discussed on pg. 99 is electoral administration in the US which results in lost votes, voter confusion, and voter disenfranchisement.

After the diagnosis is complete each subsequent chapter examines electoral prescriptions in light of the diagnosed problems with the media, the electoral structure, political parties and politicians, electoral law and administration, and the public, asking of each reform whether it addresses the problems identified in the diagnosis and what research tells us about the likelihood of the treatment succeeding.
Learn more about Saving American Elections at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: Harry Potter and the Millennials.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Gerard N. Magliocca's "American Founding Son"

Gerard N. Magliocca is the Samuel R. Rosen Professor at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. He is the author of three books on constitutional law, and his work on Andrew Jackson was the subject of an hour-long program on C-Span’s Book TV.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, American Founding Son: John Bingham and the Invention of the Fourteenth Amendment, and reported the following:
Page 99 of American Founding Son talks about John A. Bingham’s work as one of the prosecutors in the military trial of John Wilkes Booth’s co-conspirators. Although Bingham is best known for his time in the House of Representatives, where he wrote the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, his role in the Lincoln assassination trial was the most controversial part of his career. Even though the accused were citizens and the District of Columbia had a civilian government, they were denied an ordinary criminal trial with a jury and many of the other protections of the Bill of Rights. This is ironic because Bingham would later be one of the leading champions of extending those fundamental rights to state criminal trials, which were not covered by the Bill of Rights at the time. Nevertheless, Bingham defended the military procedures applied to the alleged conspirators because he believed that the Constitution’s guarantee of “due process of law” was far more limited in wartime. All of the defendants were convicted and four of them were executed; a result that many historians still criticize. Here is an excerpt from Page 99:
Judge Advocate Holt took most of the witnesses during the trial, but Bingham gave the closing argument for the prosecution. It was a spellbinding performance that lasted two days, and one man in the courtroom stated that Bingham’s “invective burned and seared like hot iron. But when he touched upon the great and lovable qualities of the martyred Lincoln his lips would quiver with emotion, and his voice became as tender and reverent as if he were repeating the Lord’s Prayer.”
Learn more about American Founding Son at the New York University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 9, 2013

Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones's "In Spies We Trust"

Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones was born in Carmarthen in Wales and was a postdoc at Harvard after obtaining his Ph.D. from Cambridge University. He has been an anti-apartheid campaigner and radio and TV broadcaster. President of the Scottish Association for the Study of America, he writes about US social and intelligence history, his latest books being In Spies We Trust: The Story of Western Intelligence (Oxford University Press, 2013) and The American Left: Its Impact on Politics and Society since 1900 (Edinburgh and Oxford University Presses, 2013).

Jeffreys-Jones applied the “Page 99 Test” to In Spies We Trust and reported the following:
In Spies We Trust traces the rise, fall and obsolescence of the Anglo-American special intelligence relationship from 1909 to the present. It goes on to discuss alternative intelligence solutions that might benefit the US and its allies, for example at the UN and the European Union.

Page 99 touches on some of the book’s themes. One is the phenomenon of mutual learning. The UK taught the US some of the rudiments of spying. However, the US taught the UK how to make spies accountable to the electorate, not just to a secretive government elite. Freedom of information and congressional oversight were American gifts to western intelligence.

Moreover, the CIA was not, as many have supposed, the result of British tuition. From page 99:
Was the CIA a British invention? Not really, ... as we shall see after a review of the real causes of the agency’s creation. Here, we can start with the long-term underlying cause of the rise of intelligence agencies in general—the aversion to war, the desire to seek out ‘intelligent’ and bloodless solutions to international problems.
As page 99 reminds us, intelligence for peace is a popular concept in our democratic age with its aversion to physical warfare and its body bags.

Developing the theme of American roots of American intelligence, the page alludes to ‘a consciousness of American tradition. There were particular strands of memory: for example Evangeline Bell’s recollections of U-1 may have affected the outlook at OSS London.’

The reference here is to a woman who spoke twelve languages and became the second wife of David Bruce, the OSS London station chief. Evangeline was the daughter of Ned Bell, a key US intelligence official in World War I. From his base in America’s London embassy, Bell liaised with Room 40, the UK code breaking unit that intercepted and decoded the Zimmermann Telegram, an event that helped precipitate US entry into the war.

The Anglophile Bell – he ditched his American wife in favor of an English society lady – could not prize cryptological methodology from British control. To remedy the deficiency, he and his colleagues at U-1 favored the creation of a US code breaking unit, soon known as the American Black Chamber – ‘ABC’ was NSA’s precursor.

And what was ‘U-1’? It was a central intelligence unit run from the department of state. It was so secret that even today few people recognize the term. ‘Central intelligence”. Sound familiar?
Read more about In Spies We Trust at the Oxford University Press website.

Learn about Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones's top ten classic spy novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Joshua Safran's "Free Spirit"

Joshua Safran is an attorney, writer, speaker, and occasional rabbi, and was featured in the award-winning documentary Crime After Crime, which premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and had its television debut as part of the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN)'s Documentary Film Club. He is a nationally recognized champion for women's rights and a zealous advocate for survivors of domestic violence and the wrongfully imprisoned. For his work he has received national media coverage and numerous awards. He lives in Oakland, California.

Safran applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Free Spirit: Growing Up On the Road and Off the Grid, and reported the following:
When Saigon fell in 1975, my mother stood on the back porch of her commune in the Haight-Ashbury and cried. Not because of the tear gas or the hashish in the air, but because the Revolution had failed. She’d spent her entire life working to overthrow the government to create a New America, and now - with the end of the war and the Draft - New America was over. Her brothers and sisters were unclenching their fists and surrendering to 9 to 5 jobs. My mother had a choice to make. She had turned on, tuned in, and dropped out. Now she could crawl back on her hands and knees or she could take to the hills to keep the Revolution alive. When I was born she turned her eyes to the hills, and we hitchhiked our way across the west for years, seeking a place for the Revolution in exile. I was raised lamenting the loss of a New America that never was, running from an America I had never known, and searching for a utopia that I would never recognize.

In many ways my account of my childhood in Free Spirit is an immigrant story. It’s just that the foreign land I hailed from was located right here in America. Like many immigrants, what I wanted more than anything else was to assimilate. I dreamt of running water, electricity, and … doughnuts. While living sugarless and off the grid set me apart, I learned that not going to school was what made me truly alien. My mother believed that school was no place for children and page 99 finds me in a small town on Mount Lassen, California struggling to answer the strange question that keeps being asked:
“What grade are you in?”…

I’d spent most of what would have been my kindergarten year traveling around in a funky blue van and a green bus. Now, it was summer and there was no school. And the plan for the coming fall was that my mother would home-school me. Sometimes I’d give this whole narrative as a response, which would leave the questioner silent and bewildered. Other times, I’d simply respond: “I’m home-schooled.” This prompted the questioner to give a sad shake of the head and say to my mother: “Oh, so he’s retarded, then?”

As we hitchhiked home through the tiny cluster of buildings that was Manton, I gazed at the one place in town I’d never been: the elementary school. It was dark, closed for the summer. But in my mind, it was full of potential for the fall.…

My mother’s eyes grew wide with alarm. “You want to go to school!?” She wouldn’t have been more surprised if I’d told her I was leaving to join the Reagan administration. But she’d heard right. I wanted to go to school. “Are you sure, Josh?” I was sure. Deep within me I sensed that school was something kids had to do, even if their mothers told them they didn’t. “You remember what I told you about school, right?” She wanted to make sure I knew what I was getting into. “Public school, it’s run by the government, remember?” I assured her she’d trained me so well that I would have no problem withstanding the Capitalist lies and conformist brainwashing that made school so dangerous.
--Adapted from Free Spirit by Joshua Safran. Published by Hyperion Books, a division of the Hachette Book Group. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
This was my first foray into school, and it didn’t turn out well. I was too alien. It wasn’t until sixth grade that I came tumbling out of the forest again to make another stab at real school. It was an awful experience, but there I finally began my process of assimilating into American society.

[Click here for photo of Joshua Safran looking forward to first grade. Little did he know that wandering in woods discussing Marxism wouldn't prepare him for the Darwinism of the school yard.]
Learn more about the book and author at Joshua Safran's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 6, 2013

Tom Kizzia's "Pilgrim's Wilderness"

Tom Kizzia's stories about the Pilgrim Family won a President's Award from McClatchy Newspapers. He traveled widely in rural Alaska as a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. His work has appeared in The Washington Post and been featured on CNN. Kizzia is a former Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University and a graduate of Hampshire College. His first book, The Wake of the Unseen Object, was named one of the best all-time non-fiction books about Alaska by the state historical society. He lives in Homer, Alaska.

Kizzia applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier, and reported the following:
The chapter titled "Hostile Territory" focuses on the escalating confrontation that opens the story of Pilgrim's Wilderness. It is 2003 and the fretful National Park Service has sent rangers on a snowmachine foray into the valley of the Pilgrim Family, who have set about bulldozing, hunting and homesteading in the middle of America's biggest national park.

The problem for the federal rangers is that Alaska's new national parks, staked out by Congress in 1980, were supposed to allow a measure of frontier living even as they protected the continent's last big tracts of wilderness. Papa Pilgrim and his wife and fifteen children were surely pushing the limits, but no one was really sure where those limits were.

On page 99, I provide a little background on this moment in American history. The rangers, concerned that overzealous pioneering could affect park resources, have been met with hostility from some residents of the nearby copper-mining ghost town of McCarthy. And I point out they've also had to deal with political hostility from above, as when former Interior Secretary James Watt opened the black spruce bogs just north of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park to latter-day homesteading in 1983, adding new pressure on park resources:
It proved to be the last federal homesteading opportunity in American history, where Jefferson's agrarian idea emitted its death gurgle in a mess of muddy muskeg trails and abandoned tar-paper shacks.
The park seems determined to make an example of the Pilgrims. And vice versa. The apprehensive rangers, serving as advance scouts for a massive and well-armed damage-assessment team, are confronted by several silent long-haired Pilgrim sons. Both sides are armed with video cameras. But there is nothing funny about how Papa Pilgrim forces the rangers to turn back. The Christian patriarch is "as aggressive as passive gets," in the words of a neighbor.

Page 99 includes a reminder of why tensions in Alaska were high. Memories are fresh of the fatal face-off in 1992 at Idaho's Ruby Ridge between federal agents and a similar isolated, apocalypse-ready family.

The Alaska national park confrontation draws media attention to the Pilgrims for the first time and makes them back-to-the-land icons for the property rights movement. But the political drama is soon to move from center stage, as the terrible reality at the heart of the Pilgrim Family's frontier myth-making emerges and the children themselves must rise up against their god-like father and his legacy of ignorance, brutality, torture and rape.
Learn more about the book and author at Tom Kizzia's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Stacey L. Smith's "Freedom’s Frontier"

Stacey L. Smith is assistant professor of history at Oregon State University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Freedom's Frontier: California and the Struggle over Unfree Labor, Emancipation, and Reconstruction, and reported the following:
In this book, I attempt to unsettle the familiar story of the Civil War era by geographically recentering it in the Far West. Scholars usually narrate the Civil War as a struggle between the North and the South over the fate of free labor and slavery and the destiny of black and white Americans. I argue, however, that when we look west, to gold rush California, these familiar regional, labor, and racial binaries lose their coherence. The California gold country was a multiracial global borderland. Diverse people—African Americans, Chinese, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and Latinos—worked under a wide array of labor systems— including indentured servitude, apprenticeship, debt bondage, and contract labor—which could not be easily classified as slave or free. Although California adopted an antislavery constitution in 1849, the state remained embroiled in bitter conflicts over these ambiguous labor systems until Reconstruction.

Page 99 takes us into the heart of California’s struggle over Chinese contract labor, a labor arrangement that thoroughly blurred the line between slavery and freedom. Here we learn about the 1852 schemes of two California legislators—Sen. George Tingley and Assemblyman Archibald Peachy—to pass bills allowing American employers to recruit Chinese laborers and bring them to California under long-term labor contracts (ranging from five to ten years) at low monthly wages. Both men proposed to punish Chinese contract breakers with criminal prosecution, fines, and jail time.

Together, these bills provoked a statewide debate over the freedom of contract labor. The ability to make a contract was a hallmark of freedom in the nineteenth century, a key legal right that distinguished free laborers from slaves. And yet, white miners insisted that Chinese workers who might agree to these contracts would suffer such harsh working conditions that they would resemble slaves more than free men. Moreover, wealthy employers would import so many of these “contract slaves” that they would drive free white men out of the labor market. Ultimately, the campaign to align contract labor with slavery, rather than freedom, was the driving force behind the defeat of these two bills and helped spur California’s anti-Chinese movement. The conflict over Chinese contract labor shows how shifting focus to the Pacific can open new insights into slavery, freedom, and race in nineteenth-century America.
Learn more about Freedom's Frontier at the University of North Carolina Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Candy Gunther Brown's "The Healing Gods"

Candy Gunther Brown is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University. She is the author of Testing Prayer: Science and Healing and The Word in the World, and she is the editor of Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing. Her work has been published in The Huffington Post, Psychology Today, and The Daily.

Brown applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Healing Gods: Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Christian America, and reported the following:
My book explains how and why complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) entered the American cultural mainstream, most remarkably finding a niche among evangelical Christians, although much of CAM is religious but not distinctively Christian and lacks scientific evidence of efficacy and safety. Most CAM advertisements stress natural, scientifically validated health benefits. But whether or not they tell you this, many CAM providers make religious or spiritual assumptions about why CAM works, assumptions inspired by religious traditions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism that developed in Asia or metaphysical spirituality that grew up in Europe and North America.

Chapters examine CAM practices such as yoga, acupuncture, Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, meditation, martial arts, homeopathy, and anticancer diets. Page 99 zooms in on chiropractic.

Most people today assume that visiting a chiropractor is almost like visiting a medical doctor. This is, however, a recent development. Up until the 1960s, American medical doctors dismissed chiropractic as quackery, and Christian clergy rejected chiropractic as tainted by “Eastern” religions and “New Age” spirituality. Today, M.D.s work in partnerships with chiropractors, and Christians welcome chiropractic as a God-given method of pain relief.

The chapter “I Love My Chiropractor!” reveals that chiropractic grew out of Western metaphysics, including mesmerism and spiritualism. Page 99 provides evidence that most chiropractors today still espouse metaphysical views (although most also self-identify as Christians). Chiropractors typically market their profession by selecting scientific rather than religious language in promotional literature. But when talking to sympathetic audiences, chiropractors describe “Innate Intelligence” as a spiritual force, akin to God. The purpose of chiropractic adjustments is not merely physical realignment. Adjustments remedy misalignments between individuals and a universal, life-giving spiritual energy that created and animates the universe. As page 99 explains, chiropractors
use Innate Intelligence as a spiritual concept, reminding readers of the “power of your inner spirit, soul or innate intelligence,” since “we do not only consist of flesh and blood, but also of a soul and spirit. It is these intangible and unseen components that are often overlooked as potential interferences with our innate gift to be well.” Since “Innate Intelligence ... already has the intention and control of all the components needed” for the “expression of health,” as long as the chiropractor makes “certain that the adjustment is given correctly . . . innate will step in and do the rest.” In his “Chairman’s Message” for 1998, Edward Maurer writes in the Journal of the American Chiropractic Association that chiropractic is “steeped in philosophy” that “always adheres to the basic premise of universal or innate intelligence.”
Innate Intelligence is a personal force that can intentionally “step in” to produce health. Innate is universal, but individuals are born with a segment of the Intelligence that fills the universe—this is their “soul and spirit.”

As chiropractor Mike Reid explains Innate Intelligence for the 2007 Chiropractic Journal, quoted page 99:
We are spiritual beings who are a piece of an entire bigger picture with a purpose in life.... As chiropractors, we already know that the universal intelligence, lies within us as innate intelligence, causes our heart to beat, digests our food, and allows us to think as free people.... Listen to your innate.... Sit in a lotus position with your palms opened up. See yourself as one and the same with the universe.
Chiropractors like Reid adjust patients to bring them into harmony with Innate Intelligence—on the premise that Innate creates and sustains life, and humans are “one and the same with the universe,” or “part of the Creator.”

Such religious views might surprise patients, insurers, and advocates of laws such as the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) that identify chiropractic—and related CAM practices—as medical therapies.
Learn more about The Healing Gods at the Oxford University Press website, and follow Candy Gunther Brown on Facebook and Twitter.

Writers Read: Candy Gunther Brown.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Kathleen Wellman's "Queens and Mistresses of Renaissance France"

Kathleen Wellman is Dedman Family Distinguished Professor and chair of the Clements Department of History at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Queens and Mistresses of Renaissance France, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Queens and Mistresses of Renaissance France marks a transition in a chapter on Anne of Brittany. She was twice queen of France, wed to two successive kings: Charles VIII and Louis XII. Page 99 ends an analysis of her political importance and begins a discussion of her cultural impact. It differentiates the character of the two courts in which she was central. The first at Amboise was more Breton in character and more wedded to medieval Gothic arts, while the second court with Louis XII was more sophisticated, more open to feminine influence, and more indebted to the Renaissance arts. Page 99 thus reflects the book’s emphasis on a queen’s role in defining a distinctive French Renaissance but only hints at her equally extensive and significant political roles, and neglects another central theme of the book: the roles these women played as iconic figures in the construction of French national memory. Page 99 does not convey the book’s chronological scope from the end of the Hundred Years War to the end of the Wars of Religion.

Anne of Brittany is just one of the fascinating royal women Queens and Mistresses of Renaissance France makes central to its narrative of the Renaissance. It begins with the designation of Agnès Sorel as the first, official French mistress in 1444 and ends with the death in 1599 of Gabrielle d’Estrées, the mistress Henry IV planned to marry. The intermediate chapters treat Anne of Brittany, the women associated with Francis I, Diane de Poitiers, Catherine de Medici, and Marguerite de Valois. The book explores both their lives and accomplishments and the ways they have been invoked subsequently to praise or condemn them, to condemn monarchy or look back to it with nostalgia, to argue against women’s political activities or, very recently, to assert their importance to French culture. Queens and Mistresses of Renaissance France concludes:
Royal women of the French Renaissance were the celebrities of their day. They lived quasi-public lives and acted in public settings; their personal triumphs and tragedies were common knowledge. They not only had significant impact on kings’ reigns but also left deep traces of their lives in Renaissance arts and literature. The ways they transgressed expectations of women’s lives, worked to break free of limits placed on them, or took conventional roles and molded them to fit the challenges they faced continue to intrigue us…
Learn more about Queens and Mistresses of Renaissance France at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 2, 2013

Laurel Fulkerson's "No Regrets"

Laurel Fulkerson is an Associate Professor at Florida State University. In addition to work on the emotions, she has published articles on gender, Latin, and Greek poetry. She has held visiting fellowships at the University of Cincinnati, Exeter College, and St. Anne's College, Oxford.

Fulkerson applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, No Regrets: Remorse in Classical Antiquity, and reported the following:
No Regrets begins from the question that has always fascinated me about the ancient world: how like us, really, were those people who lived thousands of years ago? We feel like we can relate to the classical past – literature, art, and history – but the worry arises, at least for me, whether we are simply transferring modern assumptions back in time. I have found the cross-cultural study of the emotions to be a useful tool for becoming more precise about details of both similarity and difference.

No Regrets focuses on the moral emotion of remorse, tracing its occurrences through a variety of Classical literature to work out who expresses it to whom, when and why (internal feelings are another matter entirely, and remain inaccessible). The main similarities between “them” and “us” lie in the complexity of the emotion, its usefulness in redressing wrongs to the community, and its ability to help create a better self (though in ancient texts this is left implicit). The differences, however, are great: remorse and apology play a minimal role in ancient texts, because they focused more on being the “kind of person” who would make a mistake than on the redemption it might bring (this latter being a Judaeo-Christian import). So most of the expressions of remorse we have are from lower-status individuals, rather than kings or politicians.

Page 99 is from the chapter on Alexander the Great (a high-status individual if ever there was one), discussing how a variety of ancient historians mitigate his expression of remorse after he murders one of his courtiers (Cleitus “the Black”). None of them expect his remorse, whether real or feigned – and the sources are not unanimous about this – to have any effect on his behavior; in that way, it is representative of my approach as a whole (as is the worrying fact that remorse can be faked). And nearly half of the book treats historical examples (the rest is narrative poetry), so it’s characteristic in that way too.
Learn more about No Regrets at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue