Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Carolyn J. Dean's "The Moral Witness"

Carolyn J. Dean is Charles J. Stille Professor of History and French at Yale University. She is the author of several books, including The Fragility of Empathy after the Holocaust, Aversion and Erasure: The Fate of the Victim after the Holocaust, and The Frail Social Body: Pornography, Homosexuality, and Other Fantasies in Interwar France.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Moral Witness: Trials and Testimony after Genocide, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Moral Witness marks a central moment in the book’s narrative arc. The subtitle of a section that begins on that page, “Styles of Dying,” captures dramatically how Western perceptions of mass murders and their victims have changed over the course of the twentieth and twenty first centuries. “Styles of dying” refers to gas chambers, diseases, and senseless tortures that ended the lives of Jewish victims of Nazism. Because they could rarely fight back, victims’ deaths were sources of pity and even shame. The book asks how Western publics came to value the voices of anonymous victims of mass murder targeted for no reason other their race, religion, or ethnicity. It traces the symbol of the “moral witness” that emerged in court trials about the Armenian genocide in 1921, Jewish pogroms in 1927, the Soviet Gulag in 1951, the Holocaust of European Jewry in 1961, up to current discussions of the International Criminal Court in the Hague. It shows how the moral witness represented the meaning mass of murder and gave rise to new definitions of victimhood and survival. The legal definition of genocide, a word coined by the Polish-Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin in 1942, owes its moral and cultural power to the new role accorded to survivors of physical and psychological traumas. We now imagine those victims as a source of an inconceivable experience from whom we should learn. They speak as moral witnesses, even if some victims’ voices are valued more than others.

How did this “moral witness” emerge, and how did its image change over time? How do we imagine victims of genocide now? Why was the murder of European Jewry recognized as a genocide before the colonial crimes that we now call by that name, in Namibia and elsewhere? The Moral Witness asks these historical questions about how “the witness to genocide” and “bearing witness” became important cultural tropes.
Learn more about The Moral Witness at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Andrew Yeo's "Asia's Regional Architecture"

Andrew Yeo is Associate Professor of Politics at The Catholic University of America in Washington D.C.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Asia's Regional Architecture: Alliances and Institutions in the Pacific Century, and reported the following:
From page 99:
When first articulated, officials assumed that the ASEAN Plus Three (APT) would naturally evolve into the East Asia Summit. The East Asia Summit would merely adopt the APT framework and subsume all its work programs…However, different opinions existed as to how the East Asia Summit would actually be realized. Thus at the time of its emergence in the mid-2000s, the East Asia Summit became ‘neither a substitute for the APT nor a distinctly separate mechanism in its own right.’
Very few regional organizations existed in Asia during the Cold War. There was no Asian version of NATO. Nor was there any process equivalent to the European integration experience. Fast forward to today, however, and Asia’s institutional landscape looks like an alphabet soup of institutions. A few examples include the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and the East Asia Summit (EAS).

My book, Asia’s Regional Architecture: Alliances and Institutions in the Pacific Century, examines how a region once sparse in institutions evolved to include dozens of overlapping bilateral, trilateral, mini-lateral, and multilateral institutions in the post-Cold War period. The book pays particular attention to the juxtaposition of U.S. bilateral alliances with multilateral institutions in Asia.

Page 99 of the book brings us to the thick of Asia’s transforming regional architecture in the early 2000s. The ASEAN Plus Three (APT) emerged in response to the Asian financial crisis in 1997-1998, and in reaction to the failure of the IMF (and the West), to adequately addressing the crisis. The APT’s creation helped spur a larger conversation about the development of an East Asian community. The East Asia Summit represented the institutional embodiment of this community. Or at least that was the early intent.

Unfortunately, Asian leaders themselves were conflicted in their vision for Asia’s future. Those wanting a more exclusive East Asian community (i.e. excluding Western nations such as Australia, New Zealand, or the United States) preferred the existing membership and structure of the APT. Other countries such as Japan were looking to use the East Asia Summit to develop a more inclusive understanding of East Asia which encompassed the greater Asia-Pacific region. The East Asia Summit ultimately represented the latter vision. It also signaled the contentious and somewhat haphazard process of institution-building in Asia. Rather than replace or enhance pre-existing institutions, Asian policymakers continued to layer new, mostly informal institutions on top of existing ones. Multiple iterations of this process since the end of the Cold War have resulted in today’s complex patchwork of Asian institutions.
Learn more about Asia's Regional Architecture at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 20, 2019

Bruce Beehler's "Natural Encounters"

Bruce Beehler is a research associate in the Division of Birds at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Natural Encounters: Biking, Hiking, and Birding Through the Seasons, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Encounters is, indeed, typical of the book, offering up a handsome text illustration of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker perched on a tree trunk as well as a short bit of text singing the praises of this unusual migratory woodpecker. A snippet of text from page 99 is indicative:
...the herky-jerky staccato drumming produced by the territorial male is both memorable and amusing—it sounds as if the bird is sending a signal in some kind of drunken Morse Code...
This in-the-field description captures the intent of the book, which is to take the reader on a twelve-month-long walk through the woods—down to the river, over the hill, and then back home, taking note of the seasonal ebb and flow of the lives of plants and animals from month to month. The narrative, in places, lets the creatures do the talking, and attempts to situate the reader in amongst it all—summer, fall, winter, spring, in all their natural glory.

Moreover, the narrative leads the reader not only to green spaces near the Nation’s Capital, but also takes the reader to special places up and down the East Coast where nature rules. The point of the discussion of nature near and far is that the smart nature lovers among us use nature as a guiding principle for their recreational movements, a weekend here, and summer jaunt of ten days there. Always to some place offering the best that nature has to offer. And that is the seasonal plan—to be there when the wild things are in full celebration. Be along the Potomac for the runs of shad and herring. Be on the sands of the Outer Banks for the passage of the Atlantic Gannets in their great numbers. Camp among the Balsam Firs and spruces in northern New England when the wood warblers are singing their hearts’ out. These are the things that make for a life well lived in the bosom of nature.
Visit Bruce Beehler's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Richard M. Gamble's "A Fiery Gospel"

Richard M. Gamble is the Anna Margaret Ross Alexander Chair of History and Politics at Hillsdale College. He is author of In Search of the City on a Hill and The War for Righteousness.

Gamble applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, A Fiery Gospel: The Battle Hymn of the Republic and the Road to Righteous War, and reported the following:
Page 99 of A Fiery Gospel recounts the way Senator John M. Thurston used "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" on the Senate floor in March of 1898 to justify U.S. intervention in Cuba. The Nebraska Republican tied the impending war against Spain as the latest chapter in the centuries-long crusade for human emancipation from tyranny. Thurston connected the dots from the Magna Carta to the Declaration of Independence, from the French Revolution to the Emancipation Proclamation and to the major Union victories of the Civil War. Force had been justified at every step of this historical progress, he assured the Senate; and force was necessary in the next advance for liberty, this time against the decrepit , "medieval" Spanish Empire. As if by instinct, Thurston quoted the fifth stanza of Julia Ward Howe's celebrated "Battle Hymn"--"As He [Christ] died to make men holy, let us die to make men free." He was not the first or the last public figure to quote these lines for the sake of new crusades.

While this episode on the eve of the Spanish-American War does not reveal "the quality of the whole" of my book, it certainly does highlight one of my main arguments: Howe's "Battle Hymn" endured after 1865 as a way for Americans to justify every major war over the next 150 years and more broadly as a way for interventionists to give poetic expression to their nation's mission in history. Even other nations--especially England--got into the habit of extolling America's destiny with the words of Howe's poem. The title of the chapter from which this episode comes is "Righteous War and Holy Peace." That phrase was used by another poet in 1900 to encapsulate Howe's achievement as the "priestess" of this civil religion. Many Americans urged their fellow citizens to embrace Howe's Civil War anthem as an international battle hymn its truer and truer meaning in each war for human emancipation. Howe herself called on America to turn from securing mere liberty for itself to liberty for the world, from its "Old Testament" task of building a nation to its "New Testament" spreading the gospel of freedom.
Learn more about A Fiery Gospel at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 17, 2019

Andrew Franta's "Systems Failure"

Andrew Franta is an associate professor of English at the University of Utah. He is the author of Romanticism and the Rise of the Mass Public.

Franta applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Systems Failure: The Uses of Disorder in English Literature, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Systems Failure: The Uses of Disorder in English Literature tells a story about romance, enlightenment, and gothic possession. The chapter in which the page appears argues that, in his 1794 novel Things as They Are; or, The Adventures of Caleb Williams, William Godwin makes a case against both sides of the English debate about the French Revolution. Through the story of a curious and intelligent servant unjustly accused and persecuted by his aristocratic employer, Godwin demonstrates the shortcomings of the conservative response to the Revolution and the radical defense. He does so, moreover, by depicting a series of failed handshakes—socially significant gestures that, in the story he tells, never bring about the agreements they are intended to effect. On page 99, I argue that the failed handshake between Caleb’s master, Falkland, and his antagonist, Tyrrel, sets the pattern for the novel and determines Caleb’s fate. Caleb is curious about the secrets that lie in his master’s past; he is determined to discover the truth, but the truth does not set him free. Instead, it binds him to Falkland and destroys them both.

I argue that the handshake is a powerful gesture for Godwin because it shows both how people are connected and how they are torn apart. Caleb and the others characters in the novel can’t live up to their promises, but, at the same time, they can’t avoid making them. In his 1793 political treatise Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, Godwin maintained that “we ought to be able to do without one another”; Caleb Williams, by contrast, dramatizes “the ‘invincible attachment’ that inescapably and involuntarily binds one individual to another.” Godwin’s philosophical anarchism attempts to rationalize social relations by doing away with them; his novel makes it clear that this effort must fail. This failure links page 99 of Systems Failure to the book’s larger argument about how a range of prominent writers from Samuel Johnson and Laurence Sterne to Jane Austen and Thomas De Quincey take up civil and cultural institutions designed to rationalize society only to reveal the weaknesses that undermine their explanatory power. This obsession with the failure of systems is the source of some of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English literature’s most penetrating insights about the structure of social life.
Learn more about Systems Failure at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Walter R. Borneman's "Brothers Down"

Walter R. Borneman's works of nonfiction include MacArthur At War, The Admirals, Polk, and The French and Indian War. He holds both a master’s degree in history and a law degree.

Borneman applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Brothers Down: Pearl Harbor and the Fate of the Many Brothers Aboard the USS Arizona, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Kimmel claimed that the Japanese would not attack the United States in the Pacific and chance a two-front war with it and Russia. “The Japanese are too intelligent to run the risk of a two-front war unnecessarily,” Kimmel explained. “They will want to wait until they are sure that the Russians have been defeated.” The admiral’s public relations officer, Lieutenant Commander Waldo Drake, remembered the admiral’s conclusion a little more pointedly: “I don’t think they’d be such damned fools."

Seaman, Second Class, Oree Weller, just six months out of boot camp, applied a special dose of spit and polish to the navigator’s station on the Arizona’s bridge in anticipation of the captain’s scrutiny. Suddenly, Weller heard a racket overhead and looked up to see a drill bit boring through the ceiling. It was quickly withdrawn, but no sooner had it been than a steady drip, drip, drip of red-lead primer paint fell from the hole and splattered onto the navigator’s desk below.
Page 99 of Brothers Down offers a glimpse into its key theme—the stories of individual sailors, including thirty-eight sets of brothers, assigned to the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor—in the context of the secondary theme of America’s preparedness for World War II. Through the lives of these brothers, the book offers a snapshot of what life was like in the United States that December morning in 1941. While page 99 does not include any stories of these brothers, it does show that the book relies heavily on the experiences of the rank and file at Pearl Harbor.

Through the eyes of brothers serving together, Brothers Down casts the Pearl Harbor tragedy in very personal terms. I was surprised by how emotional their relatives still are—sometimes two and three generations removed—about their loss and their sacrifice for our country. These families shared letters, photographs, and personal reminiscences—many of which have never been published. The equally poignant part after the horrific loss of life was how these families learned of the death of loved ones—sometimes multiple deaths when two sons were lost—and how that loss affected them their entire lives. Surviving brothers in particular carried a tragic sense of survivor’s guilt to their graves. In one family, Francis and Norman Morse were the only children of Clara Morse, a widow. She wrote them regularly, including immediately on December 7 upon learning of the attack. Her letters from that day were returned three weeks later marked “unclaimed.” Both boys died. Clara joined the Red Cross as a volunteer and lived a lonely life by herself for another forty years.
Visit Walter R. Borneman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 13, 2019

Patrick Bergemann's "Judge Thy Neighbor"

Patrick Bergemann is an Assistant Professor of Organizations and Strategy at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Judge Thy Neighbor: Denunciations in the Spanish Inquisition, Romanov Russia, and Nazi Germany, and reported the following:
This book seeks to understand why individuals turn each other in to the authorities for wrongdoing. Such behavior goes by many different names—snitching, ratting, tattling, denouncing—but the practice is fundamentally the same. In this book, I look at three settings—Spain in the early years of the Spanish Inquisition, Russia at the beginning of the Romanov dynasty, and Nazi Germany—where such behavior was particularly prevalent. Across all three, I explore what led individuals to turn in their neighbors and whether or not there are general patterns of behavior that are consistent across settings.

Page 99 of the book includes a description of the second setting: Romanov Russia in the 1600s. At the top of the page is a histogram showing the years (ranging from 1605 to 1649) in which the 453 denunciations I analyze occurred. This figure is representative of my overall approach; in order to understand why people turned each other in, I need to get as close to the people involved as possible. By analyzing texts of the crimes as reported to the authorities, along with the ensuing investigations, I find that these denunciations were neither made in service of the state nor to protect the local community. Instead, they were most frequently reported for very personal reasons: either in an attempt to gain benefits from the authorities or to resolve private disputes.

Throughout the chapter, I include a variety of examples of the offenses for which people were denounced. One man allegedly declared, “You will find on me the same beard as on the Sovereign,” while another announced, “I sit in darkness and poverty now, but when I get out of jail I will be tsar over all you common men.” Perhaps the most colorful example comes from page 103:
Two Cossacks named Ivashko Vezema and Ortem Zharenyi had an argument…in August 1626. Vezema told Zharenyi that he was sick of Zharenyi’s boasting and had made reports about his behavior to the sovereign in the past. Zharenyi responded by saying, “I wipe myself with your reports.” For this Vezema denounced him, as the reports would have contained the sovereign’s name and wiping oneself with the tsar’s name could have been considered a punishable offense. An investigation ensued and Zharenyi was questioned. He explained that, although he had indeed made the statement, he was only referring to Vezema’s oral reports, which could not have properly contained the sovereign’s name. The authorities concluded that Vezema had misrepresented Zharenyi’s words and ordered Vezema beaten with cudgels.
Although the particulars of this example are unique, similar denunciations were prevalent across all the settings I examined. Individuals largely did not care about preventing crimes, but instead sought to co-opt the authorities for the resolution of personal conflicts.
Visit Patrick Bergemann's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Andrew Hui's "A Theory of the Aphorism"

Andrew Hui is associate professor of humanities at Yale-NUS College, Singapore. He is the author of The Poetics of Ruins in Renaissance Literature.

Hui applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, A Theory of the Aphorism: From Confucius to Twitter, and reported the following:
Page 99 of A Theory of the Aphorism from Confucius to Twitter is half-a-page of text and half-a-page image of the famous emblem of Aldus Manutius, a dolphin twisted around an anchor, with the words Festina lente, or make haste slowly. The famed Venetian printer was basically the mid-wife of Renaissance humanism, since he printed so many of the recovered texts of classical antiquity.

Does it pass Ford Madox Ford’s test that it is representative of my book? Maybe. When writing the book, I certainly followed the injunction of Festina Lente, since it was written in a blaze of white-heat—from my wife’s pregnancy of our daughter to Julia’s first birthday—which by academic book standards is pretty fast. In Singapore, we don’t have great glorious libraries with rare books and manuscripts, so I had to make do with what I had. It’s what the French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss calls the bricolage method—being resourceful and improvisational with whatever is available. I would have still been buried under an avalanche of bibliography had this been researched in North America or Europe.

As it is, page 99 is just a summary of an entry from Erasmus’ Adages, a huge compendium of ancient sayings, followed by the humanist’s commentary. There’s nothing original here. I’m talking about the entry “Sileni Alcibiadis.” It is an image from Plato’s Symposium, when the young, strikingly handsome and charismatic Alcibiades drunkenly interrupts the elegant dinner party. He says Socrates is like Silenus figure, beautiful on the inside but ugly on the outside:
Look at him! Isn’t he just like a statue of Silenus? You know the kind of statue I mean; you’ll find them in any shop in town. It’s a Silenus sitting, his flute or his pipes in his hands, and it’s hollow. It’s split right down the middle, and inside it’s full of tiny statues of the gods. Now look at him again! Isn’t he also just like the satyr Marsyas? (215b1-4)
So perhaps page 99 is a Sileni figure for my own book?
Learn more about A Theory of the Aphorism at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 10, 2019

Emma Maggie Solberg's "Virgin Whore"

Emma Maggie Solberg is an Assistant Professor of Medieval Literature and Culture in the English department at Bowdoin College.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Virgin Whore, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Virgin Whore (an academic study of the late-medieval celebration of the Madonna not only for her chastity but also for her sexual promiscuity) lands us at the end of the third chapter, which expands upon the cultural history of God the Father’s adoration of the Virgin Mary, the first two chapters having taken us through the long list of her many other admirers: Joseph, the Holy Spirit, Jesus, the archangel Gabriel, Adam, Eve, and humankind more broadly. The chapter begins with a close reading of the apocryphal legend of the Miracle of the Cherry Tree, in which Mary—the Second Eve—reenacts the scene of her foremother’s fall from grace, but with a twist. Like Eve, Mary craves forbidden fruit. On the way to Bethlehem, she demands that her husband Joseph fetch her fruit from the unreachable branches of a barren cherry tree. When impotent old Joseph fails to satisfy Mary’s desire, God grants her wish, and blooms the fruit and bends the branches to her feet so that she can eat her fill. Medieval exegetes studying this legend wondered why God rewarded Mary where he had punished Eve, and concluded that only infatuation could explain his change of heart. This chapter then goes on to elaborate on two intertwined allegories that represent Mary’s seduction of God the Father in greater detail (the allegory of the Mystic Hunt of the Unicorn and the allegory of the Parliament of Heaven) and concludes with Geoffrey Chaucer’s Merchant’s Tale from The Canterbury Tales, which reimagines these sacred allegories as a dirty joke—an easier translation than you might expect. Page 99 ramps up to the punchline: Chaucer slyly compares the doctrine of the virgin birth to a cliché from the medieval genre of the fabliaux (comic and obscene narratives about the battle of the sexes)—the often-repeated claim that wives caught in the very act of adultery spontaneously come up with such ingenious excuses for their bad behavior that their husbands believe women’s lies over the proof of their own eyes. Chaucer phrases this kind of con as a Christian miracle, like the virgin birth. At first glance, Mary’s miraculous pregnancy looked rather suspicious, but God’s grace turned a potential domestic tragedy into a divine comedy. As the scholar F.M Salter aptly put it in 1955, ‘In the Middle Ages, God himself had a sense of humor’ (Medieval Drama in Chester, 103–4).
Learn more about Virgin Whore at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Daniel Kennefick's "No Shadow of a Doubt"

Daniel Kennefick is associate professor of physics at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. He is the author of Traveling at the Speed of Thought: Einstein and the Quest for Gravitational Waves and a coauthor of An Einstein Encyclopedia.

Kennefick applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, No Shadow of a Doubt: The 1919 Eclipse That Confirmed Einstein's Theory of Relativity, and reported the following:
The page 99 test works well on my book. It contains the book’s central argument, a subtle one which could easily be overlooked amidst the excitement and adventure of eclipse expeditions mounted to tropical locales by two English expeditions trying to test Albert Einstein’s then new theory of General Relativity. The test involved Einstein’s prediction that light is deflected from its path by the gravitational field of the Sun. The expeditions succeeded in overthrowing Newton’s theory and establishing Einstein’s theory on the world’s scientific stage. But the expeditions’ best known protagonist, Arthur Stanley Eddington, has been repeatedly accused of bias in favoring Einstein’s theory even before he set out to test it. But few experts ask, why would Eddington have been biased against such a well-established theory as Newton’s? The answer, I believe, is that Newton’s theory had been rendered inconsistent with the new world of relativity physics which emerged in the early 20th century, chiefly through the work of Einstein. Indeed, even while preparing for the eclipse, Eddington would have been uncomfortably aware that it was not cut and dried to state what the prediction of Newton’s theory actually was. In the end he took an earlier prediction of Einstein’s, made before the development of the complete theory of General Relativity, and labelled it the “Newtonian” result. Ironically he has been criticized for this too, when I argue that he was giving his old Cambridge college-mate Newton his best possible shot at redemption. But I think he must have been relieved that the experimental verdict went in favor of Einstein’s more precise new theory, which permitted calculations of this type to be done much less ambiguously.
Learn more about No Shadow of a Doubt at the Princeton University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: No Shadow of a Doubt.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 6, 2019

Sarah Knott's "Mother Is A Verb"

Sarah Knott is Associate Professor of History at Indiana University and a Research Fellow of the Kinsey Institute. Her writings have appeared in a variety of venues, from the American Historical Review and William and Mary Quarterly to the Guardian and LitHub.

Knott applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Mother Is a Verb: An Unconventional History, and reported the following:
A paragraph-long anecdote sits in the middle of page 99:
8th March 1980. Londoner Jean Radford becomes an adoptive mother on this day, at the end of a decade of women’s liberation. She brings home a baby girl through transracial adoption: “Not much hair, toothless, a fat bald child in a scratchy pink dress. It is love at first sight. The cliché resounds in my head and I can hardly see straight.” Radford imagines that for a birth mother, the arrival of a child is a scene of separation, the end of a process not just a beginning. But for adoptive mothers, “the arrival of the child is a scene of different significance. The desire for the child is ‘inside’, but the adoptive child comes from ‘outside’. Bringing the two together is more of a union than a separation and for me is accompanied by an almost manic joy.”
This anecdote is one among many - some forty, I just counted - that comprise a chapter about past experiences of the arrival of a child. Other similar scenes, fragments from the past really, that appear just before and just after page 99 raise a series of themes: the shifted rhythm of time with an infant on hand, the quality of feeling interrupted, the use of maternal tools like flannel binders of plastic bottles, the sleeping… or the not sleeping.

In writing Mother Is A Verb, I had come to find that anecdote - not narrative - was the best means by which to explore the many pasts of mothering in Britain and North America. (For mothering, read pregnancy, birth and the encounter with an infant.) As contemporary theorist Lisa Baraitser puts it: “Motherhood lends itself to anecdote” because of “the constant attack on narrative that the child performs.” A small child is always breaking a line of thought, continually interrupts any narrative flow. What is left for the historian to find in the archives is piecemeal and fragmentary. So, too, was what I felt able to write with one child and then another on hand. The chapter closes: “Even to write a paragraph requires long preparation.”

And this particular anecdote from forty years ago serves, also, to make a different point: that mother is best approached as a verb, as a set of activities undertaken among other activities, more than as an identity or a noun. Mothering does not belong only to birth-givers. Jean Radford reminds us that the “who” of mothering is capacious: not just birth-mothers, but adoptive mothers, in her case a white women’s liberationist newly arrived home with an adopted black baby.
Learn more about Mother Is a Verb.

See Sarah Knott's five best books about motherhood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 4, 2019

John Owen Havard's "Disaffected Parties"

John Owen Havard is Assistant Professor at Binghamton University and received his PhD from the University of Chicago.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Disaffected Parties: Political Estrangement and the Making of English Literature, 1760-1830, and reported the following:
Disaffected Parties looks at authors at an unsettled remove from the political arena, neither actively engaged nor entirely withdrawn. Chapter 2 examines Laurence Sterne’s involvement in scabrous partisan journalism, writing and copying articles for his uncle (and facing ad hominem attacks from political opponents). The year 1742 saw William Pulteney take power from Robert Walpole before backtracking on a ‘Patriot’ platform. This seeming defection helped to crystallize cynical attitudes towards politics, while initiating a retraction of interest in the political press. As I argue on page 99, these events
marked a crucial tipping point, in which attitudes towards a specific party and grouping of politicians coincided with a growing disdain towards politics as such. The response to Pulteney was not simply a localized controversy. This particularly well-publicized and widely vilified instance of ‘apostacy’ became a lasting emblem of perhaps the final possibilities for a viable opposition movement. This event coincided with the onset of a newly critical, if not altogether dismissive, attitude towards politics and political discussion that would reverberate for a long time to come, in what was, arguably, the first widespread popular expression of cynicism towards the political establishment.

Critics and biographers have been inclined to view Sterne’s turn away from politics as a personal decision. Yet his departure from the political arena was inextricable from this larger national realization. Sterne underlined the connection in his final contribution to the political press. In July 1742, he announced his retirement from political journalism in the York Courant. Noting ‘by some late Preferments, that it may be not improper to change Sides’—in a letter itself published, tellingly, in the rival newspaper—he begged pardon for his ‘abusive’ writings. While he may also have been alluding to local disputes, Sterne, in pointing more obviously to the promotion of Pulteney to the peerage just two weeks previously, implied that his withdrawal from political activity was of a piece with a larger national realization.
Several months later, a poem appeared in the York Courant purporting to give ‘L—Y’s Reasons for writing no more Gazetteers’ and describing the author ‘scribbl[ing]’ to ‘baffle Common Sense’, taking ‘Pains by Logick Rules / To prove myself an Ass’. The poem concludes:
But now my Pen I’ve splinter’d quite,
And thrown away my Ink,
For ’till I see which Side will win,
I’ll neither write nor think
This squib was the latest in a series of anonymous poems lambasting Sterne for his political opportunism. Yet these lines show surprising levels of insight into his situation, even sympathy for the events that had made an ‘Ass’ of their putative author. The poem looks ahead to his exculpatory letter on ‘chang[ing] side’ in the same rival newspaper (and also uncannily anticipates his remarks about being ‘tired of employing [his] brains for other people’s advantage’). I conjecture that Sterne wrote this poem himself, exploiting the circuits of anonymous journalism, in a muted act of revenge on both parties, through a proto-Shandean form of self-critique. Regardless of whether the poem was written by Sterne or dictated by his example, he unquestionably internalized its message. Sterne’s involvement in political journalism had degenerated into serving as an amanuensis for his uncle or Bartleby-like abstention. Combining a beleaguered stance of retreat with suggestions of rejection and refusal, the poem stages a volatile and incomplete disengagement, its author left spent, ‘splinter’d,’ but not completely brain-dead.

As the chapter goes on to show, Sterne remained animated by these events in his comic masterpiece The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, where his sentimental side contended with these disaffected impulses—a conflict emblematized in my book’s cover image. Kenneth Burke’s account of literary form, as a “strategy” or “attitude” forged in a recognizable situation, applies to this episode, in ways that connect with the book’s concluding discussion of Byron’s “cynicism.” The poet, Burke wrote, “will tend to write about that which most deeply engrosses him—and nothing more deeply engrosses a man than his burdens.” The poem on Sterne’s “splinter’d” pen offers a means of sharing political burdens. In Tristram Shandy, he suggested ways to dispense with them altogether
Learn more about Disaffected Parties at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Anja Shortland's "Kidnap: Inside the Ransom Business"

Anja Shortland is a Reader in Political Economy at King's College London. She has worked as an academic economist at Leicester and Brunel Universities, rising to fame for her work on the economics of Somali piracy. She now studies private governance in the world's trickiest markets: hostages, fine art, and antiquities- and how people live, trade, and invest in complex and hostile territories.

Shortland applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Kidnap: Inside the Ransom Business, and reported the following:
The fundamental question in Kidnap: Inside the Ransom Business is: “How do you successfully trade with people you cannot trust and when the state cannot help you if they cheat?”

Ransoming hostages from foreign criminal, rebel, or terrorist organisations is one such tricky trade. What compels kidnappers to release hostages (i.e. potential future witnesses) after receiving the ransom? The answer is that there are robust procedures to ensure it is in the kidnappers’ self-interest to keep their promise. The book focuses on the role of special risk insurers at Lloyd’s of London. These have created and maintain a system to resolve hostage crises by negotiation that underpins much of global trade and foreign direct investment.

However, both for kidnap insurers and their customers, prevention is better than cure. If you know who poses the threat, can you avoid kidnapping by paying protection money? Chapter 5 analyses how firms operating in lawless or rebel territory buy security services from extra-legal organisations. How does a legal enterprise keep its powerful, violent “protector” from turning poacher? You must design a contract that ensures it’s in the gang’s own best interest to provide the promised service – but without upsetting your shareholders by making “corrupt” deals.

One option is to hire a private military security company (PMSC) to make and enforce the contract with problematic local powerbrokers. Page 99 explains why. The PMSC uses a mixture of local guards (hired from the gang controlling the territory) and foreign mercenaries. Effectively, the local guards become the hostages of the PMSC: assuring the foreign firm of the local gang’s good intentions:
Willingness to volunteer a hostage is a classic economic signal to help the receiver of a message distinguish the honest from a dishonest sender. If a compound guarded by both foreign and local private security guards is attacked, it is inevitable that the local guards will suffer heavy losses. They can get shot by either side. This implicit threat may suffice to make the relational contract self-enforcing, especially if the protector volunteers a close relative to command the guards.” Moreover, outsourcing the management of relationships with the local mafia or rebel outfit insulates the company from criticism: “If the press picks up a problem, the company is not at fault. PMSCs can be replaced when their reputation becomes toxic.
Page 99 therefore provides an excellent illustration of a successful contracting strategy in the economic underworld. Thanks to clever contract design most kidnaps are prevented. The remainder of the book is devoted to hostage crisis resolutions; explaining the amazing statistic that 97.5% of insured hostages come home. So, expect many more examples of ingenious contract design ensuring that there is honor among thieves (kidnappers) after all!
Learn more about Kidnap: Inside the Ransom Business at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Lindsey N. Kingston's "Fully Human"

Lindsey N. Kingston is Associate Professor of International Human Rights at Webster University in Saint Louis, Missouri, where she also directs the Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies.

Kingston applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Fully Human: Personhood, Citizenship, and Rights, and reported the following:
Fully Human: Personhood, Citizenship, and Rights focuses on how the international community determines who is worthy of fundamental rights. Human rights are supposedly universal and inalienable – meaning everyone has them by virtue of being human, and nothing justifies canceling them out – but some people are better positioned to enjoy essential protections. These rights-based inequalities illustrate the “hierarchies of personhood” that are built into our state-centric international system. From this perspective, some people “count” more than others; some are recognized as more “fully human,” in a sense.

Page 99 centers on the issue of forced displacement, and in particular highlights the pitfalls of the modern refugee rights regime. At the start of the page, I write that this regime “clings to universal norms and centers its work on the notion of the state as the duty-bearer of human rights.” For instance, the UN Refugee Convention requires refugees to cross state borders as they flee persecution. Yet this narrow definition of “refugee” fails to acknowledge the broader harms caused by the absence of state protection. The classification of many migrants as “illegal” immigrants – even as they try to escape pervasive rights abuses back home – demonstrates how many displaced persons lack any government duty-bearer to appeal to. (This lack of a meaningful, beneficial relationship to a state constitutes a lack of what I term “functioning citizenship”.)

Much like approaches to other human rights issues discussed throughout the book, the refugee rights regime relies on a false understanding of the broader international system. “[C]urrent approaches to forced displacement are also guilty of relying on the fiction that functioning citizenship is a usual state of being,” I argue. “Displacement is approached as a temporary problem – a rift in the relationship between citizen and state that can, for a limited duration, be addressed by stopgap protections…” In reality, however, forced displacement is an enduring feature of the world system. Indeed, so are the widespread rights abuses and lack of recognition outlined throughout Fully Human.
Learn more about Fully Human at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Tembi Locke's "From Scratch"

Tembi Locke is an accomplished actor who has appeared in over forty television shows and films, including The Magicians, NCIS: LA, Animal Kingdom and Dumb and Dumber To. She is also a TEDx speaker. Her talk, What Forty Steps Taught Me About Love and Grief, traces her journey as a cancer caregiver. She is the creative voice behind The Kitchen Widow, a web series and grief support community that has received mentions in the New York Times and the Guardian. The author of From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home, she lives in Los Angeles with her young daughter but can be found each summer on the island of Sicily.

Locke applied the “Page 99 Test” to From Scratch and reported the following:
Set largely on the mythical island of Sicily, From Scratch is a story of cross-cultural love, heart-wrenching loss, family, forgiveness, motherhood, and the table as a place to grow and renew. The memoir follows the first three summers I traveled with my young daughter to the rural village in Sicily that was my late chef-husband’s hometown. The idea was to spend time with my mother-in-law, who was also a widow and a woman with whom I had had a fractured beginning, and see if we could forge a new relationship in the wake of loss. And, I wanted my daughter not to lose more family than she already had. The emotional stakes were high, the geography challenging. However, over the course of each of those summers something unexpected emerged.

Page 99 falls at the beginning of the first summer in a chapter entitled, “Island of Stone.” There is a paragraph in the middle of the page that gets to one of the major questions of the book and the emotional underpinning driving the narrative.

The scene is simple. My seven-year-old daughter and I are on a plane about to land in Sicily for the first time without my husband. In fact, I am carrying his ashes onboard. The plan is to deplane then drive along the Mediterranean coastline for an hour before ascending into the foothills of the Madonie Mountains. I am severely jetlagged, bereft with grief, and my daughter is asleep on my lap carrying a grief more unpredictable than mine. I briefly consider deplaning, gathering our bags and heading back to my life in Los Angeles. Only that life is equally raw and feels structurally unsafe. So, I get off the plane and walk my daughter into the Sicilian sun. Somewhere inside, I am hoping the island and a town of family and near-family will help ease my way, make my daughter smile, or, at least, buy me a few weeks of repose.

The final sentence of paragraph speaks to the central idea that love can sometimes ask more of us than we know we are capable of. I’d say the paragraph “reveals the quality of the whole.” In part. You’ll have to read the book to learn more.
Visit Tembi Locke's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Peter Cole's "Dockworker Power"

Peter Cole is Professor of History at Western Illinois University and a Research Associate in the Society, Work and Development Institute (SWOP) at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Dockworker Power: Race and Activism in Durban and the San Francisco Bay Area is his second book. Previously, he wrote Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia, co-edited Wobblies of the World: A Global History of the IWW, and edited Ben Fletcher: The Life & Times of a Black Wobbly.

Cole applied the “Page 99 Test” to Dockworker Power and reported the following:
In 1969 O. P. F. Harwood, an economist at the (white only) University of Natal-Durban, in South Africa boasted, “Labour at the Port of Durban is not a problem, as it is, for example, at the ports of the United Kingdom, where it is regarded as their most serious problem.” Though he can be forgiven for failing to predict the future, Harwood continued, “In Durban harbour this problem hardly exists.” Instead, that very year, Durban dockers struck—the first signs that the black working class in South Africa was reawakening. They threatened to do so in 1971 and struck again in late 1972. While these workers, in fact, reignited a quiescent labor movement few know of their pivotal role. Instead, students of South African history are taught that, in January 1973, black workers at Coronation Brick downed tools and “officially” launched the so-called “Durban Strikes of 1973” the largest strike wave of black workers since 1946. It was just a few years after that last strike that the National Party, victorious in 1948 election, instituted the world’s most notorious system of white supremacy in the post-World War II world, apartheid (literally “apartness” in Afrikaans). The legendary Durban Strikes involved upwards of 100,000 workers from more than 150 companies, shocked the nation, and, restarted the national anti-apartheid movement that largely had been quiescent since its brutal repression a decade earlier. In the words of the editors of the South African Democracy Education Trust, creators of the most authoritative history of the struggle, “The revival of the workers’ movement in the factories, mines and stores was arguably the most important development of the 1970s.” This upsurge of black worker activism stunned most South Africans since the decade prior had been “quiet.” Left out of most histories is that, under the surface just prior to the Durban Strikes, local dockers were rising. While, no doubt, the Durban Strikes shattered the deafening silence following early 1960s repression, in fact, dockworker activism preceded and helped inspire the Durban Strikes.

Page 99 of my book explores the significance of the October 1972 dock strikes, which was about far more than a wage hike. I argue the dock strike helped launch the legendary Durban Strikes that erupted about two months later though the historical literature still understates the dockers’ import. As the title indicates, my book compares the histories of dockworkers in two historically significant port cities, their many decades of collective action, and why they used their power on behalf of racial equality and freedom.

Often missed in commentary on today's globalizing economy, dockworkers have ability to harness their role, at a strategic choke point, to promote labor rights and social justice causes. My book, a comparative study of Durban and the San Francisco Bay Area, illuminates how unions effected lasting change in some of the most far-reaching struggles of modern times. First, dockworkers in each city drew on longstanding radical traditions to promote racial equality (including on Page 99). Second, they persevered when a new technology--container ships--sent a shockwave of layoffs through the industry. Finally, their commitment to black internationalism and leftist politics sparked transnational work stoppages to protest apartheid and authoritarianism. Dockworker Power brings to light surprising parallels in the experiences of dockers half a world away from each other.
Learn more about Dockworker Power at the University of Illinois Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 26, 2019

Sara M. Benson's "The Prison of Democracy"

Sara M. Benson is a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science at San Jose State University and teaches at Oakes College at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Prison of Democracy: Race, Leavenworth, and the Culture of Law, and reported the following:
Page 99 marks the first page of the book’s final chapter. The chapter is about political prisoners and the various legal avenues that brought masses of political activists to the nation’s oldest and largest federal prison. These large groups of activists were members of the Industrial Workers of the World, the Black Twenty-Fourth Infantry, and the Partido Liberal Mexicano, who were convicted of violating wartime laws about mutiny and incendiary speech. The chapter is about how these forms of mass incarceration during world war one relied on long histories of punishing movements that challenged the prison’s hold on the idea of democracy, but these incarcerations also backfired—they led to cross-racial forms of solidarity at the very moment when prison officials sought to implement a system of segregation in federal prison institutions. Against this larger backdrop, page 99 imagines how these groups, who met and engaged each other in prison, had “known one another before.” These cross-racial forms of critical engagement and struggle were disciplined out of existence as the federal prison system emerged as a deeply racialized and segregated institution through prison programming and prison leisure—prisoners were part of segregated sports teams and were used as part of the prison’s disciplinary regime to inflict violence on other groups. The prison’s purpose was to make enemies of those who had once challenged together the prison’s relationship to democracy. Despite these efforts, these ideas about the prison’s relationship to solidarity and state violence culminated in a cross-racial movement in the 1970s that almost succeeded in bringing about Leavenworth’s end.

When the Bureau of Prisons declared that Leavenworth was obsolete in the early 1970s as a direct result of the organizing of prisoners across racial lines, the promise of closure was quickly replaced with the idea that Leavenworth could be made fit for democracy. Leavenworth’s revivification was part of the reconfiguration of the federal prison system at precisely the moment when mass incarceration was taking root. The book’s purpose is to challenge the idea mass incarceration is a recent moment in time; it is instead part and parcel of American statecraft and American democracy. It ends by suggesting that the exit from mass incarceration is not decarceration, but the reimagining of a theory of the state without a prison at its center.
Learn more about The Prison of Democracy at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Colin Asher's "Never A Lovely so Real"

Colin Asher is an award-winning writer whose work has been featured in the Believer, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Boston Globe, and the San Francisco Chronicle. An instructor at CUNY, he was a 2015/2016 Fellow at the Leon Levy Center for Biography.

Asher applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Never a Lovely So Real: The Life and Work of Nelson Algren, and reported the following:
Never A Lovely so Real is a literary biography of Nelson Algren, a once-famous mid-century American author. And because it is, I felt that I needed to both accurately present the facts of Algren’s life in my composition, and also capture his perspective, to suggest, in my own writing, something about the way Algren saw the world and wrote about it.

Some writers dwell in the realm of parable and care little for their characters’ inner lives—others prefer the reverse, and emphasize their protagonists’ psyches while rejecting the urge to moralize. Some are drawn to environment, or plot, or rely on stylistic flourishes to carry their books. But Algren had a unique sensibility. He emphasized relationships over individual struggles, and he was a generous writer, who even gave depth to his minor characters. In everything he wrote, no matter how challenging the subject matter was, there was always musicality to his prose, rhythm—and those were the elements of his style and perspective that I tried to replicate in my book.

Luckily, when I turned to page 99 of Never a Lovely so Real, I found a paragraph that attempts to achieve all of those goals. At this point in the book, Algren has just returned to Chicago after being released from a Texas jail. He had stolen a typewriter a month or so earlier so that he could complete his first novel, and been caught. After a brief trial, he hopped freight trains back home, and moved in with his parents. This was in 1934, during the Great Depression, and his family was struggling. They had just lost their tire shop, their only means of supporting themselves, and they were about to lose their home. His parents, Gerson and Goldie, had never gotten along well, and as their financial situation deteriorated their relationship did as well. On page 99, I describe their marriage during that period as follows:
Time had distilled their relationship to its purest form by then. She was the gloved fist, and he was the heavy bag – when she swung, he swayed. “Get out of my sight,” she hollered when she saw him. “You just get downstairs.” And Gerson went. There was a rocking chair near the furnace in the basement, and a bottle of Rock and Rye, and sometimes he spent entire days down there, rocking and drinking, rocking and drinking.
Visit Colin Asher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Vaughn Scribner's "Inn Civility"

Vaughn Scribner is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Central Arkansas.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Inn Civility: Urban Taverns and Early American Civil Society, and reported the following:
Right in the middle of page 99 is one of my favorite lengthy quotes in Inn Civility:
There are also among us Unlicensed Houses, (too many such!) where our Young Sparks Drink and Game, and Revel for whole Nights together, and Perhaps Every Night. And such Vile Houses will be kept…[for] the Club of Rakes, truly so call’d. And these spend whole Nights in Drinking and Gaming, it is to be fear’d at their Fathers and Masters Expence. The quantitys of Wine and Brandy-Punch drank (or rather destroy’d) by these Clubs, is incredible. So that their practice is an Excess of Riot with an Emphasis.
I love this quote for a few reasons. First, this mid-eighteenth-century New Englander’s diatribe wouldn’t seem that odd if it were to appear in a modern newspaper. So many Americans still love to complain about the drinking, revelry, and “excess of riot” which occurs every weekend in college town bars (well, all bars, I suppose).

I also love this quote because it rather concisely gets to Inn Civility’s core argument: that urban taverns—the most numerous, accessible, and popular public spaces in colonial America—provide an ideal lens through which to dissect colonists’ fantasies and anxieties surrounding the rocky development of a “civil society” in British North America. As today, citizens hoped to direct their society around mercurial notions of liberty, harmony, and order. And, as is still the case, these efforts were fraught with contradiction and dissension.

Take the “a Club of Rakes” quote, for example. A “Rake” was a wealthy “gentleman” who reveled in what is now called “slumming it.” He would strap his sword to his side, don his finest clothes, and dive head-first into lower-class taverns with a drunken cadre of friends, where they would turn tables, accost fellow tavern goers and servants, and drink to excess. Then, the next day, they would go back to their “genteel” lifestyle of balls and tea tables without any repercussions. Many of those men who made the “rules,” in short, didn’t necessarily have to play by them. Everything, and nothing, has changed.
Visit Vaughn Scribner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 22, 2019

Greg Beckett's "There Is No More Haiti"

Greg Beckett is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Western University in Ontario.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, There Is No More Haiti: Between Life and Death in Port-au-Prince, and reported the following:
Page 99 comes near the end of the second chapter, called “Looking for Life,” which explores how people try to build meaningful lives in the midst of the precarious and informal economy of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital city. The men who’s stories I tell in this chapter are all struggling to make a living, working as artisans, taxi drivers, guides, and fixers. At this point in the chapter, we are reading about how political and economic uncertainty has made it even more difficult to look for life. Page 99 presents the end of a story about a dispute between two taxi drivers over potential clients. A younger driver named David poached the clients from an older, and well-known, driver named Frantz. After a heated argument, Frantz was left without the lucrative fare. Later, Frantz and several other men discuss the incident; they come to feel that David has acted in the wrong, since he knowingly approached the clients after Frantz had already booked them, a serious violation of the unstated norms among taxi drivers. As they talk about the story, the dispute comes to stand for a much wider problem in Haiti: the end of respect (respè).

As we learn on page 99, respect is a key value in Haitian culture, and also a quite complicated word. It means respect, honor, character, and dignity. It is meant to be given to other people, and it is also received by those who act responsibly and who fulfill their social obligations. In the story at hand, David had not just stolen clients; he had also disrespected Frantz. In the days and weeks after the dispute, the story came to stand as an example not just of a lack of respect but also of the way in which the very possibility of giving and getting respect has disappeared. Another driver sums up this position, saying “In Haiti today, people don’t have any respect.” This is the essence of how crisis feels in Haiti; the many crises people face every day have made it impossible to live a meaningful life, to live according to key cultural values like respect. Page 99 is a small glimpse into the broader theme of the book: what if feels like to live through the breakdown of a whole way of life.
Learn more about There Is No More Haiti at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Nicholas Walton's "Singapore, Singapura"

Nicholas Walton is a journalist and writer. He is from Newcastle but has lived all over Europe and beyond. He now lives in Delft, in the Netherlands, and works at the European office of the World Resources Institute.

Walton applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Singapore, Singapura: From Miracle to Complacency, and reported the following:
My foolproof guide to writing a book is to write the book that you wanted to read but couldn’t find. When I flew into my new life in Singapore I faced bookshelves of books that I didn’t want to read about the place. There were romantic bodice-rippers about Sir Stamford Raffles, forensic accounts of government public spending priorities, glamorous guides to the infinity pools and boutiques, and lots telling the story of how the Japanese had captured the place back in 1942.

What there wasn’t was a book that lifted the lid on perhaps the world’s most astonishing country and explained how, why and what next, while entertaining and engaging page after page.

Think about it this way: almost exactly 200 years ago Raffles stood on the shores of a muddy island with a few hundred fishermen on it. He thought it was ideal for Britain and the East India Company, and he was right. It had few natural resources, was too hot, but was in a spectacular place, a pinch point between the Indian Ocean and East Asia. Singapore thrived.

Then, in 1965, the place became independent, and this tiny, unlikely equatorial dot became even more wildly successful. Its income is up there with the world’s best, and it’s world class in everything from education to crime.

How? Why? What next? Well, now there’s a book on that, knitted together into a single-day, 33 mile sweaty hike from one end to the next. This allowed me to tell the stories, speak to the people, ask the questions, and lift the hood and have a poke about in Singapore’s engine.

It’s a remarkable story, from government-designed communities to chewing gum bans, permits for table-top dancing, and the life-lessons of a teenage Singaporean skinhead. It explains Singapore, and explains why the future may not be quite as golden as the present.

It is, in short, the book that I wanted to read when I first arrived on the curious island, 20 miles north of the equator. So is that obvious from flicking through and finding page 99? No. In my book that page is simply another jaunt through the British imperial humiliation at the hands of the Japanese. I’m not sure I agree with Ford Madox Ford
Visit Nicholas Walton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Virginia Morell's "Becoming a Marine Biologist"

Virginia Morell is the New York Times bestselling author of Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures as well as a regular contributor to National Geographic magazine and a contributing correspondent to Science. She has also written for Smithsonian, Discover, The New York Times Magazine, International Wildlife, Audubon, Slate, and Outside, among other publications.

Morell applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Becoming a Marine Biologist, and reported the following:
Becoming a Marine Biologist profiles Robin Baird, the leading expert on the cetaceans--dolphins and whales--of Hawai'i. Most of us rarely look back at the trail of crumbs and occasional whole cookies that led to our present careers. But that's what my book offers: a study of one man's path from his childhood love of animals to becoming a marine biologist and director of Hawai'is Dolphins and Whales project. On page 99, Baird meets another cetacean biologist, Jeff Goodyear, who'd invented an inexpensive and simple method for attaching time-depth recorders (TDR tags) to wild whales. Instead of surgically implanting the tags, which sometimes harms the animals, Goodyear used $2.00 suction cups that are made for car roof racks to keep the devices attached. The meeting seems to be a crumb. But it will lead to a very large cookie for Baird.

Goodyear and Baird met in 1989 while Baird was pursuing his PhD at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. By this point in the book, readers have learned that Baird has struggled to become a scientist; he's had to overcome his fear of mathematics and statistics, and taken an indirect path--through ecology--to study killer whales. Despite his handicaps--he's poor, recently orphaned, and painfully shy--he's driven to succeed. He's just earned his doctorate, but is struggling--as fresh PhDs often do--to establish a career. Page 99, while ostensibly about Goodyear's TDR design, is actually about how perseverance and learning a new and special skill can transform a person's life. In that sense, page 99 "reveals the quality of the whole" book, which describes how via hard work and luck, Baird navigates around numerous obstacles to achieve his dream.

Cetacean researchers are often frustrated by their limited view of the animals they study; they typically only see the animals when they surface to breathe. The TDR tags record and store data about the depths of a whale or dolphin's dive and the time he/she stays below the surface before resurfacing. Goodyear helped Baird modify his original TDR design so that the tags could be attached noninvasively to killer whales. For his dissertation, Baird studied the different feeding behaviors of two types of killer whales--the fish-eating residents and mammal-eating transients--around Vancouver Island. Scientists had started studying these marine mammals only in the 1970s. They noticed that the large, resident pods hunted only fish, while the smaller groups of transients seemed to concentrate on other marine mammals, such as seals, dolphins, and the calves of baleen whales (grays and humpbacks). Baird set out to discover why the residents and transients behaved so differently. Why did hunting fish lead the residents to live in large, chatty social groups? Why did the transients live in smaller pods and keep close to the shoreline? How did their foraging preferences and techniques affect their social behaviors and reproductive success? Baird followed the transient killer whales for six years, recording observations on 26 transient social groups. Using a crossbow or long pole, he also attached TDR tags to one transient killer whale, and six residents; these data revealed how the two types differed in how and where they foraged. Baird discussed his tagging work at a marine mammal conference, and was immediately invited by Karsten Schneider, another marine biologist, to help him attach TDR tags to the bottlenose dolphins he studied in New Zealand.

These dolphins, however, bolted and disappeared when the tags hit them; the animals behaved unnaturally and most of the tags fell off. The project seemed to be a failure. But Baird explains that failures in science are as important as successes--one of many bits of advice he offers to those who dream of pursuing a similar career. He and Schneider published an article reviewing marine biologists' efforts to use tags on a range of cetacean species, and pointed out that researchers could not assume that non-invasive tags would work on all dolphins and whales. Thanks in part to this article, other scientists began to view Baird as an expert on TDR tagging. This special skill set him apart from many other young marine biologists, and helped lead to his first major grant in Hawai'i. Yet most of his success stems from his ability to recognize an opportunity--something not taught in schools. The page 99 passage captures this side of Baird, too. What it does not reveal about Baird is his passion for the animals he studies, or the love he brings to his work. That is better captured in the chapters where I join him at sea in Hawai'i as he searches for such elusive species as pantropical spotted dolphins and pygmy killer whales. He knows which species like to look at people in boats, which flee at the faintest sound of a motor, and which ones suffer from naval sonar exercises. His research has helped marine mammal managers draw up protections for the whales and dolphins of Hawai'i--and readers come to see that Baird's love and compassion for these animals and the sea are the true underpinnings of his success.
Learn more about Becoming a Marine Biologist.

Coffee with a Canine: Virginia Morell and Buckaroo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Michael J. Sullivan's "Earned Citizenship"

Michael J. Sullivan is Associate Professor in the Graduate International Relations Department at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Earned Citizenship, and reported the following:
Earned Citizenship is about earned citizenship for immigrants through a variety of forms of service, including military service, community service, and caregiving for dependents. Page 99 highlights the importance of military-based earned citizenship. However, this particular page is not just about immigrants. Rather, page 99 is about gender equality, and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship for current and aspiring American citizens. The page highlights the role of women in the military, and the continued significance of military service as a potential responsibility for all young Americans.

I begin page 99 by quoting President Carter’s February 8, 1980 address “seeking additional authority to register for noncombat service to our Nation.” Since 1980, immigrant men, including unauthorized immigrants, have been required to register for Selective Service. In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court in Rostker v. Goldberg (1981) upheld male-only registration, but Justice Marshall dissented, arguing that the exclusion of women from “a fundamental civic obligation” violated the U.S Constitution’s “equal protection of the laws.” I end page 99 by supporting Marshall’s view, and adding that the end of gender-based combat restrictions has made contentions against gender-neutral Selective Service requirements moot. As my book went to press, on February 22, 2019, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Texas, Gray H. Miller, ruled that male-only Selective Service rules were the product of historical gender stereotypes, and that “if there ever was a time to discuss “the place of women in the Armed Services,” that time has passed.

The discussion on page 99 of Earned Citizenship speaks about an enduring and progressively more open pathway to earned citizenship through military service in the United States. The preceding chapter showed how past generations of African-Americans and Latinos successfully claimed citizenship rights based on their wartime military service. Chapter 4, where page 99 is situated, does not simply celebrate this legacy of earned citizenship. It also points to areas for improvement, including abolishing barriers to earning and retaining U.S. citizenship through military service that have resulted in the deportation of U.S. veterans. As a whole, Earned Citizenship makes a moral argument for policy reforms to reward immigrant contributions across all of society, from caregiving to military service, as important civic services meriting a pathway to citizenship.
Learn more about Earned Citizenship at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 15, 2019

Suzanne Hinman's "The Grandest Madison Square Garden"

Suzanne Hinman holds a Ph.D. in American art history and has been a curator, gallerist, museum director, professor, and an art model. She owned an art gallery in Santa Fe and then served as director of galleries at the Savannah College of Art and Design, the world's largest art school. Her interest in the artists and architects of the American Gilded Age and the famed Cornish Art Colony in New Hampshire grew while associate director of the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College. The author continues to reside near Cornish as an independent scholar.

Hinman applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Grandest Madison Square Garden: Art, Scandal, and Architecture in Gilded Age New York, and reported the following:
Page 99 occurs in the chapter “Continental Influences” and within Part Two, “Building a Palace of Pleasure.” The Palace of Pleasure was the name by which Stanford White’s fabulous 1890 Madison Square Garden was known, as America’s largest structure built primarily for entertainment, including two lavishly decorated theaters, a huge arena, banquet hall, restaurant, and eventually a roof garden where White would be murdered in the “crime of the century.”

The chapter title “Continental Influences” refers to a trip to Paris made by Stanford White and sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens in 1889, planned as an opportunity to explore European advances in architecture, technology, and perhaps even more importantly, nude female sculpture, for Saint-Gaudens had been commissioned to create such a piece of yet undetermined subject to top what would be America’s tallest tower.

In Paris the two men, dear friends as well as collaborators, would visit the Exposition Universelle for inspiration. The remarkable Palais des Machines, a very modern building of glass, wrought iron, and transverse steel trusses that enclosed the world’s largest interior space, would strongly influence the construction of the Garden. And among the fine arts on view at the Palais des Beaux-Arts was a life-sized plaster model of Diana, Roman goddess of the moon and the hunt--a sprightly nude by Saint-Gaudens’s old friend and former protégé, Frederick MacMonnies.

In turn, MacMonnies had been influenced by his teacher at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Jean-Alexandre-Joseph Falguiѐre:
Master Falguiѐre, known in France as the great sculptor of flesh, had himself already completed two well-known depictions of the goddess Diana. The first was a life-sized plaster for the Salon of 1882. Instead of the chaste young virgin of myth, it presented a rather coarse-faced, heavy-footed, stoutly middle-aged figure who seemed to critics to have just removed her corset. This Diana in all her very lifelike modernity garnered much notice and was popularly reproduced for parlor decoration as both a marble bust and as a full-figure bronze reduction just 18 inches high, while cheap plaster copies were sold to passers-by in the boulevards.
Saint-Gaudens would go on to create an 18-foot nude Diana for the Garden’s tower that would eventually reign over the World’s Columbian Exposition, a slightly smaller, more beautifully refined version for the tower in 1893, and within a few years 2-foot bronze reproductions sold to the upper-class public by Tiffany & Co.
Visit Suzanne Hinman's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Grandest Madison Square Garden.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Morgan Marietta & David C. Barker's "One Nation, Two Realities"

Morgan Marietta is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where he studies the political consequences of belief. He is the author of The Politics of Sacred Rhetoric, A Citizen’s Guide to American Ideology, and A Citizen’s Guide to the Constitution and the Supreme Court. He and Bert Rockman are the co-editors of the Citizen Guides to Politics & Public Affairs from Routledge Press, and with David Klein he is co-editor of the annual SCOTUS series at Palgrave Macmillan on the major decisions of the Supreme Court. He and David Barker write the Inconvenient Facts blog at Psychology Today.

David C. Barker is Professor of Government and Director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies (CCPS) at American University. He studies political psychology, voting behavior, political communication, legislative behavior, and social welfare policy. He is the author of Rushed to Judgment, Representing Red and Blue, and dozens of peer-reviewed journal articles. His current research seeks to identify the sources of productive political negotiation and compromise.

Marietta applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book with David Barker, One Nation, Two Realities: Dueling Facts in American Democracy, and reported the following:
The page 99 test seems to argue that the quality of a book is revealed in its middle rather than its introduction or conclusion. The exact half-way point of our book is page 148. Or does page 99 have a certain magic?

Page 99 of One Nation, Two Realities is dominated by two figures that illustrate the deep divisions in core values among American citizens. Nestled between the figures is an italicized passage: “values are projected onto fact perceptions, any way you conceptualize them.” The central argument of the book is that ordinary citizens project their preferred values onto their perceived facts. Some scholars argue that dueling fact perceptions are the result of partisan leadership or ideological media, but we think that the psychological mechanisms of ordinary citizens account for the deep divisions in perceived facts. No external forces are necessary if the internal mechanisms are sufficient. This also means that no external reforms are likely to truly lessen dueling facts, which are the product of entrenched and polarized values. So page 99 really does encapsulate the argument of the book.

What about page 148? Again this is a page with a figure, in this case illustrating our argument about intuitive epistemology—that one of the reasons we project our values onto our perceptions is that our values provide us with habitual questions we ask about the world. Values are not only predispositions for what we would like to exist, but also predispositions for how we discern its existence. Again, the psychology of ordinary individuals leads them to dueling fact perceptions because they start from different core beliefs.

Page 99 and page 148 both emphasize empirical data, which is also the point of the book. The preface says that there will be “several discussions of psychological theory and strands of the philosophy of knowledge, but at heart this is an organized presentation of collected data on perceptions of facts” (xv). Our conclusions from the data are that dueling fact perceptions are common, their causes deep, their consequences severe, and their potential correctives ineffective. We are not optimistic about the future of facts. But the Page 99 test seems to have potential.
Learn more about One Nation, Two Realities at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Keele Burgin's "Wholly Unraveled"

Keele Burgin is an entrepreneur, activist, mother of three, author, and filmmaker. Her story of survival and self-discovery has inspired a life dedicated to impacting tens of thousands of women across the globe. She has served in leadership roles on the boards of multiple nonprofit organizations that empower women.

Burgin made her mark in the business world by cofounding two companies, taking her first one public. Her second, a venture out of her hometown of Boulder, Colorado, is designed to help women rearchitect their lives by relinquishing the patterns of behavior that hold them back.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Wholly Unraveled: A Memoir, and reported the following:
I don’t know that I will ever fully believe in the phrase “everything happens for a reason.” It’s catchy, I get it, but isn’t that just the easy way out? Just let fate have its way with me?

But testing the Page 99 theory on Wholly Unraveled made me a believer. Page 99 is a strong representation of my young life. It’s about a little girl trying to be brave, knowing that her world is not a safe place to be…at all.

The page begins with me trying to cipher strength from Shirley, one of the strongest women I knew, a woman who loved me, but she was hundreds of miles away at the time and couldn’t help me.

I am in the desert with my father, who was unsafe to be with at all times, but this time he had a gun. The italics on this page defined my life for decades: Don’t let him see you scared. And: Don’t let him see your thirst. I put on my suit of armor that day and believed, quite possibly, that the whole world was going to hurt me like my father did.

For a chance at survival I adopted the philosophy that only men should quench their thirst, “He put space between the opening of the canteen and his mouth so I could see the clear, wet liquid hit his tongue.” While he did that, I cemented my role as a woman. I was to be invisible, hide my needs, and be thirsty for life.

I go on to talk about my brain feeling foggy and how difficult it was to put energy into anything other than just putting one foot in front of the other. I would feel that way until I realized that I could heal. Until I realized that it truly wasn’t my fault. I could fall in love with myself. I wasn’t someone else’s mistakes, someone else’s hatred of himself. I needed to define my own existence. The ability to heal is always gently reaching its hand out to the taker. Look down at your hands … is it time to heal?
Visit Keele Burgin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue