Monday, March 18, 2019

Steve Luxenberg’s "Separate"

Steve Luxenberg is an associate editor at The Washington Post and an award-winning author. During his forty years as a newspaper editor and reporter, Luxenberg has overseen reporting that has earned many national honors, including two Pulitzer Prizes.

His first book was the critically-acclaimed Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret, honored as a Michigan Notable Book and selected as the 2013-2014 Great Michigan Read.

Luxenberg's new nonfiction book is Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregation. As a work in progress, Separate won the 2016 J. Anthony Lukas Award for excellence in nonfiction writing.

Luxenberg applied the “Page 99 Test” to Separate and reported the following:
Anticipation and trepidation.

Like inseparable twins, those emotions accompanied me as my fingers scrabbled to page 99 of my new book, Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregation.

A smile came swiftly as I scanned the paragraphs.

New Orleans. Discrimination. The city’s free people of color. Their continuing struggle for full political and civil rights, long sought and long denied.

Of course.

New Orleans and its French-speaking, mixed-race group known as les gens de couleur libres are central to this story of racial separation and its roots. Ford Madox Ford may have gone overboard in saying that turning to page 99 of any book will reveal “the quality of the whole.” In the case of Separate, fortunately, that page offers a strong sample of the book’s sweep and depth.

Separate begins in the North at the dawn of the railroad age in the late 1830s and ends with the infamous Supreme Court ruling in the 1896 case of Plessy v. Ferguson. Drawing on letters, diaries, and archival collections, the book depicts indelible figures such as the many resisters to separation during much of the 19th century, including a young Frederick Douglass on a Massachusetts railroad car in 1841; Louis Martinet, a lawyer and crusading newspaper editor who led the New Orleans committee that brought the Plessy case, Homer Plessy’s lawyer, Albion Tourgée, the country’s most famous white advocate for civil rights; Justice Henry Billings Brown, from antislavery New England, whose majority ruling endorsed the idea of separate but equal; and Justice John Marshall Harlan, the Kentuckian from a slaveholding family whose singular dissent cemented his reputation as a steadfast voice for racial justice.

The New York Times, in a review by Rutgers professor James Goodman, describes the book this way: “Absorbing ... contains so many surprises, absurdities and ironies ... Segregation is not one story but many. Luxenberg has written his with energy, elegance and a heart aching for a world without it.”

A brief excerpt from page 99 hints at the New Orleans part of this stirring story. At a Louisiana constitutional convention in April 1845, a wealthy and flamboyant delegate named Bernard de Marigny had the floor. He was a slaveholder, and the developer of a neighborhood where many free people of color lived.

Here’s what happened:
He asked [the convention] to consider a clause allowing the legislature to “confer the rights and privileges of citizenship” on free people of color, if they were native born. It was a small step, only giving the legislature the option, without tying its hands. Take time to think about it, he urged....

The proposal died an undignified death a week later, never debated, a casualty of a hostile reception that Marigny could not overcome. “I believe it is my duty to withdraw it,” he wrote in a statement brimming with disappointment, but “I trust that the members of the Convention ... will do me the justice to believe my motives were pure.”
I did a test of my own after reading page 99. I went to pages 199, 299, 399 and 499. Readers might want to do the same. I’m pleased to report that each reveals “the quality of the whole.”
Visit Steve Luxenberg’s website.

The Page 99 Test: Annie's Ghosts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Kartik Hosanagar's "A Human's Guide to Machine Intelligence"

Kartik Hosanagar is the John C. Hower Professor of Technology and Digital Business and a Professor of Marketing at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Kartik’s research work focuses on the digital economy, in particular the impact of analytics and algorithms on consumers and society, Internet media, Internet marketing and e-commerce.

Hosanagar applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, A Human’s Guide to Machine Intelligence: How Algorithms Are Shaping Our Lives and How We Can Stay in Control, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book A Human’s Guide to Machine Intelligence, discusses two ways to design Artificial Intelligence (AI). Specifically, it discusses AI that can diagnose diseases. The first way is to interview medical experts and identify a set of rules that doctors use to diagnose diseases. For example, a doctor might say that if a patient has a fever for over a week, he/she might focus more on bacterial infections than viral infections. An alternative approach to build AI is to simply feed a lot of data to an algorithm and have it identify patterns in the data. An algorithm might be given data on medical test reports of over 100,000 patients along with the diagnoses human doctors had reached, and it then infers which medical markers predicted which medical conditions. The discussion goes on to clarify how AI researchers were focused on extracting rules from experts in the 80s but the resulting AI couldn’t match human intelligence. However, AI based on learning patterns from large quantities of data (without being programmed with diagnostic rules) are working incredibly well and beating humans at games like Chess but also with tasks such as medical diagnosis. But this switch from programming AI with explicit rules to AI that can teach itself from large quantities of data has many implications. For one, AI based on rules are highly predictable because they are governed by precise rules. AI that teaches itself through analysis of large volumes of data can be more unpredictable because it’s hard to know what exact patterns it might discover in the data. This is why we are seeing examples of racism in algorithms used to guide sentencing decisions in courtrooms and sexism in resume screening algorithms. No engineer is programming bias into these systems. Instead, the bias is being picked up by the algorithms by analyzing data on past decisions by humans.

The discussion helps set up some of the emerging challenges with AI-based decisions and why it’ll be non-trivial to solve. The rest of the book explores the complex interplay between humans and AI and how we will stay in control of seemingly unpredictable AI systems. In the book, I explain why we are not helpless against algorithms unleashed by powerful tech companies to make decisions for us or about us. Instead, we can take control. Further, technology companies and governments will have a role to play as well. I discuss the role of consumers, companies, and governments in the final chapter.
Visit Kartik Hosanagar's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Keith Laybourn's "Going to the Dogs"

Keith Laybourn is Diamond Jubilee Professor and Professor of History at the University of Huddersfield.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Going to the Dogs: A history of greyhound racing in Britain 1926-2017, and reported the following:
Going to the Dogs: A History of Greyhound Racing in Britain, 1926-2017 is the first academic book to examine the rise and fall of greyhound racing in Britain, although there have been some popular publications on individual tracks. Greyhound racing began in Britain at Belle Vue in July 1926 and within five years there were more than 200 greyhound tracks in Britain and about twenty-four million attendances per year, peaking at well over 32 million in the late 1930s. In the words of the title of the hit-song of 1927, Everybody's Going to the Dogs. From the start , greyhound racing was essentially a sport for the working classes, offering them easily accessible, and legal, on-track, gambling opportunities, and an 'American Night Out', with the bright lights, excitement and spectacle of six, or eight, dogs racing around an oval track chasing a mechanical hare. Indeed, greyhound racing became 'An Ascot for the common man'.

Portrayed as the 'casinos' and the 'Monte Carlos ' of the working class, greyhound tracks became subject to criticism from the National Anti-Gambling League - which feared that gambling on greyhound racing would cause poverty and corrupt women and children - the churches, and some politicians who regarded greyhound racing not being a rational recreation. Winston Churchill referred to greyhound tracks as 'animated roulette boards', and John Buchan suggested that they were 'illuminated ribbons of turf'. As a result the police were constantly being asked to survey the tracks for signs of illegal gambling by children, dog fixing and gambling rackets amongst the bookies. However, the police found little more than petty corruption at most tracks for they were few crime gangs like the Sabinis (headed by Ottavio Sabini) of the track at Brighton and Hove. In the end greyhound racing declined as a result of the Attlee Labour government of the late 1940s imposing a 10 per cent tax on tote betting and demanding the payment of licence fees for on-track bookies rather than the opposition of the anti-gambling fraternity. Nevertheless, whilst it was at its height, greyhound tracking attracted financial investment from the lower middle-classes, who hoped that they had discovered something more lucrative than 'King Solomon's mines', generated local employment, and stimulated a whole industry in breeding, training and racing greyhounds in which the working-class breeders and trainers were in conflict with the large tracks. Indeed, greyhound racing was deeply divided between the large National Greyhound Racing Society tracks, run to the rules of the National Greyhound Racing Club, and the smaller 'flapping tracks'. Most working -class trainers found it difficult to get their dogs run on the NGRS tracks, where the big races such as the Greyhound Derby were held, and where Entry Bridge and Mick the Miller made their reputations. In other words, greyhound racing was deeply divided sport with the NGRS tracks offering tote betting and trying to exclude the bookies and the 'flapping tracks', where the smaller owner and trainers ran their dogs and where many tracks relied upon the bookies for their gambling activities. This tended to mean that family groups attended the NGRS tracks for leisure as well as gambling whilst the flapping tracks were attended by smaller groups of more ardent male working-class bettors. By the late 1940s greyhound racing may have attracted up to 40 million attendances per year but taxation, alternative gambling opportunities, and changes in betting reduced attendance to about two million in 2017 and there are only about 24 major tracks now in existence, and about 9 smaller 'private' tracks. As a sign of the times, even the famous Wimbledon track was closed and sold off for housing development two year ago. The heyday of greyhound racing occurred between 1926 and 1950, and it has declined ever since and now faces oblivion.
Learn more about Going to the Dogs at the Manchester University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 15, 2019

Vanessa McGrady's "Rock Needs River"

Vanessa McGrady spends time thinking about feminist parenting, high-vibrational food, and badass ways to do things better. She often wonders why people aren’t more freaked out about plastic in the oceans. Whether in New York, the Pacific Northwest, or Glendale, California, she is grateful to call each place home.

After two years of waiting to adopt—slogging through paperwork and bouncing between hope and despair—a miracle finally happened for McGrady. Her sweet baby, Grace, was a dream come true. Then McGrady made a highly uncommon gesture: when Grace’s biological parents became homeless, McGrady invited them to stay.

McGrady applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Rock Needs River: A Memoir About a Very Open Adoption, and reported the following:
From page 99:
I tried to explain that I was just helping on a call, getting my computer so I could work. I fought tears, scooped up Grace, and headed down to my car.

Grace had always been a strong traveler since her first ride in her daddy’s truck, but on this day, she wailed. I did everything I could do to calm her from the front seat, made sure she had a blanket, sang, offered toys and a bottle. Nothing worked.

Finally I took an exit, pulled over in a run-down, unfamiliar part of town, got in the back seat, and held her. We cried together.

That night, I had tickets to the Joffrey Nutcracker, in which my ten-year-old neighbor and BFF, Keya, was dancing as a snow angel. Peter was stuck working, so Grace and I put on our Christmas best and headed to the ballet.

We sat in the nosebleed section, getting the stink eye from the usher, who made sure I knew that if Grace made so much as a burp, we’d need to exit. Gracie settled in. The overture began, the lights dimmed, and guests began to arrive at Clara’s party. The Snow Queen floated, amid sparkly drifts, to her king.

Ballet is perfect for a six-month-old, by the way, as it’s all action and music, never a still moment, always changing light and something different to see. Grace was silently entranced on my lap for about twenty minutes, then settled into a deep sleep.
This part of the book discusses my struggle in going back to work with a new baby, and trying to balance it all. The book is about the path to becoming a parent, and the struggles afterward, as well as our relationship with my daughter’s birth parents. I loved this scene and also loved that feeling of escape and release in real life. To this day, seven years later, Grace adores the Nutcracker.
Visit Vanessa McGrady's website.

My Book, The Movie: Rock Needs River.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Jay Howard Geller's "The Scholems"

Jay Howard Geller Jay Howard Geller is the Samuel Rosenthal Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of History at Case Western Reserve University. He is the author of Jews in Post-Holocaust Germany, 1945-1953 and co-editor of Three-Way Street.

Geller applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Scholems: A Story of the German-Jewish Bourgeoisie from Emancipation to Destruction, and reported the following:
From page 99:
member of the party was the Hamburg banker and German patriot Max Warburg. Reinhold Scholem joined the party in 1919 and was an active member in the 1920s. While there is no reason to think that Reinhold disapproved of republican democracy, he was certainly a German patriot.

Overall, the Reichstag elections of May 1924 ended disastrously for the two liberal parties. The German Democrats slumped from 39 representatives to only 28, despite the votes of Betty Scholem and her maid. Similarly, Reinhold’s People’s Party went from 66 seats to 45 seats. However, as Betty reported to Gershom in Jerusalem, “German Nationalists (read: antisemites) and the Communists received the biggest increase, the Communists from 16 seats to 60.” The German Nationalists won 95 seats—24 more than four years previously. The gains made by the Communist Party were even more extreme than Betty described: going from 16 representatives (with only four originally elected as Communist Party candidates in 1920) to 62 representatives. One of the new Communists in the Reichstag was Werner Scholem.

His career was nearing its zenith. After the failure of the Communists to mount a successful revolution during the unrest of autumn 1923, Werner Scholem and his allies in the left wing of the party exploited the situation to take over the leadership of the Communist Party. They mobilized the rank and file against party chairman Heinrich Brandler, who belonged to the party’s right wing. At the same time, they cultivated important comrades in Moscow, including Grigory Zinoviev, the chairman of the Comintern, and Joseph Stalin, then still an ambitious member of the Russian Communist Party central committee. While Stalin had earlier criticized the Left Opposition, now he sided with it. He proclaimed that the German working class sought true revolutionary leaders—such as Werner Scholem, Max Hesse, and Ruth Fischer—not theoreticians. He specifically criticized Brandler, who enjoyed the patronage of Stalin’s rival Karl Radek, the Comintern’s representative in Germany. At the German Communist Party’s ninth party congress, held in April 1924, one month before Reichstag elections, the so-called Left Opposition came to power.

While Jews comprised a minuscule percentage of the Communist Party’s membership, they had been vastly overrepresented in its leadership since the party’s establishment in 1919. Moreover, this overrepresentation was never greater than in 1924. Of the fifteen members of the party’s new central committee, five came from Jewish families: Werner Scholem, Ruth Fischer, Iwan Katz, Arkadi Maslow, and Arthur Rosenberg. Moreover, all five were university educated, a rarity in a workers’ party. In addition to serving in the Reichstag and on the party’s central board and politburo, Werner Scholem also directed the party’s Organization Bureau, giving him vast power
It’s the mid-1920s in Germany, and the Weimar Republic offers unprecedented opportunities to Jews. The professorate and judiciary are fully open to Jews. Jews sit in the Reichstag as representatives of center-left and left-wing political parties. But dark clouds also loom on the horizon. The First World War inflamed social tensions that were muted or latent, including antisemitism. Extreme German nationalists overtly call for excluding Jews from positions of authority. Popular perceptions of the Treaty of Versailles, war reparations, and even Western democracy induce many voters to support illiberal and anti-democratic political groups rather than the social democratic and liberal parties that are the mainstay of the Weimar Republic.

Under these circumstances, how did German Jews respond? What political options did they see available to them? These questions figure prominently in The Scholems and particularly on page 99, which captures the flavor of this book about German Jews and their society.

Betty Scholem—as well as her son Erich and most German Jews—gave their support to the left-liberal German Democratic Party. They maintained their belief in liberalism and saw the preservation of the progressive republic as the best defense against political extremism and antisemitism. Betty’s oldest son, Reinhold, served as an officer in the World War and still maintained a highly patriotic outlook after the war. He supported the national-liberal German People’s Party (DVP), whose social conservativism alienated it from the bulk of German Jewry. Son Gerhard (later Gershom), who does not figure on page 99, embraced Zionism and emigrated from Germany. He saw his future and that of the Jewish people in their historic homeland, the Land of Israel.

But son Werner turned to socialism and later communism. And 1924 was his moment. He and his circle on the left wing of the German Communist Party rose to power. He was elected to a seat in the Reichstag, Germany’s national parliament, and was selected to run the Communist Party’s internal bureaucracy. But his power base was narrow. Moreover, he soon came into conflict with Joseph Stalin as he outmaneuvered his rivals in the Soviet Union and other communist parties.

But at this moment, in 1924, it was unclear what the future held in store for the Jews of Germany.
Learn more about The Scholems at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

W. Ian Bourland's "Bloodflowers"

W. Ian Bourland is an assistant professor of global contemporary art history and criticism at Georgetown University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Bloodflowers: Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Photography, and the 1980s, and reported the following:
From page 99:
[F. Holland] Day is well known among historians of early modernist “amateur” photography, and his works are held, for example, in the the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But to reference his oeuvre so overtly between 1983 and 1989 would have been idiosyncratic, and certainly not accidental. One possible explanation is that Fani-Kayode was reactivating a lineage in which he was signaling himself as a part, doing photo-historical work and also directing the reception and interpretation of his portraits.
By-and-large, Bloodflowers — my book about the photographer Rotimi Fani-Kayode and the cultural politics of the 1980s — is encapsulated on page 99. The overall claim of the book is that Fani-Kayode, though excluded from an art world that was far less inclusive than now, produced images that were visionary and polemical. They insisted on a world that was more diverse, more idiosyncratic, and more interconnected by desire and communion. One way that he did this was to draw on a wide range of traditions and put them in relation to one another.

Sometimes this was more geographic—blending elements of a Yoruban spirituality with Christianity. Sometimes it was chronological, merging aspects of modernist photography (like the surrealism of the 1930s) with the “pictorialism” that preceded it. His updates of 19th century Massachusetts photographer F. Holland Day is a case of the latter. Day was known as a somewhat “decadent” artist in his time, known for posing black models and underscoring religious scenes with homoeroticism. Fani-Kayode, like Day, faced homophobia and marginalization in his own life some 100 years later. He found many visual and procedural affinities with his predecessor, but was also keenly aware of the complex politics of representation at work when white photographers depict subjects of color.

On the whole, while there are marked differences in the context of their work, Day and Fani-Kayode are both important figures in a deeper history of queer imagery, and their work is plainly in dialogue. The nature of this dialogue is spelled out on page 99 of Bloodflowers, and it exemplifies an art practice that thoughtfully engaged with a wide array of source material and interlocutors.
Visit W. Ian Bourland's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Christina Thompson's "Sea People"

Christina Thompson is the author of Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia and Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All, which was shortlisted for the 2009 NSW Premier's Award and the 2010 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to Sea People and reported the following:
When I wrote the proposal for Sea People, I included an anecdote that seemed emblematic of the larger story I was trying to tell. A proposal is a sales pitch, and I picked this tale because I felt it would deliver the concept in a way that was quick, effective, and easy to grasp. It had a fine cast of characters (including Captain Cook); it was set in a part of the Pacific that many people knew (New Zealand); and it conveyed an important idea narratively, which is not always easy to do.

Later there was some discussion as to whether I should use this particular story as my opening gambit. Many books these days, especially histories, open with a climactic moment and then go back and fill in everything the reader needs to know. But in the end I decided not to do this; the story, I felt, would have more resonance if I led up to it gradually. In the finished book this anecdote appears in a chapter entitled “An Aha Moment” which begins on page 99.

Page 99 also contains one of my favorite descriptions in the entire book. At the opening of this chapter, Captain Cook is at sea in the Endeavour with his passenger Joseph Banks. Banks is a wonderful observer, and occasionally he writes something that is too marvelous not to use. Here, the explorers are traversing a great stretch of emptiness in the southern Pacific Ocean; there are no islands, no people, just sea life and birds. Banks records albatrosses and petrels, pods of whales and groupings of seals, as well as porpoises, which he describes charmingly, as leaping and jumping over each other like “a pack of hounds.”
Visit Christina Thompson's website.

The Page 99 Test: Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 11, 2019

Adom Getachew's "Worldmaking after Empire"

Adom Getachew is the Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Political Science and the College at the University of Chicago.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Worldmaking after Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Resolution 1514 and, more broadly, the anticolonial politics of reinventing self-determination were efforts to constitute the foundations of an anti-imperial world order—one in which colonial domination was illegitimate for the first time in modern international society, racial hierarchy was abolished, and sovereign equality extended to all member states. Far from the realization and unfolding of Westphalia, the universalization of independence and equality became possible only with European decline and was predicated on the revision and remaking of a Eurocentric international society.
Here and throughout Worldmaking after Empire, I make the case that rather than reading decolonization as the realization of an existing model of international society, we should understand it as a radical rupture that promised an egalitarian world order. Central to this argument is the view that the imperial world order was not constituted by exclusion from international society, but rather organized through processes of legal and economic unequal integration that generated a racialized and hierarchical international order. Facing with the problem of unequal integration rather than exclusion, decolonization could not be limited to securing membership in international society. Instead, it was project of founding a post-imperial world order. For anticolonial nationalists such as Nnamdi Azikiwe, Kwame Nkrumah, and others, the universal right to self-determination, articulated in UN General Assembly Resolution 1514, was the first step in founding this world order. By conceiving of international equality as a necessary foundation for independence and self-government, the right to self-determination open the door for more expansion conceptions of sovereign equality. As the chapters that follow illustrate, anticolonial nationalists extended their commitment to equality by demanding global redistribution through the New International Economic Order.

While the most ambitious elements of anticolonial worldmaking were unrealized, returning to this history in our time can inform contemporary debates about international order. The anticolonial insight that democratic self-government depends on international guarantees of equality can inform our own projects of worldmaking.
Learn more about Worldmaking after Empire at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Andrew Warnes's "How the Shopping Cart Explains Global Consumerism"

Andrew Warnes is a Professor in American Studies at the University of Leeds. He is the author of American Tantalus: Horizons, Happiness, and the Impossible Pursuits of US Literature and Culture and Savage Barbecue: Race, Culture, and the Invention of America's First Food.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, How the Shopping Cart Explains Global Consumerism, and reported the following:
This, to be honest, turned out to be something of an anticlimax. On submitting to Ford Madox Ford’s famous test, I experienced the usual low-level anxieties, wondering what stylistic outrages I would find in the middle stretches of my new book. But when I reached page 99 of How the Shopping Cart Explains Global Consumerism, I discovered that the helpful typesetters at the University of California Press had handed me a free pass: rather than my own unvarnished prose, it features someone else’s photograph [below left; click to enlarge]—and a really interesting one at that.

As a press photographer in postwar Washington DC, Thomas O’Halloran usually plied his trade by focusing on the manly icons of the Cold War: John Glenn, LBJ, Nixon, Kissinger, Khrushchev. But it is his impromptu shots—his images of off-duty soldiers, mustering Civil Rights marchers, and Virginian schoolchildren—that are perhaps likelier to catch the eye today, opening a window on everyday Washington life. His 1957 photos of unnamed customers in a suburban supermarket certainly captured my interest, and not
“Shopping in Supermarket” 1957
least as they call attention to details in this new approach to food shopping that never showed up depicted in the newspaper and TV ads of the period. Maybe, like such promotional material, they too confirm that Americans were becoming a “people of plenty,” in David M. Potter’s phrase. But whereas female shoppers in these ads often seem at ease, even spellbound by such plenty, O’Halloran shows how his subjects must kneel and bend and reach into it, inspecting and calculating it as they assemble the “big shop” of the week. As such he reminds us that the supermarket’s epic achievement of transferring American plenty into American homes only became possible because such stores handed an individual cart to each of their shoppers and required them to fill it up.

Although it is given over to visual illustration, then, page 99 still encapsulates the later stages of How the Shopping Cart Explains Global Consumerism. It captures what I elsewhere try to put into words: that the cart acts upon us as individual consumers by urging us to consume, to consume too much, and to take upon ourselves some of the work of this overconsumption. But I would add that, in emphasising both the long parallel lines of the grocery shelves and the text and images of the packages placed upon them, O’Halloran’s unusual perspective also looks ahead to modes of shopping that have become prevalent in our own period. His shoppers here become speed readers, rapidly scanning the shelves before they reach through the representation of the thing to pick up the thing itself. This alone seems to me to call attention to the continuities between the supermarkets of the last century and the touchscreen technology of today, and to the way in which the latter, too, urges us to scan a rich surface of vibrant goods and to spirit those we want or need into a cart whose overall price is not quite under our control. Opinions will no doubt differ in this regard, but I think the photo is full of contemporary resonances; a justification, if you like, for the fact that the central verb of my book’s title—Explains—is in the present, not past, tense.
Learn more about How the Shopping Cart Explains Global Consumerism at the University of California Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Savage Barbecue.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Jean E. Jackson's "Managing Multiculturalism"

Jean E. Jackson is Professor Emerita of Anthropology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her books include Indigenous Movements, Self-Representation and the State in Latin America (2002), co-edited with Kay B. Warren, and "Camp Pain": Talking with Chronic Pain Patients (2000).

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Managing Multiculturalism: Indigeneity and the Struggle for Rights in Colombia, and reported the following:
With respect to Ford Madox Ford’s statement about page 99 of a book revealing the “quality of the whole,” I have this to say: it depends on the reader. If we know very little about the genre called ethnography, then we will get a pretty good impression of what ethnographic description looks like from page 99 of my book, Managing Multiculturalism: Indigeneity and the Struggle for Rights in Colombia. That page describes the plight of a group of desperate naked women and children, members of a hunter-gatherer culture known as Nukak, who have decided to travel to a frontier town in a particularly lawless plains area of eastern Colombia and throw themselves on the mercies of the townspeople. We learn that various non-indigenous actors—missionaries, anthropologists, state agents—are searching for an effective humanitarian solution. We get a glimpse of my authorial position with the appearance of the word “putative,” and comments about government bureaucrats’ mistakes lead us to guess that the solution chosen will not be successful.

But a reader who knows much more about what good ethnographies do will feel, most likely, quite bereft. The page contains no discussion, theorizing, contextualizing nor history—no real analysis.
Learn more about Managing Multiculturalism at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 8, 2019

Margaret Mih Tillman's "Raising China's Revolutionaries"

Margaret Mih Tillman is an assistant professor of history at Purdue University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Raising China's Revolutionaries: Modernizing Childhood for Cosmopolitan Nationalists and Liberated Comrades, 1920s-1950s, and reported the following:
From page 99:
In these early days of the Japanese Occupation, Westerners continued to run “the lone island” in ways that belied their true status as Western imperialists rather than auxiliary modernizers of the Chinese state. Nevertheless,the International Settlement also gave Chinese elites, especially those oriented to the West, an independent base to continue their operations during the war. Tensions in the International Settlement mounted as the United States increasingly came into conflict with Japan. In early 1941 the United States issued a blockade on Shanghai. Owing to concerns about the flight of financial assets from China, the U.S. Treasury froze Japanese and Chinese assets in the United States, rendering it difficult to wire money to China. The year 1941 thus marked a nadir for U.S. funding for Chinese child welfare, which halted temporarily before famine conditions forced the ROC to assume greater responsibility. In that same year Western missionaries noticed that collaborationist governments (established in 1938) also ramped up anti-Western sentiment and advised “loyal Chinese subjects” to build their own Christian Church, since all “religion must be united to the State,” in accordance with Japanese policies.

Even after the retreat of the ROC in November 1937, those who remained behind continued the work of the Shanghai NCWA [National Child Welfare Association]. National leaders like Kong Xiangxi left to serve the ROC, but many middling professionals stayed in Shanghai. Among them were Christians like Chen Heqin and Reverend Andrew Wu, as well as the Chinese Christian women who executed much of the wartime relief work. NCWA accountant Lin Kanghou (1876–1949), who had during the warfare of 1937 suggested diverting SFCO funds to attend to the wounded military, remained in Shanghai throughout the war. In 1938, acting as Shanghai NCWA treasurer from the Chung Wai Bank Building, Lin appealed to the French Settlement for funds to care for children sent by the court. To continue these operations after 1941, Lin registered the Shanghai NCWA with the Social Welfare Bureau of the Occupation government. He succeeded in petitioning ​the collaborationist Shanghai municipal government for subsidies. (In 1945 Lin was sentenced to six years imprisonment on charges of collaboration with the Japanese.) In Chongqing, Kong Xiangxi also continued correspondence via the International Settlement of Shanghai even after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Kong probably considered these ... [channels a clandestine maneuver to fortify ROC legitimacy behind enemy lines.​]
Page 99 appears at the beginning of the conclusion for Chapter Three: "The Calculus of Child Welfare: the Democratization of Fundraising for Shanghai, 1937-1942." As such, it's less evidentiary based (as would be the case for a middle section), or theoretical/comparative (as might be the case for an introductory section), and more broadly synthetic and narrative. That chapter covers the withdrawal of the Nationalist Chinese government in the wake of Japanese aggression, and shows that Chinese Christians were able to continue to conduct charity work in Shanghai’s International Settlement based on the privileges afforded to Americans, which remained in effect before Pearl Harbor. This context, I argue, highlighted the semi-colonial dimensions of transnational philanthropy (even when led by local Chinese) in ways that had been less obvious before; the specifically Christian character of the children's charity I focus on, the National Child Welfare Association, also became more prominent with the absence of the Nationalist Chinese state. The privation of war and the refugee crisis also pushed charity organizations to cooperate with outsider groups such as Buddhists, and to become more transparent in their fundraising activities and accounts. In that chapter, I also examine what I call the "democratization" of fundraising, from large, elite donors to small, private donors in both the US and in China. I examine new and more popular methods of fundraising, as well as minutes from charity organizations and their published records, to indicate this expansion, which included the sale of materials directed at children for the benefit of other children. Fundraisers argued that children were both uniquely vulnerable as well as especially resilient and thus a good investment for charity. My point is to draw attention to the effect of the war on reshaping elite philanthropy for children.

The page is good indication of the rest of the work as a whole in terms of analyzing transnational organizations and political forces that shaped child welfare. The book spans the period from the 1920s to the 1950s. The chapter described above is but one of two chapters on the wartime period because it was a significant turning point with ramifications for postwar reconstruction. Despite the ultimate breakdown of significant Allied partnerships with the onset of the Cold War, Raising China’s Revolutionaries argues for the endurance of some of the social relationships and symbolic meanings of childhood, such as the conferral of national significance onto children.
Learn more about Raising China's Revolutionaries at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Kristen Ghodsee's "Second World, Second Sex"

Kristen Ghodsee is Professor of Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Her books include Red Hangover: Legacies of Twentieth-Century Communism, Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism: And Other Arguments for Economic Independence, and the newly released Second World, Second Sex: Socialist Women's Activism and Global Solidarity during the Cold War.

Ghodsee applied the “Page 99 Test” to Second Sex and reported the following:
Page 99 is the second page of my 4th chapter, “A Brief History of Women’s Activism in Domestic Political Context – Case 2: Zambia.” This page is a record of a conversation that I shared with a woman named Chibesa Kankasa in January of 2013 in Lusaka, Zambia. Kankasa was the president of the United National Independence Party (UNIP) - Women’s League for many years, and today she is considered a national heroine in her country. Through her personal story of growing up under British colonialism and the efforts that she and her husband made to create a free and independent country in Southern Africa, this chapter explores the specific historical context of women’s organizing after Zambia’s independence in 1964.

On this page, Chibesa Kankasa tells me:
“This country was ruled by capitalists. It was ruled by colonialists before when it was the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The colonialists ruled with an iron bar. The system was that of horse and the rider. Let the natives be the horses and the white settlers be the riders. Women of this country were looked down on as second-class citizens. We were not allowed to enter any European markets; we called them European butcheries. The reason was because [Europeans thought that] African women had a bad smell.”
Since the book focuses on the relationship between socialist women in Eastern Europe and socialist-leaning background information for why Zambian women later found their interests aligned with women from the Eastern Bloc, particularly during the United Nations International Women’s Year (1975) and the subsequent U.N. International Decade for Women (1976-1985). The major argument of the book is that socialist alliances of leftist women provided an important foil to Western liberal feminists on the international stage during the Cold War, and that superpower rivalries over which economic system could better emancipate women proved a catalyst for social progress for women across the globe.
Learn more about Second World, Second Sex at the Duke University Press website.

Writers Read: Kristen Ghodsee.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Kieran Connell's "Black Handsworth"

Kieran Connell is Lecturer in Contemporary British History at Queen’s University Belfast. He is co-editor of Cultural Studies 50 Years On: History, Practice, Politics (2016).

Connell applied the “Page 99 Test” to his recent book, Black Handsworth: Race in 1980s Britain, and reported the following:
I was delighted when I turned to page 99 of Black Handsworth and found a photograph. I’m not sure how this fits in with Ford Madox Ford’s famous maxim that the 99th page of a book is a guide to the overall quality of an author’s writing. But it is certainly in keeping with an approach I have taken throughout my work – in Black Handsworth, which has nineteen illustrations and a chapter dedicated to the ‘politics of representation’, and beyond. The photograph on page 99 also encapsulates the wider arguments I am attempting to make in the book. It shows a performance by an African dance troupe based in Handsworth, an inner city area of Birmingham – Britain’s second largest city and my book’s case study. The troupe was made up of local black youth, most of whom had been born in Britain but – in the context of widespread societal racism and socio-economic disadvantage in Britain’s turbulent 1980s – were going through a profound crisis in identity. African dance, I argue in this chapter, like reggae music, the styles of Rastafarianism and a more general ‘sound system’ culture, helped facilitate an encounter with the politics and cultures of diaspora – one that had a critical impact in helping this generation come to terms with the many inequalities of the locale. In turn, I suggest toward the end of the book, this helped establish the diverse nature of the diasporic tradition as a forcible presence in the everyday landscapes of post-colonial Britain – in Handsworth and far beyond.
Learn more about Black Handsworth at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Wendy Kline's "Coming Home"

Wendy Kline is professor and Dema G. Seelye Chair in the History of Medicine in the Department of History at Purdue University. She is the author of Building a Better Race: Gender, Sexuality, and Eugenics from the Turn of the Century to the Baby Boom and Bodies of Knowledge: Sexuality, Reproduction, and Women's Health in the Second Wave.

Kline applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Coming Home: How Midwives Changed Birth, and reported the following:
The “Bowland Bust,” as I call it in the book, is one of the most surprising and significant moments in the history of alternative birth in the recent United States. So I’m delighted that a humorous description of the arrest, as well as a photograph of the undercover agents in hippie regalia, appear on page 99 of Coming Home:
The scene unfolding inside the Birth Center quickly drew media attention. The drama was enhanced by the appearance of two officers in hippie attire, much to the puzzlement and amusement of witnesses. Carol Bredsel, a registered nurse who was in the house during the raid, described the disguises as “really hysterical. I don’t know why they wore those hippy clothes. I told the guy, ‘your beads are getting caught up in your beard.” Linda Bennett reflected, “it’s as if you decided to dress as a hippie and you only had Woolworth’s.”
Because of the presence of the photograph, there isn’t very much text on the page, thus limiting the extent to which a reader can get a sense of the entire book. However, it’s such an intriguing moment – the reader knows that there’s been a raid, and that somehow, law enforcement believed that undercover agents disguised as hippies would result in greater acquiescence among the midwives and pregnant women located within the center. Readers might be familiar with the conflicts between the counterculture and law enforcement (particularly around illicit drug use), but unaware that the subject of home birth was equally, if not more, a source of major tension at the time.

Coming Home tracks the source of that tension – the rising tide of home births beginning in the 1970s along with the increasing visibility of midwives. For many, this came as a surprise. By the mid-twentieth century, two things appeared destined for extinction in the United States: the practice of home birth and the profession of midwifery. In 1940, close to half of all U.S. births took place in the hospital, and the trend was increasing. By 1970, the percentage of hospital births reached an all-time high of 99.4%, and the obstetrician, rather than the midwife, assumed nearly complete control over what had become an entirely medicalized procedure. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, an explosion of new alternative organizations, publications, and conferences cropped up, documenting a very different demographic trend; by 1977, the percentage of out-of-hospital births had more than doubled. Home birth was making a comeback, but why? A quiet revolution spread across cities and suburbs, towns and farms, as individuals challenged legal, institutional and medical protocols by choosing unlicensed midwives to catch their babies at home. Drawing on archival materials and interviews with midwives, doctors, and home birth consumers, Coming Home analyzes the ideas, values, and experiences that led to this quiet revolution and its long-term consequences for our understanding of birth, medicine, and culture.
Learn more about Coming Home at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 4, 2019

David McGowan's "Animated Personalities"

David McGowan is a professor of animation history at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Savannah, GA.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Animated Personalities: Cartoon Characters and Stardom in American Theatrical Shorts, and reported the following:
My manuscript argues that animated characters of the studio era should be viewed as legitimate stars – not just because they were given lead roles in Hollywood films, but because they were also regularly evoked in surrounding media texts as individuals with an apparent private existence. Page 99 of the book is part of a chapter on the Second World War. This particular page covers The New Spirit (1942), a Donald Duck cartoon made by Disney for the United States Treasury, in which the Duck learns the value of paying his taxes promptly and accurately to support the war effort. The film makes some surprising revelations about Donald’s life as an actor, including his $2501 annual salary from the Disney Studio. Such a figure was significantly lower than most human stars of the period and – although this was clearly just a fictional construct – it generated some positive responses in a number of contemporary publications. Time magazine, for instance, noted that the Duck’s modest salary – which also had to cover the childcare costs of his adopted nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie – reflected “pure patriotism” on the part of Disney’s protagonist.

The New Spirit did, however, manage to generate some controversy. While a human actor could theoretically step in front of the camera and donate his or her services for free, animation was somewhat pricier. The budget of The New Spirit allegedly exceeded $40,000 and – while the film was broadly viewed as a success in its propaganda efforts – the production cost became the subject of debate in several quarters. Although the actual controversy surrounded the Disney Studio and the US Treasury, it is notable how often Donald Duck was personally brought into this discussion. Senator Sheridan Downey even spoke up for Donald in Congress, meaning that the official Congressional Record has an entry for “Duck, Donald” – as well as “Disney, Walt” – in its index.

The discussion surrounding The New Spirit reiterates my wider argument in the book that the animated status of cartoon stars was rarely a barrier to them being treated as distinct personalities in their own right – even, as page 99 indicates, by elected government officials! Cartoon characters proved their ability to create enough of a tangible impression on the screen to inspire a nation, and even generate some controversy in the process.
Learn more about Animated Personalities at the University of Texas Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 2, 2019

John Wall's "Streamliner"

John Wall has a BA from Ohio State University, worked as a journalist at Pacific Stars and Stripes in Tokyo, Japan, the Toledo Blade, Insight magazine and the Altoona Mirror. At the Mirror he also was a syndicated movie critic for Thomson Newspapers.

In 1994 Wall left journalism to become a writer-editor at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences and later worked as director of media relations at Juniata College, a tiny liberal arts college in rural central Pennsylvania. He's now retired and lives in Altoona, Pa. and is mulling over ideas for his next project.

Wall applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Streamliner: Raymond Loewy and Image-making in the Age of American Industrial Design, and reported the following:
As I leafed through Streamliner: Raymond Loewy and Image-making in the Age of Industrial Design toward page 99, I was a bit anxious that the target page would fall upon one of Raymond Loewy’s more obscure designs or that the page would center on railroad statistics or the historical background for one of the many industries Loewy worked in. After all, when you write a book about one of the most influential industrial designers of the 20th century, choosing a single page to write about could result in an exegesis of the design of Air Force One or, unfortunately, an explanation of how a cream separator operates.

Imagine the relief when page 99 turned out to be the resting place for one of the book’s most important photographs, a shot of Raymond Loewy posing in the middle of the “Designer’s Studio,” a special exhibit Loewy created with architect Lee Simonson for a 1937 exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s one of the more familiar images of Loewy and had appeared in pretty much every book or article ever written about the man who some influential critics and authors consider “the father of industrial design.” This also is the same person other design writers denigrate as a shallow opportunist who sold a public image of himself while taking credit for others’ designs. As I discovered while researching and writing this book, there are elements of truth in both views and clues to both sides of Raymond Loewy are contained in this single image.

The design career of Raymond Loewy, who emigrated from France to the United States after World War I, stretched from 1928 almost until his death in 1986. His design career began with a simple “makeover” for an ungainly European copying machine called the Gestetner Duplicator. He, along with three other pioneering designers — Norman bel Geddes, Walter Dorwin Teague and Henry Dreyfuss — transformed the American consumer marketplace by democratizing design, creating products that put beautiful objects within affordable reach for rich, poor and in between. Loewy accumulated assignments and attracted attention for his designs for Sears (the Coldspot refrigerator), the Pennsylvania Railroad (three classic streamlined locomotives), International Harvester (tractors and corporate logo, American Tobacco (Lucky Strike), Coca-Cola, NASA (Skylab) and Studebaker Motor Company (the 1953 Starliner coupe, the Avanti sports car).

The photo of Loewy in a model design is a classic study of the artist as businessman. Loewy is immaculately attired in patterned slacks and sports jacket. He’s perched against a desk so minimalist it looks barely able to sustain his weight. The space, with walls lined by horizontal moldings, horizontal windows finished in a semicircle, and metal-framed furniture, is decorated by a model of a Loewy automobile and framed sketches of a ferry Loewy designed for a subsidiary of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The photograph is aesthetically perfect and taken in the perfectly composed “Hollywood glossy” style of George Hurrell and Cecil Beaton. The preserved image was one of Loewy’s most important photo opportunities, as it established for the public what a designer should look like. Loewy also realized that photography and publicity would be the key to making the term “designer” and “Loewy” synonymous. Until his retirement in the late 1970s, Loewy never missed an opportunity to be interviewed, photographed or consulted, almost always next to one of his designs. He was among the first to realize that successful people must not only be recognizable but also identifiable in the correct context. Close observers of the photo see the office is hardly functional and would be a used in the real world. It is tiny, cramped, and bereft of the storage space any businessperson would need. The office is, in the end, a stage set, created by a man who had no connection to the theater yet constantly played the role of the cultured, cosmopolitan aesthete.

The rest of the book examines how Loewy created the art of “branding” to hone his image with every design his company produced. The book also traces Loewy’s gift for design—not necessarily a hands-on talent—but rather as an editor armed with what one of his business partners called “unerring taste.” When consumers see Loewy posed next to a product, Ralph Lauren in a faded denim jacket, Martha Stewart next to a bountiful table, and even President Donald Trump with a black bankers overcoat and long red tie, the spark of familiarity conceivably can be traced back to this photo.
Learn more about Streamliner, and visit John Wall's website.

Writers Read: John Wall.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 28, 2019

W. K. Stratton's "The Wild Bunch"

W.K. Stratton is the author of several books of nonfiction and poetry. He has written for Sports Illustrated, Outside, GQ, and Texas Monthly, and was named a Fellow of the Texas Institute of Letters in 2017. He is a longtime resident of Austin, Texas.

Stratton applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Wild Bunch: Sam Peckinpah, a Revolution in Hollywood, and the Making of a Legendary Film, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Officials at Paramount believed that it was time to bring Villa back to the big screen as well. Sam Peckinpah, resurrected by “Noon Wine,” seemed to be the ideal person to write the screenplay. Lansford already was on board with Paramount, having written a treatment. Paramount set both him and Sam up in offices on the studio lot, though they were far from luxurious. James Coburn, who’d acted in Major Dundee, paid Peckinpah a visit at Sam’s cramped writing space. Coburn felt sorry for his old director. He remembered how Peckinpah had lorded over Major Dundee’s production, a general in command of his troops. Now he seemed reduced to groveling for the Paramount brass just to get back in the door. It was anything but a humiliating experience for Peckinpah. Instead, it was as if he’d enrolled in a graduate-degree program in the Mexican Revolution. He was reading everything he could about it, exhausting Paramount’s substantial research department as well as ordering additional books from nearby university libraries. One thing that Paramount wanted in the script was the development of a fictional character, a gringo mercenary well acquainted with the twentieth-century technologies of war. Peckinpah’s fascination with gringos caught up in the revolution grew as he built a script. He was especially affected by the photographs he saw in books and ancient yellowed newspapers.
This paragraph indeed captures much of what The Wild Bunch: Sam Peckinpah, a Revolution in Hollywood, and the Making of a Legendary Film is about. The narrative arc of my book is built around whether Sam Peckinpah, who was blacklisted by Hollywood in the mid-1960s, could somehow redeem himself in the eyes of studio executives and return to the director’s chair to create a classic motion picture. He managed to do that with The Wild Bunch. But how? He found his path through a failed project. He had been hired by Paramount to adapt a biography of Pancho Villa written by Bill Lansford for a movie to star Yul Brynner. Peckinpah took the job because he needed the money. It seemed like a humbling experience for a man who’d once directed an epic for Columbia Pictures (Major Dundee). But he made the most of it. He dived deeply into researching the Mexican Revolution. His drafts reflected Peckinpah’s love for Mexico, its people and its history, but it presented Villa as a complicated person, neither all good nor all bad. Brynner, seeking to portray a two-dimensional heroic version of Villa, hated what Peckinpah wrote and had him fired off the picture. But the flames of the Mexican Revolution continued to burn in Peckinpah’s mind, and when he was offered the chance to do rewrites on the script (originally written by Walon Green) for a project called The Wild Bunch, he used much of what he learned about the Mexican Revolution while working on Brynner’s project. The Wild Bunch is the story of a group of Anglo bandits and their Mexican comrade who get caught up in capers along the U.S.-Mexico border at the time of the Mexican Revolution. It involves themes of loyalty, betrayal, the destructive nature of modern technology, and redemption. It also opened the doors for the realistic betrayal of violent death. The Wild Bunch was controversial when it opened, but it was a box office success and, ultimately, came to be regarded as a classic. Peckinpah succeed and made other successful films.
Visit W. K. Stratton's website.

Writers Read: W. K. Stratton.

My Book, The Movie: The Wild Bunch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Elaine Shannon's "Hunting LeRoux"

Elaine Shannon, acclaimed veteran correspondent for Time and Newsweek, is the author of the New York Times bestseller Desperados: Latin Drug Lords, U.S. Lawmen, and the War America Can’t Win, which served as the basis for Michael Mann’s Emmy-winning NBC miniseries Drug Wars: The Camarena Story, and its Emmy-nominated sequel, Drug Wars: The Cocaine Cartel. Shannon is a highly respected investigative reporter, trusted by law enforcement and intelligence organizations, and an expert on terrorism, organized crime, and espionage. She is the author of No Heroes: Inside the FBI’s Secret Counter-Terror Force and The Spy Next Door: The Extraordinary Secret Life of Robert Philip Hanssen.

Shannon applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Hunting LeRoux: The Inside Story of the DEA Takedown of a Criminal Genius and His Empire, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Jack found it bizarre that LeRoux entrusted a dissolute creep like Smith with so much money and property, but then, everything about LeRoux was inscrutable. All Jack could figure was, Smith was not only LeRoux’s alter ego but also his lightning rod. Smith attracted all the attention. If anything bad happened, it was easy to believe that this central-casting bad guy was the guilty one. Nobody seemed to ask who was behind him.

Over a beer or two, Smith satisfied himself that Jack was who he said he was. In a couple of days, he decided it was time for Jack to meet the Boss.

But not at Sid’s. Never at Sid’s. LeRoux never darkened the doors of the pub. For one thing, he didn’t drink. “His brain had to stay clear all the time,” Jack said. For another, he didn’t like to socialize. Smith, Leo, and the other mercenaries who frequented the place were just hired hands—tools. Their conversation, about tits, sausages, and guns, was too basic to interest LeRoux.

Smith escorted Jack to LeRoux’s penthouse for the job interview. At the door, Smith handed Jack off to three Filipino bodyguards who searched him for weapons and wires and ushered him into the cavernous living room.

LeRoux lumbered in, lowered himself onto one of the straight-backed chairs, pulled it up to the square table, and motioned for Jack to sit across from him. He didn’t offer his guest as much as a cup of tea. When he walked into the penthouse, Jack assumed that LeRoux was a fat tech mogul with a boatload of cash and an itch to do something more colorful. A nerd. But when the big man began to speak, Jack changed his mind. This guy was no nerd, and he wasn’t soft. He was a force of nature, like a big wave that bowled you over if you resisted but floated you upward if you gave in. He expressed himself clearly, in complete sentences, no “uhs,” “ums,” “y’knows,” “likes,” or the dreaded “Know what I’m sayin’?” His supremely confident attitude was overpowering. He clearly knew what he wanted and where he was going to get it. When Jack was in LeRoux’s presence, it didn’t occur to him not to obey.
This Page 99 test is uncanny. Brilliant. I’m sure that Hunting LeRoux passes the test.

On page 99 of Hunting LeRoux, a guileless young seafarer in search of adventure finds it, and a lot more. Readers already sense how this will go. The young man chooses the name Jack, but he might have picked Ishmael or Willard or Marlow.

Through Jack’s eyes, we meet LeRoux’s gatekeeper, Dave Smith, a professional killer addled by meth and sex, and then the Boss himself. LeRoux comes into focus slowly, as Jack struggles to assess the hulking, complicated character who is about to take possession of his soul. We see LeRoux’s confident smile and begin to smell what’s behind it, the monster clawing to get out.

Nobody in Hunting LeRoux is what he seems. Paul LeRoux looks like a rich eccentric nerd. In fact, he is a renegade tech entrepreneur who becomes the first Silicon Valley-style organized crime boss. He launches a crime network with a computer and three or four people. His virtual network, globalized and highly efficient and effective, can supply the full range of illegal commodities in ways old-school Mafiosi and cartels never dreamed. He enjoys killing and wants to do more.

On Page 99, when LeRoux begins to speak, he takes control of the room, revealing himself as a “force of nature.” It is a display of psychic power LeRoux will repeat many times. Jack’s confusion and passivity foreshadow an off-balance relationship destined to grow more twisted and intense. We know enough about human nature to ask, when will Jack snap? And what happens then? Because we’re already pretty sure Jack won’t get away on his own.

The question foreshadows the arrival of hunters – Tommy Cindric and Eric Stouch, the DEA partners who find out about LeRoux, climb up into LeRoux's strange big brain, and match him move for move. When they find out he’s a chess player, they call their investigation Operation Checkmate. Their play is far more intricate than chess. They have to figure out what will tempt a man who has almost everything he wants. What’s left? But Tommy and Eric aren’t as simple as they pretend. They have secrets of their own.
Visit Elaine Shannon's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Kathleen Day's "Broken Bargain"

Kathleen Day worked for thirty years as a business journalist with the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today before joining the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School as a professor of financial crises in 2013. She lives in Washington, DC.

Day applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Broken Bargain: Bankers, Bailouts, and the Struggle to Tame Wall Street, and reported the following:
Page 99:
states-rights advocates in the Jeffersonian tradition, who feared that branching would create just the sort of large urban money centers they had long mistrusted. These advocates favored deposit insurance as a way of preserving small rural banks. The fight over branching and, by extension, deposit insurance was a much more visceral issue than the question of whether to separate commercial and investment banking, which had almost unanimous support. Arguments over insurance and branching, by contrast, threatened to torpedo all of Glass-Steagall.

As bank runs and closings accelerated in the winter of 1933, proposals to use deposit insurance to protect savings and thus avert runs gathered more support than motions to expand branching. The national and state bank holidays, coupled with snags in the Fed’s role as lender of last resort, accelerated calls for some kind of permanent guarantee for depositors. Deposit insurance addressed a central paradox of banking: when people think they can get their money, they don’t want to. If they think they can’t, they do. Branching would help with this, but a federal guarantee was more concrete, and in many cases it would make a lender of last resort unnecessary. Deposit insurance had many opponents, but its star ascended when the Fed failed to act as lender of last resort from 1930 to 1933.

The idea of insurance wasn’t new. New York State had experimented with deposit insurance in 1829, and between 1886 and 1933, Congress considered 150 deposit insurance proposals. None went anywhere. After the panic of 1907, seven states—Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Texas, Mississippi, South Dakota, and North Dakota—guaranteed deposits at state-chartered banks, but these plans were overwhelmed by the massive number of bank failures in the 1920s. The state funds failed not just because so many banks went under at once, but also because too many had been given coverage without sufficient screening to weed out weaker, poorly run firms.

Beyond these failed efforts, deposit insurance proved controversial for another good reason. Although insurance calmed depositors, it also made them indifferent to how their bank was run. Depositors’ indifference is an instance of what economists call “moral hazard,” a situation where someone receives the benefits of a financial action or decision but is shielded from any downside. Insured depositors, for example, would get their money if a bank prospered or failed. People in this or similar financial situation, opponents of insurance argued, might be not only indifferent to risks, but encouraged to take bigger and
Ford Madox Ford's statement "Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you," is accurate for my book.

This page captures the essence of the nation’s debate in the 1930s over federal deposit insurance: Republican President Herbert Hoover and smaller banks favored it as a way to calm depositors and thus stop the thousands of bank runs and subsequent failures that were plaguing the country, contracting credit and making the depression longer and deeper. Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt opposed it. He argued that while deposit insurance might end runs, it would do so by making depositors’ indifferent to whether the banks into which they put their money were prudently run or not. That in turn could saddle taxpayers with enormous liability.

FDR finally relented, agreeing to federal deposit insurance in exchange for legislation he wanted to encourage home ownership and for tighter oversight of banks to mitigate risks to taxpayers.

FDR proved to be correct: Deposit insurance bred moral hazard—defined on page 99--among depositors, who were willing during the banking crisis of the 1980s to deposit money in increasingly risky “zombie” banks—insolvent institutions that should have been closed. Depositors knew they would get their money whether or not a bank fell into ruin. Instead of closing these dead banks, Presidents Ronald Reagan and George G.W. Bush used bogus accounting to keep them open to hide—until after the elections—a growing liability taxpayers eventually would have to pay. Reagan and Bush could only do this because deposit insurance calmed depositors—so much so they happily put their savings in zombie banks, which in their desperation for cash offered higher-than-market interest rates. Retail depositors knew they wouldn’t lose money, even on these irresponsibly high rates, because their fellow taxpayers would pick up the tab. Knowing this made members of the public, including many policymakers, indifferent to what was going on. That allowed the situation to continue and worsen.

The ensuing $500 billion bailout was 10 times more expensive than if the banks had been closed years earlier, when they first became insolvent. It remains the costliest in U.S. history. The bailouts of the Great Depression 10 years ago were far bigger—$24 trillion by some estimates—but because that money was either repaid or never spent, the 1980s bailout remains the costliest.

This page outlines a key aspect of a debate Americans have had going back to Jefferson and Hamilton over how to prevent the dangers posed by banks and corporations from outweighing their benefits. It sets the stage for one of the grand bargains Congress struck with Wall Street, that of providing a taxpayer-subsidized safety net of deposit insurance in exchange for more oversight. It’s a bargain regulators break when they fall down on the job—which they do repeatedly—and that we as a nation have wrestled with ever since.
Learn more about Broken Bargain at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 22, 2019

Darius Bost's "Evidence of Being"

Darius Bost is assistant professor of ethnic studies in the School for Cultural and Social Transformation at the University of Utah. He applied thePage 99 Test” to his new book, Evidence of Being: The Black Gay Cultural Renaissance and the Politics of Violence, and reported the following:
Page ninety-nine of Evidence of Being explores the significance of my analysis of black gay writer, translator, and scholar Melvin Dixon’s diaries to the field of black queer studies. Dixon died of AIDS in 1992, and his unpublished diaries offer one of the only accounts of gay men of color’s experiences of AIDS amid a plethora of accounts centered on white gay men. More broadly, the diaries provide one of the most extensive historical accounts of black gay life in the 1970s and 80s. By centering the experiences of black gay men like Dixon, my book contextualizes AIDS within a broader field of racialized and sexualized violence that has rendered black men more vulnerable to the virus since its appearance in 1981. But this chapter also seeks to challenge theories of the AIDS diary as predominantly occupied with what it feels like to be dying. Dixon’s diaries, conversely, represent his efforts to move towards life—to make some sense of his relationship to categories like race, sexuality, and (human) being, categories which he never properly inhabited, but which converged in his negotiation of everyday life. Because Dixon was conscious of how race, gender, and sexuality structure whose lives are remembered and whose histories are archived, he was preoccupied with life writing (and other forms of creative writing) as a way of leaving an archival trace of his life for future (black queer) readers. And though his diaries end abruptly, marking his sudden death from AIDS, I theorize the blank pages of the diary as offering the possibility for imagining black queer futures beyond the racial and sexual violence that ended Dixon’s life prematurely and that structures the ongoing epidemic of AIDS in black gay communities. In sum, Dixon’s diaries, like the other literary and cultural works I examine in the book, offer evidence of black gay being that is not tethered to the death-dealing epistemes that continue to mark black gay life for civic and corporeal death. Instead, the diary as a literary form is future-oriented, imagining more utopian political possibilities for black gay life beyond a death-bound horizon.
Learn more about Evidence of Being at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Debra Gwartney's "I Am a Stranger Here Myself"

Born in Salmon, Idaho, a fifth generation Idahoan, Debra Gwartney is the winner of the 2018 RiverTeeth Nonfiction Prize, judged by Gretel Ehrlich. Her new book is a hybrid memoir-history, called I Am a Stranger Here Myself. Gwartney’s first book is a memoir, Live Through This (2009), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award, and the Oregon Book Award.

Gwartney applied the “Page 99 Test” to I Am a Stranger Here Myself and reported the following:
Narcissa Whitman was purportedly the first Caucasian woman to cross the Rocky Mountains. She did so in 1836, along with her missionary husband Marcus and another missionary couple, Henry and Eliza Spalding. Narcissa was the first Caucasian woman to settle in the frontier West, to establish a home, a compound, a way-station, a religious mission and school. She was also the first to give birth to a white child in a makeshift mud and grass dwelling, located just a few miles outside of current-day Walla Walla, Washington.

A whole lot of “firsts,” and yet Narcissa is remembered, too, for her stiffness, her stern comportment, her tight-lipped judgment of all ways but her own. The Cayuse Tribe, whose lands the Whitmans settled on—taking up swaths of acreage for themselves—soon began to call her “haughty.” A faction of the tribe grew to despise her, blame her for all they had suffered (a whole lot) and, on a bitterly frozen day in 1847, eleven years after their arrival, Narcissa, Marcus, and a dozen others were struck down by that band of Cayuse, a bloody slaughter that shaped the very formation of the frontier West.

My book is mostly about identity—a need at my ripe old age to understand myself as a Woman in the West, born to ridiculously young parents in the mountains of Idaho and raised in a strictly patriarchal and yet wildly raucous family. I turn to Narcissa to wedge open a keen sense of the early days of the West. She, after all, set the tone for the hundreds of thousands of white people who poured in after her. She was their icon, their martyr, the very symbol of endurance, fortitude. The representative of the tenets of Manifest Destiny. That’s how she’s been cast over the years, anyway, in service to the folklore of the West that trembles, still, through the definition of the region and the definition of my family.

Page 99 is a curious one, reminding me that I discovered, during years of researching this enigmatic woman, was a vulnerability she kept hidden from everyone. Mostly herself. Her hardness a façade that began to crumble in sad and horrible ways after her only child, Alice Clarissa, drowned at age two in the river behind the family’s house. But early on, as described on page 99, she cloaked herself in her service to God, her only meaning and purpose. Her journal is full of praise of Him and the mandate she had taken on—to convert the “savages” of the West. She hides her abject loneliness, her fear, her ultimate sorrow. For instance, in this passage, she gives herself only the smallest opportunity to gripe, and it’s in regard to safe territory, food, “I thot I would tell what kind of dish we had set before us this morning. It is called black pudding. It is not a favourite with us Americans. It is made of blood & the fat of hogs, spiced and filled into a gut.” No one back home was going to fault her for that opinion.
Visit Debra Gwartney's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Noelle Gallagher's "Itch, Clap, Pox"

Noelle Gallagher is Senior Lecturer in Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture at the University of Manchester. She is the author of Historical Literatures: Writing About the Past in England, 1600-1740.

Gallagher applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Itch, Clap, Pox: Venereal Disease in the Eighteenth-Century Imagination, and reported the following:
It was great fun to participate in the experiment of reading page 99 from Itch, Clap, Pox—not least because I suffer from the commonplace writer’s fear of opening my newly-published book to discover a spectacularly flagrant typographical error (“pubic” for “public,” “busty” for “busy”—that sort of thing). Fortunately, page 99 is typo free. It appears midway through a chapter on the relationship between representations of venereal disease and representations of prostitution in eighteenth-century literature and graphic art. In this section of the book, I discuss how prostitutes’ memoirs, graphic artworks (like Hogarth’s 1732 series Harlot’s Progress), and eighteenth-century novels (like Tobias Smollett’s 1748 Roderick Random) ultimately provide a more sympathetic and nuanced portrait of the infected prostitute than we might expect from the imaginative works of this period. In the chapter on “Pox and Prostitution,” I argue that while satiric texts like Swift’s “A Beautiful Nymph Going to Bed” attack the figure of the “pocky whore,” works like Hogarth’s and Smollett’s invite us to see the infected prostitute as an object of sympathy. Just as the heroine of Hogarth’s series, Moll Hackabout, is an innocent Yorkshire lass lured into prostitution and subsequently abandoned to a painful death from venereal infection, so the character of Miss Williams in Smollett’s Roderick Random speaks eloquently on her plight: forced into prostitution by financial necessity after she is abandoned by her lover, Miss Williams contracts venereal disease after years of mistreatment and abuse by cruel—and in some cases criminal—male clients. Smollett’s novel takes care to identify Miss Williams as the equal of the novel’s hero, Roderick, in her resourcefulness and intelligence. As Roderick himself points out, they differ in their fortunes only because of the greater economic and social opportunities afforded to men.

In relation to the text as a whole, page 99 forwards the book’s aim of using imaginative representations of venereal disease to examine some of the broader cultural anxieties at work in eighteenth-century Britain. I argue that literary and artistic depictions of venereal disease ultimately tell us less about the grim realities of infection (indeed, in some cases, imaginative depictions contrast what we know about the realities of infection), and more about attitudes towards prostitution, masculinity, immigration, globalization, racial and religious difference—all concepts that were strongly associated with venereal disease in the literature and art of this period. Each of the book’s four chapters considers a prominent association around venereal disease, with the first chapter, “Officers and Gentlemen,” exploring how and why venereal disease became connected with elite male power and sexual virility; the second chapter, in which page 99 appears, examines the longstanding relation between infection and prostitution; the third chapter considers the foreignness of “the French disease” (as it was sometimes called); and the fourth and final chapter examines the weird and wonderful cultural life of the disfigured syphilitic nose in eighteenth-century literature and art.
Learn more about Itch, Clap, Pox at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue