Thursday, July 31, 2014

David M. Edelstein's "Occupational Hazards"

David Edelstein is Associate Professor in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and the Department of Government at Georgetown University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his first book, Occupational Hazards: Success and Failure in Military Occupation, and reported the following:
Occupational Hazards examines the question of why some military occupations succeed while other fail. For example, why did the post-World War II occupations of Japan and West Germany succeed while the U.S. and its allies encountered more difficulty in the recent occupation of Iraq after the 2003 invasion? The historical record suggests that occupations fail far more often than they succeed, and those that have succeeded usually have featured some third-party external threat from which the occupying power can protect the occupied population. In the case of Japan and West Germany, the threat was Soviet-inspired communism or the Soviet Union itself.

On page 99, we find ourselves in the chapter of the book that addresses the question of when and how struggling occupying powers should abandon the occupation that they have undertaken. More specifically, this page is in the midst of a discussion of the U.S. occupation of Cuba at the turn of the twentieth century. Following the Spanish-American War in 1898, the United States occupied Cuba. Shortly after it began, the occupation encountered resistance from Cubans who had hoped that the American victory over Spain would grant them independence rather than further occupation by another power.

Within a few years of the occupation beginning, the United States was seeking an exit from Cuba, but an exit that would ensure that the interests it maintained in Cuba would be protected. The solution, which I discuss on page 99, was the Platt Amendment, which granted the United States a broad right to intervene again in Cuba if its interests were threatened. As I write, “For Washington, the Platt Amendment represented a way out. That is, the United States needed to protect its interests, most importantly from the prospect of European interference, but it had little interest in a permanent occupation of the island.” For Cubans, however, the Platt Amendment represented an affront. As I quote Salvador Cisneros Betancourt, the former provisional president of Cuba, “If carried out, [the Platt Amendment] would inflict a grievous wrong on the people of Cuba, would rob them of their independence for which they had sacrificed so much blood and treasure, and would be in direct violation of the pledge of the people of the United States.”

This discussion on page 99 captures the logic of the occupation dilemma that has confronted so many occupying powers in history. On the one hand, both occupying powers and the occupied population would like to see the occupation end. On the other hand, the occupying power is reluctant to do so without certain guarantees after it withdraws. At some point, the occupying power must consider prolonging a struggling intervention or withdrawing with the prospect of potentially having to reintervene again in the future.

These are debates and dilemmas that not only reverberate throughout history, but also in the important contemporary cases of Iraq and Afghanistan. Occupational Hazards seeks to explain why success in military occupation is so difficult to achieve, suggesting sobering lessons about the possibilities and limits on the use of military force.
Learn more about Occupational Hazards at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Matthew D. Tribbe's "No Requiem for the Space Age"

Matthew D. Tribbe is a Visiting Assistant Professor of History at the University of Connecticut.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, No Requiem for the Space Age: The Apollo Moon Landings and American Culture, and reported the following:
Damn you, Ford Madox Ford! You couldn’t have picked page 90 for your experiment so I could have discussed Erich Fromm’s thoughts on the necrophilic impulses of technological enthusiasts? Or anticipated McLuhan’s page 69, where anthropologist Loren Eiseley compares humans to slime molds? Surely such lurid topics are more Internet appropriate than revisiting one of the most problematic passages in No Requiem for the Space Age.

Page 99 is the end of the introduction to Chapter 4, which sums up the chapter’s major themes:
“We came in peace for all mankind,” asserted a plaque left on the moon by the Apollo 11 astronauts. “Here men first set foot outside the earth on their way to the far stars,” left-wing journalist I. F. Stone suggested a more honest memorial would read. “They speak of peace but wherever they go they bring war. The rockets on which they arrived were developed to carry instant death and can within a few minutes turn their green planet into another lifeless moon. . . . Let the rest of the universe beware.”

What values would humanity take with it into space, and more important, what were the potential consequences for Earth of the mounting technological power the endeavor displayed? Did Apollo offer salvation from the troubled past, a fresh start around which humanity could unite and move forward into a more peaceful and promising future? Or was there, in fact, great danger in leaping headlong into space with the expectation that it would offer an escape from familiar human predicaments, given its roots in wartime technologies and mindsets and the dangers inherent in trying to master the universe via earth-shaking rockets and complex space capsules that seemed far more advanced than the morality and maturity of their passengers?

Like everyone else who witnessed the Apollo 11 liftoff, Newsweek General Editor Joseph Morgenstern was stunned by its raw power, and he struggled to wrap his mind around just such questions. He found himself both weeping and marveling at the thought that high technology of the type showcased by Apollo, like the rocket itself as it was propelled upward by its flame, was unstoppable. “What are we to make of power that can do such things to people?” he wondered. “What will we make of it?” This chapter examines how some of America’s sharpest minds confronted tangible, rather than philosophical, concerns over what the space program meant for the United States and the world—fears based not on speculation over a potential machine-dominated future, but on a very real, very disturbing recent past infused with memories of butchery and mass murder via techniques, technologies, and mindsets that critics contended were reaching a pinnacle in the Apollo program.
The problem with Chapter 4 was that, as originally written, its themes of power and destruction didn’t quite fit with the rest of the book. It’s not that it contradicted the larger argument, that cultural changes in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s undermined faith in the technocratic rationalism of the Space Age and played a major role in derailing the Apollo moon program; it just seemed to sap some of the book’s momentum. In fact, the book would flow better without it. But I was willing to sacrifice a bit of cohesiveness to include it, since I think it is important, and overall it contributes to the argument. It took a lot of pondering and reworking to understand myself how this chapter fit with the larger whole, and it was this chapter in particular that compelled me to organize the book into three parts for clarity’s sake, contributing significantly to its ultimate structure.

So, does page 99 properly represent my book? Yes and no. Its theme still deviates a bit from the cultural focus of the rest of the book. It also, as perceptive (or impatient) readers may notice, more or less repeats the same sentiment in consecutive paragraphs. I liked each one, so I kept both, but this is something I generally avoided in the rest of the book. Nonetheless, to the degree that it uses the voices of a variety of Americans who strove to make sense of what Apollo meant to their lives and their world in order to offer a different take on the event than the usual celebratory fluff, this page very much represents what I set out to do with the book.

Mr. Ford, I apologize for my earlier outburst. Perhaps page 99 was an inspired choice after all. I therefore damn you and thank you at the same time, and I am perfectly content with this contradiction.
Learn more about No Requiem for the Space Age at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Robert M. Geraci's "Virtually Sacred"

Robert M. Geraci is Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Manhattan College. He is the author of Apocalyptic AI: Visions of Heaven in Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtual Reality and many essays that analyze the ways in which human beings use technology to make the world meaningful.

Geraci applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Virtually Sacred: Myth and Meaning in World of Warcraft and Second Life, and reported the following:
Virtually Sacred is about how the online virtual worlds Second Life (SL) and World of Warcraft (WoW) show how virtual worlds “participate in our sacred landscape as outsiders, competitors, and collaborators” (12). In SL, for example, one can bring one’s traditional religion online and build a community, a place of worship, and possibly even new ways of practicing. The massively-multiplayer online game WoW also offers chances to build communities, and players can reflect on questions of morality, engage in meaningful activity, and even experience transcendence. In virtual worlds, we can be who we want to be, fly where we want to go, and unleash magical powers in defense of the people and principles we love.

In reflecting upon this, the first complete sentence on page 99 says of playing WoW: “This transcendent experience can be so enchanting that some researchers and enthusiasts see it as a stepping-stone on our way to a greater evolutionary future, one in which we permanently take on the heroic mastery afforded in only limited doses by playing the game.” Residents of both SL and WoW dream of opportunities to upload their minds into cyberspace and attain technological immortality. Thus virtual worlds have become key in the cultural debates over transhumanism (the belief that we can transcend the limitations of mortal life through technology) and almost certainly incline their users toward transhumanist ways of thinking. The remainder of page 99 is a conclusion to chapter three, which describes how activity in WoW competes with traditional religions. “Certainly not all players are religious in their engagement with the game; however, many are, and all benefit from the varied ways World of Warcraft enables the production of communities and morality, the acquisition of meaning, and access to transcendent places and selves.” As the page finishes, I claim that such religious possibilities “must surely account for much of [the game’s] appeal.”
Learn more about Virtually Sacred at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 25, 2014

Kenneth Kolb's "Moral Wages"

Kenneth H. Kolb is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Furman University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Moral Wages: The Emotional Dilemmas of Victim Advocacy and Counseling, and reported the following:
Tammy was trouble—and this caused real problems for the people trying to help her.

They found Tammy a scholarship at the local community college, but she dropped out. They found Tammy a new apartment, but she complained that she didn’t like it and left. They gave Tammy rent money for her new place, but she used it to buy drugs. Had Tammy sought services almost anywhere else, she would be shown the door without regret. However, the people trying to help Tammy were not just any service providers; they were victim advocates and counselors at an agency that assists victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. In short, Tammy had come to the one place that offered to believe and help her no matter what. Yet, when her behavior exhausted the staff’s patience, it created a ripple of doubt that touched everyone inside the agency. What happens when the sympathizers of last resort get angry at the people seeking their help?

Page 99 of Moral Wages describes the lengths to which they tried to help Tammy.
Tammy found a new place to live, but did so by moving in with a man who also had a record of violence against women. Working within the confines of their empowerment philosophy, the advocates did not tell Tammy in clear terms that she should leave him—issuing orders like that was seen as too directive at [the agency]. Instead, they spelled out all the possible ways that this arrangement could have a bad ending. Yet, despite their steering, these appeals had no effect. She was insistent on moving in with this new man.
Victim advocates and counselors are different, and after a year of ethnographic fieldwork I came to see clearly what makes them so. Forging emotional connections with victims is what makes the low pay, long hours, and high stress of their jobs worth it. Forgiving clients is the surest way to show that they are caring and competent service providers. Yet, some of their clients’ behavior made this almost impossible. Ultimately, the frustration that arose from these cases caused them to question their abilities and purpose—just one of the dilemmas I discuss throughout the book.
Learn more about Moral Wages at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Elvin T. Lim's "The Lovers' Quarrel"

Elvin T. Lim is Associate Professor of Government at Wesleyan University and the author of The Lovers' Quarrel: The Two Foundings and American Political Development (Oxford, 2014) and The Anti-intellectual Presidency (Oxford, 2008).

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to The Lovers' Quarrel and reported the following:
The Page 99 test works eerily well for The Lovers’ Quarrel.

There, in the middle of the book, discussing the mid-point of American history, I cite Abraham Lincoln’s much-neglected and yet crucial observation that strikes at the heart of the book’s thesis. In his Cooper Union Address in 1860, he asks and answers this question:
Who were our fathers that framed the Constitution? I suppose the “thirty nine” who signed the original instrument. [my emphasis]
There were fifty-five men who gathered in Philadelphia for the Constitutional Convention in 1787, but only thirty-nine signed it. Yes, the “founders” were not all of one mind. Some were ambivalent about the Constitution; others, like Luther Martin and John Francis Mercer, even walked out. Who was Luther Martin, one might ask? He was a leading Anti-Federalist, sharing similar views as men like Patrick Henry. And what did the Anti-Federalists believe in? States rights.

Putting the dots together generates perhaps the greatest meta-historical irony of American politics. The very people who claim to be defenders of the Constitution today, some of whom belong to the Tea Party persuasion, are also the most vocal defenders of states’ rights. But here’s the rub: their political forebears were not the Federalists, who won both the ratification battle and the larger philosophical war to build “a more perfect Union,” but the Anti-Federalists—the folks who fought tooth and nail to oppose ratification, chanting to the tune of liberty as if liberty was not possible without a stronger, more consolidated government.

Because the United States experienced Two Foundings, one against government in 1776, and one in favor of it in 1787, we really ought to alter our textbooks to reflect the fact that we have also had two sets of “Founders.” Only then can we make sense of the alternating love-hate relationship that Americans have had with the state; the Lovers’ Quarrel that Americans have had again, again, and again. Abraham Lincoln got it; we should too.
Learn more about the book and author at Elvin Lim's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Anti-Intellectual Presidency: The Decline of Presidential Rhetoric from George Washington to George W. Bush.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Robert Garland's "Wandering Greeks"

Robert Garland is the Roy D. and Margaret B. Wooster Professor of the Classics at Colgate University. His many books include The Eye of the Beholder: Deformity and Disability in the Graeco-Roman World and The Greek Way of Death.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Wandering Greeks: The Ancient Greek Diaspora from the Age of Homer to the Death of Alexander the Great, and reported the following:
From page 99:
In time of war civilian populations become a handicap, especially if they happen to be living outside the city walls. Vulnerable to the enemy, they are also a distraction since they are liable to prevent the military from pursuing a coherent plan of action. They must be protected, but how? Two options are available: either they can be conveyed to a friendly community nearby or brought inside the walls, although the latter course is feasible only if there is enough space to accommodate them. Whichever option is adopted, the logistics of evacuating thousands of people in the lead up to the outbreak of hostilities was one of the most challenging exercises a polis or city-state could undertake.
The evacuee is one of many categories of Greeks who were uprooted from their homeland, often in conditions of extreme vulnerability. The Greeks were a highly mobile society, and their mobility was essential to its survival, success, and sheer sustainability. Wandering in short - whether as an evacuee, an asylum seeker, an economic migrant or an exile - was a defining characteristic of their culture.
Learn more about Wandering Greeks at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Nick Smith's "Justice through Apologies"

Nick Smith is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of New Hampshire. Formerly a litigator and a clerk for the US Court of Appeals, he specializes in the philosophy of law, politics and society. Smith is the author of I Was Wrong: The Meanings of Apologies. He regularly appears in the media, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Guardian UK, Fortune, NPR, BBC, CBC, CNN, and others.

Smith applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Justice through Apologies: Remorse, Reform, and Punishment, and reported the following:
On page 99 I consider an example to test my claim that categorically apologetic criminal offenders deserve reductions in punishment. I return on this page to the case of William Beebe, who drugged and raped eighteen-year-old Liz Seccuro at a University of Virginia Phi Kappa Psi party in 1984. Seccuro awoke the next day wrapped in a bloody sheet on the couch of the deserted fraternity house. She confirmed Beebe's identity by the mail on his dresser. Still bloodied and bruised, Seccuro reported the attack. Campus authorities and Charlottesville police treated her claim dismissively and obstructed her access to a proper investigation. Beebe claimed she had consented. Feeling stonewalled and hoping to move forward with the rest of her education and life, Seccuro stopped pursuing legal recourse.

Twenty-one years later, Seccuro pulled out of her driveway en route to a vacation with her spouse and young child. She stopped at the mailbox and found the following letter:
Dear Elizabeth:

In October 1984 I harmed you. I can scarcely begin to understand the degree to which, in your eyes, my behavior has affected you in its wake. Still, I stand prepared to hear from you about just how, and in what ways you've been affected; and to begin to set right the wrong I've done, in any way you see fit.

Most sincerely yours,

Will Beebe
In a subsequent exchange of emails where Beebe explained that he was undergoing a twelve step addiction recovery program, he confessed to a decades old crime for which he was not under investigation and that carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. "I want to make clear that I'm not intentionally minimizing the fact of having raped you," he wrote, "I did." Seccuro took this opportunity in 2005 to contact Charlottesville police. This time they properly investigated her claim. She pressed charges against Beebe.

On page 99 I consider how Beebe should be punished in light of his apology and confession. Why do we punish offenders and exactly how does remorse—and remorselessness—impact our view about who deserves what sorts of punishment? How should we punish Beebe? How much time did he ultimately serve? Read Justice through Apologies to find out.
Learn more about Justice through Apologies at the Cambridge University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Nick Smith's I Was Wrong: The Meanings of Apologies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 21, 2014

Paul M. Cobb's "The Race for Paradise"

Paul M. Cobb is Professor of Islamic History in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of White Banners: Contention in Abbasid Syria, 750-880 and Umayyad Legacies: Medieval Memories from Syria to Spain.

Cobb applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Race for Paradise: An Islamic History of the Crusades, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Race for Paradise falls at a crucial moment in the narrative, namely the arrival of the European Crusaders (known to the Muslim inhabitants of the Near East as “Franks”) before the walls of Jerusalem in 1099. This was the final act of the events known in the West as the First Crusade. The Franks had been busy for some time much farther north in what is now Syria and Lebanon, where part of the army at least recalled lessons they had earlier learned in Muslim Spain (known as al-Andalus): namely that holding a castle hostage (in this case a fort named ‘Arqa) during a siege could be much more lucrative than actually going through the trouble of capturing it. This made others in the army rather antsy:
Indeed, just as in al-Andalus of the taifa kings, the Muslim lord of Tripoli sent envoys to Raymond and the Franks at ‘Arqa with vast amounts of coins and gifts to buy them off—hardly an inducement to move on, if more such wealth could be extracted. In the end the rest of the Frankish army arrived to reunite with Raymond, and the drive to reach Jerusalem was too strong. ‘Arqa and nearby Tripoli would have to wait for Raymond’s attentions at a later date. The Franks lifted the siege and proceeded down the coastal road into Palestine, “and the people fled in panic from their abodes before them.” At Arsuf, on the coast, they cut inland toward al-Ramla, which they captured, while Bohemond’s rough nephew Tancred, his hour come round at last, slouched toward Bethlehem to take it as his own. The next day, June 7, the Franks encamped before their heartfelt goal: Jerusalem.
This passage is and isn’t a representative passage of my book, however. Most starkly, it is all about the Franks and is written somewhat from their point of view. The Race for Paradise, however, is (as the sub-title says) An Islamic History of the Crusades, which I tried to write as much as possible from the perspective of Muslim observers, using medieval Islamic sources almost exclusively to do so. Yet this passage is very Crusader-centric.

And that is perhaps a point worth highlighting. For the fact is that the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 did not leave such a huge impact in the contemporary Islamic sources. This passage shows that, in order to describe the events leading up to the conquest of Jerusalem, we have to fall back on Frankish sources. Contemporary Muslims, for a host of reasons, were simply not keen to report in any detailed way on the progress of the Franks across Syria. Even the infamous stories of Frankish rapine and destruction that accompanied the conquest of Jerusalem appear only at a later date, although there seems little reason to doubt their general outline. In the fury of the moment, most Muslims seem to have considered the Frankish invasion of Syria to have been a local Syrian problem. Only later would they realize their mistake, and then re-cast these events as a problem for all of Islamdom.

The passage is also unrepresentative in that (unlike the rest of the book) it contains a hidden snarky literary reference—extra credit for those of you who find it!
Learn more about The Race for Paradise at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 20, 2014

H. H. Shugart's "Foundations of the Earth"

H. H. “Hank” Shugart holds the W. W. Corcoran Chair in Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia and has produced more than 400 scientific publications that largely involve systems ecology and ecosystems modeling strongly focused on regional and global change. His book How the Earthquake Bird Got Its Name and Other Tales of Unbalanced Nature is considered a classic in modern ecology.

Shugart applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Foundations of the Earth: Global Ecological Change and the Book of Job, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Foundations of the Earth: Global Ecological Change and The Book of Job is the penultimate page of Chapter 4, “Freeing the Onager: Feral and Introduced Animals.” Foundations of the Earth poses global environmental problems in the context of a set of biblical questions, the Whirlwind Speech, found in Job: 38-40. The Joban questions initiate chapter discussions on such topics as, “Where did the solar system come from? How were animals domesticated? How do changes in the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere imply global warming? How do climate and its change alter the world’s vegetation and vice versa?” Foundations of the Earth intends to demonstrate the intrinsic connectedness of the Earth’s systems, their dynamic change and their interactions with humans using these divine questions as a framework to provide additional connectedness. The book emphasizes environmental synthesis at large scales — regional to global scales in space; century to millennia to even longer scales in time. The mutual interactions among different Earth systems provide a unity to the text, so does the framework provided by the extraordinary questions from Job.

Page 99 does a very good job of representing the intent of Foundations of the Earth. The Joban questions motivating Chapter 4 are:
Who has let the wild ass go free? Who has loosed the bonds of the swift ass, to which I have given the steppe for its home, the salt land for its dwelling place? It scorns the tumult of the city; it does not hear the shouts of the driver.
--Job 39:5-7 (New Revised Standard Version)
The chapter uses the wild ass, Equus hemionus, as an ecological icon for introduced and invasive species, a significant consideration in domains ranging from agriculture and horticulture (weeds) to conservation (introduced species replacing native species of animals) to medicine (introduced diseases and vectors for diseases).

Page 99 initiates the summary of the chapter’s earlier discussions of the evolution of weeds, domestication of draft animals, the creation of a human-dominated planet, and change due to introduced species may be doing to the Earth’s ecosystems. To quote page 99,
We know from the fossil and geological record that past ecosystems with different mixtures of species and different environment conditions coalesce, persist and eventually change over time. The instances in the geological past in which floras and faunas mingled after the formation of land bridges often have featured extinction of many species. For example with the formation of the Isthmus of Panama around 3 million years ago, the remarkably diverse marsupial mammal fauna of South America collapsed and was replaced by more advanced placental mammals from North America. Thus, we have reason to believe that the species we have loosed across the Earth will also change the planet.
But what will these new, ecosystems shaped by the actions of humanity be like? We would hope for optimistic outcomes, but there is cause for concern. Again from page 99,
We enjoy gardens and arboreta loaded with exotic plants from all over the world and find pleasure in this human-created biological diversity. There are also significant negatives. Many of these stem from feedback loops between the exotics and the ecosystems they inhabit. Fire-tolerant alien plants prosper under fires and create additional fuel for more frequent or hotter fires. Introduced fish eliminate natural fisheries that support coastal towns. Inedible or even poisonous weeds invade pastures and prosper…
Inadvertently or otherwise, we are creating new ecosystems comprised of some, often novel, species that have been selected for their capacity to resist our efforts to control them.

The alteration of the biota of Earth’s ecosystems, the themes of Chapter 4 and Page 99, occur and interweave on our dynamic and human-altered planet. The overarching themes of the Foundations of the Earth involve Earth-systems complexity and connectedness.. These are large themes for a small book and the diversity of disciplines considered is substantial. Page 99 provides a sample of the depth of the challenges before us.
Learn more about Foundations of the Earth at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 18, 2014

Peter Jones's "Open Skies"

Peter Jones is an Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa, Canada.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Open Skies: Transparency, Confidence-Building, and the End of the Cold War, and reported the following:
The page 99 test works pretty well. “Open Skies,” was first proposed by President Eisenhower in 1955, but rejected by the Soviets. The idea called for each side to allow the other to make short-notice overflights with unarmed surveillance aircraft as assurance against surprise attacks. This would have been a highly intrusive measure before satellites. The Russian rejection was seen as evidence of nefarious intent. We now know it was largely motivated by fears that their weakness would be exposed. Open Skies was a valuable propaganda victory, allowing American diplomats to juxtapose America’s transparency with Soviet secrecy.

As the Cold War came to a close, President Bush (41) proposed that Open Skies be revived as an Alliance-to-Alliance Treaty. He believed that it would test the new Soviet willingness to embrace openness and reform, as well as allowing smaller nations to independently monitor events. The Treaty was negotiated between 1990 and 1992, resulting in the first major European security agreement of the Post-Cold War era.

One of the major themes of the book is that, even though their leaders supported Open Skies, the US and Soviet military and intelligence bureaucracies remained deeply suspicious of it. The Soviet military put up obstacles to the achievement of real transparency. The US intelligence community sought to enshrine measures that would permit the US to gain an advantage by using far more sophisticated sensors than other nations could.

It was the insistence of Presidents Bush and Gorbachev that the regime be genuine and equal which overcame the resistance of their respective bureaucracies. But an important role was also played by the smaller nations of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, which did not have satellites and saw the benefits of the Treaty.

Page 99 concerns the revival of the negotiations, after two rounds in Ottawa and Budapest had failed due to the obduracy of the US and Soviet bureaucracies. President Bush had forced the US intelligence community to back off its attempt to gain a unilateral advantage. The NATO nations were reviewing their positions in hopes of tempting the Soviets back to the table. But the powerful Soviet military bureaucracy was holding out and there were signs of the impending coup attempt against Gorbachev of mid-August 1991. It was not until after this coup attempt had been defeated, and those opposed to Open Skies were removed from office, that the Soviets responded favorably. The negotiations resumed in Vienna, leading to an agreement.

Thus, page 99 encapsulates a major theme of the book – only high-level political guidance can overcome the resistance of self-interested bureaucracies to far-reaching change.
Learn more about Open Skies at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Michael Dumper's "Jerusalem Unbound"

Michael Dumper is professor in Middle East politics at the University of Exeter and the author of The Future of the Palestinian Refugees; The Politics of Sacred Space: The Old City of Jerusalem and the Middle East Conflict, 1967–2000; and The Politics of Jerusalem Since 1967.

Dumper applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Jerusalem Unbound: Geography, History, and the Future of the Holy City, and reported the following:
In the case of Jerusalem Unbound, the p. 99 Test is not bad. The page deals with, on one hand, the holiness of the city
...chockablock with religious sites: synagogues, churches, mosques, prayer rooms, seminaries, monasteries, convents, hostels for pilgrims, mausoleums, and cemeteries. The Old City alone, an area of not more than 1 kilometer square, is reputed to have between 225 and over 300 holy sites—an incredible one holy site for every 3 to 4 square meters! In fact, Jerusalem must be the holy city per se. Residents and frequent visitors or long-stayers like myself frequently overlook a blindingly obvious fact: Jerusalem is not just holy to one religion, but is holy to three. And it is not just holy to any three, but holy to one of the oldest religions in existence—Judaism—and holy to two of the largest religions in the world—Christianity and Islam. .... Layer upon layer of faith and belief has been deposited upon the city.
At the same time, the page also tries to put Jerusalem into a broader context by comparing it to other so-called holy cities to see what it is about such cities which are deemed holy:
Is it just the number of holy sites themselves? If so, how many sites make up a holy city—five, twenty, two hundred? And what proportion of holy sites to land area or population defines its holiness?
This snapshot of the book is part of my overall argument that Jerusalem is a city of many borders and that its formal political borders reveal neither the dynamics of power in the city nor the underlying factors that make an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians so difficult. This argument is based on the fact that the lines delineating Israeli authority are frequently different from those delineating segregated housing or areas of uneven service provision or parallel and overlapping Israel and Palestinian electoral districts or competing and overlapping Israeli and Palestinian educational jurisdictions. There is a lack of congruity between political control and the everyday use of the city which leaves many areas of Israeli occupied East Jerusalem in a kind of twilight zone where citizenship, property rights, and the enforcement of the rule of law are ambiguously applied.
Learn more about Jerusalem Unbound at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

C. Christine Fair's "Fighting to the End"

C. Christine Fair holds a PhD from the University of Chicago’s Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations. She has been working in, studying, and writing about South Asia since her first trip to Pakistan, India and Nepal in 1991. She speaks Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi. Currently, she is an assistant professor in Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program within the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. Previously, she served as a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, a political officer to the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan in Kabul, and as a senior research associate in USIP's Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention. She is also a senior fellow with the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. She has authored numerous scholarly publications and has co-edited Policing Insurgencies: Cops as Counterinsurgents (2014); Treading on Hallowed Ground: Counterinsurgency in Sacred Spaces (2008); Pakistan in National and Regional Change: State and Society in Flux (2013); Political Islam and Governance in Bangladesh (2010). When she is not thinking or writing about South Asia, she dilates upon the politics of food. In 2008, she published Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States (2008).

Fair applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army's Way of War, and reported the following:
In Fighting to the End I try to explain Pakistan’s pursuit of numerous reckless policies that include supporting jihadi proxies, engaging in nuclear proliferation, and sustaining a seemingly endless appetite for conflict with India in an effort to rest Kashmir from India. Why does Pakistan persist in these policies that imperil the very viability of the state? I argue that the answer lies, at least partially, in the strategic culture of the army which relies heavily upon Islamic themes and imagery.

Turning to page 99, the reader encounters an extended discussion of the primacy that famed Quranic battles enjoy in the Pakistan army’s professional journals. These, along with numerous expositions of the utility of jihad in an “Islamic Army” are frequent subjects of these publications. While U.S. army professional publications engage in discussions of past and present battles with the intent of understanding what went wrong or well and why, the Pakistan army’s professional publications do not engage in such analyses of their own battles. Instead, their publications focus upon military campaigns from early Muslim history.

On page 99, the reader learns about one of these articles from 1963 titled “Morale: From the Early Muslim Campaigns.” The author, Col. Bashir Ahmad, concludes his study of early Quranic battles with four lessons that he believes are important for the Pakistan army. First, “in each battle, the Muslim contingent was inferior in strength, ill-equipped, and poorly trained.” However, despite these disadvantages against their always kufar (non-Muslim) foes, they prevailed because of their “moral qualities.” Second, their moral qualities defeated the enemies’ will to fight, obviating their numerous advantages. Third, the Muslim combatants entered each battle with full knowledge that they were outmatched. However, “They came out onto the battlefield ‘only to defend the intrinsic values of their faith.’” Finally, Ahmad argues that the “main-stay of the morale of these Muslims was…the identification of life with and its subordination to the ideal: a fundamental of the faith. An army equipped with this faith will always dominate the adversary.’”

I argue that articles such as these help explain in significant measure the Pakistan army’s endless appetite for conflict with India, which these same publications construct as the kufar enemy of Islam and thus of Pakistan. These articles serve as an important morale booster for the Pakistan army as it has never won any of the wars it initiated with India in 1947, 1965 or 1999. Worse, the Indian army intervened in the civil war that was raging in East Pakistan in 1971. Within a few weeks of India’s entry into direct combat, East Pakistan was liberated and became independent Bangladesh. Due to India’s direct involvement in that war, Pakistan lost half of its territory and population.

India will always have a larger army and a bigger, faster growing economy that permits it to invest in its armed forces more than Pakistan ever will. Yet Pakistan will continue to challenge India. I contend that articles such as these help explain why the Pakistan Army is prepared to fight to the end.
Learn more about Fighting to the End at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 14, 2014

Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson's "Word of Mouth"

Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson is Professor in the Department of Sociology at Columbia University. After publishing on French literary identity in Literary France: The Making of a Culture, she studied the urban culture of Paris in Paris as Revolution: Reading the Nineteenth-Century City. Her work on cuisine and food started with Accounting for Taste: The Triumph of French Cuisine and has moved into an ever more comparative perspective.

Ferguson applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Word of Mouth: What We Talk About When We Talk About Food, and reported the following:
Just about half-way through the book, after analyzing different understandings of food over time and cultures, p. 99 comes to the encounter with France that changed the way many Americans think about food. The writer M.F.K. Fisher in the 1940s and the cookbook author and culinary personality Julia Child in the 1960s owed their success to their enthusiasm for French ways of doing food.
For it was in France that both women learned to cultivate a sense of flavor, to savor food, and to appreciate the pleasures of preparation and consumption. …Fisher and Child set America on a great culinary adventure.
But French foodways had to be translated in American terms. With their emphasis on sensual pleasure and practices perceived as aristocratic, French conceptions of food and cuisine came up against traditions that viewed pleasures of the flesh as not only frivolous but potentially dangerous for moral well being, Benjamin Franklin, in his iconic Autobiography, recounts that his father considered meals an educational opportunity.
He always took care to start some ingenious or useful topic for discourse which might tend to improve the minds of his children. Little or no notice was ever taken of what related to the victuals on the table.
Other more traveled Americans like the hugely popular author of the Last of the Mohicans James Fenimore Cooper on mission in France, complained about the predictable result of culinary resistance illustrated by Franklin’s father:
Americans are the grossest feeders of any civilized nation known. As a nation, their food is heavy, coarse, ill prepared and indigestable.
How times have changed! Subsequent chapters track the very different, highly sophisticated— many would say obsessed— food world of the 21st century. Neither Franklin nor Cooper would recognize the America in which food is the topic of so much conversation and where culinary identities are increasingly prominent. From blogs and reviews to menus, cookbooks, films and advertising, food talk focuses attention on the experimental and the creative, on new practices of production and consumption, on shifting identities for the home cook and the celebrity chef, the savvy, exigent consumer and the chef-host. Such is the wonderful, ever-changing disconcerting culinary world of America today, which Word of Mouth explores in detail and depth.
Learn more about Word of Mouth at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Heather Houser's "Ecosickness in Contemporary U.S. Fiction"

Heather Houser is an assistant professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin. She teaches and publishes on contemporary literature; the environmental humanities; and science, technology, and culture.

Houser applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Ecosickness in Contemporary U.S. Fiction: Environment and Affect, and reported the following:
On page 99, the reader is in the midst of a close reading, a reminder that this is a work of literary criticism. Ecosickness in Contemporary U.S. Fiction: Environment and Affect gives an account of an emergent narrative mode that brings readers to environmental awareness through the sick body. Medicalizing space and the body, novels and memoirs by the likes of David Foster Wallace, Leslie Marmon Silko, and David Wojnarowicz engage a range of emotions—discord, disgust, wonder, and anxiety—that express the complex entanglements of environmental and human bodily injury today. Contemporary fiction shows the astonishing variety of affects that attach to these related phenomena and establishes how those affects shape environmental ethics and politics.

Page 99 falls toward the end of a chapter on the surprising outcomes of wonder in Richard Powers's 2006 novel The Echo Maker. Powers expertly entwines two narratives: one about a rare neurological disorder called Capgras syndrome and the other about the migratory habits of sandhill cranes in the U.S. Central Plains. Wonder has long inspired scientific inquiry and appreciation of nature. Path-breaking scientists like Isaac Newton and René Descartes, and, more recently, Rachel Carson and Richard Dawkins extoll what the latter calls our insatiable "appetite for wonder." The Echo Maker whets this appetite and follows a line of environmental thinkers who champion wonder for its ability to cultivate an environmental ethic. But, steeped in cutting-edge neuroscience, this novel pursues another trajectory wonder can take—away from ethical involvement. Wonder is all about making connections, but excessive connection making can tip over into wonder's ugly obverses of projection and paranoia and jam care for the outside world.

This page doesn't display all that Ecosickness in Contemporary U.S. Fiction argues and accomplishes, but it gets at one of its main claims: that recent writers are revising environmental tropes in light of technoscientific interventions into the body and the earth. Here I analyze a description of the novel's setting, Kearney, Nebraska, that laments the demise of the family farm and economic stagnation in the region. The description comes through the eyes of a central character, Karin, and concludes, "geography had decided Mark's [her brother's] fate long before his birth. Only the doomed stayed on to collect" (The Echo Maker 28). His fate is the brain injury that motivates the plot, but this passage wants to show more broadly how, as I write on 99, Mark is "like other Generation X Nebraskans, . . . a farmer manqué without a land inheritance. His mental disintegration expresses the decay of the earth signaled by the growth of agribusiness . . . and tourism." The novel does not respond to these transformations by idealizing human attachment to place, as is a tendency among many environmental writers, especially those focused on food and farming. Rather it imagines the pervasive technologization and endangerment of bodies and ecosystems today.

The reading on this page and the chapter in which it appears demonstrate Ecosickness's ambition to show how contemporary U.S. novels and memoirs are rethinking the concepts that have driven environmentalism. These concepts include, among things, wonder, sense of place, nature as a source of beauty and escape, and anxiety as a spur to activism. Writers like Powers update these concepts while experimenting with new narrative and aesthetic techniques. As the introduction to the book states, "ecosickness narratives establish that environmental and biomedical dilemmas produce representational dilemmas." The conventions of scientific discourse, pastoral, nature writing, postmodernism, and realism don't seem to be enough; none of them alone can get at the affective complexities of what Wallace has called "today's diseased now" (Girl with Curious Hair). To learn about the formal strategies recent writers have developed to depict these complexities, check out the book.
Learn more about Ecosickness in Contemporary U.S. Fiction at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 11, 2014

Jonathan Brown's "In the Shadow of Velázquez"

Jonathan Brown is the Carroll and Miton Petrie Professor of Fine Arts, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, In the Shadow of Velázquez: A Life in Art History, and reported the following:
In In The Shadow of Velázquez: A Life in Art History, I draw upon my experience to show the ways in which personality is a determinate of the study of art history. I begin, naturally, with my youth and family, which centered on my parents’ commitment to the collecting of the avant garde artists of the 1920s-70s, and my subsequent rebellion by becoming a scholar of Baroque Spanish Art, at a time when Spain was a dictatorship. Later chapters explore questions of artists and authenticity. My obsession with the art of Spain culminates in a new interpretation of Velázquez’s masterpiece, Las Meninas.

I would argue that my p.99 does indeed pass the test. This page presents the reader with both of my main themes—the question of authenticity and the ways in which the artist is shaped by his personal and professional lives. As p.99 mentions, we know little about Velázquez the man: “As indicated by these few observations on Velázquez’s private life, which I have extracted from circumstantial evidence, there remain large gaps to fill if we are to achieve a well-informed view of the man who confidently stands in front of the easel of Las Meninas.” One of the key concepts is his struggle to gain acceptance as a nobleman in the court of Philip IV—to be recognized not merely as an artisan but as a creator. This is a struggle that also confronts the art historian, as he attempts to authenticate works attributed to a famous painter but which may very well be products of his workshop or even simply copies. Does the historian have the authority to claim authenticity? Will his attribution be accepted or will a battle ensue, one which, perhaps, is more about the power of various art historians rather than a search for the true painter? These are significant questions and ones with which In The Shadow of Velázquez attempts to answer through its study of authenticity in the works of Ribera, El Greco, and Velázquez.
Learn more about In the Shadow of Velázquez at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Stuart Kirsch's "Mining Capitalism"

Stuart Kirsch is an anthropologist who works in the Pacific and the Amazon on indigenous politics and environmental issues. He is professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan.

Kirsch is the author of Reverse Anthropology: Indigenous Analysis of Social and Environmental Relations in New Guinea (2006), and the newly released Mining Capitalism: The Relationship between Corporations and their Critics.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to Mining Capitalism and reported the following:
Mining Capitalism examines the relationship between corporations and their critics. It reveals the strategies corporations use to counter criticism and evade regulation, allowing them to continue externalizing the social and environmental costs of production.

The first half of the book follows the international campaign against the environmental impact of the Ok Tedi copper and gold mine in Papua New Guinea, including litigation against the mining company in the Australian courts. Page 99 describes how lawyers working for the mining company convinced the Papua New Guinea government to criminalize participation in the lawsuit, actions resulting in a judgment of contempt of court.

Before the bill was passed, it was the subject of debate in the media and in Parliament. On Page 99, I write about a mining company advertisement published in a local newspaper that encouraged people to accept modest monetary compensation in lieu of participating in the lawsuit. The 1995 newspaper ad:
indicated that the plaintiffs could continue to pursue compensation in the Australian courts even “though it may take years before there are any results, and the result may not be what people want.” However, the claim that their access to the courts in Australia was protected turned out to be inaccurate when the Parliament subsequently passed a second bill criminalizing participation in foreign legal proceedings. The ad also claimed that the mining company “supported a government proposal for an independent inquiry into disposal of tailings from the mine” and that “the company has also made a commitment to reduce the environmental impact of sediment on the river,” but offered no concrete guarantees that anything would be done.
In hindsight, the deception of the mining company ad is even more stark as more than 2,500 square kilometers of rain forest have been lost to pollution from the mine. Some parts of the river are affected by acid mine drainage, in which the production of sulfuric acid renders the environment inhospitable for organic life, often for centuries.

I also discuss the debate about the bill in the Parliament of Papua New Guinea on Page 99:
Several MPs were concerned that the agreement did not address tailings containment, although the sponsor of the bill indicated that [the mining company] had expressed its willingness to address the issue separately. Other MPs made reference to mining projects in their own districts and wanted the Parliament to devise a general solution to the question of compensation. They also expressed concerns about the environmental impacts of mining, oil, and gas projects in Papua New Guinea given the country’s dependence on resource extraction. But there was general support for separating the provision of compensation to the people living downstream from the Ok Tedi mine, which was seen to be urgent and desirable, from the larger and more complex question of reducing environmental impacts. Several of the MPs raised concerns about the relatively low value of the compensation payments, which, after being divided up among the number of people affected by the mine, amounted to annual payments of only K125 ($95) per person. But other MPs pointed out that the total value of the compensation package was larger than any other group in Papua New Guinea had received.
The bill passed, mandating monetary compensation to the people who opted out of the lawsuit. However, it failed to address the environmental problems caused by the mine, which continues to pollute one of the largest river systems in New Guinea.

The second half of Mining Capitalism examines how the mining industry has responded to its indigenous and NGO critics, including its appropriation of the language of critique, which has resulted in claims about corporate social responsibility and sustainable mining. It also examines new political strategies that offer more hopeful outcomes than the environmental devastation caused by the Ok Tedi mine.
Visit Stuart Kirsch's webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Alastair Bonnett's "Unruly Places"

Alastair Bonnett is Professor of Social Geography at Newcastle University. The author of numerous academic texts, he served as editor of the avant-garde, psycho-geographical magazine Transgressions: A Journal of Urban Exploration.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies, and reported the following:
Page 99 lands us in a toxic town called Wittenoom in the wilds of Western Australia. Wittenoom is so dangerous that it has, literally, been taken off the map and all the signage has been removed. It used to be a blue asbestos mining town and today it is potentially lethal to visit it, even for the shortest moment. Like the 47 other hidden, secret and deleted places that I write about in Unruly Places, I use its extraordinary story to think about our passionate but profoundly uneasy relationship with place. By page 99 I have opened out the problem of destroyed and polluted places well beyond Wittenoom, noticing that “For governments having to cope with these stains on the map vanishing them away is the obvious and easiest solution”. But I also claim that totally erasing such hell-holes, even to the point of suppressing their names, has a serious down side. I argue that we have forgotten a little too quickly “how central geography once was to morality and religion”.
Heaven, Hell and all the other destinations and journeys of salvation and damnation were understood as permanent places and cartographic realities. They offered a moral map that helped people situate themselves in an ethical landscape. Hell was below, Heaven above. Such literalism may sound quaint to modern sensibilities, but it seems that we still need morality to be tied down and rooted to particular places and specific journeys. If our moral categories float free from the earth, they float away. Religion has always been upfront about all this, meeting the understandable need of earth-bound creatures for moral questions to be written into the hills, and for salvation to be a physical destination.

So rather than being deleted from the map, places like Wittenoom should be kept before us as visible manifestations of the consequences of greed and ignorance. They are parts of our lives, of our civilization, and they should be acknowledged with a steady and remorseful determination. Abolishing them leaves us with a deceptively and unconvincingly airbrushed landscape. Wittenoom should be treated as a memorial and paid the kind of attention currently reserved for battle sites, albeit from a safe distance.
Learn more about Unruly Places at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 7, 2014

John S. Haller Jr.'s "Shadow Medicine"

John S. Haller Jr. is an emeritus professor of history and medical humanities at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. His most recent books include The History of American Homeopathy: From Rational Medicine to Holistic Health Care (2009); Swedenborg, Mesmer, and the Mind-Body Complex: The Roots of Complementary Medicine (2010); and The History of New Thought: From Mental Healing to Positive Thinking and the Prosperity Gospel (2012).

Haller applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Shadow Medicine: The Placebo in Conventional and Alternative Therapies, and reported the following:
The book Shadow Medicine represents an effort to find common ground between evidence-based medicine (EBM) and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) by exploring their respective epistemological foundations; how and why the double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial came to be considered the gold standard in modern medicine; the challenges made by postmodern medicine as it encountered the positivism of EBM; and the politics of modern CAM and the rise of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The book conducts an in-depth case study of homeopathy, explaining why it emerged as a poster child for CAM, and assesses its popularity despite its poor performance in clinical trials. I conclude by expressing hope that new experimental protocols might tease out the evidentiary basis for the placebo effect in both EMB and CAM and thereby establish a degree of reconciliation between the two. While I maintain a healthy, scientific skepticism, I remain optimistic at finding promise in select CAM therapies and a more productive medical environment that includes both the objectivity of EMB and the subjectivity of CAM.

The quote from page 99 concerns a report by the “Quantitative Methods Working Group” established by NIH in 1995 and which concluded that while the randomized clinical trial remained at the top of the evidence-based pyramid, other designs were capable of producing valid and interpretable comparisons that should be admissible for addressing specific study questions. The quote is as follows:
The issues challenging CAM research, explained the members of the working group, were not uncommon to research generally in that differences sometimes created difficult conceptual and measurement challenges. To offset these issues, acceptable options included large and small RCTs; nonrandomized trials with contemporaneous controls; nonrandomized trials with historical controls; cohort studies; case-control studies; cross-sectional studies; surveillance studies; consecutive case series; and single-case reports. In other words, established methodologies (i.e., experimental trials, observational epidemiology, and social survey research) and data procedures (i.e., analysis of variance, logistic regression, multivariate modeling techniques) were “quite satisfactory for addressing the majority of study questions related to alternative medicine—from research on therapeutic efficacy to basic science research on mechanisms of pathogenesis and recovery.”

Out of its deliberations, the working group concluded that if an unconventional therapy had an “identifiable, systematic, and consistent set of rules,” reliability could be ascertained even though its etiology was based on “unknown, mysterious, or novel mechanisms of action.” This meant that the unconventional nature of a given system would not, of itself, create an impediment to its validation through the use of appropriate research strategies. Accordingly, there was no justification for an unconventional therapy to refuse testing based on the argument that the particular technical challenges posed by characteristics inherent to CAM made it impossible to assess. The working group also refused to countenance the argument that the rules of biomedical reductionism could not be applied to CAM because it represented “an alternative paradigm with its own standards.” With both propositions, the working group “emphatically disagreed,” arguing that new methodologies using nonlinear modeling (i.e., chaos theory, neural net theory, fuzzy sets theory) were potential substitutes.
Learn more about Shadow Medicine at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 5, 2014

David Skarbek's "The Social Order of the Underworld"

David Skarbek is a Lecturer in the Department of Political Economy at King's College London.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Social Order of the Underworld: How Prison Gangs Govern the American Penal System, and reported the following:
The conventional wisdom suggests that prison gangs form to engage in violence and to promote hateful, racist ideologies. However, in The Social Order of the Underworld, I provide contemporary and historical evidence that suggest neither of these claims is true. Explanations that suggest gangs’ primary purposes are violence and racism do not explain where prison gangs are active. Instead, the book argues that prison gangs come into existence when inmates need more protection than prison officials provide and as a source of regulation and dispute resolution in illicit markets for drugs and alcohol. Gang members profit by selling drugs, so they actually have an incentive to reduce the frequency of unorganized and spontaneous acts of violence. Gangs, therefore, play a crucial role in providing informal governance to the society of captives.

The 99th page captures the conclusion of the theoretical and empirical argument laid out over the course of the previous three chapters. In short, “…based on both historical and contemporary evidence, prison gangs form and operate to provide protection…Because gangs profit when markets flourish, they have an incentive to promote order.” Page 99 also includes the start of a section on “Practical and Theoretical Implications.” The most important implication of the argument is that if officials could pull a lever and eliminate gangs, then inmates would be made worse off. Gangs exist because inmates have a demand for what they provide: protection and assurance. This suggests, instead, that the best way to reduce the power that prison gangs wield is to focus on meeting the needs that inmates turn to gangs to fill. Inmates in safer, smaller, and more liberal prisons have little or no need for the governance that prison gangs provide.

Page 99 of The Social Order of the Underworld, therefore, includes the core idea of the book and hints at the policy implications that result. What the reader can also see from Page 99 is that models from politics and economics drive the theoretical and analytical approach and that both quantitative and qualitative evidence is used to support the research claims. What Page 99 doesn’t reveal, however, is that each chapter is prefaced with a vignette that illustrates the key idea of the upcoming chapter and the book also examines the written constitutions that gangs rely on and how prison gangs control street gangs.
Visit David Skarbek's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Rita Zoey Chin's "Let the Tornado Come"

Rita Zoey Chin was born into a world that roared: a Queens apartment near Kennedy Airport, where planes were a constant storm that rattled the walls and the knickknacks on tables and the nerves of those nearby. But a move to Maryland four years later changed everything: it was there that Rita saw horses for the first time and discovered the most primal source of her wonder embodied in their movement across the field. She now lives in Boston, where she teaches memoir classes for Grub Street, mentors troubled teenage girls, and rides her mischievous horse.

Chin applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new memoir, Let the Tornado Come, and reported the following:
This is a fun test! One of the three intertwined narratives of my book focuses on my struggle with panic attacks, which came on suddenly and quickly became debilitating, and page 99 finds me at one of my lowest moments: afraid of something I never imagined I could be afraid of. Because it’s so absurd, the moment ends up being not only completely demoralizing, but also kind of funny, and I think that speaks to the overall nature of my book: to be able to find, in even the darkest moments, the attendant moments of light and humor, and also those rare moments of transcendence and epiphany—when we come to see ourselves and the world from a new vantage point and are changed in the process.

Page 99 also touches on the relationship I had as a child with my aunt, who suffered from schizophrenia. One of the great things about children is that they can see beyond what so many adults see, and with my aunt, I didn’t see her mental illness as much as I saw her spirit. I had fun with her, dancing and listening to her sing, and I loved her. And again, I think that love speaks to the larger themes of love in my book: the complexities of love, its redemptive powers, and its ability to help us heal. And that is most fully realized in my relationship with my horse, Claret, who had serious panic problems of his own. His fears ultimately made him defensive, which caused virtually everyone who knew him to deem him dangerous and give up on him. But I didn’t, and instead we formed a bond that in the end taught us both how to trust and how to be brave. For me, it’s the ultimate love story.
Visit Rita Zoey Chin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Claudio Saunt's "West of the Revolution"

Claudio Saunt is Richard B. Russell Professor in American History, Co-Director of the Center for Virtual History, and Associate Director of the Institute of Native American Studies at the University of Georgia.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776, and reported the following:
In early June 1776, two men met to discuss the urgent need to blaze a trail to unite several of America’s separate colonies. “It was so necessary and proper,” wrote one of them, “that from that very night we made a pact for the two of us to undertake the journey.” The date of departure was set for the fourth of July.

The colonies were not along the eastern seaboard but in the Spanish Southwest, and the men who planned the journey belonged not to the Sons of Liberty but to the Sons of St. Francis. They were Franciscan missionaries, and their goal was to unite Spain’s tenuous California outposts with New Mexico by way of an overland route.

Though they never reached their intended destination, they nonetheless completed a six-month-long, 1500-mile trek through the American Southwest and became the first Europeans ever to enter the vast region between the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada mountains.

On p. 99 of West of the Revolution, the explorers have just reached the foothills of the Rockies. Laboring up an incline, they encounter a Ute man, who would guide them for the next several days and save them from the treacherous ascents, dead-end paths, and dry waterholes that had plagued them over the previous week. Without native assistance, the explorers would never have completed their epic journey, undertaken a quarter century before Lewis and Clark struck out for the Pacific.

Americans are generally unacquainted with the early history of their continent beyond the thirteen British colonies that formed the United States. Yet it is possible to envision early America as stretching from one coast to the other and encompassing all the people who lived there. This exciting prospect reveals vast and unfamiliar lands and multitudes of North Americans whose stories are little-known to us. We have an intimate connection to those lands; we live on them, yet know little about their early history. West of the Revolution explores those lands in the 1770s and invites readers to extend their bounds and discover the continent beyond the thirteen British colonies.
Visit Claudio Saunt's webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Peter Finn and Petra Couvée's "The Zhivago Affair"

Peter Finn is National Security Editor for the Washington Post and previously served as the Post’s bureau chief in Moscow. Petra Couvée is a writer and translator and teaches at Saint Petersburg State University.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book, and reported the following:
In late 1955 , Boris Pasternak submitted his novel Doctor Zhivago to the Soviet Union’s state literary publisher, Goslitizdat, and two journals, which he hoped would run excerpts. For months he heard nothing back. In September 1956, five senior editors at one of the journals, Novy Mir, wrote Pasternak a 10,000 word rejection letter. It was a detailed summary and condemnation of the book. Page 99, the beginning of Chapter 7 in our book, The Zhivago Affair, opens with this letter, which was hand-delivered to Pasternak along with his manuscript. The letter said, “The thing that disturbed us about your novel is something that neither the editors nor the author can change by cuts or alternations. We are referring to the spirit of the novel, it general tenor, the author’s view on life…The spirit of your novel is one of non-acceptance of the socialist revolution. The general tenor of your novel is that the October Revolution, the Civil War and the social transformation involved did not give the people anything but suffering, and destroyed the Russian intelligentsia, either physically or morally.” The letter captures all of the system’s horror at what Pasternak’s wrote and its determination to stop publication in the West. Pasternak, with a touch of irony, told a friend that he “was pained and regretful at having caused my comrades such work.” But he remained determined to see the book published whatever the personal cost. The letter was published in full in the Literaturnaya Gazeta in October 1958 after Pasternak won the Nobel Prize in Literature. It was the first blow in an extraordinary campaign to vilify the writer and depict him as a willing stooge of the West, and the abuse ultimately led Pasternak to renounce the prize. That issue of LG, which had a circulation of 880,000, sold out within a few hours. For Muscovites, the letter was a feast of delicious details about the novel. Rarely were readers provided such unexpurgated descriptions and direct quotes from a piece of banned literature.
Learn more about The Zhivago Affair.

--Marshal Zeringue