Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Karl Coplan's "Live Sustainably Now"

Karl Coplan is professor of law at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, where he directs its environmental litigation clinic. He is a coauthor of Introduction to Environmental Law: Cases and Materials on Water Pollution Control (second edition, 2016). Coplan is also a member of the board of directors of Waterkeeper Alliance, a global network of clean water advocates.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Live Sustainably Now: A Low-Carbon Vision of the Good Life, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Live Sustainably NOW captures the essence, but not the substance of the whole. That sounds contrary. Here’s what I mean. The book is an argument for paying attention to your personal carbon footprint, and taking measures to live conscientiously and responsibly in this moment of climate crisis. Most of the book is devoted to the ethical and practical arguments for reducing your carbon footprint, and practical tips on how to do it. Interspersed with the chapters on ethics, sustainability, and home heating options are vignettes of my own experience of one year of living on a carbon budget. Page 99 happens to fall on one of these carbon diary entries, describing a late-winter camping trip with my adult son. Here it is:
March 2016

Most winters for nearly two decades now, my son and I have arranged to get together for a weekend ski mountaineering and camping trip in the Adirondack Mountains. Now that Justin is an adult, it gets harder and harder to find a weekend when it works for both of us.

This year, we settled in advance on the first weekend in March. Justin drove up from his home in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on Thursday, and on Friday we drove together up to our cabin in North River. This was Justin’s first visit to the cabin. It had recently rained heavily on top of a thin coating of snow, and everything was a glaze of ice. When we arrived, it was colder inside the cabin than outside, so we fired up the woodstove, took a walk around the trails on the property to warm our bodies, and went to the lodge for dinner while the cabin warmed up a little.

There was too little snow in the Adirondacks for backcountry skiing that weekend, but the 3 to 4 inches of new snow on the balsams and red spruce made for a beautiful backwoods hike, and with the spikes on our boots, we made an easy climb of New York’s second-highest peak, Algonquin. Saturday, March 5, was a perfect day for a winter ascent—light winds, clear skies, fresh snow—and the Algonquin summit was crowded with hikers. I was pretty sure I could pick out the ridge where our cabin is from the summit. The temperature went down to zero at our campsite overnight, but I had long ago learned that as long as you stay in your winter sleeping bag you can sleep quite comfortably. You just have to get moving fast in the morning, before your toes freeze up.

I continued to test the range on my electric Smart two-seater car.

One Saturday, we were invited to a traditional rice-feeding celebration for
Very little about page 99 hints at the substance of the book’s argument for individual climate action – just the “Carbon Diary” title and the reference to range anxiety in a Smart For Two electric vehicle. And yet... the emphasis of the book is on what you can do to live a fulfilling life while sticking to a carbon budget, not what you can’t do. The Carbon Diary entries, while few in pages, illustrate how little you need to give up to clear your climate conscience. That weekend winter camping trip with my son enriches my life and family bonds. It involves carbon emissions, since we drove up to the mountains in a fossil fueled hybrid. But it fits in my carbon budget, so my climate conscience is clear.

That’s the essence of the book – if you set a carbon budget, keep a rough account of your greenhouse emissions, and stick to it, you can still have a rewarding life while doing your part to fight climate change. If you want the substance of the book, take a look at the table of contents, which includes chapters on “CLIMATARIANISM: OUR PERSONAL MORAL OBLIGATION,” “WHY BOTH INDIVIDUAL ACTION AND COLLECTIVE POLICY WILL BE NEEDED TO ADDRESS CLIMATE CHANGE,” “GOING ON A CARBON DIET TO SAVE THE PLANET, “GRAPPLING WITH THE BIG FOUR ELECTRICITY, HEAT, TRANSPORTATION, AND FOOD,” “HAVING FUN ON A CARBON BUDGET,” and “MEDIUM-TERM GOAL: GETTING TO ZERO.”

But page 99 captures the essence of the book. That we all should live. Sustainably. NOW.
Visit the Live Sustainably Now website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Kate Imy's "Faithful Fighters"

Kate Imy is Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Texas.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Faithful Fighters: Identity and Power in the British Indian Army, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Faithful Fighters drops us in the middle of a debate about Nepali soldiers who fought on behalf of the British Empire before the First World War. By 1913 and 1914, word had spread that soldiers were not welcomed back into their homes after service in places such as China, East Africa, and England. Page 99 takes us to January 1914, when Chandra Shamsher—the Prime Minister of Nepal—approached Nepali monastic powers about “authorizing the grant of pani patya to all soldiers who proceeded overseas.” This ceremony was meant to absolve Nepali soldiers from the caste transgression of crossing the ocean. British and Nepali officials believed that caste was the reason that soldiers did not receive a warm reception when they returned home. Some worried that the men were being blackmailed and extorted. Most British officers blamed “religious” authorities for introducing impediments to soldiers’ service. They maintained that soldiers were largely indifferent to caste rules. As the debate intensified, however, some British officers accused soldiers of flaunting their journeys “in the faces of the priests.” Such a “direct challenge” could not be overlooked and the spiritual elites, in British minds, felt the need to punish soldiers “to maintain their hold on the people.”

For readers familiar with South Asian – and especially Nepali – society, life and culture, this page does hint at some of the main dynamics of the book. It shows how soldiers, civilian communities, politicians, religious leaders, and British officials all had different and changing interpretations of the proper role of soldiers’ beliefs and practices in the army. For the uninitiated or non-specialist reader, however, this page alone may prove slightly confusing. Earlier sections give more detailed explanations about the role of caste generally, and pani patya specifically, in the army. Further, the book focuses on many different beliefs and practices, of which Nepali soldiers’ participation in pani patya is just one. Other chapters consider the diversity of the soldiers of the Indian Army – including but not limited to Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians. Within and between communities there were differing ideas about incorporating identities into the army and maintaining connections with civilian practices. This became especially important as “religious” symbols became central to nationalist and anti-colonial activism. Page 99, therefore, captures some of the complexity soldiers’ identities and loyalties. It also may overwhelm readers who would benefit from earlier explanations and context.

Faithful Fighters focuses on the lives and experiences of multiple soldiers and communities. Readers who had a family member who served in the First World War may be drawn to stories of soldiers’ service during and after the war, as anti-colonialism intensified. Those familiar with debates about food and caste purity in the rebellion of 1857 will be interested to learn how food was complex and contested for all soldiers across religious differences. Some may want to learn about communities considered the most loyal – including Sikhs and Nepali “Gurkhas” – and to understand their instrumental roles in anti-colonial movements. Others may be intrigued by eccentric British officers and soldiers such as Reginald Moysey and H.H. Somerfield whose relative sympathy for Indian men inspired spiritual conversion and sexual intimacy with Indian soldiers. All readers, I hope, will come away with a greater understanding and appreciation for these soldiers’ service and how it often made their lives more challenging. Belonging to a particular community did not dictate identities or actions – nor did gaining employment in a colonial army. All of these men faced conflicting demands for devotion in a world torn by war, nationalism, and empire.
Learn more about Faithful Fighters at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 27, 2019

Richard J. King's "Ahab's Rolling Sea"

Richard J. King is an author and illustrator. He wrote Lobster, which was acclaimed by the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, and The Devil’s Cormorant: A Natural History, which was short-listed for the ASLE Creative Book Award and rated as one of the top five science books of 2013 by Library Journal.

King applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Ahab's Rolling Sea: A Natural History of "Moby-Dick", and reported the following:
On page 99 of Ahab’s Rolling Sea, I’ve just begun a chapter titled “Gulls, Sea-Ravens, and Albatrosses.” My book moves chronologically through Moby-Dick as it examines what Melville had experienced and could have known about the biology, oceanography, and meteorology of the ocean—and how he might have tweaked this to serve his epic yarn. Seabirds are the most regularly visible marine life to sailors, then and today, and Melville—who had spent over four years of his life at sea before writing Moby-Dick—knew this well. Melville liked to write about birds and give them significance in his fiction.

So in this way, “The 99 Test” does provide some sense of what my book is about. I write a range of chapters about the ecology and human connection to whales, course, but Moby-Dick is filled with all sorts of other marine organisms, which he often layers with metaphor in an era before it was common for writers to give any meaning to sea life at all. At different points throughout his story, Ishmael describes, for example, zooplankton, squid, barnacles, swordfish, pilot fish, and sharks. My page 99 mostly summarizes Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ballad “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (1798) for readers who might not be familiar with the poem so that I can set up all the parallels and influences on Moby-Dick. This summary perhaps renders this page one of the less original in Ahab’s Rolling Sea, but I do write the following sentence in the first paragraph of page 99, which is indeed one of my essential points for the whole: “In many ways, Melville seized the tiller of sea writing from the British Romantics and infused it with marine biology and period nautical realism in order to create a unique style of sea story.”

This chapter continues on to explain how Melville wrote of gulls, cormorants (“sea-ravens”), and albatrosses in Moby-Dick. Later in the book I explain Ishmael’s use of storm petrels, and then at the end of Ahab’s Rolling Sea I focus on one more seabird, the frigatebird. This frigatebird was Melville’s “sky-hawk” and “sea-hawk,” a black “bird of heaven,” who goes down with Tashtego and leaves in peace the floating castaway Ishmael. Thus frigatebirds have enormous symbolic significance at the end of the novel. Melville places his frigatebird in direct contrast to Coleridge’s albatross. This is also relevant to how we read Moby-Dick today in a time of climate crisis. In the Pacific Islands, among those low-level atolls most vulnerable to sea level rise, the frigatebird is a national symbol. What happens when we read Ishmael as a climate refugee: a single, floating, ancient survivor who is compelled to tell you his story of drowning and disaster wrought by human hands against Nature?
Visit Richard J. King's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Alison Stone's "Being Born"

Alison Stone is Professor of Philosophy at Lancaster University. Her books include: Petrified Intelligence: Nature in Hegel's Philosophy (2004), Luce Irigaray and the Philosophy of Sexual Difference (2006), An Introduction to Feminist Philosophy (2007), Feminism, Psychoanalysis, and Maternal Subjectivity (2011) and The Value of Popular Music (2016). She is also editor of The Edinburgh Critical History of Nineteenth-Century Philosophy (2011) and co-editor of The Routledge Companion to Feminist Philosophy (2017).

Stone applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Being Born: Birth and Philosophy, and reported the following:
Page 99 is in the middle of chapter 3 of the book. The page moves – swiftly! – through Hegel’s, then Marx’s, then Heidegger’s views of human social relationships and human sociality. Then I assess them:
Hegel, Marx and Heidegger all offer insights here, but those insights can be enriched by taking account of the formative impact of our early relationships. Whether we belong to a shared community spirit or set of social production relations or world of practical involvements, we come to belong to and participate in them from birth onwards. We do not spring into existence as full-fledged adults but enter into shared ways of life through a temporal and developmental process. Through this process we receive and inherit from others, and learn to participate with others in, a pre-existing communal spirit, or set of production relations, or network of shared involvements—or something of all these.
The page 99 test works here reasonably well, if not perfectly. In the book overall, I argue that philosophers haven’t paid much attention to the fact that we are born, and I explore some ways that human existence looks different once we take being born into account. Page 99 fits in, since I’m pointing out that Hegel, Marx and Heidegger’s views of sociality omit birth and could have benefited from taking account of it.

Also, I explain Heidegger’s view of shared networks of meaning surrounding practical tasks and objects with an example about building a run for my rabbits – nice to see them getting centre stage!

I think the reader can get a sense from page 99 that I try to explain philosophical theories in everyday language, and to draw lots of disparate philosophical ideas together to bring them to bear on birth.

This page might, though, give the impression that I dwell heavily on ‘the great’ philosophers – the canon of mainly male, white, European authors. But actually some of my most important influences are recent female and feminist authors and I want to open up philosophy beyond the canon. That said, I do spend quite some time with the classic existentialists including Sartre and Heidegger – so this page again reflects that.

In another way, too, page 99 is revealing about what I’m doing in this book more broadly. I argue that, being born, we begin life as helpless, dependent babies and infants who remain heavily dependent on adult care and education throughout childhood and beyond. Hence my claim on page 99 that we receive cultural traditions and practices from adults in the corners of the world we’ve been born into, and that we inherit cultures from generations before us.

I argue in Being Born that we’ve over-valued autonomy, agency, and independence compared to dependency, reception, and inheritance. We’ve over-stressed the individual’s agency to shape his or her life. By comparison, we’ve neglected the extent to which individuals receive cultural frameworks of meaning and value from others, and only learn to exercise agency and creativity by navigating within these prior frameworks. As we are born, we receive first and only second do we become able to create.
Learn more about Being Born at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 23, 2019

Samuel Fleischacker's "Being Me Being You"

Samuel Fleischacker is LAS Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is the author of many books, including On Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations”: A Philosophical Companion and The Good and the Good Book: Revelation as a Guide to Life.

Fleischacker applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Being Me Being You: Adam Smith and Empathy, and reported the following:
Page 99 is by no means the single page that best encapsulates what I am trying to say in Being Me Being You (that would be page 37, or maybe pages 35-37). But it does include the very first thoughts that led me to write this book.

I had been at a rally calling for empathy between Jews and Palestinians, just before the outbreak of the 2014 Gaza war, and the rabbi who had summoned me there whispered to me suddenly that she wanted me to speak. Racking my brains for something to say, I decided to make use of the conception of empathy in Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments. A much discussed feature of Smith’s theory of empathy is that it is biased — it goes out most strongly to our family and close friends, more weakly to our neighbors and ethnic groups, and only faintly to all of humankind. Many contemporary writers criticize empathy for this reason, urging us to do justice and act kindly on the basis of rational principles rather than sentiment.

But Smith brings out an advantage of the circular structure of empathy: that our close circles of empathy include the people we know best, and can therefore most effectively help. We can best translate our empathy into action within these close circles, and make sure that our action is directed to the needs of the people we are trying to help. So we should not feel bad about caring most for our close circles. Rather, if we want people to broaden their empathy, we should work through these circles: we should use the fact that people close to us are most likely to trust us in order to urge them to get beyond their biases. This is especially true in circumstances of hostility. Jews need to talk to fellow Jews about having greater empathy for Palestinians, and Palestinians need to talk to fellow Palestinians about having greater empathy for Jews.

I was surprised by the warm response that this point got from people in the crowd — it had seemed fairly obvious to me. But then it occurred to me that it seemed obvious only because I have been reading and thinking about Smith for so many years. That led me to think that using Smith to address contemporary moral issues might be a good idea. The result is this book. And on page 99, you can hear an echo of the comments that inspired me to write it: “A Smithian solution to [the] problem [of the circles of empathy] is to use the warm feelings our near and dear feel toward us as a framework in which we can effectively correct one another’s biases. The very love and security we feel for those in our close circles makes us more likely to listen to moral correction that comes from these circles than we are to admonitions from outsiders.”
Learn more about Being Me Being You at the University of Chicago Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Divine Teaching and the Way of the World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Mo Moulton's "The Mutual Admiration Society"

Mo Moulton is currently a senior lecturer in the history department of the University of Birmingham. They earned their PhD in history from Brown University in 2010 and taught in the History & Literature program at Harvard University for six years. Their previous book, Ireland and the Irish in Interwar England, was named a 2014 “Book of the Year” by History Today and was the runner-up for the Royal History Society’s 2015 Whitfield Prize for first book in British or Irish history.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their latest book, The Mutual Admiration Society: How Dorothy L. Sayers and her Oxford Circle Remade the World for Women, and reported the following:
The reader who opens The Mutual Admiration Society to page 99 enters Dorothy L. Sayers’s life story at a dramatic moment. Sayers has given birth, in secret, to her son early in 1924. As page 99 begins, I’m explaining the very limited options to the single mother of a child born out of wedlock in this era in Britain, when legal adoptions were not possible and life as an independent single mother almost impossible for someone of Sayers’s background. Sayers herself makes the decision to ask her cousin, Ivy Shrimpton, to take the child; Shrimpton had already been earning a living fostering children. At first Sayers pretends she’s asking “for a friend” but, before she actually delivers her son to Ivy’s care, she comes clean and begs for discretion. The page ends as Sayers returns to London alone: “Her keys were locked inside her flat, and she had to wait to get the charlady’s spare set, sitting by herself at the cinema until the charlady returned.”

In many ways, the test completely fails for my book. I began researching The Mutual Admiration Society after reading one of Sayers’s most beloved novels, Gaudy Night (1935), which is set in a thinly-disguised women’s college at Oxford University. I was moved by the portrayal of this community of women and their commitment to intellectual integrity. But when I began to research Sayers, I found relatively little information about her friendships and collaborations with women. By contrast, the story of her son’s birth has been told and retold, ever since writer Janet Hitchman first revealed it to the world in her somewhat salacious 1976 biography.

In The Mutual Admiration Society, I want to move past seeing Sayers either as a lonely genius or through the lens of her relationships to men as a mother, lover, daughter, or wife. The book traces her lifelong friendships with a literary criticism group she founded at Oxford. They called themselves the ‘Mutual Admiration Society’ in order, she joked, to stop anyone else calling them that first. They were each remarkable in their own ways. In addition to Sayers, the book focuses on Muriel St. Clare Byrne, popular historian and playwright; Charis Frankenburg, midwife, birth control advocate, and Justice of the Peace; and Dorothy Rowe, English teacher and founding member of the cutting-edge Bournemouth Little Theatre Club.

I believe this group transformed its members. In that sense, page 99 isn’t such a bad starting point. It finds Sayers at her most alienated—she commented that having married lovers was a strain in part because it meant losing friends or lying to them. But in the late 1920s, she rekindled those friendships. With Byrne, in particular, she collaborated on a play (Busman’s Honeymoon) and a set of essays, including the one made famous under the title “Are Women Human?” (spoiler: she said yes). Those collaborations helped her to find a way from being a writer of light detective fiction and an advertising copywriter, to being the author who is still admired today for her rich novels, her incisive theological work, and her translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. I wish page 99 reflected more of the Mutual Admiration Society: but on balance, perhaps a page that shows Sayers, in her most difficult hour, reaching out to another woman for help does capture something essential about the book, and about her life.
Learn more about The Mutual Admiration Society at the Basic Books website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 20, 2019

John Marsh's "The Emotional Life of the Great Depression"

John Marsh is Associate Professor of English at Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of In Walt We Trust: How a Queer Socialist Poet Can Save America from Itself, Class Dismissed: Why We Cannot Teach or Learn Our Way out of Inequality and Hog Butchers, Beggars, and Busboys: Poverty, Labor, and the Making of Modern American Poetry. In addition to these, he is the editor of You Work Tomorrow: An Anthology of American Labor Poetry, 1929-1941.

Marsh applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Emotional Life of the Great Depression, and reported the following:
If readers turn to page 99 of The Emotional Life of the Great Depression, they will find the closing pages of a discussion about the polio epidemic that struck New York City in 1931. Although this epidemic afflicted fewer people than the more famous 1916 outbreak, thanks in part to the development of the iron lung, it nevertheless left its mark on the city. (The borough of Brooklyn took the brunt of it.) In the spring and summer of 1931, slightly more than 4,000 people, most of them children, contracted the disease, and 490 of them died.

The polio outbreak refutes the famous assertion by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his First Inaugural Address that during the 1930s the only thing Americans “had to fear was fear itself.” In fact, I argue, Americans had plenty to fear during the decade, and I use the polio outbreak—as well as a Cleveland serial murderer who preyed on petty criminals and the homeless—to inquire into how fear works. I argue that fear comes in two forms: terror, or the fear of a sudden, specific stimuli (a snake in the grass, for example); and dread, the fear of a looming, prospective threat. Polio represents the latter form of fear. Thousands of people succumbed to the disease, but many more people feared that they or, more likely, their children, would contract it. As with polio, many of our fears have to do with the body, with “what illnesses, injuries, and, finally, death might do to our physical selves,” as I put it. As polio also demonstrates, we tend to fear what lies beyond our control. Fear thus exposes our helplessness; it infantilizes us. In this sense, I write, “polio prefigures another prominent fear of the Great Depression—perhaps the prominent fear of the Great Depression: unemployment,” and page 99 looks forward to the rest of the chapter, which discusses white-collar unemployment in the 1930s and a particularly weird H.P. Lovecraft short story.

On the one hand, readers might not get an entirely accurate representation of the book from page 99 alone. In the book as a whole, I explore how Americans responded emotionally to the economic crisis of the Great Depression. I do so by documenting emotions most people do not usually associate with the decade, including righteousness, panic, awe, love, and hope. But fear, perhaps almost as much as despair, is an emotion that most people do associate with that decade. Indeed, fear may be the quintessential emotion of the decade. That does not make it any less interesting, of course, but that chapter, and that page, do not quite do justice to one of the motives for the book, which is to tell a different story about the Great Depression than most people have heard by telling a different story about the emotional life of the decade.

On the other hand, the page does represent how I try to tell this new story about the Great Depression, which is not—or not only—by recounting the most familiar narratives about the decade but by examining texts and incidents that often receive only passing mention, if that, in histories of the decade. In other words, the book tries to make the Great Depression new by turning to its ephemera, from comic books to stock investment manuals to, yes, polio outbreaks in Brooklyn. These pages about polio also illustrate my attitude toward emotion more generally. That is, I try not to judge whether people were right to feel what they felt did during the 1930s. (For example, in terms of what to fear, polio had nothing on measles, which annually killed more people than all but the mostly deadly of polio outbreaks.) Rather, I seek to understand what Americans felt during the 1930s, and how what they felt can help us understand this crucial decade. Following contemporary psychologists, I argue that emotion helps people appraise their environment and adapt their purposes to it. In that respect, emotions simultaneously tell us a lot about the people who experience those emotions and the world that elicited them. Viewed from this perspective, emotions make an ideal entry into understanding the past. And readers will find that perspective animating almost every page of the book, including, and perhaps especially, page 99.
Learn more about The Emotional Life of the Great Depression at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Benjamin R. Cohen's "Pure Adulteration"

Benjamin R. Cohen is associate professor at Lafayette College. He is the author of Notes from the Ground: Science, Soil, and Society in the American Countryside and coeditor of Technoscience and Environmental Justice: Expert Cultures in a Grassroots Movement.

Cohen applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Pure Adulteration: Cheating on Nature in the Age of Manufactured Food, and reported the following:
This page is the heart of the great butter v. margarine debate. It was 1886 because, yes, margarine was a problem as long ago as the 1880s. The pro-butter folks were dairy types. They were agrarians stoking fears of margarine to defend their industry. On the other side, pro-margarine folks saw their product as a difference in degree, not kind. To quote the Illinois congressman chairing the congressional hearings that come up on page 99, the pro-margarine faction said don’t worry so much, margarine is fine, you won’t get sick, it’s simply “the result of a combination of beef and pork fats, butter, cream, and milk with coloring matter…which is similar to that universally used by farmers and dairies engaged in the manufacture of butter for the coloring of that product.” Chicago was the main meatpacking center, which was thus also the main beef and pork fat center, which was the main way to make margarine, which was why the congressman was so defensive. Margarine was cheaper too, so its supporters also claimed to care about the poor. That’s what they’re getting to on this page.

I’d say the Page 99 Test is fair enough. It lands readers in the middle of fights over health, class, and nature. You’d be dropped into a comment about all the places banning meat from the USA. You’d also find out that the original name for margarine was beurre economique. And you might be encouraged to flip the page and hear more about cheating, deception, and corruption as key terms in the debate. I bet, though, that readers would want to back up two pages to roll into this one knowing it was hashing out “the war on oleomargarine.”

The book deals with the difficulty of knowing the difference between natural and artificial, real and fake, pure and adulterated. Those are big categories. Pure Adulteration anchors them with reference to arguments over food identity. Page 99 is in the middle of the first of three large case studies—margarine, cottonseed oil (fake olive oil and lard), and glucose (fake sugar)—that each get at the presumed real/fake contrasts. Those new products were contentious because they were manufactured rather than harvested, a process that some people thought went too far. The story the book tells is who gets to decide how far is too far and how the answer to that changed over the second half of the nineteenth century.
Learn more about Pure Adulteration at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Burt Solomon's "The Attempted Murder of Teddy Roosevelt"

Burt Solomon is a contributing editor for The Atlantic. In 1991 he won the Gerald R. Ford Prize for Distinguished Reporting on the Presidency. His nonfiction books include the acclaimed Where They Ain't, a history of baseball in the 1890s.

The Murder of Willie Lincoln is Solomon's first novel.

Solomon applied the “Page 99 Test” to The Attempted Murder of Teddy Roosevelt, his new novel featuring John Hay, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Still, I had to admire Conan Doyle’s skill at creating a mood and the easy-to-swallow implausibility of a plot that made even less sense than this mystery of mine. I marveled even more at Sherlock Holmes and his formidable powers of observation, the subtlety of his logic, the fierceness of his brain. These were not my strengths. I could be staring at a tub of lard and (as Clara enjoyed pointing out) see everything except the lard. I was reasonably confident that two plus two equals four and even that twenty-five squared was … I had to think … six hundred and a little more. But I could never match Sherlock in sheer brainpower. Nor did I share Vidocq’s flair for disguises or his talent for infiltrating the forces of villainy.

So what in the hell was I good at? I don’t mean as a husband or as a father or even as a secretary of state. My deficiencies in each of those roles are no secret, at least to me . Nor is the pain that they cause, the clench in my stomach when I make mistakes. Of which I have made more than my share. I’d like to think that comes from reaching so high, trying so hard, but I’m probably just excusing my shortcomings. Am I a perfectionist? Don’t make me laugh. At times I stand astonished at how imperfect I am. Let me count the ways. (Oh no, allow me.) As the chief diplomat for a self-consciously virile nation, I’ve been clever but not as blustery—my stick isn’t as big—as Theodore would like. As a husband … my faults—of the heart, not of the flesh—grind like wet, cold sand.

As a father … My throat clutched. It’s so easy being a father of girls. You tell them how pretty they are, which is even easier if you don’t have to pretend, and you keep their heads from swelling unduly; you find them husbands, or they find husbands for themselves, and your duty is done. With a son, however, your job is to turn him from a boy into a man. This requires molding and the sort of intervention that any red-blooded boy would resist. Only later would he see the benefit, and surely he did. He seemed to be happy at the end—he seemed to be—and Lord knows I hope he was. Until then, I had never felt old.
A cool question: Does page 99 give a good or an inaccurate impression of my book?

The answer is yes.

It is simultaneously unrepresentative of how most of the book reads, yet it’s also crucial in understanding the main character.

Let me explain.

This passage is probably the longest soliloquy in the book—all of it self-reflection, lacking any dialogue or action in a story that includes a fair amount of both. Yet what comes through, I’d like to think, is the essence of my detective and narrator, John Hay—his sardonic wit, his painful self-awareness of his personal flaws, even as he searches for confidence as a detective, as a husband, and as a father grieving for his son.

In fact, I’d say the biggest difference between this book and my previous one, The Murder of Willie Lincoln, is the depth of Hay’s character as I’ve tried to portray it. In part it’s because he is 63 instead of 23, and Hay himself was deeper (and maybe I am, too). This is nowhere so clear as on page 99, where Hay leaves himself vulnerable to the reader. At times I stand astonished at how imperfect I am. … Until then, I had never felt old. He is telling you the raw truth of who he is.
Visit Burt Solomon's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Bonnie G. Smith's "Women in World History"

Bonnie G. Smith is Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of History at Rutgers University. She has written widely on women and gender history and her most recent publications include The Making of the West (2013), Women's Studies: The Basics (2013) and The Gender of History (2012).

Smith applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Women in World History: 1450 to the Present, and reported the following:
Page 99 works fairly well for Women in World History. That page features conquests by the Spanish and Portuguese in the so-called new world of the 16th century, especially noting the attacks on local people’s beliefs in gender complementarity. A “religious police state” of priestly and scriptural domination replaced somewhat more balanced gender interactions. The book as a whole weaves patterns of gender hierarchy and gender complementarity throughout. Women’s inventive responses to the domination are alluded to on page 99 and these interventions thread their detailed way through the book. Women across the globe devised, invented, poeticized, schemed, and, yes, assassinated.

Also on page 99, the Manchu conquerors of China (1644) slash away at the Ming regime’s political and social order. There’s lots of bloodshed and violence, a good deal of it inflicted on women—again a revisionist theme of the book. Women don’t sit peacefully at home rocking the cradle in wartime. The massive bloodshed in history includes female as well as male blood.

The workings of culture—foreign and domestic—is another thread in the book. Conquest, as with the Iberians, focuses on physical mastery but also needs to impose cultural mastery. Page 100 finishes the story by describing the ways in which the Manchus worked to change Chinese culture. Page 100 rounds out page 99 by showing how drastically the Manchus, like conquerors down to the present, did impose their way of life on women as well as men. Following James Patterson’s dictum, I’ll leave readers in suspense as to what and how they did it.

How does page 99 differ from the rest of the book? It presents no individual women’s voices, their works of fiction and the arts, their own exercise of power at the top of the political heap, their exuberance, fortitude, and despair as humans. These infuse the book’s journey through women’s global past. To date, scholars and journalists write history as forged from an array of men’s deeds and thoughts—all taken as uniquely fascinating. Page 99 is only a sliver of Women in World History’s competing vision: a rich, complicated, surprising, and diverse narrative of women’s pasts across the globe.
Learn more about Women in World History at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 16, 2019

John Eric Goff's "The Physics of Krav Maga"

John Eric Goff is a professor of physics and the chair of the physics department at the University of Lynchburg. The author of Gold Medal Physics: The Science of Sports, he holds a black belt in karate and a purple belt in Krav Maga.

Goff applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Physics of Krav Maga, and reported the following:
When I was invited to write for the Page 99 Test in 2010 after my first book came out (Gold Medal Physics: The Science of Sports, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010), I had to confess to only then learning of Ford Madox Ford’s test. My second book, The Physics of Krav Maga (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019) was released in November 2019. I could not wait for my book to arrive so that I could see what was on page 99!

Krav Maga is an Israeli martial arts system. Krav Maga is grittier than most other martial-arts systems because it emphasizes street fighting, hostage situations, and other niceties. My book may be the first scientific look at Krav Maga. To ensure that I could share the joy of physics with as many people as possible, my book is free of equations. It emphasizes conceptual physics, has many pictures, and even has a link to videos of many of the techniques that I discussed.

We all have at least a modicum of intuitive physics within us. Most may lack all the scientific jargon, but we intuitively know that gravity helps us while we walk because each time we extend a leg to take a step, the leg falls to the ground. I build on such simple ideas to use physics to help understand why Krav Maga is so effective.

Readers could likely turn to any page in my book, read a paragraph, and not feel as if they were missing something from earlier in the book. Page 99 is like that and, in fact, epitomizes my book. The figure on that page shows that my talented instructor, Mr. Clifton Abercrombie of Warrior Success Academy in Forest, Virginia, has the middle-aged, ever-so-slightly pear-shaped book author in a wrist lock. A movie icon in the upper left of the photo directs readers to where they may see a short video of the technique.

I discuss the page 99 photo using the concept of moment of inertia. There is a great, physics-based reason why the technique is so effective! One more nugget appears in the photo on page 99. An image of a hex key has been superimposed on the photo. Readers who have used a hex key should immediately understand why the technique works well. I hope readers will have “Ah ha!” moments on page 99 – and throughout the rest of my book.
Learn more about the book and author at John Eric Goff's website.

The Page 99 Test: Gold Medal Physics.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 15, 2019

David Stahel's "Retreat from Moscow"

David Stahel is the author of several books on Nazi Germany’s war against the Soviet Union. He completed an MA in war studies at King’s College London in 2000 and a PhD at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin in 2009. In his research he has concentrated primarily on the German military in World War II. Stahel is a senior lecturer in European history at the University of New South Wales, and he teaches at the Australian Defence Force Academy.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Retreat from Moscow: A New History of Germany's Winter Campaign, 1941-1942, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Retreat from Moscow is a map with just six lines of text below it! That may not sound like much to work with, especially if one assumes we might condense the whole book into it, but here goes…

What we learn on page 99 is that Soviet attacks against German lines in the winter of 1941-1942 were proving extremely costly. My analysis then tells the readers: “Clearly, German experience and tactical superiority, identifying where the Red Army was likely to attack and positioning itself for maximum advantage, ensured victory despite the corps’ tired and deprived troops.” Uncanny. This a central theme of the book and why a renewed focus on the winter of 1941-1942 was in order.

The orthodox narrative in this winter period is one of almost unrelenting German crisis, retreat and defeat. Almost by default, the advancing Red Army is declared triumphant without any real assessment of what was or was not achieved. In my reassessment, I consider two fundamental, but neglected factors.
Firstly, strategic intensions. Germany adopted a new approach to the war in the east on 8 December 1941 with Hitler issuing a new War Directive (No. 39), which stipulated going over to the defensive and holding the eastern front by defending major Soviet population centres which were deemed vital for communication, transport and supply. If we cut to the chase and ask, did the Germans manage to hold their front, while defending these vital Russian cities? The answer is yes. Of all the important population centres Kursk, Orel, Briansk, Kaluga, Viaz’ma, Rzhev and Smolensk only one (Kaluga) was lost. Conversely, Soviet plans issued by Stalin directed that Army Group Centre (the centre of Germany’s Eastern Front) be destroyed. This did not happen. In fact, not a single German army (there were six in Army Group Centre), nor a corps or even a division was eliminated from the German order of battle. So German strategic intensions were successful, while the Soviets attempted far too much and failed in their objectives.

The second conceptual point is what the respective cost of these winter operations were. The Red Army lacked staff work, experienced officers and heavy weaponry, which meant countless attacks with waves of men, hit German defences. In just three months, the Soviets suffered 1.6 million casualties, while the Germans lost 262,524 men – a 6:1 ratio. As my analysis above captures, German tactical and operational proficiency at the local level translated into huge and disproportion losses.

During the winter of 1941-1942 the German army was clearly forced into a retreat, but I would challenge the reader to consider that as the only, or even the best, measure of who suffered a defeat.
Learn more about Retreat from Moscow at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 14, 2019

David Hemsoll's "Emulating Antiquity"

David Hemsoll is senior lecturer in the Department of Art History, Curating, and Visual Studies at the University of Birmingham.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Emulating Antiquity: Renaissance Buildings from Brunelleschi to Michelangelo, and reported the following:
Page 99 comes towards the end of the book’s first chapter, which deals with the architecture of 15th-century Florence. It specifically concerns Giuliano da Sangallo’s Palazzo Gondi before continuing with his Palazzo Strozzi, explaining Palazzo Gondi’s place in Florentine palace architecture, noting its relationship to earlier palaces, and its new debts to classical antiquity. The page also includes illustrations of Giuliano’s drawing of an ancient cornice (for comparison with one of Palazzo Gondi on the previous page), and of the surviving model for Palazzo Strozzi and the palace as executed. The page provides a flavour of what the book deals with, but it does not provide much sense of its underlying argument and purpose.

The page is true to the book’s aims insofar as it deals directly with major works by one of the leading Renaissance architects that are covered and in that it assesses their dependency on the antique. It does not, however, provide much sense of any underlying philosophy and design method, which, for all the architects discussed (Brunelleschi, Giuliano da Sangallo, Bramante, Raphael, Michelangelo, etc.), is the book’s primary objective, and which in the case of Giuliano da Sangallo is set out in subsequent pages. The book, in fact, explores Renaissance architecture as a succession of distinct design approaches, underpinned by identifiable theoretical stances, which explain how and why antique-inspired architecture in one period differed from that in another, and how and why an architect working in Florence took a very different approach from one working in Rome. Fundamental to this argument are the Renaissance buildings themselves, and the ancient or more modern works that inspired them, which is why the book’s numerous illustrations are so important to its unfolding story.

The book, therefore, is intended to provide an evidence-based account that explains the evolution of ‘Renaissance’ architecture over the course of a century and a half. Along the way, it brings new clarity, hitherto lacking, to the ideology underpinning the schemes of Brunelleschi at the start of the fifteenth century and his Florentine followers, about the momentous adaptations to previous approaches made by Bramante, Raphael and younger practitioners from the start of the sixteenth century (chapter two) , and about the new outlook eventually instigated by Michelangelo (chapter three), which resulted in an irreconcilable division between those who rejected ancient authority, and those who continued to respect it.
Learn more about Emulating Antiquity at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 13, 2019

Jeremy Popkin's "A New World Begins"

Jeremy D. Popkin holds the William T. Bryan chair of history at the University of Kentucky. He is the author of many books, including You Are All Free and A Short History of the French Revolution.

Popkin applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, A New World Begins: The History of the French Revolution, and reported the following:
On page 99, A New World Begins: The History of the French Revolution, king Louis XVI reluctantly allows his prime minister, Loménie de Brienne, to persuade him that there is no way to avoid a catastrophic state bankruptcy except to summon an elected assembly, the Estates General, and ask it to approve new taxes. Louis is not happy about the idea. “They might overturn the state and the monarchy,” he tells Brienne. But he agrees that there is no realistic alternative.

Readers of my book will discover how justified the king’s fears were. By conceding that he would have to give his subjects a voice in making political decisions, Louis XVI fatally undermined the basic principle of the absolute monarchy he had been brought up to lead. Once they assembled in the spring of 1789, the deputies to the Estates General and the people who elected them would transform France and the world. The people storm the Bastille and the deputies would draft the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, outlining the principles of democracy that we still believe in today.

Forced to find ways to defend those principles against powerful enemies and to meet the demands of the poor, however, the revolutionaries would also find themselves doing things they never imagined when their movement began. They held pathbreaking debates about the rights of women and they abolished slavery in the French colonies, but they also plunged Europe into a continent-wide war and used dictatorial methods to silence domestic opposition. Louis XVI’s unhappy dialogue with Brienne on page 99 of my book is just the first of many dramatic moments that readers will relive in A New World Begins, a book that sums up my forty years of research and teaching about one of history’s most important events.
Learn more about A New World Begins at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Christopher Schaberg's "Searching for the Anthropocene"

Christopher Schaberg is Dorothy Harrell Brown Distinguished Professor of English at Loyola University New Orleans, USA. He is the author of The Textual Life of Airports: Reading the Culture of Flight (2013), The End of Airports (2015), and Airportness: The Nature of Flight (2017), and co-editor of Deconstructing Brad Pitt (2014).

Schaberg applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Searching for the Anthropocene: A Journey into the Environmental Humanities, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Searching for the Anthropocene starts with the end of a sentence: “[…]to say that our airplanes are obsolete?” The rest of page 99 develops links between commercial air travel and the Anthropocene (in short, the epoch defined by destructive human impact on the planet). Specifically, that page is referring to some disparaging comments that Donald Trump made about U.S. airports when he was on the campaign trail in 2016, calling them “a disaster.” I use this knee-jerk criticism of air travel as a refracting lens for glimpsing larger (environmental) problems.

Page 99 is representative of one of the larger concerns of the book, which is to question air travel as a dominant form of human mobility. This is an extraordinarily unpopular stance to take, as I’ve learned over the years. Even for people who hate traveling or who always complain about airport travesties, critiquing the whole enterprise is anathema. Most people insist that air travel in its current form is here to stay. But as page 99 argues, we have to seriously reassess air travel if we also want to adapt in/to the Anthropocene.

I’ve had a long running obsession with airports and commercial flight, but it may seem surprising in this book, a book about environmental awareness. (Until Greta Thunberg, flight was not really considered to be a primarily environmental subject.) The first half of the book is about my home region of northern Michigan, a beautiful place where I return with my family each summer. The second half of the book plunges into strange and seemingly disparate topics around human travel and consumer culture. I’m trying to reconcile my love of a certain place with how the Anthropocene devours place and leaves waste in its stead. And airports are a sort of litmus test for me, throughout the book: how we fly and how we think about human flight turns out to tell us a lot about how we relate to (or repress) ecology, and how we might manage our species’ future on the planet.
Learn more about Searching for the Anthropocene at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Guy Crosby's "Cook, Taste, Learn"

Guy Crosby, PhD, CFS, is adjunct associate professor of nutrition at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. He is the science editor for Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street and was the science editor for America’s Test Kitchen. He is coauthor of New York Times best-seller The Science of Good Cooking (2012) and Cook’s Science (2016).

Crosby applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Cook, Taste, Learn: How the Evolution of Science Transformed the Art of Cooking, and reported the following:
The page 99 test fails for my book Cook, Taste, Learn - How the Evolution of Science Transformed the Art of Cooking for the simple reason that the book is composed of three different, but interwoven elements, and page 99 touches on only one of the elements. The first traces in seven chapters a history of cooking from the first controlled use of fire nearly two million years ago to the emergence of agriculture during the Neolithic period to modern science’s understanding of what happens at a molecular level when heat is applied to food. The second element consists of 22 brief science sidebars that explain concepts of food and cooking science pertinent to the topics discussed in each chapter. For example, in chapter two a narrative on the evolution of domesticated bread wheat is supported by a sidebar explaining the structure and function of gluten. The third element describes seven of my favorite recipes that illustrate an important aspect of cooking science. The publisher cleverly distinguishes the three elements by printing each one on different colored pages allowing the reader to choose whether to read about evolution, history, science, cooking, nutrition or health. The book vividly illustrates how the often tragic lives of famous scientists and chefs cross-fertilized the evolution of cooking science.

Page 99 is the middle of three pages of a sidebar on "Terroir - A Taste of Place”. Most readers are well aware that terroir refers to the relationship between where a food is grown and the qualities of the food. The French first developed this concept to relate where grapes are grown and the quality of the wine. Page 99 discusses two examples in which the quality of cooked dry cannellini beans is proven to be dependent on the calcium content of the soil where they were grown, and another on microbial terroir pioneered by chef David Chang, chef/owner of the Momofuku restaurant group, who demonstrated that local microorganisms impart different unique flavors to fermented foods. The book culminates with several chapters on how modern cooking science can improve the nutritional quality and gastronomic delight of everyday food cooked at home. Science-driven changes in the way we cook can help reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases and enhance the quality and joy of life. Cooking will be seen no longer as just an art but as a perfect blend of art and science, creating simple dishes that are delicious to eat and good for our health. The book is beautifully illustrated and includes some of the author’s own works.
Visit Guy Crosby's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Joyce Dalsheim's "Israel Has a Jewish Problem"

Joyce Dalsheim is a cultural anthropologist in the Department of Global Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She has carried out extensive fieldwork in Israel/Palestine studying controversies over historical narratives, nationalism, religiosity, and the secular. Her books include Unsettling Gaza: Secular Liberalism, Radical Religion, and the Israeli Settlement Project (2011) and Producing Spoilers: Peacemaking and the Production of Enmity in a Secular Age (2014).

Dalsheim applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Israel Has a Jewish Problem: Self-Determination as Self-Elimination, and reported the following:
Page 99 arrives ten pages into the chapter called “Self-elimination”—probably the most important chapter in the book. The only full paragraph on that page discusses the Haredim, also known as ultra-Orthodox Jews. They have been protesting recent policy changes that would subject them to the military draft. As a community, the Haredim have been opposed to military service because they want their young men to devote themselves to Torah study. Israel’s first Prime Minister issued an agreement in the 1940s that would allow them to do so. As a community, they are not interested in having their young people interact with the secular world, which poses a threat to their understanding of Jewish continuity.

Less observant and secular Israeli Jews complain that Haredim don’t carry their weight in society. Their men spend more time studying than earning a living, they often live in poverty, and people complain that they are “parasites” living off public welfare:
According to Israeli experts, a population uniformly participating in the national economy is essential to maintaining a “First World army,” which in turn is vital to the continued existence of the state. Survival itself means having a state and an army. This also means people having to sacrifice themselves— paying from their wealth, contributing of their time, and potentially exposing their very lives to the death and destruction of military service— to ensure survival. And having a state and an army means laborizing all Jews, moving Haredim away from their homes and places of study, even if those moves also mean eroding a way of life they have constructed as specifically and prototypically Jewish. Jewish survival, according to this logic, is dependent upon the forced or willing elimination not only of those who die in the service of their country, but also of particular forms of Jewish life.
Remarkably, the test works! This paragraph encapsulates the central irony or contradiction explored in the book: Jewish survival depends on the elimination of some forms of Jewish life. The book is concerned with how political self-determination can also entail collective self-elimination. Much has been written about the exclusionary nature of ethno-nationalism and its devastating effects on the people who are marginalized or forcibly removed from the nation. By focusing on those included in the ethnos of the nation, this book tells another side of the same story.

So many nationalisms, especially anti-colonial or sep­aratist movements, are premised on a rhetoric, ideal, or belief in its liberating quality. Political Zionism prom­ised collective Jewish self- determination, free people flourishing in their own county. And yet the sovereign citizens of Israel struggle to be Jewish there. What occurs is something Kafkaesque: Jews have achieved sovereignty but are not free to be Jewish as they see fit. Instead of being free from the forces of assimilation they faced in other countries, they now contend with the pressures to assimilate in the self-proclaimed Jewish state; to be Jewish there in ways that work with the state and its projects, primarily its settler-colonial project.

Other chapters of the book consider all sorts of struggles to be Jewish in the Jewish State. For example, secular Israeli Jews, or members of Reform or Conservative movements have to contend with the fact that only Orthodox weddings are recognized by the state, and non-Orthodox rabbis have been arrested for performing weddings. Many scholars think of these situations as a secular/religious divide, or as a struggle to become a secular state. Such explanations miss the deeper historical processes through which such a divide is imagined in the first place and ignore the ways that different observant groups also struggle against each other. More importantly, when Israelis focus on a religious/secular divide they sometimes unwittingly end up supporting a politics they claim to oppose. This is part of the complex ways that power works through modern dichotomous categories.
Learn more about Israel Has a Jewish Problem at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 9, 2019

S. Elizabeth Penry's "The People Are King"

S. Elizabeth Penry is Associate Professor of History and Latin American Studies at Fordham University. She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The People Are King: The Making of an Indigenous Andean Politics, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The People Are King: The Making of an Indigenous Andean Politics is the penultimate page of chapter four. The chapter examines how indigenous Andeans in the Viceroyalty of Peru (modern Bolivia) responded to the sixteenth-century Spanish policy of forced resettlement into grid-patterned towns, known as reducción. An early modern attempt at social engineering, the towns, with their central plaza and straight streets and their institutions of town council (cabildo) and confraternities (cofradías), were designed to instill Spanish notions of civilization. But indigenous Andeans adapted the policy and turned it to their own ends, founding their own towns. These towns became a catalyst for a complex Andean ethnogenesis, as Andeans took the institutions of resettlement and wove them into a hybrid political and religious hierarchy that also drew on preconquest social forms. This led to a sea-change in how Andeans imagined their political community: turning away from rule by their preconquest descended nobility, Andeans embraced commoner-led government in a kind of municipally-focused local democracy. These new towns offered indigenous Andeans
some degree of self-determination and [the ability] to represent their own interests against those of priests, hacendados, [Spanish landowners], or ... their own hereditary caciques [lords]. Establishing chapels and cofradías dedicated to saints laid the groundwork for political solidarity and sovereignty within commoner-led repúblicas. Saints, particularly patron saints with their miraculous foundation stories that held that the saint had insisted on staying in a particular location, tied Andeans to place. Saints, in contrast to pre-Columbian wakas [local divinities], were more egalitarian and accepted all as their children. Membership in a cofradía tied people together through ‘fictive’ kinship capable of weaving immigrant forasteros [foreigners] into the communities they had fled to. The attraction of self-determination helps to explain why most cases of town foundation were led by commoners, facing priestly and sometimes cacical [native hereditary lord] opposition.
. . .
Forasteros’ efforts to settle in their adopted towns made cofradías and cabildo more important than ever. The new social forms of Christianity and town life made incorporation into towns easier for forasteros than it would have been before the Spanish Conquest since membership in the community could proceed through service to the community in cabildo posts and cofradía positions.
The page 99 test worked better than I expected. The page points to a central argument of my book: that Andeans created a new political identity for themselves, moving from a politics of hereditary nobility to a blended form of participatory democracy and civic Catholicism, informed by the ideals of both the Inca and Spanish Empires, but reducible to neither.

The People Are King focuses on two key moments in the transformation of indigenous lives; the first, suggested on page 99, is the sixteenth century resettlement policy and what Andeans made of it. The second moment is in the late eighteenth century when nearly continent-wide revolutions shook the colonial state and the process of ethnogenesis begun in indigenous founded towns in the sixteenth century comes to fruition. Here, drawing on a corpus of holographic rebel letters from the Great Rebellion of the 1780s, the book follows the actions of indigenous commoner rebels in their towns, rather than the native lords, such as Tupac Amaru, that historians usually document. Calling themselves ‘comuneros,’ members of a común, or commons of their town, indigenous Andeans embraced a collectivist political philosophy that called into question the legitimacy of their own native lords and ultimately threatened colonial domination. Overthrowing the native aristocracy and seeking rights as self-governing indigenous republics were at the heart of this revolutionary moment, thus making indigenous Andeans architects, not mere bystanders, of the world-transforming events of the age of Atlantic Revolutions. However, these rebels were members of the común, sovereign communities in rebellion, not the Enlightenment’s liberal individuals. Even though the rebellions were brutally suppressed, this collectivist idea of the común lives on among indigenous people of the Andes.
Learn more about The People Are King at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Sean Grass's "The Commodification of Identity in Victorian Narrative"

Sean Grass is Professor of English at the Rochester Institute of Technology and is the author of The Self in the Cell: Narrating the Victorian Prisoner (2003), Charles Dickens's 'Our Mutual Friend': A Publishing History (2014), and several essays on Victorian literature and culture.

Grass applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Commodification of Identity in Victorian Narrative: Autobiography, Sensation, and the Literary Marketplace, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book places the reader late in Chapter 2, which takes up Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (1860-1). Because the page really gets into the intricacies of an argument specific to that novel, it is not probably worth quoting at great length here. But it does contain this short passage:
… Pip [structures] his story around the idea that his life is a debt owed, his subjectivity a deficit that must be made up to repay his sister for bringing him up by hand, or to make amends to Magwitch, Miss Havisham, Joe, and the others who have been his benefactors. The contrast that Pip draws between himself and his five dead brothers in the churchyard is that they died without repaying that debt, lying mendicant “with their hands in their trousers-pockets” after giving up “trying to get a living, exceedingly early in that universal struggle” (9). The language is Darwinian but also Malthusian. Having “insisted on being born,” Pip owes a debt embedded in origins, as if biological beginnings, like textual ones, bring subjectivity into economic relations just by making it a material thing.
Even though it is focused narrowly on Great Expectations, page 99 does—in this passage, at least—illustrate a key component of the book’s argument: that the transformation of subjectivity, or identity, into a textual object during the first half of the nineteenth century brought it into new kinds of relations to the capitalist sphere. Broadly speaking, my book is an unusual one because it straddles the line between book history and postmodern theory, and between distant and close reading, to make a significant point about the proliferation and popularization of life writing during the nineteenth century. We have tended often to treat Victorian life writing as notable particularly for the ways in which it constructs identity, whether along the lines of gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity and national identity, or some other category. For these reasons and for others, until the last few decades, we have also tended to focus on certain canonical, conventional, and predictably structured instances of life writing by figures such as Harriet Martineau, Anthony Trollope, and John Stuart Mill. But we have paid very little attention to the fact that, to paraphrase Trev Lynn Broughton, most writers produced life writing, and most publishers published it, simply to make money. In my book, then, I wanted to ask: when exactly did life writing become big business, how did it intersect with other emerging practices—from copyright law to portraiture, and from the census to the carte-de-visite—for textualizing and economizing identity, and what where the cultural implications of entangling identity with property and thus exposing it to the laws of ownership and exchange? As I argue, we can answer that question in part by examining mid-century fiction, principally though not exclusively the sensation novel, which represents in myriad ways the profound entanglement of textuality, subjectivity, and property at and after the middle of the nineteenth century. Written in the first-person, drawing from Dickens’s own life, and designed explicitly as a commodity for the market, Great Expectations exemplifies this argument and is the first novel I address, though subsequent chapters on Mary Elizabeth Braddon, George Eliot, Charles Reade, and Wilkie Collins all make (I hope) compelling and complementary cases. So while page 99 of The Commodification of Identity in Victorian Narrative doesn’t really reflect the full complexities of the picture that the book offers, it certainly illustrates the way in which I bring my broad thesis to bear on one particular, and particularly familiar, mid-century novel.
Learn more about The Commodification of Identity in Victorian Narrative at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Camilla Townsend's "Fifth Sun"

Camilla Townsend is Distinguished Professor of History at Rutgers University. She is the author of numerous books, including Malintzin's Choices: An Indian Woman in the Conquest of Mexico, Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma, and The Annals of Native America: How the Nahuas of Colonial Mexico Kept Their History Alive, which won multiple prizes, among them The Albert J. Beveridge Award awarded by the American Historical Association.

Townsend applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs, and reported the following:
Indigenous youths of the late 1500s [who came to accept the Spanish friars’ story of Moctezuma’s purported belief in the “white gods”] had no way of knowing the deep history of either the Old World or the New. They had no way of knowing that in the Old World, people had been full-time farmers for ten thousand years. Europeans had by no means been the first farmers, but they were nevertheless the cultural heirs of many millennia of sedentary living. They therefore had the resultant substantially greater population and a panoply of technologies—not just metal arms and armor, but also ships, navigation equipment, flour mills, barrel-making establishments, wheeled carts, printing presses, and many other inventions that rendered them more powerful than those who did not have such things. In the New World, people had been full-time farmers for perhaps three thousand years. It was almost as if Renaissance Europe had come face to face with the ancient Sumerians. The Mesopotamians were stunningly impressive—but they could not have defeated Charles the Fifth of the Holy Roman Empire working in combination with the Pope. Had the young indigenous writers of the late sixteenth century known all of this, it would have been a relief to their minds. But that relief was denied them. And so they participated in constructing a version of events that Moctezuma would have derided—but that he had no power to change from the land of the dead.
The “page 99 test” works for Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs if we accept that a western reader’s eye will always move from left to right. Opening the book to page 99, the reader will find it on the right side. To the left, on page 98, lies a paragraph that is, in truth—I kid you not—the crux of the book. Fifth Sun tells the story of the Aztecs from about 100 years before the Spanish conquest to about 100 years after, and it does so by relying entirely on sources written in Nahuatl (the Aztec language), many of which have only recently been translated into English, or are only now being translated. It accepts as a basic premise the idea that the Aztecs were every bit as creative, smart, brave and rational as the Europeans, but that they simply did not have equivalent technology they could use to defend themselves. Why didn’t they? The paragraph above is the culmination of a section that explains the profound importance of the Old World having turned to farming millennia before the New World did. It also refers to young indigenous men in the late 1500s choosing to believe the Spanish friars who taught them that their grandparents had perceived the newcomers to be gods. But when we read the sources written by their parents and grandparents closer to the time of the conquest, we find no evidence that the people thought Hernando Cortés was Quetzalcoatl or any other god. There, it becomes clear that at the time, the Native Americans recognized they had a technological problem, not a spiritual one.

Numerous issues become much clearer when we pursue the indigenous-language sources rather than taking at face value everything the Spaniards had to say, and when we also take seriously all that archaeologists can teach us about the advent of farming and its results. Fifth Sun is an action-packed romp through the history of the Aztecs as they described it themselves in the years in which it happened, rather than as we have chosen to tell it in after years, based on the words and assumptions of other people.
Learn more about Fifth Sun at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Gareth Russell's "The Ship of Dreams"

Educated at Oxford University and Queens University, Belfast, Gareth Russell is a historian, novelist, and playwright. He is the author of Young and Damned and Fair, The Emperor, and An Illustrated Introduction to the Tudors. He lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Russell applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Ship of Dreams: The Sinking of the Titanic and the End of the Edwardian Era, and reported the following:
The ninety-ninth page of The Ship of Dreams discusses the cabin arrangements taken on the Titanic by silent movie star, Dorothy Gibson, who was travelling back to America with her mother. Dorothy had gone to Europe to rest after a string of exhausting successes in the movie industry, but also to test the old adage about absence impact on the heart’s fondness. Dorothy was involved in a love affair with a married movie producer, Jules Brulatour, and she hoped this separation would make him consider getting a divorce so that they could be together properly.

I think Ford Madox Ford’s test might have worked rather well for The Ship of Dreams, in terms of giving a flavour of what the book is about and attempting. I try to weave the story of the Titanic, through the six passengers I have selected, to give a wider idea of what was going on in the world in 1912. Dorothy’s narrative gives the reader a view into the nascent film industry, its cruelties as well as its spectacular successes, while also highlighting some unusual features about life in the Titanic’s first-class quarters. Not all cabins cost the same price, with Dorothy occupying one of the cheapest available in the most expensive part of the liner. I hope the book, and this extract, balances the panoramic with the personal. History is the collision of people with forces beyond their control, which is what I hope I captured in The Ship of Dreams. I will leave you with some of the words from page 99, as a hearty convert to Ford’s theory:
As famous as she was, Dorothy was still part of a nascent industry and the astronomic wealth enjoyed by movie stars was nearly a decade away. A salary of $275 was huge to most of Dorothy’s generation, but not to many of the Titanic’s other first-class passengers. Tellingly, she remained preoccupied with a need for permanent security, for which she looked to marriage and not her career, which she always, perhaps fairly, regarded as inherently and terrifyingly unstable.

Dorothy and her mother shared cabin E-22, one of the cheapest rooms available in First Class. The Countess of Rothes’s maid was travelling on the same corridor. Nonetheless, Dorothy was impressed by the Titanic, which she described as ‘glorious’. The three manned lifts for First Class, running from A- through E-Deck, opened on the latter opposite the ladies’ bathroom since, like most of the Titanic’s cabins, even in First Class, the Gibsons’ room did not have its own lavatory. Sinks were provided in all first-class staterooms, but only a few of the suites on B- and C-Deck had their own private bathrooms. Communal toilet facilities, similar to those in a restaurant, were provided in lieu and this was to remain the norm in First Class until the arrival in 1938 of a Dutch luxury liner, the Nieuw Amsterdam, after which en-suites throughout First Class came to be expected. … Immediately around the corner from this bloc was Dorothy and Pauline Gibson’s two-berth white-panelled cabin, with its mahogany dressing table, wardrobe and chest of drawers, over which their porthole looked out to the sea. The voyage would offer Dorothy her final few days of rest before she met Jules for another bout of filming. At Cherbourg, she had assured a reporter from the Moving Picture News that she felt ‘like a new woman’ and ‘so happy at the prospect’ of getting back to America that ‘I couldn’t think.’

Well versed in the hyperbolic politesse of the movie industry, Dorothy had also once assured a journalist, ‘I am a daughter of Hoboken. There is a pride in that.’ Only she, and perhaps her mother, ever knew how much truth there was in that statement. On another occasion, Dorothy contrasted her stepfather’s evangelicalism with her ambition in what sounds like a more frank admission of why she had left the path expected of a girl from her background in Hoboken: ‘My father is a great man of the spirit and is contented with the simple life. But I and my mother are bohemians and we find the pleasures of this lovely world irresistible!' Whether she would find permanent access to the pleasures of the world through the career she had won for herself or the marriage she wanted remained to be seen.
Follow Gareth Russell on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Arthur I. Miller's "The Artist in the Machine"

Arthur I. Miller is Emeritus Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at University College London. He is the author of Colliding Worlds: How Cutting-Edge Science is Redefining Contemporary Art and other books including Einstein, Picasso: Space, Time, and the Beauty That Causes Havoc.

Miller applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Artist in the Machine: The World of AI-Powered Creativity, and reported the following:
From page 99:
“Translating one image into another … is like translating between languages, like between English and French. They are two different representations of the same world,” says Phillip Isola.

Isola and his coworkers invented a variation on GANs that he calls conditional generative adversarial networks (CGANs). They are conditional because instead of starting the generator network (G) from noise, from nothing, they condition it by using an actual image. Rather than feeding the discriminator network (D) on huge caches of images, they use pairs of images, such as a black-and-white image of a scene and the same scene in color. Then, they input a new black-and-white scene into the generator network. Initially D rejects the new scene, so G colorizes it. In other words, the output is conditioned by the input, which is what GANs are all about. As a result, Pix2Pix, as Isola calls his system, requires a much smaller set of training data than other supervised learning algorithms.

Thus Isola discovered how to translate an image of one sort into another sort: Pix2Pix, pixels to pixels. As he puts it, all those “little problems in computer vision were just mapping of pixels to pixels.” While style transfer transfers the style of one image onto another, creating an image “in the style of” a painting by Picasso, for example, Pix2Pix goes further. Like Leon Gatys, who invented style transfer, Isola is interested in perception, how we see.
My personal litmus test for reading a book is to be gripped by the first sentence in the first substantive section. If I had to make this decision on the basis of page 99 of The Artist in the Machine I would be tempted to put it back on the shelf. While what is on this page is highly interesting – almost magical – the reader will have to have gone through preceding chapters to know, for example, what a GAN (Generative Adversarial Network) and style transfer are. Opening up to page 99 could give the prospective reader the impression that this is a book meant for a computer scientist. Not so. I wrote The Artist in the Machine for the educated layperson interested in learning about the up-to-date ways in which AIs (artificial intelligences) can amazingly create art, literature and music of a sort that we cannot imagine. My book focuses on concepts and uses no mathematics. So, the page 99 test does not work for my book.

Those aficionados of AI who open to page 99, will be struck by how an artificial network machine, trained on pairs of images, one in black and white and the other in colour, can colorize an image. The process is called Pix2Pix. Artists use it to create highly interesting works. Examples are in The Artist in the Machine. Pix2Pix also shows how a machine can take on its own creativity to produce an original work of art.

For some decades I have written about creativity in humans and touched on creativity in machines. In this book I have addressed both with focus on machines. I discuss how my own theory of creativity can apply to machines which, in the future, will create art, literature and music with emotions and consciousness. These works will interest us and their brethren too and perhaps will be even better than we can produce. In this way humans and machines can bootstrap each other’s creativity.
Visit Arthur I. Miller's website.

--Marshal Zeringue