Sunday, June 30, 2019

Clifford Bob's "Rights as Weapons"

Clifford Bob is professor and chair of political science at Duquesne University. His books include The Marketing of Rebellion, The Global Right Wing and the Clash of World Politics, and The International Struggle for New Human Rights.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Rights as Weapons: Instruments of Conflict, Tools of Power, and reported the following:
Rights are usually viewed as defensive concepts representing mankind’s highest aspirations to protect the vulnerable and uplift the downtrodden. But since the Enlightenment, political combatants have also used rights belligerently, to batter despised communities, demolish existing institutions, and smash opposing ideas. Rights as Weapons: Instruments of Conflict, Tools of Power focuses on such uses of rights, analyzing three main ways in which various actors deploy rights to achieve their goals. First, powerful political forces use rights claims as rallying cries to galvanize supporters into action, “naturalizing” novel claims as rights inherent in humanity, “universalizing” them as transcultural, and “depoliticizing” them as beyond debate and above politics. Second, proponents deploy rights as camouflage to cover ulterior motives, as wedges to break rival coalitions, and as spears to puncture discrete policies. Third and in response, targets of campaigns repulse the assault, using their own rights-like weapons: denying abuses, constructing rival rights, and portraying themselves as victims rather than violators.

Page 99 comes from one of several chapters showing ways that activists use rights in weaponlike ways. The chapter highlights how politically weak groups use rights claims in narrow attacks on critical laws--strategizing that this will spur broader political change not accomplishable through majoritarian institutions. The page concludes a section theorizing about rights’ use as “spears” and begins applying this theory to a lawsuit filed by a small group of Italian atheists demanding removal of crucifixes required in school classrooms (Lautsi case). Although using the rights of parents and children to attack only the crucifix, the plaintiffs’ goals were broader: creating strict church-state separation. In 2009, when the European Court of Human Rights ruled in their favor, threatening the role of religion across Europe, a coalition of religiously conservative governments and NGOs joined Italy to fight back. They too put human rights at the center of their claims—the rights of cultural majorities to maintain traditional policies on religion. With extensive political power behind it, Italy won on appeal. The larger point is that human rights are not the exclusive domain of left-wing groups but are equally available for use by majority groups promoting conservative goals—a point the Trump administration demonstrates with recent decisions.
Learn more about Rights as Weapons at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 28, 2019

Peter Houlahan's "Norco ’80"

Peter Houlahan is a freelance writer contributing to a wide range of publications. In his career as an emergency medical technician, he has written a number of articles related to his profession. He holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. A native Southern Californian, Houlahan now lives in Fairfield County, Connecticut.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Norco ’80: The True Story of the Most Spectacular Bank Robbery in American History, and reported the following:
Central to the story of Norco ‘80 is the scope and devastation of the bank robbery, pursuit and gun battles between five heavily-armed criminals and dozens of severely outgunned deputies. What turned into a 40 mile, one hour running gunbattle began with a ferocious firefight of almost unimaginable intensity in the middle of a crowded Southern California intersection in front of the bank. Over the course of just four minutes so much occurred involving so many people that I devoted over 10,000 words to describing the action and human drama that unfolded in that short period of time. Page 99 of Norco ‘80 is an inventorying of that devastation at the conclusion of that chapter.
There were bullet holes everywhere—forty-six having hit Bolasky’s car alone, several in each of Hille’s and Andy Delgado’s units, one in Darryel Tygart’s Thunderbird, another in Chris Evans’s El Camino, and more in civilian vehicles abandoned or parked in nearby lots. Six rounds had whistled through the walls of Murphy’s Hay & Grain and another through the radiator of an employee’s truck parked out front. Others went into houses, cars, sheds, and storefronts. In the row of apartments just behind the bank, John Leighton herded his family to a back room after a bullet smashed through a bedroom window, cutting a metal lamp in half.
At the heart of any story is the human drama contained within. The lives of many of the officers involved in Norco were devastated by post-traumatic stress disorder. Friendships were torn apart, marriages ended, careers ruined in the aftermath of the event in which three were killed, fifteen wounded including seven officers, and thirty-three law enforcement vehicles destroyed by gunfire and homemade fragmentation grenades thrown by the fleeing bank robbers. Out of this initial, short confrontation in front of the bank – one of five major conflicts between the two sides – arose one of the most volatile of those conflicts among the three officers who took part, one of whom accused the other two of leaving him alone in the gunfight to die.

It was important to communicate to the reader the terrifying nature of the event and the weapons involved – military grade, semi-automatic assault rifles – right from the first conflict in order for what later happens to those involved to make any sense. This summarization is critical to providing the reader with a perspective on the relentless action they have just spent 25 pages reading.
Visit Peter Houlahan's website.

Writers Read: Peter Houlahan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Travis Rieder's "In Pain"

Travis Rieder, PhD, wants to help find a solution to America’s opioid crisis—and if that sounds a bit too lofty, he’d settle for making clear, incremental progress in a responsible, evidence-based way. A philosopher by training, bioethicist by profession, and communicator by passion, Rieder writes and speaks on a variety of ethical and policy issues raised by both prescription and illicit opioid use.

This wasn’t always his beat, though. Both in his doctoral training at Georgetown University, and as faculty at Johns Hopkins University’s Berman Institute of Bioethics, Rieder published widely on a variety of topics in philosophy and ethics. His interest in opioids came about suddenly, after a motorcycle accident, when he took too many pills for too long and suddenly found himself with a profound dependency. In the wake of that experience, he became driven to discover why medicine is so bad at dealing with prescription opioids, and how that problem is related to the broader drug overdose epidemic.

Rieder’s first article on the topic, in the journal Health Affairs, was one of the most-read essays in 2017 and was excerpted by the Washington Post. Since then, Rieder has co-authored a Special Publication of the National Academy of Medicine on physician responsibility for the opioid epidemic, written several essays for the popular media, and spoken widely on the topic to physicians, medical students, and the general public.

Rieder applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, In Pain: A Bioethicist's Personal Struggle with Opioids, and reported the following:
This test may have been designed specifically for my book. At least, that’s how it felt when I received the prompt and opened In Pain to page 99. On this page, the reader finds herself right smack in the middle of the meatiest part of my story—my own little personal hell that eventually drove me to write a book. After a motorcycle accident and five surgeries, I had been sent home on high and escalating doses of opioids, which I had continued to take for several more weeks. It wasn’t until two months after the initial accident that my trauma surgeon saw how many pain meds I was taking, and urged me to get off them.

How? Well, that wasn’t his job. So he sent me to the plastic surgeon who had been writing my prescriptions. That surgeon had given me a much-too-aggressive tapering schedule, which launched me into opioid withdrawal. My description of that trauma—of a kind of physical and mental torment that can drive someone to start thinking about suicide—is what I’ve been describing in the pages just before page 99. At this point, I’ve become so desperate that my partner, Sadiye, and I began calling every clinician who cared for me at three different hospitals. And finally, one of them recommended that we contact the pain management team who instigated my opioid therapy after the last surgery.

It seemed like such a good idea; however…
We were never even able to speak with anyone from the pain team at our hospital. After calling around and begging to be put in contact with the doctor who had overseen my care, we finally reached a nurse who put us on hold for a long time while she tracked someone down. She did not, however, return with a physician; she returned with a message.

“Hello, Mrs. Rieder?” The nurse was on speakerphone, since we'd been waiting on hold. “I'm sorry to have kept you waiting. Unfortunately, no one from the team is able to see your husband.”

I was confused, and Sadiye was furious. “What do you mean ‘no one's able to see him'? Like—ever?” Her normally calm voice rose as she unfurled the incredulity we both felt. “I'm sure they're busy, but we just need to talk with someone. He just needs someone to help with the withdrawal process ... from the medication they prescribed. Can't you just put someone on the phone?” I sat quietly, hurt, abandoned, while she tried desperately to convince the nurse that this was not okay.

“I understand your frustration,” the woman softly replied. “But our pain management team provides an inpatient service. Their job is to get pain under control during a patient's hospitalization. Al-though they prescribe opioids to manage pain, they do not oversee opioid tapering or manage withdrawal.”
That last quote from the nurse echoed around my brain for months, raising one of the central questions that motivated the writing of In Pain: whose responsibility is it to manage opioid therapy? Every day, all around America, thousands of people are prescribed opioid pills. This medication is addictive and dangerous, and yet apparently—if my experience is any indication—clinicians don’t think they have any obligation to manage the medication long-term after prescribing.

As a bioethicist at Johns Hopkins University, I turned all of my intellectual energy to finding an answer to this question (and many others that I uncovered once I started digging). And what I found is incredibly distressing. So I decided to share it with the world. My hope is that In Pain starts a very loud, very public discussion of pain, opioids, and their relationship to America’s broader drug overdose crisis.
Visit Travis Rieder's website.

Writers Read: Travis Rieder.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Charlotte E. Blattner's "Protecting Animals Within and Across Borders"

Charlotte E. Blattner is an international scholar specializing in animal law and ethics, animal rights, international and comparative animal law, and its intersections with constitutional law, labor law, and human rights law. From 2018 until 2020, she will be working as a Visiting Researcher at Harvard Law School.

Blattner applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Protecting Animals Within and Across Borders: Extraterritorial Jurisdiction and the Challenges of Globalization, and reported the following:
From page 99:
As in article III:4 GATT, the question of whether products are alike for the purposes of article III:2 GATT hinges on “a determination about the nature and extent of a competitive relationship between and among products.” States could prima facie introduce differentiated taxes based on the level of animal law observed during production. For example, a lasagna that contains cow meat from CAFOs, where animals are inadequately fed and raised, where they cannot behave or interact in a normal fashion, and where they are barred from forming meaningful relationships, could be taxed differently than lasagna that contains meat from “organically raised” cows. To determine if the differentiated taxes are legal, the WTO DSB must first find out if two types of lasagna are alike. To make its determination, the DSB must, in line with the Border Tax Adjustments report, examine the properties, the nature and quality (i.e., the physical characteristics) of the lasagna, the end uses of the lasagna, tastes and habits (or perceptions and behavior) of consumers, and the tariff classification of the lasagna.

As seen with the likeness test of other GATT articles, the likeness test of article III:2 GATT depends on whether PPMs affect the competitiveness or substitutability of products. On the one hand, consumers might not treat products produced with high or low welfare interchangeably, so we might find that they are not directly competitive or substitutable. On the other hand, consumer choice is highly conditional on price—i.e., consumers tend to prefer low-cost products even if they wish for better animal welfare—so the two products might represent alternative ways of satisfying consumer demand. Current consumer preferences show that the latter assumption is correct, but latent and extant demand (criteria determining how products will be treated by consumers) might change this in the future. (footnotes omitted).
Page 99 of Protecting Animals Within and Across Borders talks about the nuts and bolts of the bigger endeavor this book aims to make – which is to find ways to protect animals globalization notwithstanding. This excerpt deals with the conundrums of trade law, answering whether and how states must design laws to protect animals when they affect trade so that they do not discriminate against foreign or domestic products through internal taxes or nonfiscal measures. While appearing technical and overly WTO-law-jargonistic, page 99 exemplifies that some of the most important questions cannot and should not be answered in a wholesale manner but must first be examined in detail and in isolation, and then put together to form a complete puzzle.

Global entanglements and challenges abound in animal law, as multinationals rise in number and power, production facilities move to other countries, and animals are shipped for use and slaughter across borders by the millions. In this environment, it has become increasingly difficult for states to gain legal certainty about whether or under what circumstances they can protect animals in cases involving a cross-border element. Even worse, many states do not even know whether it is worth protecting animals within their border, as they have a deep and abiding fear of outsourcing and consider industries that use animals reliable and valuable taxpayers, even as they probe the limits of the law. These developments paint a dystopian future for animals, one in which corporations reign law, the free market equates to exploitation, and globalization translates as “globalization of animal cruelty.”

In other fields of law, like human rights law, criminal law, antitrust law, securities law, and environmental law, extraterritorial jurisdiction is an established legal tool to fill gaps in transboundary governance, offer perspective-taking through legal pluralism, and encourage international treaty efforts. The main claim of this book is that the law of jurisdiction cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the struggles of animal law, in particular, because it carries potential to bring to a halt and prevent races to the bottom, which we owe animals on grounds of justice. The book leads readers through the what, the why, and the how questions of establishing jurisdiction in the complex and eclectic context of animal law. Using the avenues of trade law, general public international law, and animal law, pieces of a vast puzzle are brought together to weave a comprehensive net of knowledge that can be used for future advocacy and legislation. The topic invites readers to engage in broader discussions about global justice, interspecies ethics, and the ever-lingering struggle between economics and welfare, but it also aims to find closure and offers ways to resolve these controversies.
Visit Charlotte E. Blattner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Dorian Lynskey's "The Ministry of Truth"

Dorian Lynskey has been writing about music, film, and politics for more than twenty years for publications including The Guardian, The Observer, GQ, Q, Empire, Billboard, and The New Statesman. His first book, 33 Revolutions Per Minute: A History of Protest Songs, was published in 2011.

Lynskey applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell's 1984, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Here, undeniably, are the moral and intellectual foundations of Nineteen Eighty-Four. Totalitarianism’s war on reality was more dangerous than the secret police, the constant surveillance or the boot in the face, because in “that shifting phantasmagoric world in which black may be white tomorrow and yesterday’s weather can be changed by decree” there is no solid ground from which to mount a rebellion—no corner of the mind that has not been infected and warped by the state. It is power that removes the possibility of challenging power. That’s why it is not enough for O’Brien to force Winston to say that two plus two equals five. He has only truly won when Winston believes that two plus two equals five.
Page 99 coincides with a turning point for both George Orwell and 1984. In the summer of 1943, Orwell was preparing to resign from the BBC, where he had spent the last two years broadcasting soft propaganda to India, and take a new job as literary editor and columnist for the socialist periodical Tribune. His more relaxed work schedule would allow him to start writing Animal Farm and to sketch the outline of his novel about the future, which he was then calling The Last Man in Europe.

The page focusses on ‘Looking Back on the Spanish War’, a crucial essay which joined the dots between Orwell’s disillusioning experience fighting for the Republic in the Spanish Civil War in 1937 (which is where my book begins) and the themes of 1984. In Spain, Orwell had been shocked by the extent to which Spanish communists and their Russian backers defamed and persecuted the POUM, the vulnerably small anti-Stalinist faction for which he fought, and by the willingness of the communist press outside of Spain to parrot those outrageous lies. Six years later, having become intimately familiar with the mechanics of propaganda at the BBC, he was able to develop this observation into a more sophisticated analysis of the relationship between power and untruth.

‘Looking Back on the Spanish War’ looks forward as well as back, demonstrating that Orwell had already hit upon some of 1984’s key ideas and phrases years before he started writing it. A totalitarian regime, he writes, “controls not only the future but the past. If the Leader says of such and such an event, ‘It never happened’—well, it never happened. If he says that two and two are five—well, two and two are five.” This could easily be a passage from the novel. The “shifting phantasmagoric world” is a perfect description of 1984’s unstable, dream-like quality. Orwell believed that when tyrants had lied in the past, they had at least acknowledged that truth existed even as they defied it. In the totalitarian era, however, reality was pliable for the powerful and “the very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world”.

That essay has been widely quoted over the last three years (I cite it again in the last chapter of my book) because it speaks to the way Trump and Putin, in their different ways, display contempt not just for specific inconvenient facts but for the existence of facts. I argue that 1984 is “prophetic” only because Orwell understood so keenly the psychology of tyranny in the 1940s, and because that mindset hasn’t fundamentally altered. That’s why his observations of his own time read like predictions of ours.
Follow Dorian Lynskey on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 21, 2019

Daniel Monterescu and Haim Hazan's "Twilight Nationalism"

Daniel Monterescu is Associate Professor of Urban Anthropology at the Central European University and author of Jaffa Shared and Shattered: Contrived Coexistence in Israel/Palestine (2015). Haim Hazan is Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Tel-Aviv University, and previously was Head of the Herczeg Institute for the Study of Old Age and Aging. He is author of Against Hybridity: Social Impasses in a Globalizing World (2015).

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Twilight Nationalism: Politics of Existence at Life’s End, and reported the following:
From page 99:
We Don’t Need a Jewish State

The father’s nationalist legacy was bequeathed intact to his descendants. The ethnonationalist identities that the sisters refer to merged together in their family and opened up possibilities of identification and loyalty that were embodied in their father’s multicultural figure but, given historical transformations, were realized only in the lives of his son and grandchildren.
Twilight Nationalism explores the violence of coexistence as narrated in life stories of elderly Jews and Arabs who reflect on seven eventful decades of life in Jaffa. Against the background of a century-long conflict between the Jewish and Palestinian national movements, the book focuses on the everyday experience of lived space and neighborly relations. While most scholars conceptualize both Palestinian and Jewish national collective identities as separate and antagonistic projects—indeed as independent ideologies of autochthony defined only by the negation and exclusion of the other—we focus instead on the relations of mutual determination between these communities, often rendered invisible in Israeli and Palestinian studies. While the notions of nation and person in Israel/Palestine have been reduced to collective narratives of conflict, revenge, survival, and redemption, we propose to read the political through the personal in order to reveal the correlation between life trajectories and the construction of cultural identities.

The book relates the life stories of ten elderly Jews and Arabs, who, from their perspective of generational marginality, radically deconstruct notions of both Palestinian and Jewish nationalism. Organized around individual figures rather than abstract sociological categories, each chapter voices personal strategies of engagement with nation, narration, age, and ethnic violence. Through select life stories of Jews and Palestinians who are at liberty to criticize the violence of territorial nationalism, we tell a unique story that is iconoclastic as it is hopeful.

Page 99 reveals one crucial part of the whole. More specifically, the gendered experience of elderly women. PART II: DUSK addresses the question of intergenerational transmission of nationalist values. Whereas the men portrayed in the book are engaged in justifying their identity as collective time erodes around them, the female protagonists live in the continuous present and often willingly step outside collective time; they tend to focus on the domestic and the local domains, observing the public sphere critically from within the confines of their home. These women’s accounts are often counter-nostalgic, redolent with peace and empathy, which are perhaps sustained by this compartmentalization and optimist agency.
Learn more about Twilight Nationalism at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Christopher E. Forth's "Fat: A Cultural History of the Stuff of Life"

Christopher E. Forth is the Dean’s Professor of Humanities and professor of history at the University of Kansas. He is the author of several books, including The Dreyfus Affair and the Crisis of French Manhood and Masculinity in the Modern West.

Forth applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Fat: A Cultural History of the Stuff of Life, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Questions about the beauty of the resurrected body ... cropped up periodically throughout the Middle Ages. Pondering the same question centuries later, the angelic doctor of the Church, Thomas Aquinas, agreed that in the afterlife ‘We may expect that to be resumed by preference, which was more perfect in the species and form of humanity.’ One might thus assume that Aquinas’ resurrected body would differ from the one he sported on Earth. Although Aquinas was reputed to have been so fat that he could only sit comfortably at a table if a space had been cut away for his belly, no one doubted that he faithfully observed the required austerities of the Dominican order. While some might have made comments behind his back, there was no reason for Aquinas’ girth to signify anything negative to fellow clerics.

If, somewhat like Plato, Aquinas’ spiritual and philosophical credentials shielded him from whatever stigma his fat body might otherwise have attracted, the reverse was true of clergy who had earned reputations for vice. In some cases, great fatness was described as monstrosity. The German chronicler Lampert of Hersfeld expressed dismay when Adalbero, a monk of the monastery of St Gallen, was offered the bishopric of Worms in 1065. In addition to being ‘completely lame in one foot’, Lampert reported, Adalbero was
in all respects a sight to behold. For he was a man of great strength, of extreme gluttony and of such great fatness/thickness [crassitudinis tantae] that he struck beholders with horror rather than admiration.
It’s odd but the Page 99 Test seems to work in this case. As a study of the development of stereotypes about corpulent people since antiquity, Fat: A Cultural History of the Stuff of Life explores the history of Western ambivalence about embodied life and fantasies about bodies that escape the grip of organic processes. Also central to the book are the ways in which perceptions of fatness, at least in the case of elite men, have often been mitigated by other factors. For instance, Socrates’ fatness was more or less forgiven by his admirers because of the philosopher’s other merits, while that of King Philip I of France was cited as visual proof of weak morals and ineffective leadership.

Both of these themes are evident on page 99. The very fat Thomas Aquinas does not seem to have suffered ridicule from judgmental coreligionists, no doubt because his spiritual credentials functioned as a status shield protecting him from such abuse. The same could not be said of the less admired Bishop Adalbero, whose belly instead signified gluttony and even monstrosity. Regardless of how reputation could shape perceptions of bodily differences, Christian body ideals had no tolerance for fatness, ugliness, or disability. The body they claimed would be resurrected from the dead at the end of time was always imagined to be a more perfect version of what one possessed while alive – whole, beautiful, moderately proportioned, and abled, the kind of body one “should” have had. It would be wrong, however, to conclude that such ideals are germane only to a religious worldview. Rather, this wish for a body that is not bound by the vicissitudes of “life” – that is, for a body that is not really a body – runs throughout secular as well as Christian body practices well into the present.
Learn more about Fat: A Cultural History of the Stuff of Life at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 17, 2019

Robyn Arianrhod's "Thomas Harriot: A Life in Science"

Robyn Arianrhod is Adjunct Research Fellow at the School of Mathematical Sciences at Monash University. Her previous works include Seduced by Logic and Einstein's Heroes.

Arianrhod applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Thomas Harriot: A Life in Science, and reported the following:
Page 99 happens to be an illustration – one of only eight in the main narrative, plus a couple of dozen diagrams in the appendix, so it is far from representative. Nevertheless, it gives me a chance to explain how I intend my book to be read.

Thomas Harriot was an extraordinary Elizabethan scientific genius. If you’ve never heard of him, you’re not alone: he never published the scientific and mathematical breakthroughs that should have made him a household name. Discoveries such as the law of falling bodies, which he found independently of his famous Italian contemporary Galileo Galilei, and the law of refraction, which he found twenty years before Dutchman Willebrord Snell – to name just two of his many achievements. He was also one of the best mathematicians of his time.

My goal was to bring Harriot’s colorful life and fascinating work to a non-specialist audience. The book blends history, biography and popular science, and I’ve written it so that it can be read in layers. For example, some readers might choose to focus on Harriot’s dramatic life and times and skim the details of his science. Others will want to go more deeply into the scientific explanations I’ve given in the narrative and in the appendix and notes. Page 99 illustrates these two different ways of reading.

The illustration on this page – like the seven others in the main body of the book – is a facsimile of one of Harriot’s manuscript folios. For those who know some mathematics and who are interested in its history, page 99 is a gem. Harriot was the first to solve geometric problems in terms of a fully symbolic algebra, and this is an example of his method. It predates René Descartes’ 1637 La Géométrie by at least two decades.

On the other hand, for readers who want to focus on Harriot’s life and times, page 99 and the other illustrative pages can be read as just that: illustrations. They show something of Harriot himself – the neat script, the patience required for so many laborious, hand-done calculations, and the laconic style with its unusual reliance on symbols and equations rather than words.

These precious manuscript pages were lost or forgotten for centuries. Their discovery in an ancient castle, and the recent revival of Harriot’s reputation, is a thrilling part of his story. His life and work offer a unique peek into a pivotal time when the modern world, and modern science itself, was just emerging.
Learn more about Thomas Harriot: A Life in Science at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Seduced by Logic.

My Book, The Movie: Thomas Harriot: A Life in Science.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 15, 2019

John B. Kachuba's "Shapeshifters: A History"

John B. Kachuba is an award-winning author and creative writing instructor at Ohio University. He has investigated over one-hundred haunted locations around the world and his books include Ghosthunters and Dark Entry.

Kachuba applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Shapeshifters: A History, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Shapeshifters: A History [inset left; click to enlarge] is a gruesome account of some horrific murders committed in France by men who believed they had become werewolves. As bizarre as this phenomenon may seem. medical literature contains numerous reports of lycanthropy—people believing they had become werewolves—from many countries over the ages.

Such terrifying accounts, as interesting as they are, do not fully describe what Shapeshifters is all about. The shapeshifter character has existed in cultures all around the world from prehistoric times, right up to the present. The character is not only recorded in myth and oral traditions but has also made its way into popular culture—books, movies, TV programs, cartoons, even toys.

Shapeshifters examines the character in all its varied representations around the world and seeks out similarities. The book explores what shapeshifters mean to each of these cultures and delves into the psychological reasons that support the idea of shapeshifters. The book questions what it says about us that we feel the need to become something other than who and what we are, even if only vicariously through movies, books, costumes, cosplay and masquerades. It further questions the appeal of the shapeshifter character, a figure that is unbounded by any moral or legal codes, a figure that revels in descending into its “dark side.”

Page 99 might be an enticing entry to Shapeshifters but it does not fully portray the complexity of the ideas expressed in the book.
Visit John B. Kachuba's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Hannah Roche's "The Outside Thing"

Hannah Roche is lecturer in twentieth-century literature and culture at the University of York. She has published articles on lesbian modernism in Textual Practice and Modernist Cultures.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Outside Thing: Modernist Lesbian Romance, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Outside Thing offers part of an analysis of the “tension between romance and reality” in Radclyffe Hall’s fourth novel, Adam’s Breed (1926). This material appears in the book’s third chapter, “Strange Soil and Novel Ground: Radclyffe Hall’s Romance Plots.” Page 99, which opens on a new paragraph, begins with a comparative reading of two of Hall’s protagonists: “While the young Stephen is guided and protected by her father, the romantic ‘dreamer’ Sir Philip, Gian-Luca can only find ‘a companionship of mind’ in his books.” By this point in the chapter, I have identified the hero of Adam’s Breed, the “queer child” Gian-Luca, as a blueprint for Stephen, the queer heroine of Hall’s subsequent novel The Well of Loneliness (1928). Page 99 then homes in on Gian-Luca’s engagement with both canonical poets and a fictional poem (to which Hall does not grant her reader access), examining ways in which “the literal and the symbolic … become entangled” in Adam’s Breed.

Page 99 provides a valuable insight into the key themes of The Outside Thing. The first two decades of the twenty-first century have seen the development of spatial modes of reading, from “distant reading” to “surface reading.” While The Outside Thing favors deep or close reading, it also proposes a new critical approach of “lesbian reading.” Lesbian reading, as I define it, interrogates boundaries not only between queer and “normative” texts but also between a writer’s lesbian fiction and her “nonlesbian” work. On the face of it, Adam’s Breed is a “straight” novel: its plot is linear, and its male hero’s romantic attachments are with women. But as page 99 demonstrates, there are gains to be made in reading Adam’s Breed as a closeted or coded lesbian novel. Significantly, the crisis of identity faced by the hero of Adam’s Breed foreshadows Stephen’s struggle with sexual otherness in The Well of Loneliness. In her tender portrayal of Gian-Luca, an “outsider” who ultimately fails to live within an often cruel society, Hall prepares her readers’ sympathies for her next protagonist: the startlingly different Stephen Gordon.

Page 99 provides a close reading of a critically neglected novel. Outside the world of Hall scholarship, few readers are aware that Hall was an acclaimed and admired writer before the publication of The Well of Loneliness, a novel that was famously banned under the Obscene Publications Act in 1928. In the year before the publication of The Well, Adam’s Breed achieved the extraordinary honor of winning both the Prix Femina Vie Heureuse and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. As Hall’s long-term partner, Lady Una Troubridge, reveals in her biography of Hall, the decision to write The Well of Loneliness was not taken lightly: “her instinct had told her that … she must postpone such a book until her name was made; until her unusual theme [of love between women] would get a hearing as being the work of an established writer.” In the wake of Adam’s Breed’s success, Hall was prepared to risk her reputation by publishing a groundbreaking book on sexual inversion, a novel that would “be accessible to the general public who did not have access to technical treatises.” A reader turning to page 99 of The Outside Thing would gain a sense of Hall as a much more astute, stylish, and sophisticated writer than they may previously have believed.
Learn more about The Outside Thing at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Elizabeth Goldring's "Nicholas Hilliard"

Elizabeth Goldring is an honorary associate professor at the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance at the University of Warwick and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Nicholas Hilliard: Life of an Artist, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Nicholas Hilliard: Life of an Artist comes about a third of the way through the book in a pivotal chapter which tells how Hilliard, after completing his apprenticeship as a goldsmith, branched out into painting, catching the eye first of Queen Elizabeth’s favourite, the Earl of Leicester, and then of the Virgin Queen herself – after which, he never looked back. From 1571, when the twenty-four year old Hilliard portrayed Elizabeth for the first time, until 1619, when he died, Hilliard’s exquisitely detailed portrait miniatures were rarely, if ever, out of fashion. For nearly fifty years, virtually everybody who was anybody in England sat to Hilliard. Although page 99 is unusual in having no illustrations – the book has more than 250 colour images, so most pages feature at least one – its discussion of Hilliard’s workshop, which included both goldsmiths and painters, a number of whom were Protestant refugees from Catholic Europe, touches on themes which reverberate across the work as a whole. The movement of people and ideas between England and Continental Europe – often in response to the religious schisms of the age – is a constant. So, too, is Hilliard’s uneasy relationship, once he found fame as a royal portrait painter, with his fellow goldsmiths. In the early years of Hilliard’s career, as discussed on page 99, the Goldsmiths’ Company of London was always ready to bend the rules for him on account of his royal connections and exceptional talent. So, in 1573, Hilliard found himself jumping the queue for a Company-owned house-cum-workshop in the heart of London’s goldsmiths’ district – something for which many, much more senior, members of the Company would have given their eye-teeth. But this special treatment, coupled with Hilliard’s habit of ‘standinge to[o] muche vppon his reputacion’, sowed the seeds of much future discord and litigation between Hilliard and his fellow goldsmiths.
Learn more about Nicholas Hilliard: Life of an Artist at the Yale University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: Nicholas Hilliard: Life of an Artist.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 10, 2019

Robert Blaemire's "Birch Bayh: Making a Difference"

Robert Blaemire began working for Senator Birch Bayh while a freshman in college and remained on his staff for the next 13 years. After Bayh's election defeat in 1980, Blaemire formed a political action committee, the Committee for American Principles, to combat the influence of the New Right in American politics. In 1982, he began a long career providing political computer services for Democratic candidates and progressive organizations. An early participant in the rise of big data, he owned and managed Blaemire Communications for 17 years. Born in Indiana, he lives in Bethesda, Maryland, and has two sons and a daughter-in-law.

Blaemire applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Birch Bayh: Making a Difference, and reported the following:
Page 99 sums up Birch Bayh’s decision to investigate the facts about the Vietnam War instead of simply following the desires of President John, with whom he was close.
In order to better understand the war, Birch traveled to Vietnam on January 6, 1968. He wanted to glean firsthand knowledge of the war which he could communicate to his constituents. While visiting Vietnam, he recalled climbing up a very high tower in order to talk with a young soldier from Ft. Wayne. He also found that when he travelled into the countryside, away from officials trying to control the flow of information, he better learned about the hopelessness of the effort being made by the U.S. in southeast Asia.

In one instance, Birch asked to talk with the pilots and officers involved in the helicopter actions taking place in the country. He rode on a helicopter to survey the jungle where much of the war was taking place. He recalled experiencing the abject fear of an attack by the enemy.

Jay Berman advanced the trip to Vietnam, met with the American station chiefs there and devised a schedule to help inform Birch on the facts of the conflict. Senators Bayh and Ted Kennedy flew first to Hong Kong and then Vietnam, where they separated to individually assess the ravages of war. Berman recalled the unparalleled experience of flying on an F-14 to the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk, where they spent the night. They later learned nuclear weapons were aboard the Kitty Hawk. Regardless of whom they met in Saigon, they were given the official line. But in the countryside, the opposite was true. They reported hearing comments from military and intelligence officers like, “can’t win”; “gotta get out”; “it’s a mess.” The out-country experience was the accurate revelation of war for both of the senators. Birch felt instinctively that he must make up his mind about Vietnam. He knew the War was a bad policy that he would have to oppose and delicately disentangle himself from the Johnson Administration.
Looking over the decades of Birch Bayh’s career, this page may serve as a microcosm of that career. His philosophy could be summed up as, “See a problem, do something.” He examined issues without preconceived notions and while dealing expertly with his political leadership and allies, he made up his own mind. Vietnam was one issue that was dominant in his Senate career along with civil rights, women’s rights, environmental protection, efforts to improve the constitution. In many ways, his approach to making up his mind on the War and working to seek a solution was no different than the way he attacked other issues in his career, whether it was the Indiana state legislature or the United States Senate.
Learn more about Birch Bayh: Making a Difference at the Indiana University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: Birch Bayh: Making a Difference.

Writers Read: Robert Blaemire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Bethany L. Johnson & Margaret M. Quinlan's "You're Doing it Wrong!"

Bethany L. Johnson is an instructor in history and an associate member to the graduate faculty and research affiliate faculty in the department of communication studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Margaret M. Quinlan is an associate professor of communication studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, You're Doing it Wrong!: Mothering, Media, and Medical Expertise, and reported the following:
Page 99 is the cover page to one of four sections of our book:


The “Fourth Trimester”
So while it is representative of the framework we use within the book, "the life cycle of early motherhood" and references the postpartum section of this cycle, it is only suggestive of this framework if the reader has some familiarity with the text. Otherwise, all it states is what comes next.

Part Three addresses the postpartum period or the “fourth trimester.” Chapter 5, “‘One of the Most Curious Charities in the World’: Infant Incubation as Sideshow and/or Medical Specialty” focuses on “Dr.” Martin Couney, a turn-of-the-20th-century practitioner who cared for premature babies in incubators at Coney Island and various World Fairs (1900s-1940s). His pronouncements on mothering illuminate the power of technical expertise in defining the life-cycle of early motherhood in early 20th-century print media. We analyze Couney’s recent resurgence as a social media sensation and debunk him as a “maverick” among technical experts. Finally, we explore the ways the Couney myth complicates or obfuscates the experiences of NICU parents today. In Chapter 6, “Not Just Baby Blues: Historical Realities and Social Media Accounts of Postpartum Care Today,” we interrogate how late 19th- and early 20th-century (no-cost) postpartum care through in and out-patient programs compare with present-day postpartum care. Collected data allowed us to analyze social media accounts of support desired (by mothers) and support received in the first six weeks after birth (e.g., news stories, tweets, blogs) for comparison to historical patient records. We discover that the comparison is not between systems of postpartum care in particular contexts, it is a juxtaposition between healthcare and the absence of healthcare.
Learn more about You're Doing it Wrong! at the Rutgers University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Joshua Specht's "Red Meat Republic"

Joshua Specht teaches American history at Monash University in Australia.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Red Meat Republic A Hoof-to-Table History of How Beef Changed America, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Though ranch life was difficult, it appealed to Updegraff. Differentiating his views from broader attitudes is difficult, but in reply to a letter asking about his eventual return, Updegraff wrote ‘[I] don’t know when I will come home. The longer I stay the longer I want to stay. I think the chances are better here for making money than they are East—I don’t see any prospects for me there, do you?’ Cowboys like Updegraff dreamed of eventually owning their own herds.
Page 99 of Red Meat Republic tells the story of Way Hamlin Updegraff, a young man who moved from a farm in upstate New York to a ranch in New Mexico. During his time on the ranch, his mother becomes anxious for Updegraff’s return. Though his work as a cowboy is difficult and relatively poorly paid, Updegraff is determined to stay. He has become attached to the romance of “cowboy-ing” (to use his phrase). He was not the only young man who felt this way, as can be found in other accounts of ranch work and is even satirized in cowboy songs like “The Disappointed Tenderfoot,” which tells the story of a young man moving west in search of the cowboy life. To fully understand the world of the cowboy requires exploring what their work was like alongside the ideas they held. I take versions of this approach throughout my book.

American rich and poor came to expect cheap and abundant fresh beef during the late nineteenth century. Red Meat Republic explores how that happened. To do so, it traces material changes in American life, from the spread of Plains ranching to the emergence of the “Big Four” Chicago meatpacking firms, as well as the set of myths and self-understandings that closely linked beef with American identity. This includes ideas about ranching that linked cattle-raising to American identity and the ”frontier,” as well as the assumptions about the relationship between red meat and masculinity that meant men of all classes and backgrounds viewed beef consumption as a marker of their success. For Way Hamlin Updegraff, the romance of the cowboy and the reality of life as a cattle-worker both shape his work. Similarly, the material conditions of industrial beef as well as the set of ideas that put it at the center of American identity were key to the development of modern industrial beef production.
Visit Joshua Specht's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Sean L. Field's "Courting Sanctity"

Sean L. Field is Professor of History at the University of Vermont. He is the author, editor, or translator of several books, including Late Medieval Heresy, Visions of Sainthood in Medieval Rome, and The Sanctity of Louis IX.

Field applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Courting Sanctity: Holy Women and the Capetians, and reported the following:
Opening Courting Sanctity to page 99 drops the reader right into the heart of the book. This study's narrative arc runs from several holy women whose support of the French royal family was key to its rise in prestige by the 1260s, through a turning point in the 1270s and early 1280s, to a descent into persecution of similar women by the early fourteenth century. Page 99 comes at the height of this arc, in chapter three, concerning the holy woman Elizabeth of Spalbeek whose prophecies were said to accuse King Philip III of France of angering god through "sins against nature." Her rumored prophecies were quickly picked up by a faction at the Capetian court, where a group led by Bishop Pierre de Benais and the king's favorite Pierre de La Broce tried to convince Elizabeth to put her holy reputation behind competing rumors that Philip III's second wife, Marie of Brabant, had conspired to poison the heir to the French throne:
Pierre [de Benais] had tried a few months earlier to cast suspicion on Marie of Brabant and her household by asserting that 'everyone in Paris' believed the queen's household had poisoned [the prince]. Now he raised the stakes by appealing to a higher source of authority. Rather than relying on popular rumor, Pierre now pointed to divine revelation, as received by Elizabeth of Spalbeek. In other words, whereas the two competing rumors had entirely different origins, now not only the original accusation about the king's sins but also Pierre's accusations against he queen of France had come to hinge on the holy woman of Spalbeek.
This is the exact tipping point of the story, as the French court begins to see the prophecies of holy women as potentially dangerous, something to be silenced rather than broadcast. Elizabeth herself chose self-censorship, swearing several times that she had never reported any revelations from God concerning the French court. Hence she escaped from the episode silenced but personally unharmed. Thirty years later, a woman such as Marguerite Porete, burned at the stake in Paris in 1310, was not so fortunate.
Learn more about Courting Sanctity at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Bernice L. Hausman's "Anti/Vax"

Bernice L. Hausman is Professor and Chair of the Department of Humanities and Professor of Public Health Sciences at the Penn State College of Medicine.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Anti/Vax: Reframing the Vaccination Controversy, and reported the following:
Page 99 occurs in the middle of a chapter that explores science denial. In this chapter, I question whether a broad category called science denial is a good way to explain people’s concerns about the reality of climate change, the safety of genetically-modified foods, or that AIDS is caused by HIV, as well as vaccine refusal. On page 99, I argue that trust, not scientific reasoning, is the basis for many people’s belief in climate change as a reality. This trust is not entirely rational, but based in other factors, often affective or historical. Thus, for example, I tell a story about how shocked I was when a speaker at a conference claimed that a 75% reduction in energy usage would be necessary to combat global warming: “I am persuaded, then, because I think that climate scientists would tell such stories only if they were truly afraid of the consequences of not doing anything to reduce global warming. I believe in them.” The page ends with a short discussion of my own disposition toward “doomsday scenarios and depressive fiction,” moving toward a more developed argument on the following page that “belief in evidence is culturally situated; it is not just an effect of cognitive processes. It is both inside and outside of us as individuals, and is affected by politics, culture, social networks, temperament, and the way we understand scientific evidence to be related to personal experience.” This latter point is connected to my argument throughout the chapter that using psychological theories to explain people’s resistance to vaccines, climate change, or GMOs (for example) is limited because such an approach cannot address what, in particular, bothers people about these things. It is a generalizing gesture that is necessary to make an argument about science denial in general, but it is limiting because it can’t address the specific concerns people hold.

The test results with reference to Anti/Vax are ambivalent. Page 99 is illustrative of my approach in Anti/Vax, but not representative. It is taken up with personal examples, and while I do use personal examples throughout the book to make certain kinds of arguments, I don’t always or even primarily argue through my own experience. As a result, I think that turning to page 99 gives the reader the wrong impression of the evidentiary basis of the book. I refer to my experience to punctuate arguments that are also made on other grounds, usually through close analysis of texts and other kinds of data and discourse.

Page 99 is interesting because it focuses on trust, which is a persistent theme in the book. Lack of trust in medicine, medical providers, pharmaceutical companies, and government bureaucrats is a significant problem that permeates vaccine resistance and other antimedicine positions. What engenders trust? Rational thinking and agreement on key points of data? Or affective and culturally situated responses, based in a variety of factors that are linked to experience, culture, and identity? I answer the question in the second way, and in the chapter in which page 99 falls, I explore these issues.

One of the more interesting things that I do in this chapter is to compare science denial with Holocaust denial, which, counterintuitively, teaches us that truth is always contingent. It depends on belief and trust, not only scientific or historical method. Setting Holocaust denial alongside science denial is a powerful way of showing that neither science nor history can produce facts that are universally accepted.

This chapter highlights the breadth of Anti/Vax as a book that addresses numerous cultural concerns and shows how they pertain to vaccine resistance. Instead of isolating vaccination dissent as an unorthodox and alien trend, I demonstrate how it is related to other, more commonly accepted, dispositions and themes of modern societies.
Learn more about Anti/Vax at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue