Sunday, November 29, 2015

Christian Lange's "Paradise and Hell in Islamic Traditions"

Christian Lange is Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Utrecht University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Paradise and Hell in Islamic Traditions, and reported the following:
Applying the page 99 test to my book, a cultural history of Paradise and Hell in Islamic Traditions, I find that its 99th page wraps up a discussion about the views on the afterlife held by Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, an 11th-century professor of Islamic law and theology at Baghdad and quite possibly the most famous Muslim scholar of religion of all times. The Islamic afterworld enjoys a reputation among non-Muslims that is not exactly glowing. As I recapitulate in the introduction to the book, there is a long history of polemics against Islam that targets the Muslim paradise in particular. The Islamic otherworld, according to its critics over the course of centuries, is grossly sensualist—there is even sex in it! And the God that presides over it, the same detractors maintain(ed), is excessively lenient and ready to forgive Muslims, even if they’ve sinned; as for non-Muslims, there is only eternal punishment in hell.

Enters al-Ghazali. His contribution consists in resisting easy categorizations of God as either lenient or violent, and also in refuting simplistic materialist interpretations of the afterlife. His is a voice of moderation, and as such he is remembered by Muslims today: as someone who brought the various strands of Muslim thought under the same single fold of a law-abiding, rational and deeply spiritual version of Islam. Al-Ghazali maintains that God is just, which means that people mustn’t think they can shun responsibility for sins. However, God is also kind, which puts moral rigor into perspective; forgiveness is real! And then, the great promise of human life is not material, but spiritual, because the greatest joy in paradise is to see God, a joy that “shall cause one to be quite oblivious of the other pleasures of paradise”.

Al-Ghazali’s middle course is flanked on both sides by literalist, materialistic as well as highly speculative and intellectualist teachings about paradise and hell. All these traditions of thought are examined in my book, which, I dare say, is the most comprehensive study of the topic so far. Yet al-Ghazali remains a central figure, not just because he resolves dogmatic issues but because he is a writer who engages the imagination. And that, after all, is the basis of which paradise and hell have at all times flourished.
Learn more about Paradise and Hell in Islamic Traditions at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 27, 2015

Timothy Cheek's "The Intellectual in Modern Chinese History"

Timothy Cheek began studying China at the Australian National University in the 1970s and has traveled to China and worked with Chinese colleagues since 1981. After receiving his PhD in History and East Asian Languages from Harvard University in 1986 he taught in the US until 2002 when he took up the Louis Cha Chair in Chinese Research at the University of British Columbia.

Cheek applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Intellectual in Modern Chinese History, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Intellectual in Modern Chinese History ends with this quote:
“If the intellectuals still loll about in the relaxed atmosphere of the cities and the foreign concessions, then they will not make revolution.”
Mao Zedong? Some Chinese anarchist or other Bolshevik? No, the words of Liang Shuming, noted as “China’s last Confucian.” The page focuses on the 1920s and 30s, about a third of a way through the arc of the book that maps the words and deeds of Chinese intellectuals who tried to shape public life from 1895-2015.

This page has the story of two Liangs—Liang Qichao the famous reforming journalist of the early 1900s, now disillusioned with the West after visiting the devastation of post Great War Europe, and Liang Shuming, whom I present as a revolutionary conservative seeking many of the goals we associate with Mao and the rural revolution of the Communists, but Liang set up his rural revolution on Confucian principles. Liang Shuming would meet with Mao in Yan’an, the Communist’s rural capital, in the late 1930s, and before that he would join forces with trans-Pacific Chinese liberal James Yen in promoting science and education in the villages in a joint Rural Reconstruction Movement.

Two themes of the broader story appear on page 99. First, While China’s intellectuals were understandably focused on fixing China—then at a low point of ill-governance, poverty, and domination by imperial powers—they looked not only to the new and the West, but also to native resources (and not simply “tradition”) as well as other Asian examples, notably from India. Second, by the 1920s reformers and revolutionaries alike accepted that rural China had to be a focus of their efforts. There lived the vast majority of Chinese and for some, like Liang and Mao in their different ways, there breathed the best virtues of Chinese civilization.

Both Liangs on page 99 reflect the dynamism and range of choices, as well as terrifying challenges, confronting Chinese intellectuals in the decades between Empire and Socialist State.
Learn more about The Intellectual in Modern Chinese History at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ginger Strand's "The Brothers Vonnegut"

Ginger Strand grew up in Texas, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan, but mostly on a farm in Michigan. She is the author of one novel and three books of narrative nonfiction, including Killer on the Road: Violence and the American Interstate. She has published essays and fiction in many places, including Harper's, The Believer, Tin House, The Iowa Review, The New England Review and the New York Times, as well as This Land and Orion, where she is a contributing editor. In addition to writing frequently about collisions between nature, culture, science and the arts, Strand frequently works with photographers, and has contributed essays to photography books by Lisa Kereszi, Kyler Zeleny, and the Magnum Agency project Postcards from America.

Strand applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Brothers Vonnegut: Science and Fiction in the House of Magic, and reported the following:
On page 99 of The Brothers Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut is feeling frustrated at his PR job at General Electric. His brother Bernard, a brilliant scientist, is making headlines at GE with his startling new project: weather control. Kurt is trying hard to be a good company man, while trying to write marketable short stories at night and on weekends. But his efforts are only getting him a stack of rejection slips. And the position he had hoped would be a safe, easy job to feed his family while he launched his writing career is beginning to feel like a trap.
The new section opens like this:
Kurt was doing his best for GE. But it wasn’t enough to applaud every new gadget or machine the company cooked up as if it would change the world. It wasn’t enough to obey your GE boss and play softball on a GE team and buy your appliances at the GE employee store. The company wanted to tell you how to think too.

Every week or so, a new poster went up, Lemuel Boulware’s florid signature at the bottom. “Why must we SAVE more—as well as PRODUCE more?” “Should pay be equal everywhere?” “What is Communism? What is Capitalism? What is the Difference to You?” You could be sure Mr. Boulware—a.k.a. Mr. Bullwhip—would tell you the answers. He had all the answers, Mr. Bullwhip did. Mr. Bullshit was more like it, at least as Kurt saw it. Boulware’s messages to the employees were unabashedly pro-America and anti-labor.
This is fairly representative of something I was trying to do throughout this book, something I have never done before: write nonfiction from a close-in third-person point of view. I wanted the book to read like a novel, even as it was strictly factual, and fully documented in endnotes. I wanted the reader to feel like she was in Kurt Vonnegut’s head, or Bernard Vonnegut’s head, as the two brothers navigated the moral landscape of America in the new atomic age.
Learn more about the book and author at Ginger Strand's website.

The Page 99 Test: Killer on the Road.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Terry Williams and Trevor B. Milton's "The Con Men"

Terry Williams is a professor of sociology at the New School for Social Research. He specializes in teenage life and culture, drug abuse, crews and gangs, and violence and urban social policy. He is the author of The Cocaine Kids: The Inside Story of a Teenage Drug Ring; The Uptown Kids: Hope and Struggle in the Projects; and Crackhouse: Notes from the End of the Line, and is the founder and director of the Harlem Writers Crew Project, a multimedia approach to urban education for center city and rural youths.

Trevor B. Milton is assistant professor in social sciences at Queensborough Community College, CUNY, and author of Overcoming the Magnetism of Street Life: Crime-Engaged Youth and the Programs That Transform Them. His areas of research include prison reform and alternative-to-incarceration programs and the intersectionality of class and racial identity.

Milton applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, The Con Men: Hustling in New York City, and reported the following:
I would say that The Con Men passes Ford Madox Ford’s “page 99 test” (with flying colors, in my opinion!). The Con Men focuses on both Con(fidence) Artists (grifters who have mastered the art of deception) and hustlers (street entrepreneurs who have learned the science of persuasion). Page 99 falls into the middle of the chapter on “Petty Street Hustles,” where hustlers play an intrinsic role in the informal economy of New York City. Terry Williams and I wanted to emphasize that con artists and hustlers are a part of the city (for better or for worse), rather than being a contaminant in it. Hustlers in particular add to the convenience of city living, even if residents are opposed to the legality of their trade. As is said on page 99:
They are fully aware of the petty needs of the average New Yorker, and they appear along commuter pathways and well-worn tourist and weekend walking routes to accommodate vice, habit, and curiosity alike. Maybe you’ve never tried a shawarma, but walk enough sidewalks, and the option will appear; maybe you’ve decided to quit smoking, but a local man selling loosies in front of a bodega has decided otherwise; if it starts raining during your daily commute, someone will reliably be there to sell you a five-dollar umbrella as you exit your train stop.
For those who have ever lived in New York City—or even walked its streets as a tourist—there is something in this book for everyone. New Yorkers try to avoid the traps of con artists; with auto-suspicion of a smiling face asking for “just a minute of your time.” New Yorkers make hustlers a part of their daily commute: whether buying bottled water at a traffic light, a pirated DVD while seated in a restaurant, or an out-of-print magazine while strolling down a sidewalk.

Even though they may be a blessing or a detriment to one’s wallet, con artists and hustlers are fixtures in the New York community (for better or for worse!), and are the life-blood of New York’s character. Also said on the same page:
It is the duty of petty hustlers to make a home on the city streets, whether that’s a card table on a sidewalk or a predetermined route up and down certain city blocks…. Cigarette vendors occupy certain landings on the subway steps. Drug dealers hold down entire bodegas. For their customers, their whereabouts needed to be predictable.
Learn more about The Con Men at the Columbia University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: The Con Men.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Douglas Rogers's "The Depths of Russia"

Douglas Rogers is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Yale University. He is the author of The Old Faith and the Russian Land: A Historical Ethnography of Ethics in the Urals.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Depths of Russia: Oil, Power, and Culture after Socialism, and reported the following:
The Depths of Russia provides a new and different perspective on Russian oil and oil companies, one that unfolds in a single oil-producing region—the Perm region of the Russian Urals—rather than focusing on big-name oligarchs, the Kremlin, or international pipeline politics. The story I tell begins in the early Soviet period, with the discovery of oil near Perm in 1929. It ends with an account of Perm’s oil-fueled attempt to be named a European Cultural Capital in 2009-2012.

On page 99, I am wrapping up my discussion of the early 1990s—the turbulent years right after the end of the Soviet Union—and comparing some of what unfolded then to the politics and economics of oil at other times and places. One of the most interesting and distinctive things about this period is that crude oil and refined oil products were generally not sold or exchanged for money. Instead, given the encompassing economic collapse and resulting demonetization, they were bartered—exchanged directly for everything from barges of sugar to truckloads of timber. This petrobarter, as I call it, turned out to be crucial for the remaking of the Perm region in the post-Soviet period. Petrobarter kept the struggling agricultural sector alive through exchanges of tractor fuel at the time of sowing for crops at the time of harvest. Petrobarter enabled a new, oil-focused regional elite to emerge, even before the privatization of the oil sector. And petrobarter linked regional oil to regional identity in a new and powerful way: by making the exchange of the region’s own oil—and not rubles issued by the federal Russian state—the lynchpin that kept the regional economy afloat in a time of acute crisis. Although comparatively short-lived, petrobarter was absolutely central to the making of the Perm region as an oil region.

We tend to think of oil and money as very tightly entangled. Post-Soviet petrobarter shows that this is not always the case. It is just one of the ways in which the story of Permian oil expands our understanding of oil’s place in the shaping of human lives and possibilities.
Learn more about The Depths of Russia at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Michael J. Lansing's "Insurgent Democracy"

Michael J. Lansing is Associate Professor of History at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, MN. A historian of the modern United States, his research focuses on the North American West and Midwest, political history, environmental history, and gender history. He co-authored The American West: A Concise History and his essays have appeared in the Western Historical Quarterly, Environmental History, the Journal of Historical Geography, the Middle West Review, the Utah Historical Quarterly, and Ethics, Place, and Environment.

Lansing applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest  book, Insurgent Democracy: The Nonpartisan League in North American Politics, and reported the following:
In 1915, western and midwestern farmers mounted one of the most significant challenges to party politics America has seen: the Nonpartisan League (NPL), which sought to empower citizens and restrain corporate influence. Before its collapse in the 1920s, the League counted over 250,000 paying members, spread to thirteen states and two Canadian provinces, controlled North Dakota’s state government, and birthed new farmer-labor alliances. Yet today it is all but forgotten, neglected even by scholars.

My book aims to change that. Insurgent Democracy offers a new look at the NPL and a new way to understand its rise and fall in the United States and Canada. I argue that, rather than a spasm of populist rage that inevitably burned itself out, the story of the League is in fact an instructive example of how popular movements can create lasting change. Depicting the League as a transnational response to economic inequity, I not only resurrect its story of citizen activism, but also allow us to see its potential to inform contemporary movements.

Page 99 of the book describes the shift in fortunes for the NPL when the United States entered World War I in April 1917. The movement easily fended off attacks by insurance agents, bankers, corporate leaders, and small-town businessmen as it spread across the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest during its first year-and-a-half. But NPL members’ complicated stance on U.S. involvement in the European conflict soon rendered it an easy target for all those insisting on absolute loyalty during wartime. In response, the League noted its firm Americanism, but insisted that regular citizens—and not large corporations—should benefit from the war. It held this complicated position in the face of a less-thoughtful surge of patriotism.

In the short-term, this stance proved disastrous. In states such as Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska, local and state governments soon cracked down on the supposedly “disloyal” NPL. They shut down public meetings and arrested NPL organizers. The denial of Leaguers’ civil liberties proved so significant that it helped inspire the creation of the National Civil Liberties Bureau (later renamed the American Civil Liberties Union).

In the long-term, however, the NPL’s stand garnered it important allies—including George Creel, President Woodrow Wilson’s close advisor and head of the U.S. Committee on Public Information (which produced pro-war propaganda for the federal government). It also convinced large numbers of German Americans, many of whom held similarly complicated perspectives on World War I, to join the NPL. Ultimately, the League not only survived, but also went on to influence state and federal politics via its distinct form of citizen politics across the western half of the U.S.—and the Prairie Provinces—before falling apart in the mid-1920s.
Learn more about Insurgent Democracy at the book's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Melinda Baldwin’s "Making 'Nature'"

Melinda Baldwin is a lecturer in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University. Her research focuses on the cultural and intellectual history of science, particularly scientific publishing and other forms of scientific communication, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She has held fellowships from the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the National Science Foundation, and the Situating Science Cluster grant at York University. Baldwin earned her PhD in History from Princeton University, an MPhil in History and Philosophy of Science from Cambridge University, and a BS from Davidson College.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Making Nature: The History of a Scientific Journal, and reported the following:
Making Nature is about the history and development of Nature—today one of the world’s highest-profile scientific publications. The book follows Nature’s story from its foundation in 1869, through its eventual adoption as a major organ of scientific communication in Britain, and finally into its post-World War II transformation into an internationally renowned scientific journal.

Page 99 of Making Nature happens to be the last page of Chapter 3, “Defining the ‘Man of Science’ in Nature.” The chapter focuses on a period in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when Nature’s most prominent contributors were using the journal to advance a very specific set of criteria for a true man of science.* Nature’s contributors argued that a man of science had to be someone who devoted his time to original scientific research—a contrast with earlier eras, when the line between “expert” and “layman” was significantly more fluid.

This focus on research created a problem in 1919, when Nature’s publisher Macmillan and Company set out to find a successor for Nature’s founder and first editor, Norman Lockyer. Lockyer’s preferred candidate was his assistant Richard Gregory, but Gregory was not a researcher and could not meet the criteria Nature’s contributors had set forth for a man of science.

Lockyer and the Macmillans eventually decided that Gregory’s knowledge of the journal outweighed his lack of research qualifications. Page 99 finds Gregory thriving as Nature’s editor in the 1920s and 1930s, having successfully carved out a unique role for himself within Britain’s scientific community. He cast himself as science’s emissary, a charming spokesman who could tell British laymen exactly why science was important to their nation.

The chapter and the page end with a question: “Could Nature make a claim to be the world’s leading scientific journal, not just the most prominent British one?” As it turns out, the answer was probably “no” until well after Gregory retired—but those in search of a more complete answer will have to read the rest of the book!

* British scientific researchers preferred to be called “men of science” rather than “scientists,” for reasons I discuss elsewhere in the book, and also in this blog entry for The Renaissance Mathematicus.
Visit Melinda Baldwin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Donald Malcolm Reid's "Contesting Antiquity in Egypt"

Donald Malcolm Reid is author of Whose Pharaohs? Archaeologies, Museums, and Egyptian National Identity from Napoleon to World War I and Cairo University and the Making of Modern Egypt, among other works. He is professor emeritus, Georgia State University, and affiliate professor, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization, University of Washington.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Contesting Antiquity in Egypt: Archaeologies, Museums, and the Struggle for Identities from World War I to Nasser, and reported the following:
Ford Madox Ford’s whimsical Page 99 Test seems oddly appropriate for Contesting Antiquity in Egypt, for it calls to mind the Islamic tradition that there are 99 names of God (Allah)—The Compasionate, The Merciful, The Most Holy, etc.

Page 99 of Contesting shows a photo captioned “Imperial archaeology: The Oriental Institute’s Chicago House, Luxor, completed 1931.” Rockefeller money enabled James Henry Breasted, a great Egyptologist who founded the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, to open this magnificently-equipped archaeological field house despite the onset of the Great Depression. Such millionaire philanthropy enabled American archaeologists to outspend their British, French, German, and Italian colleagues in interwar Egypt. Despite Egypt’s nominal independence in 1922, British colonial interference in politics was never far beneath the surface, and the French ran the Antiquities Service for 94 years, down to Nasser’s revolution in 1952.

Traditional accounts highlight the role of European and American archaeologists in discovering and interpreting Egypt's long past. Following up on my earlier Whose Pharaohs? Archaeologies, Museums, and Egyptian National Identity from Napoleon to World War I, Contesting Antiquity in Egypt redresses the balance by also highlighting the lives and careers of often-neglected Egyptian specialists. Close attention is paid not only to the contests between westerners and Egyptians over the control of antiquities, but also to passionate debates among Egyptians themselves over pharaonism—popular interest in ancient Egypt-- in relation to Islam and Arabism during a critical period of nascent nationalism. The sensational discovery in 1922 of Tutankhamun's tomb accelerated the growth in Egypt of both Egyptology as a formal discipline and of pharaonism as an inspiration in the struggle for full independence.

As with Whose Pharaohs?, Contesting Antiquity in Egypt is also unusual in examining not only pharaonic, but also Islamic, Coptic, and Greco-Roman archaeologies in Egypt. Each of these four archaeologies gave birth to, and grew up around, a major antiquities museum in Egypt. Later, Cairo, Alexandria, and Ain Shams universities joined in shaping these fields. All four disciplines, as well as the closely related history of tourism, are brought together here in a single framework.
Learn more about Contesting Antiquity in Egypt at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Matthew McCormack’s "Embodying the Militia in Georgian England"

Matthew McCormack has published widely on British history, including his book The Independent Man.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book Embodying the Militia in Georgian England, and reported the following:
Ford Madox Ford had a point. Page 99 may not seem an obvious place to start, but then history books are rarely written sequentially, and this one certainly wasn’t. Page 99 falls in chapter 5, which was one of the first chapters that I wrote, and was the point in the writing process when the project really “clicked”, since it enabled me to figure out what the book was really going to be about.

Chapter 5 is entitled “Training the Militia” and it focuses on the training literature that was produced from the mid-eighteenth century which sought to instruct militiamen how to become soldiers. This was a part-time force, designed to be called out in times of invasion or riot. Since the men and their officers were civilians, and since they met up only occasionally for training in peacetime, a market sprung up for drillbooks that were comprehensible to the amateur.

Reading this literature, it struck me how different these works were to those that were aimed at the regular army. For starters, they were simpler, making the complex process of muzzle-loading a musket easier for the part-timer. They also focused on the challenge of training civilian men. On page 99 I quote William Windham of the Norfolk Militia, who mused that ploughmen “have a slouch in their gait” so require extra training in posture and balance. Most importantly, these manuals suggested that the harsh discipline and robotic drill that regulars received was not appropriate for citizen soldiers. One should not drill out their individuality and humanity, since that is what made them distinct from – and even superior to – professional soldiers.

It was at this point in the book that I stopped focusing simply on representations of the militia, and started to think about the practice of military life: I started to think about issues like embodiment and material culture. So I would like to think that it was round about page 99 that I became a better historian.
Learn more about Embodying the Militia in Georgian England at the Oxford University Press website and Matthew McCormack’s website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 16, 2015

Stephen L. Moore's "The Battle for Hell's Island"

Stephen L. Moore, a sixth-generation Texan, graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, where he studied advertising, marketing, and journalism. He is the author of multiple books on World War II and Texas history, including Pacific Payback: The Carrier Fly Boys Who Avenged Pearl Harbor at the Battle of Midway and Taming Texas, a biography of his great-great-great grandfather William T. Sadler, who was one of the first Texas Ranger captains in the 1830s.

Moore applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Battle for Hell’s Island: How a Small Band of Carrier Dive-Bombers Helped Save Guadalcanal, and reported the following:
Page 99 is a chart of Navy dive bomber crews that made a particular carrier attack and thus does not give the reader a sense of the book as a whole. A reader would be better served to flip back to the “Preface” where I outline the anger and anxiety of pilot Birney Strong. Although he has been highly decorated for valor in actions covered early in the book, he is seeking to reclaim honor and pride to a commander that has come to doubt his courage.

During August 1942, Lieutenant Strong had sighted and reported a Japanese carrier force in the Eastern Solomons. He and wingman then returned to their carrier instead of attacking. It was a decision he regretted for weeks. On the morning of October 26, 1942, he was among the pilots assembled before his stern air group commander. He expected nothing less than dead accuracy and utmost courage this day from his dive-bomber pilots.

From the “Preface”:
“If you are going to miss with your bomb,” the commander barked, “you might as well stay home and let a good pilot take your place.”

The sharp words still sizzled in Lieutenant Birney Strong’s mind as he looked at the perfect scene playing out before him. Fourteen thousand feet below on the blue Pacific surface were the distinctive flat lines of two Japanese aircraft carriers. Birney had a determined calm about him as he briefly eyed the thin white wakes streaming behind the gleaming yellow-hued flight decks far below his dive-bomber.

I couldn’t ask for a better setup, he thought. A dive-bomber pilot’s dream.
Birney Strong is but one of many determined pilots and rear seat gunners who are called upon to help save Guadalcanal in late 1942. It is an island where hellish jungles, tropical diseases, and meager rations wear down the aviators—both mentally and physically—who are called on to fly from a dusty, crushed-coral airstrip known as Henderson Field. The Japanese have aptly nicknamed Guadalcanal Jigoku no Shima—Hell’s Island.
Visit Stephen L. Moore's website.

Writers Read: Stephen L. Moore.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 14, 2015

David R. Montgomery and Anne Biklé's "The Hidden Half of Nature"

David R. Montgomery is a MacArthur Fellow and professor of geomorphology at the University of Washington. He is an internationally recognized geologist who studies how erosion shapes topography and the effects of geological processes on ecological systems and human societies. Author of three award-winning popular-science books, he has been featured on NPR, BBC, PBS, CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera America, and Fox News programs, as well as in documentary films. When not writing or doing geology he plays guitar and piano in the band Big Dirt.

Anne Biklé is a biologist with wide-ranging interests that have led her into watershed restoration, environmental planning, and public health. An invited speaker at universities and national conferences on connections between public health and the built and natural environments, she has also worked extensively with community groups and non-profit organizations on environmental stewardship and urban livability projects. She spends her free time out in the garden with her hands on plants and dirt.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health, and reported the following:
The page 99 test seems to work for The Hidden Half of Nature. An illustration with the title “Halo in the Soil” covers about half the page. This is a central theme of the book—that symbiotic relationships involving microbial life drive and sustain more complex life.

We subtitled the section leading up to the illustration, “The Power of Food” for good reason. Food underlies symbiotic relationships between a plant (and a person’s) indigenous microbiota—their microbiome. Plants use the near-insatiable appetite of microbes to their advantage. Through photosynthesis stuck-in-place plants make their own food, carbohydrates. A lot of them. Plants pump some of this food, along with other substances into the soil through their roots. These botanical concoctions are called exudates. When they flow herds of beneficial bacteria and fungi come running, as we write in text accompanying the illustration:
When soil scientists discovered that plants release nutrient-rich exudates into the soil, they were astounded. One review found that root exudates can account for 30 to 40 percent of a plant’s photosynthetic production of carbohydrates! That’s like a farmer setting a third of his harvest at the edge of his field for passersby to take for themselves. Why would plants give away such a bounty?
A plant’s root microbiome gives something in return to the whole plant—molecules and compounds that function as the bedrock of the botanical world’s health strategy. The microbiota that rush to lap up exudates at the surface of a plant’s roots use them to fuel their own manufacturing efforts. They make and release a range of metabolites for plants, among them growth hormones and precursor molecules. The latter become defensive compounds that plants use to thwart pathogens and herbivores.

Interestingly, the same type of master plan is at work in our bodies although the players are different. Deep down in the least-loved part of our digestive tract, the cells lining our root-like colon carry on incessant chemical exchanges with the human gut microbiome. Our well-being, it turns out, is intimately linked to the metabolites that our microbiome serves up. And as in the botanical world, our microbial allies rely, in part, on the exudates our colon cells produce. The human colon and the root of a plant are akin to biological bazaars in which the goods and wares exchanged between microbiome and host function as the backbone of a built-in health plan for people and plants.

This is astounding. Our microbial allies are as important in preventing disease as their pathogenic cousins are in causing it. The implications are enormous. We need to begin changing the agricultural and medical practices that have long been dismantling nature’s built-in health plan. For no less than our own health and that of our crops is at stake.
Visit The Hidden Half of Nature website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 13, 2015

Noel A. Cazenave's "Conceptualizing Racism"

Noel A. Cazenave is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut. In addition to many journal articles, book chapters, and other publications, he coauthored Welfare Racism: Playing the Race Card against America’s Poor, which won five book awards, and has more recently published Impossible Democracy: The Unlikely Success of the War on Poverty Community Action Programs and The Urban Racial State: Managing Race Relations in American Cities. He is currently working on a book tentatively titled Killing African Americans: Police and Vigilante Violence as a Racial Control Mechanism.

Cazenave applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Conceptualizing Racism: Breaking the Chains of Racially Accommodative Language, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Conceptualizing Racism begins with an epigraph quote from Humpty Dumpty’s great fall but concludes that instead of just falling he was, indeed, pushed. Here that story is a metaphor for what happened to the large and robust definition of “racism” as systemic--that was forced into the discourse of American social sciences and the larger society of which they are a part by the civil rights movement in the 1960s but by the late 1970s, due to the increasingly institutionalized white backlash, was largely supplanted by much smaller, more ambiguous, and less controversial conceptualizations of “race.”

Almost any randomly selected part of Conceptualizing Racism reveals similar language battles that have occurred throughout American history over whose conceptualization of race and racism prevails. Through its own linguistic racial confrontation challenges to the racial status quo of linguistic racial accommodation it exposes the role language plays in the building, maintenance, and dismantlement of systemic racism in the United States and other highly racialized societies. Consistent with this premise Conceptualizing Racism both begins and ends with just two words, words matter!

Words matter when African Americans who are unwilling to have their children killed by angry police and vigilantes as if their lives don’t count are able to push their bold and strangely necessary “Black Lives Matter!” movement proclamation through the white backlash that attempts to silence them and their legitimate concerns by shouting back racially accommodative language like “All Lives Matter!” And they matter when we cannot even have serious discussions of systemic “racism” because that issue is clouded by power and racism-evasive terminology like “race” or “the race issue.”

Conceptualizing Racism offers a provocative, language-centered, critique of American sociology and the other social sciences and their complicity in protecting the larger society they depend on for funding and legitimacy as a profession by providing undersized and fuzzy conceptualizations of what is happening racially that in one way or another misdirect attention away from the nation’s serious systemic white racism problem. After having cleared the discursive field of such distracting analytical debris it then reveals its tool chest of useful concepts for the building of a viable, interdisciplinary, racism studies.

In these and other ways Conceptualizing Racism is an invaluable resource for those who dare speak truth to the power of systemic racism.
Learn more about Conceptualizing Racism at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Daniel Kato's "Liberalizing Lynching"

Daniel Kato is term professor of Political Science at Barnard College.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Liberalizing Lynching: Building a New Racialized State, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Although Justice Wood’s opinion in Harris and Justice Bradley’s opinion in The Civil Rights Cases might at first appear hypocritical, considering their previous respective opinions in Hall and Cruikshank, in light of the framework of a racialized emergency, it extended the criticism beyond individual hypocrisy and raised a deeper structural issue of how to address racial violence during ‘normal’ times.
Page 99 is part of a chapter that concentrates on the federal government and how all three branches tenuously situated the status of African-Americans following the Civil War. For African-Americans, the relationship between rights and war was inverted. During times of war, rights are often restricted to the extent that some residents may feel like aliens. In peacetime, people are often treated as citizens. But as Frederick Douglass eloquently pointed out, African-Americans were made citizens in war and aliens in peace. Unlike typical emergencies that call for a reduction of civil liberties under the aegis of security, during the period immediately following the Civil War, the ubiquity and banality of racial terror was suspended temporarily and the radical practice of federal rights-enforcement was invoked. Highlighting the exceptional nature of rights enforcement for blacks during this period sheds insight into the subsequent structural impediments of addressing racial violence during normal times. The murder of African-Americans has been normalized to the extent that it is not only difficult to transcend the banality of such violence, but also alludes to why it often takes an extraordinary act of political will to actually engage.

The aforementioned quote is also indicative of the way the Court relates to the other branches. What has not been extensively understood is the Court’s rulings in light of political vacillation and more importantly the implications of such as it pertains to the federal government as a whole. One-dimensional accounts of each branch, whether it is the executive, judicial, or legislative, have missed this coordination across the branches. Sovereignty is the rightful locus of study because non-intervention had more to do with the choice not to act across all three branches than the legal and/or institutional capacity to act. The very fragments of sovereignty that the American political system intended to be divisive was supportive of the decision for non-intervention and once it was established, no significant challenge emerged until the 1960s. The tremendous difficulties in reversing course had less to do with overturning a judicial decision than it had to do with upending and problematizing the calculus of non-intervention.
Learn more about Liberalizing Lynching at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Katharina Vester's "A Taste of Power"

Katharina Vester is Assistant Professor of History at American University in Washington, DC, where she teaches in the American Studies program.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, A Taste of Power: Food and American Identities, and reported the following:
Page 99 of A Taste of Power: Food and American Identities introduces one of my favorite examples in the book--Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. The 1930s hard-boiled detective novel may not be a text one expects to find in a monograph exploring the identity-producing significance of food. But I use The Falcon to show how the food prepared here reflects the changes in conceptualizing ideal masculinity between the Wars, namely as opposite to an empowered femininity that is imagined as emasculating and potentially deadly (the femme fatale). Only by preparing their own (manly) food could men, as many texts at this time claimed, avoid corruption of their masculinity. The food women cooked for men was potentially dangerous as it was not only dainty, but also thought to be fraught with manipulative emotion. A real guy, therefore, had to cook for himself to stay safe. Much can be learned, I claim, by watching Sam Spade making liverwurst sandwiches.

In many ways, this example is paradigmatic for A Taste of Power. It shows how ideas about food encase ideas about gender and identity in general. Page 99 is at the core of the part in the book that discusses gender and specifically masculinity, as the link between masculinity and food has been traditionally underexplored. In the other two parts of the book I look at early attempts at creating a national identity by imagining an American cuisine shortly after the American Revolution. The final part discusses sexuality and especially homosexuality and the representation of food in the 20th and early 21st centuries.

I enjoyed pulling together the most diverse materials dealing with food--from still lifes to YouTube cooking shows—to make my analysis. When read against each other, these sources present a novel entryway into the understanding of social structure in the past. Some of these texts are long forgotten and unknown today, some of them iconic and famous, but they all show how the representation of food is always also a representation of how identity is conceptualized and power is structured in society.
Learn more about A Taste of Power at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Douglas Waller's "Disciples"

Douglas Waller is a former Newsweek and Time correspondent.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Disciples: The World War II Missions of the CIA Directors Who Fought for Wild Bill Donovan, and reported the following:
Disciples reveals the secret operations of four men who fought for the Office of Strategic Services spy agency in World War II and who later were among the most controversial directors the CIA has ever had: Allen Dulles, Richard Helms, William Colby and William Casey. Dulles launched the calamitous operation to land CIA-trained, anti-Castro guerrillas at Cuba’s Bay of Pigs. Helms was convicted of lying to Congress about the CIA’s effort to oust President Salvador Allende in Chile. Colby would become a pariah among Langley’s old hands for releasing to Congress what became known as the “Family Jewels” report on the agency’s misdeeds during the 1950s, 60s and early 70s. Casey would nearly bring down the agency—and Ronald Reagan’s presidency—from a scheme that secretly supplied Nicaragua’s contras with money raked off from the sale of arms to Iran for American hostages in Beirut.

During World War II, Dulles ran the OSS’s most successful spy operations against the Axis. Casey organized top-secret missions to penetrate Nazi Germany. Colby led daring OSS commando raids behind the lines in occupied France and Norway. Richard Helms mounted risky intelligence programs against the Russians in the ruin of Berlin. Page 99 describes the early training Bill Colby underwent at the Congressional Country Club just north of Washington, which the OSS had taken over and renamed Area F to teach recruits spying and sabotage:
An obstacle course was constructed near the first tee. The fuselage of a cargo plane was placed near its putting green along with a half dozen suspended harnesses so parachutists could practice jumping out into a sand trap. Firing ranges, demolition pits, and simulated minefields dotted other fairways. Robert Kehoe, a young radio operator who had dropped out of college after two years, called Area F “a luxurious shock.”

Colby and other recruits spent the next two weeks, early morning often to midnight, engaged in what the instructors told them was the beginning of their commando training. That was a cover story for testers who wanted to weed out the men who did not possess the qualities needed to be commandos. They endured miles of cross-country running and hours on the obstacle course for physical conditioning. They were sent out on guerrilla exercises often with no sleep the night before to test how they reacted under stress. Instructors divided the students into groups of a half dozen, with one designated as the leader, and gave them mock missions, such as sneaking up on a guard, blowing up a bridge over a fairway’s water hazard or simply moving a heavy object from one spot to another to test their ingenuity. All the while psychologists lurked nearby, asking the recruits seemingly innocent questions and marking notes on clipboards.
Visit Douglas Waller's website.

The Page 99 Test: Disciples.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 9, 2015

Richard Baxstrom and Todd Meyers's "Realizing the Witch"

Richard Baxstrom is Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of Houses in Motion: The Experience of Place and the Problem of Belief in Urban Malaysia and the coeditor of the journal Visual Culture in Britain.

Todd Meyers is Associate Professor of Medical Anthropology at Wayne State University. As of January 2016, he will be Associate Professor of Anthropology, New York University––Shanghai. He is the author of The Clinic and Elsewhere: Addiction, Adolescents, and the Afterlife of Therapy and the coeditor of Fordham University Press’s Forms of Living series.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Realizing the Witch: Science, Cinema, and the Mastery of the Invisible, and reported the following:
Page 99 is a crucial but surprisingly tame moment in Realizing the Witch. We describe the trial depicted in Benjamin Christensen’s film Häxan (The Witch) of the Young Maiden, accused of consorting with Satan and being a witch. Her real “crime”––if one has been committed at all––is having become the Young Priest’s object of sexual desire. In this passage we discuss how the portly older priest presides over her trial, scrutinizing the evidence of her satanic pact, and in doing so exposes some of Christensen’s filmic assertions about the line between “belief” and “the unbelievable.” The Young Maiden’s ability to guide or to act as a proxy for the Devil’s unseen hand, an instrument to corrupt men, is truly unbelievable––but the priests, and even the Maiden herself, are fully invested in a concrete belief that such forces exist and can be wielded by someone or something. In the passage we also chide Christensen for his selective reading of the legal framework used by magistrates in the early modern period for weighing such an accusation––historical facts of which the filmmaker was very much aware. This is a tactic Christensen uses again and again in the film: he is masterful in refashioning his historical material to match his thesis about the power of forces unseen (felt, known, revealed)––forces as much to do with the psyche as something supernatural––, but in all this shaping and fashioning something gives way or is beyond his control. To be clear, Christensen is not engaged in some wild enterprise in Häxan, and he’s far from naïve about his subject. In fact much of the film is wholly faithful to his medieval, early modern, and 19th century source material. Like the magistrates, the labor of reporting and recording evidence of invisible (malevolent) forces is precisely the labor in which Christensen is engaged. This is what we find so fascinating about Häxan and what we try to demonstrate in the book––Christensen’s deep attention to the facticity of witch, brought forth through his obsessive accounting to create a living, animated tableau.

At one point in the book we say we are attempting to think alongside Christensen, and this is precisely what we do: we reconstruct his film through his carefully documented source materials as his thesis unfolds––and this, in part, is the innovation in the book. Christensen’s central claim is fairly straightforward: witchcraft in European history has a hidden relationship to the contemporary (contemporary for 1922) treatment of female “hysterics” and the mentally ill. He is caught up in showing how evidence of these forces (psyche, Satan, magic) is produced, something wholly on par with the concerns of others in the human sciences at that moment (in psychology, anthropology, etc.). In the book we take up debates regarding the relationship of film to scientific evidence, the evolving study of religion from historical and anthropological perspectives, and the complex relations between popular culture, artistic expression, and concepts in medicine and psychology––issues as unsettled today as they were 93 years ago. But Christensen is also caught by something else: the witch’s power. He brings her forth, and in his attempt to tame her “nonsense” breathes life into her (visually, affectively). Christensen never presented Häxan as a work of fiction, but rather as a “scholarly” effort to account for the witch’s power and her scope across time. The film resists our attempts to categorize it––terms like ‘proto-documentary’, ‘non-fiction’, or ‘reenactment’ all come up short. Realizing the Witch returns our attention to the singular importance of the film within the canons of classic cinema, while at the same time exposing the incredible and perilous journey embarked upon by the filmmaker.
Learn more about Realizing the Witch at the Fordham University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Andrew Pettegree's "Brand Luther"

Andrew Pettegree is a professor of modern history at the University of St. Andrews, where he was the founding director of the St. Andrews Reformation Studies Institute. He currently serves as the vice president of the Royal Historical Society. His books include The Invention of News, The Book in the Renaissance, which was a New York Times Notable Book of 2010, and Emden and the Dutch Revolt.

Pettegree applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Brand Luther: How an Unheralded Monk Turned His Small Town into a Center of Publishing, Made Himself the Most Famous Man in Europe--and Started the Protestant Reformation, and reported the following:
In 1517 Martin Luther was an unknown professor at one of Europe’s most obscure universities. He was living out his days, contentedly enough, in Wittenberg, a small settlement in north-east Germany. Yet within five years later he was one of the most famous men in Europe, the center of a whirlwind of controversy that would lead to the permanent division of his much-loved church. He was also Germany’s most published author – indeed, the most published author since the invention of printing.

Brand Luther is the story of this transformation: how an unknown monk from such an unpromising place found an audience for a new religious message of redemption and salvation. Part of that was down to Luther: his extraordinary courage and resilience, but also his astonishing facility with words. That Luther, a man who had published nothing before his thirty-fourth year, could discover such a talent for making complex theological ideas comprehensible to a wide public, was truly extraordinary. In the process he in effect invented a new form of theological writing.

This was unprecedented, but without a similar transformation in the German printing industry Luther would never have found his audience. Before Luther, Wittenberg had one, not very competent print shop. It quickly became clear that it was simply not up to the task of pleading Luther’s case in the ferment unleashed by his criticism of indulgences. So Luther took the matter in hand. He intervened personally to lure to Wittenberg a more competent printer, who transformed the quality of Wittenberg books. Critical too was Luther’s partnership with the painter Lucas Cranach, Wittenberg’s most innovative industrial entrepreneur. Cranach supplied the new woodcut title-pages that completely changed the look of the Book. This was Brand Luther, and it revolutionized the way the new movement presented itself to the outside world.

Page 99 finds Luther at a critical time in his relationship with the church hierarchy. He had gone to Augsburg to answer for his criticisms of indulgences. He expected a sympathetic hearing; but rather than debate, the Pope’s representative, Cardinal Cajetan, insisted he simply recant. Luther was devastated: after angry exchanges, he fled the city. This was a crucial moment in Luther’s progressive alienation from the church of which, in his own mind, he had always been a faithful son. He would now repudiate papal authority, denouncing the Pope himself as Antichrist. The Reformation had passed the point of no return.
Learn more about Brand Luther at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Book in the Renaissance.

The Page 99 Test: The Invention of News.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Wendy Williams's "The Horse"

Wendy Williams is the author of several books, including Kraken and Cape Wind, and is a lifelong equestrienne.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Horse: The Epic History of Our Noble Companion, and reported the following:
I'm not the right one to speak about the quality of my book, of course. But it so happens that Page 99 (and a few pages thereafter) contain one of my favorite sections of the book -- a section that I spent weeks thinking about.

The section evokes a scene on the African plain from about 3.6 million years ago. It reads like a scene from a movie because we have some wonderful information about what specific living creatures were up to on one particular day so long ago.

We have footprints, preserved in ash that was falling from a volcano. Kind of like Pompeii, in a sense. Those footprints were written about all over the world when they were discovered, because they include a trail laid down by several of our ancestral relatives, who were then walking on two legs. There were even arches in their feet, we now know.

But what wasn't widely reported was that also present on that African plain were the footprints of a relative of today's Equus -- a mare and her little foal. The trackways show us how the mare used the three hoofs on each leg, and show us that the foal was gamboling about in front of the mare. It's so wonderful to be able to peer through the opacity of time, isn't it?

Of most interest to me, though, are that the trackways of the ancestral humans and the ancestral horses actually cross. We have always been partners with horses, ever since the earliest known primates and the earliest known horses show up together on Polecat Bench in wet and wild Wyoming, 56 million years ago.

How cool is that?
Visit Wendy Williams's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Margaret Randall's "Haydée Santamaría, Cuban Revolutionary"

Margaret Randall is the author of dozens of books of poetry and prose, including Che on My Mind, and the translator of When Rains Became Floods: A Child Soldier's Story.

Randall applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Haydée Santamaría, Cuban Revolutionary: She Led by Transgression, and reported the following:
Ford Madox Ford's statement "Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you" is certainly true of Haydée Santamaría, Cuban Revolutionary: She Led by Transgression. On this page, Haydée finds herself in Miami when she receives word that the dictator Batista has fled and her movement has won the war:
Haydée's creative mind was now in overdrive. She immediately thought of the commercial Cuban planes parked at Miami International Airport. She knew all too well that the United States would waste no time in trying to put obstacles in the way of the revolutionary government, confiscate what it could... She sent comrades to the airport to occupy those planes and get them back to the island.
These lines and those that follow speak powerfully to Haydée's imagination, creativity, brilliance and leadership role, as one of the few women who--along with their male comrades--made the Cuban Revolution. The book is filled with scenes such as this one, but also with 63 photographs, some never before published. Page 99 might have been a photograph or chapter heading, so FMF was onto something with regard to my rendering of Haydée Santamaría.
Visit Margaret Randall's website.

My Book, The Movie: Haydée Santamaría, Cuban Revolutionary.

Writers Read: Margaret Randall.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Merlin D. Tuttle's "The Secret Lives of Bats"

Merlin Tuttle is a leading expert on bats who has studied and photographed hundreds of species worldwide for more than 50 years. He founded Bat Conservation International and Merlin Tuttle’s Bat Conservation where he is now Executive Director.

Tuttle applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Secret Lives of Bats: My Adventures With the World’s Most Misunderstood Mammals, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Secret Lives of Bats describes a discovery that enabled amazing new insights into the world of bats and their incredible intelligence. For frog-eating bats, learning and remembering the unique courtship calls of the dozens of frog species in a Latin American rain forest is a life and death matter. Some are a rich source of nutrition while others are deadly poisonous or large enough to eat a bat. While studying these amazing bats at the Smithsonian’s Tropical Research Institute in Panama, I discovered that they could be trained by humans and even remembered to come on call and when inadvertently recaptured years later! The book weaves stunning facts and world famous photos of bats in action with my truly incredible adventures, ranging from standoffs with moonshiners and being captured by bandits and communist guerrillas to escaping charging elephants and stalking lions. By sharing highlights from a lifetime of discovery and adventure, I take readers on a whirlwind tour of research and conservation frontiers and forever change the way we see these long misunderstood yet fascinating masters of our night skies. Through my personal experiences I show that in reality bats have one of our planet’s finest records of living safely with humans, are essential to the health of whole ecosystems, contribute billions of dollars annually to human economies and protect our health by reducing needs for chemical pesticides. Free of jargon and full of adventure and discovery, this book is a real page-turner.
Visit Merlin D. Tuttle's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Scott Shane's "Objective Troy"

Scott Shane is a reporter in the Washington bureau of the New York Times, where he has covered national security since 2004.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Objective Troy: A Terrorist, a President, and the Rise of the Drone, and reported the following:
I set out to write Objective Troy in part to fathom how a mainstream, popular imam who publicly and privately condemned the 9/11 attacks had ended up joining Al Qaeda in Yemen and becoming the first American citizen to be killed without trial on orders of the president in a drone strike.

Page 99 catches my subject, Anwar al-Awlaki, as his career as an American Muslim preacher takes off in 2001 and on the brink of the turning point of 9/11. At 30, he has become the imam at a big mosque in Falls Church, Va., where his perfect American English and perfect Koranic Arabic impress both the old and young in a big, influential congregation. He's active on the speaking circuit, both in the U.S. and the U.K. He's preaching at the U.S. Capitol and lecturing to military chaplains. As the page ends, he learns of the 9/11 attacks in a taxi from Reagan National Airport after flying home to Washington from California -- and has no idea that three of the 19 hijackers will turn out to have prayed in his mosques. That will prompt a suspicious FBI to order 24-hour surveillance. The bureau will eventually clear him of suspicions of terrorism -- but discover that this married father of three, who preaches about the sanctity of marriage, is visiting prostitutes in Washington hotels every week or so. The trauma of 9/11 will make Awlaki suddenly a national media star, a young, eloquent imam who can patiently explain the mysteries of Islam to Americans. He is on his way to becoming a truly national voice for American Muslims, a much-needed role in the post-9/11 era. But not long after p. 99, when Awlaki learns from the manager of an escort service about the FBI's file on his sex life, he will suddenly flee the U.S., abandoning a thriving career and a growing pubic reputation and starting on a path that will lead to Al Qaeda and war on America.

For me, as a journalist who has written on terrorism and counterterrorism for 14 years, this is a poignant moment, in which the life of a talented and ambitious cleric with huge potential to be a useful voice in American policy debates takes a fateful turn. The FBI was actually interested in whether Awlaki was a terrorist, not in his sex life, and it would conclude that he had no ties to terrorism in 2001-2002. But its accidental discovery would have unpredictable consequences for the U.S., for President Obama and for Awlaki himself.
Visit Scott Shane's website.

--Marshal Zeringue