Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Jessica Pierce and Marc Bekoff's "A Dog’s World"

Jessica Pierce is a faculty affiliate at the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical School. Her books include Run, Spot, Run: The Ethics of Keeping Pets. Marc Bekoff is professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado Boulder. His books include Canine Confidential: Why Dogs Do What They Do.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, A Dog's World: Imagining the Lives of Dogs in a World without Humans, and reported the following:
Page 99 of A Dog’s World places us in the middle of a discussion about the use of space by dogs. The ways in which animals use space—whether they will stay put, travel, mark or defend territory, and share resources within a given area—is of keen interest to biologists trying to understand social behavior. It was also of keen interest to us, in trying to make predictions about how dogs will do without humans. In our current world, use of space by dogs is highly constrained by the presence and activities of humans. We constrain dogs not only quite literally, with leashes and collars and walls and fences, but also in many less obvious ways, by dominating landscapes and by creating landscapes of fear and opportunity. If humans disappear, the type and amount of available space for dogs will radically shift. We review the research on space use.

Page 99 is a perfect microcosm of the book. We provide some science-driven predictions about what the lives of posthuman dogs might be like, suggesting that their patterns of behavior will change in complex and interlinked ways. For example, use of space will, among other things, be influenced by food (how much and what types of prey are available, where food is located), by morphology (how big or small dogs are and with what sized friends and foe are sharing space), by social structure (whether dogs are living on their own or as part of a group or pack) and by the presence of other animals with whom they might cooperate, compete or coexist, what we call the 3 C's.
Visit Jessica Pierce's website and Marc Bekoff's website.

The Page 99 Test: Wild Justice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 25, 2021

Jules Stewart's "Policing the Big Apple"

Jules Stewart is a New York–born, London–based writer. Among his many books, he is the author of Madrid: The History, Madrid: A Literary Guide for Travellers, and Gotham Rising: New York in the 1930s.

Stewart applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Policing the Big Apple: The Story of the NYPD, and reported the following:
Page 99 deals with the appointment of NYPD Commissioner Edward Pierce Mulrooney, who held the job in the early Depression years 1930-1933. His nomination by Mayor James Walker caused something of a shock to the Tammany Hall machine that ran city politics. Walker, himself a Tammany man, chose Mulrooney because he was a reticent workaholic, a person who spurned the limelight and therefore posed no threat to Walker’s bloated ego.

The book tells the 400-year history of policing America’s largest city, from Dutchman Johann Lampo, who patrolled New Amsterdam’s waterfront in the 1630s, to the Black Lives Matters protests that erupted after the George Floyd murder in 2020. It is a tale of much bravery and occasional corruption, daring and heavy-handedness on the part of the officers who have served in the NYPD. Certainly the most difficult task in writing this book was to leave the reader satisfied that the job was accomplished with impartiality and objectivity. When all is said and done, it must be said that the NYPD emerges in a more positive than negative light.

Page 99 offers the browser a good introduction to understanding police work, in that it illustrates the growing turbulence and the diversity of colourful characters that grabbed New York headlines from the 1930s onward. The role of the NYPD in taking on the multiple challenges of Mafia gangsterism, ethnic clashes and even jihadist violence starts more or less around the time of Mulrooney’s stewardship. Mulrooney was a seasoned, professional cop who took up the post of commissioner with 34 years’ experience under his belt. This devout Irish Catholic came to the job at a time that New York was experiencing an upsurge in gangland murders. Readers opening the book at page 99 would get a vivid idea of the trials facing the NYPD in dealing with lawlessness, gun violence, drugs and racketeering in the Depression years. From the horrific killing of gang moll Vivian Gordon to the kidnapping and murder of celebrated aviator Charles Lindbergh’s son, Mulrooney, like his successors, was given little respite in the battle to maintain a semblance of peace and stability in the streets of New York. His commissionership reflects a truism highlighted throughout the book, that there is never a ‘good’ time to take on the commissionership of the NYPD.
Visit Jules Stewart's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Nora C. Benedict's "Borges and the Literary Marketplace"

Nora C. Benedict is an Assistant Professor of Spanish and Digital Humanities in the Romance Languages Department at the University of Georgia. Before arriving in Athens, she was a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Digital Humanities at Princeton University.

Benedict applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Borges and the Literary Marketplace: How Editorial Practices Shaped Cosmopolitan Reading, and reported the following:
Page 99 appears toward the end of the third chapter, “Borges as Critic and Collaborator,” and does not present the reader with narrative prose, but rather a table. More precisely, the table in question charts the overlaps in authors among Borges’s reviews (in the ladies’ magazine El Hogar and the literary journal Sur) and his later publications on fantastic literature and detective fiction (Antología de la literatura fantástica, Los mejores cuentos policiales, and the series “Séptimo Círculo”). The twenty-seven named authors, including Graham Greene, María Luisa Bombal, Georges Simenon, and Franz Kafka, illustrate Borges’s unique literary tastes and his worldly reading habits.

In a strange way, I think that page 99 gives readers a really good sense of what they will find in my book for several reasons. First, much of my analysis of Borges’s varying jobs in the publishing industry is data-driven, which is reflected in the organization of information in the table on this page. Second, the actual contents of the table showcase not only the variety of writers whose work Borges edited and published, but also the disparate venues for which Borges worked. Third, we can begin to see how Borges targeted specific audiences and marketed his edited volumes. That is to say, in this table we can identify overlaps between his reviews of certain works in the 1930s and his publication of either these same works or others by the same authors in his edited collections and anthologies during the 1940s.

Even though I found the Page 99 Test illuminating, it does not touch on the aesthetics of the books that Borges produced during the 1930s and 1940s, which is an important aspect of my book. In particular, I discuss the physical attributes of his works in great detail—from cover illustrations and bindings to typography and paper—as a way to understand his interactions with the book as object. Moreover, I highlight the relationships that Borges developed with visual artists, like Attilio Rossi, as well as linotypists and press operators, to reveal his own training in book production and design.
Visit Nora C. Benedict's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 22, 2021

Paul Freedman's "Why Food Matters"

Paul Freedman is Chester D. Tripp Professor of History at Yale University. He specializes in medieval social history, the history of Spain, comparative studies of the peasantry, trade in luxury products, and the history of cuisine.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Why Food Matters, and reported the following:
Page 99 comes at the end of Chapter 5 on "food and health." It only has five lines, but nevertheless, does give a good sense of the book as a whole. It summarizes a paradox of modern life that extends back in time as well, that the people who fuss the most about food in relation to personal health are those least likely to be suffering from such urgent nutritional problems as malnutrition, obesity, vitamin deficiencies. This is not to say that just because one is affluent means one should not take care of oneself, but that the "wellness" economy is powered by people with minor to no nutritional problems while the poor are left with little alternative to fast food and other damaging forms of sustenance. In turn, this reflects a concern of the book about the image of rich and poor forms of diet-- especially the widespread notion that the poor need to be educated. If only they realized that fresh produce was good for them while cheeseburgers are not, they would change their feckless ways. The reason poor people have poor nutritional habits is because they are poor, not because they are foolish. Ramen, McDonalds, food with lots of sugar, fat, salt (e.g. snack foods) are cheap. Access to fresh produce is limited both by price and the food-desert phenomenon.

The book deals with why food matters beyond the obvious fact that we need it to survive. I look at the cultural meaning of food in terms of rich and poor; racial and gender distinctions and also in assessing the environmental emergency we currently face, whose solution or amelioration will require changes to agriculture, food supply and consumption.
Learn more about Why Food Matters at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 21, 2021

José Vergara's "All Future Plunges to the Past"

José Vergara is an Assistant Professor in Bryn Mawr College’s Department of Russian.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his first book, All Future Plunges to the Past: James Joyce in Russian Literature, and reported the following:
Page 99 of All Future Plunges to the Past comes near the end of chapter 3, “Andrei Bitov: In Search of Lost Fathers,” where I examine Bitov’s novel, Pushkin House (1964–71), and the author’s engagement with Joyce. In this section I’m looking at two characters whom I call the protagonist’s “Tormentor and Would-Be Savior” and how they represent inversions of figures in Ulysses.

In a way, yes! The page 99 test brings readers to a passage that emphasizes the book’s use of close reading and comparisons of details between selected Russian novels and Joyce’s work. It likewise underscores how Bitov, as do other writers featured in the book, follow or play with Joycean models. It also briefly mentions the key theme of (literary) paternity that’s at the heart of all the works I explore. And in another way, no! What this page doesn’t showcase are the other main themes and aspects of my approach that run throughout, such as the significance of context in reading Joyce in Russia or how his reception there tracks with changing conceptions of intertextuality.

While the test isn’t ideal for All Future Plunges to the Past, it does align nicely with the writing analyzed within its pages. Joyce’s hero in Ulysses Stephen Dedalus says, “A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.” While nearly everything in the novel was thought out and intentional, Joyce’s art, to my mind, still champions the magic of chance and of coincidence. Likewise, and with no claims to matching Joyce’s accomplishments(!), the main part of my book aims for something similar. On the one hand, it intentionally chronicles the history of Joyce’s reception in Russia over the past century, while also highlighting the circuitous routes involved and the kind of spontaneity and chance encounters central to Joyce’s story. This all culminates in the conclusion in a mini-oral history featuring interviews with contemporary writers, where, as one of those interviewees puts it, sometimes it’s nice to “let go of the reins” and see where the material takes you…
Visit José Vergara's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Diane Coyle's "Cogs and Monsters"

Diane Coyle is the Bennett Professor of Public Policy at the University of Cambridge and founded the consultancy Enlightenment Economics. Her books include GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History, The Economics of Enough: How to Run the Economy as If the Future Matters, and The Soulful Science: What Economists Really Do and Why It Matters.

Coyle applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Cogs and Monsters: What Economics Is, and What It Should Be, and she reported the following:
Page 99 [inset below left; click to enlarge] concerns my preoccupation with data - how are economic statistics constructed, and why are so many economists so uncurious about them despite the profession’s strong quantitative bias.

Page 99 would give only a partial view of the book as a whole. It’s a reflection on how economics needs to change, with three main arguments. One is that the profession is shockingly non-diverse, one of the worst academic disciplines for representation of women and people of colour, and this is intolerable in a social science: how can economists’ even know what questions to ask if there are so few with different experiences of life? A second is that the long tradition of arguing that economics is like engineering, dentistry or plumbing, seeking objective answers to well-defined problems, so that ‘positive’ economics can be separated from value judgements about questions like inequality, is fundamentally incorrect. Economists’ concept of ‘efficiency’ is itself value-laden, and economists cannot stand outside the society they analyse - although of course seeking to be as objective as possible, using evidence, is to be welcomed. (Page 99 concerns the quality of evidence.) The third argument is that the benchmark model from which economic reasoning starts is simply misleading in the modern economy of increasing returns, pervasive social influence on each others’ variable preferences, and network dynamics. Economic analysis should concern institutions and not focus on markets. The top academics know this, but it has not changed the basics, and the academic discipline concentrates on quantitative answers to narrow, well-defined problems, instead of tackling the big questions of today.

These are related issues. One reason the same kind of people keep selecting into studying economics is because it speaks to their experiences and preoccupations and not those of different groups. To caricature the top economics departments unfairly - because lots of great work is done by these academics - they have become like Silicon Valley bros. There are lots of parallels between the Econ and tech worlds, including His being coded as ‘homo economics’. But at least everyone is talking about AI ethics. This needs to happen in economics too, reviving political economy and rebooting welfare economics.
Visit The Enlightened Economist blog.

The Page 69 Test: Diane Coyle's The Soulful Science.

The Page 99 Test: The Economics of Enough.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Martin Williams's "When the Sahara Was Green"

Emeritus Professor Martin Williams is the leading authority on the Quaternary geology and geomorphology of the Nile Basin. Through sustained inter-disciplinary fieldwork in Africa, Australia, India and China, he has made original and internationally recognised contributions to our understanding of the Quaternary geology, geomorphology, soils, climatology, hydrology, geo-archaeology, prehistoric environments and desertification. He has worked closely with teams of archaeologists. He is best known for his work in the Nile Valley, erosion in Australia and desertification. He contributed to many important international committees dealing with aridification. He is an excellent communicator of his science and its implications for humanity's future.

Williams's many books include Climate Change in Deserts; Nile Waters, Saharan Sands; and The Nile Basin.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, When the Sahara Was Green: How Our Greatest Desert Came to Be, and reported the following:
Page 99 is part of a section called "Herodotus and the Libyan War on Saharan Winds" which is part of a chapter called "A Handful of Dust."
In Book Four of The Histories, Herodotus (c. 485-425 BC) tells the story (perhaps quite apocryphal) of a group of people from the small town of Sirte in northern Libya who were enraged by the south wind (most likely the khamsin) because it had dried out the water in their cisterns. In a quite irrational fury, the people of Sirte declared war on the wind and marched into the desert, where ‘the wind blew and buried them in sand’.

Later in Book Four Herodotus describes ‘salt-hills and springs’ in Libya and noted that ‘the houses are all built of salt-blocks – an indication that there is no rain in this part of Libya, for if there were, salt walls would collapse. The salt which is mined there is of two colours, white and purple. South of the sand-belt, in the interior, lies a waterless desert, without rain or trees or animal life, or a drop of moisture of any kind.’ When I visited Kufra Oasis in southern Libya in 1962 and 1963, the main road was made of rock salt, a clear sign that rain was very rare.

Another example cited by Herodotus involved the Persian army of 50,000 soldiers led by King Cambyses II, the son of Cyrus the Great. They were on their way to quell a rebellion in Siwa Oasis in the Western Desert of Egypt in about 524 BC when they were caught in a sandstorm and never seen again. In the account told to Herodotus ‘a southerly wind [again, very probably the khamsin wind] of extreme violence drove the sand over them [the Persian soldiers] in heaps as they were taking their mid-day meal, so that they disappeared for ever.’ In light of the engrained memory of these ancient disasters it is small wonder that in his great poem The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot wrote ‘I will show you fear in a handful of dust’.

However, as we saw in Chapter 3, life in the desert has not always been as grim as it was during the time when the army of Cambyses II was engulfed in sand. Only a few thousand years before Herodotus visited Egypt, numerous small bands of pastoralists grazed their herds of cattle across what is now the arid Sahara. They left behind them a legacy of rock paintings depicting Neolithic cattle, sheep and goats. Earlier still, as we saw in chapter 3, the prehistoric hunters of the Sahara carved rock engravings showing antelopes, giraffes, elephants and other large animals that live today in the savanna lands of East Africa. In those times…”
To my surprise, I found that page 99 is a curiously good indicator of what the book is about, namely the contrast between the present-day austere and waterless landscape of the Sahara and the evidence that it was once much wetter and able to support an abundance of plant and animal life as well as flourishing human societies.

Page 99 tells us a small part of the story about Saharan desert dust, as seen through the eyes of the Greek historian and inveterate traveller Herodotus, nearly 2,500 years ago. Herodotus visited Egypt and asked the people he met for information about that mysterious land. His curiosity was aroused by tales of houses made of salt. He considered this strong evidence of how little rain ever fell in that region. He also described how a mighty sandstorm engulfed an invading Persian army. Page 99 concludes by reminding us that the desert was not always dry. Just a few thousand years earlier, herds of domestic cattle were grazing throughout the Sahara at a time when it was a well-watered green and pleasant land. The memory of those times is preserved in prehistoric rock engravings and multi-coloured paintings on favourable rock outcrops across what is now a dry and desolate wilderness.

My aim in writing this book was to draw upon my own experience of the Sahara and to ask why it was once wetter and able to support so much life and why it is no longer able to do so. Did humans cause the Sahara to dry out or has the climate changed? If so, why? I also discuss the causes of prolonged droughts and their impacts upon people living on the desert margins. I conclude by showing how the human inhabitants of the Sahara have adapted so successfully to life in this harsh environment.
Visit Martin Williams's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 18, 2021

Claudia Goldin's "Career and Family"

Claudia Goldin is the Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard University. Her books include Women Working Longer, The Race between Education and Technology, The Defining Moment, and Understanding the Gender Gap.

Goldin applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Career and Family: Women’s Century-Long Journey toward Equity, and she reported the following:
From page 99:
So, how did Friedan ever get the idea that college women of the 1950s had lost the Puritan work ethic? Perhaps part of her thinking is reflected in the reality that, though almost all were employed, just 18 percent of the graduates in 1957 stated that they “planned to have a career.” Most responded that they would stop work when they married or had children. And that’s precisely what they did. Yet most of those who planned to stop work were confident that they would eventually return—and they did. These were not women who intended to be Margaret Andersons and June Cleavers.

Did they keep their intentions seven years later, when most were married and many had young children? For the most part, they did. Seven years after graduation, 85 percent of the class was married, and 78 percent of that group had children, almost all of whom were pre- schoolers. Most of the women had young kids when social norms argued against employment for mothers with preschool children, at a time when childcare facilities were rare. Yet even among those with preschoolers, 26 percent were employed.

It cannot be emphasized enough: these were not women lacking in ambition. About half of the college graduates were employed, and almost a fifth of those employed were also attending graduate school. But they often eschewed calling themselves career women. As one put it, “I am a housewife and mother and not a complete career-type of woman [but] I do enjoy teaching school.”

That did not mean they wanted to remain at home full-time. Although most claimed that they were working to support their families, 13 percent stated that their current employment was “to have a career,” and an additional one-quarter mentioned that they wanted to pursue a career at some later date. Significantly, more than 80 percent in 1964 aspired to be employed in the future (including those currently employed).
Page 99 contains one of my favorite passages in the book (maybe I just have a lot of favorites). It tells the readers about one important part of the book but does not give the readers a full sense of it. But why would a random page in the middle or the first third or first quarter of a book tell the readers about the entire book? The book would then be highly repetitive. My page 99 would be a great way of whetting the appetite of readers. I suspect it would create enough interest to get them to want to read more. It is an engaging discussion of a famous writer (Betty Friedan), whose book (The Feminine Mystique) sold millions and who became a social and political icon. She was a great writer, but she misrepresented economic and social data and described a group of women as retrograde rather than as one that made progress relative to the past.

The groups of women described on page 99 span the first half of the twentieth century. The book covers groups of women until today. The women described were striving for something more than what they had. One group had to make a choice between a career and a family; another had a family and then a job. But women today want a career and a family. What is standing in their way? It is the concept of “Greedy Work.” The “new problem with no name,” to paraphrase Friedan, just got one. But what is greedy work and what are the solutions? That will take reading the book.
Learn more about Career and Family at the Princeton University Press website and follow Claudia Goldin on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Alessandra Tanesini's "The Mismeasure of the Self"

Alessandra Tanesini is Professor of Philosophy at Cardiff University. She is the author of An Introduction to Feminist Epistemologies (1999), Wittgenstein: A Feminist Interpretation (2004), and of several articles in epistemology, feminist philosophy, the philosophy of mind and language, and on Nietzsche. Her current work lies at the intersection of ethics, the philosophy of language, and epistemology with a focus on epistemic vice, silencing, prejudice, and ignorance.

Tanesini applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, The Mismeasure of the Self: A Study in Vice Epistemology, and she reported the following:
Page 99 of the book offers an initial characterisation of superbia as a vice based on a defensive form of self-esteem. It describes the behaviours characteristic of this vice. It focuses primarily on the example of a prominent member of an audience responds to a speaker’s talk by saying that they do not understand it. That statement is not an expression of modesty and a request for help. Instead, it serves to diminish the speaker by implying that their talk was unintelligible. It does so in a way that makes it hard for the speaker to defend their talk.

The discussion of superbia and other forms of arrogance is a crucial feature of the book. It is uncanny that the topic is first discussed in some depth starting on page 99.

I like to think that one of the strengths of the book lies in its detailed descriptions of some of the behaviours and emotional orientations characteristics of vicious character traits. Page 99 begins to do this for the vice of superbia which consists in an evaluation of the self for its worth that wholly depends on feeling superior to other people. In the subsequent pages I discuss these feelings of superiority and explain why arrogant individuals who typify superbia are prone to anger when their sense of entitlement is challenged. Subsequent pages subject other vices including narcissism, vanity and obsequiousness to similar detailed scrutiny.
Visit Alessandra Tanesini's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Kate Clifford Larson's "Walk With Me"

Kate Clifford Larson is the author of Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero (a Wall Street Journal bestseller); Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter (a New York Times bestseller); and The Assassin's Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln. She has consulted on feature film scripts, documentaries, museum exhibits, public history initiatives, and numerous publications, and appeared on CBS Sunday Morning, the BBC, PBS, C-Span, and NPR.

Larson applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Walk with Me: A Biography of Fannie Lou Hamer, and she reported the following:
From page 99:
“Her signature song was ‘This Little Light of Mine,’ ” Simpson remembered, “but she wanted to do the gospel songs . . . ‘Walk with Me’ . . . we did that one, and it was just so powerful, and that calmed her down . . . And it was like, you know, ‘Walk with me, Lord, please.’ ” At this point in the interview, Simpson started to sing, then broke down in tears. “This is going to make me cry, so I . . . So I’ll stop, Okay . . . Can we stop a minute?” The interviewer, John Dittmer, reassured her, and after Simpson composed herself, she continued her testimony.

Singing was one of the only comforts Hamer had, and it soothed her battered body and soul. “Walk with Me” had helped her survive that vicious beating. She did not walk alone, for Jesus was with her. She needed him because she could not walk. Jesus had endured many sufferings and risen triumphantly to lead those who believed. That gospel song reassured her that he was walking with her, giving her courage to go on.

Walk with me, Lord! Walk with me!

Walk with me, Lord! Walk with me!

While I’m on Lord, this pilgrim journey,

I need Jesus, to walk with me.

Be my friend, Lord! Be my friend!

Be my friend, Lord! Be my friend!

While I’m on Lord, this pilgrim journey,

I need You Jesus, to be my friend.

Don’t leave me alone, Lord!

Don’t leave me alone!

Don’t leave me alone! Lord!

Don’t leave me alone, Oh Lord!

While I’m on my pilgrim journey,

Well I need you Jesus, to walk with me.

Well, I need Jesus to walk with me.
Does this page give a good sense of the book as a whole? Remarkably, yes! That moment in Hamer’s life, and that song she sang, gave me the title for my book. This chapter describes the arrests and vicious assaults on African American Civil Rights activist and Mississippi sharecropper Fannie Lou Hamer and her colleagues by white law enforcement in Winona, Mississippi on June 9, 1963. It was a bright Sunday morning when forty-five-year-old Hamer was arrested at an interstate bus terminal in that city along with teenagers Euvester Simpson and June Johnson, and thirty-two-year-old Annell Ponder, among others. The civil rights workers were returning home to Mississippi after spending two weeks in Charleston, South Carolina learning nonviolent protest techniques and participating in citizenship and voter registration courses. The training programs were sponsored by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), both civil rights organizations born out of the struggles for racial equality and justice in the 1950s and 1960s. Hamer’s group had traveled by bus from Greenwood, Mississippi to Charleston and back and were nearly home—a 1,400-mile roundtrip—when they were arrested by state highway patrolmen and local police for trying to integrate the bus terminal restaurant and washrooms. Recently passed federal rulings outlawed segregated seating on interstate buses and in terminals across the country. The new laws infuriated many southern white people, and some were determined to prevent the inevitable: integration.

Mississippi was one of the most violent places in the country, and the police department in Winona had a reputation for unrestrained violence toward Black prisoners. Hamer and her colleagues survived four days of terror and then released. The brutal beating and sexual assault that Hamer endured left her with life-long injuries. But her trust in God fortified her, sparking a spiritual rebirth. She recommitted herself to fighting injustice and facing down threats and crushing discrimination with a fearlessness rooted in her deep and unwavering faith. She would rise up and take on racism and segregation on a national stage, calling on a divided America to walk with her on a journey toward equality, just as she had asked God to walk with her as she struggled to survive another day in the Winona jail.
Visit Kate Clifford Larson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 15, 2021

Emily Katz Anhalt's "Embattled"

Emily Katz Anhalt teaches Classical languages and literature at Sarah Lawrence College. She holds a Ph. D. in Classical Philology from Yale University and is the author of Enraged: Why Violent Times Need Ancient Greek Myths (2017) and Solon the Singer: Politics and Poetics (1993).

Anhalt applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Embattled: How Ancient Greek Myths Empower Us to Resist Tyranny, and she reported the following:
Page 99 finds us in chapter four: Deception (Odyssey 9-16), as the Greek warrior Odysseus narrates his adventures on his journey home after sacking Troy. Odysseus claims to have visited the underworld and conversed with the spirit of Achilles, continuing,
“I also saw many other spirits, including Hercules, who told me of his sufferings and his own successful journey to the underworld and back. I wanted to see more of the great men of the generation before mine, but I became frightened and returned to my ship, ordering my companions to row away fast.

“We remained with Circe another day and night. She told me how to get past the enchanting, immortal Sirens” and “how to get safely past the Clashing Rocks; the monstrous man-eating Scylla with her six necks and six terrible heads; and the horrible whirlpool Charybdis.”
The Odyssey fortifies us against the deceptions of an authoritative storyteller. Most of the epic unfolds in third-person narration, but Odysseus himself narrates a long central section. His account contains numerous supernatural features never vouched-for by the epic’s third-person narrator. Odysseus’ fantastic and -- let’s face it -- implausible story reminds us of our responsibility as readers to try to sift the facts from the falsehoods. A trip to the underworld, really?! Sirens? Clashing Rocks? Six-headed monsters? Do we believe Odysseus? Should we? Later in the epic Odysseus will tell additional deceptive stories. Odysseus’ tales evoke our skepticism and cultivate our empiricism, because we have other evidence, from the third-person narrative, against which to evaluate Odysseus’ claims.

Resistance to tyranny requires the ability and the willingness to measure all stories, even authoritative accounts, against factual evidence. Odysseus is an enchanting storyteller and a consummate con artist, but the tales that he himself narrates caution us against mindless credulity. Unlike many works of fiction, the Odyssey does not ask or permit us to suspend disbelief. In order to enjoy the epic’s twists and turns, we must constantly strive to distinguish the facts from the falsehoods. Tyrants require obedient subjects unwilling or unable to fact-check even their most preposterous lies. Matching wits with Odysseus, however, we develop the skills to fortify ourselves against modern autocrats and would-be autocrats who bombard us with fictions, even contradictory fictions, so as to eradicate the very concept of objective fact.
Visit Emily Katz Anhalt's website.

The Page 99 Test: Enraged.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 14, 2021

James McGrath Morris's "Tony Hillerman: A Life"

James McGrath Morris is an author of biographies and narrative nonfiction. His books include The Ambulance Drivers: Hemingway, Dos Passos, and a Friendship Made and Lost in War; the New York Times bestselling Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, The First Lady of the Black Press, which was awarded the Benjamin Hooks National Book Prize; Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power—which the Wall Street Journal deemed was one of the five best books on American moguls and Booklist placed on its 2010 list of the ten best biographies; The Rose Man of Sing Sing: A True Tale of Life, Murder, and Redemption in the Age of Yellow Journalism—a Washington Post Best Book of the Year; and, Jailhouse Journalism: The Four Estate Behind Bars.

Morris applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Tony Hillerman: A Life, and reported the following:
From page 99:
One day, in his advanced creative writing class, the professor asked Hillerman why he stayed clear of first person in the essays he wrote. “I told him,” Hillerman said, “journalists are conditioned to be invisible, to be what Walter Lippmann called ‘the fly on the wall,’ seeing everything and feeling nothing.” Freedman took the answer as an excuse. “He wouldn’t let me write to my strengths, which I wanted to do. He forced me to write first person all those things you hate to do when you’re a journalist,” said Hillerman. “I found the I on the typewriter.”

Hillerman composed a nostalgic sixteen-page first-person essay. Freedman asked him to read it aloud to the class. “Looking back, and looking back has sometimes been my weakness,” Hillerman began reading to his fellow students, “I think that my coming of age would have been delayed a few minutes had the mockingbird, too, been gone. But that night as I walked up to our empty house, seeing it for the first time in almost three years, I was glad to hear him singing his familiar, erratic song on the ridgepole.”

In a measured pace and with a richness of telling details, Hillerman related his return to the abandoned Sacred Heart family farm as a wounded combat veteran on leave at the end of the war. The reader—or listener in this case—could feel the night air as he hitchhiked after disembarking from the bus in Konawa. Discursive passages recounted his childhood among Benedictine monks, Sisters of Mercy, and Pottawatomie Indian girls, and how he coped with the loss of his father and eventually the farm, as well as the coming of the war.

When he reached the farmhouse, Hillerman told his classmates, “the mockingbird was continuing the same quarrelsome monologue with the night from exactly the same perch on the ridgepole. The whippoorwills were repeating themselves in Mr. Mann’s woods exactly as usual. And the sultry night air was carrying the same thousand summer smells of alfalfa, of oak leaves and of dust.” With a Thomas Wolfe–like conclusion, Hillerman ended the essay by contrasting the reparable decay of the farm with the unalterable changes in him caused by the war. Freedman gave Hillerman an A. The direction Freedman urged his student to follow—the mining of memory, the use of details in creating scenes, and the deliberate employment of ambiguity to allow readers to form their own conclusions—opened a new path for Hillerman.
Writers tend to be harsh critics of their own work and on the eve of a book’s publication are often convinced the work—if not the worst book ever written—is filled with flaws that will cause readers to riot. Yes, I exaggerate a bit. But if you’re a writer among those reading this Page 99 entry, you know what I mean. Prepublication days are filled with anxiety and doubt.

So, back to my page 99. The self-contained scene give my page 99 a passing grade. A reader could get a sense of the book’s subject and my approach to telling the story by reading only this page. The moment described here is an important turning point in the development of the subject of my biography, Tony Hillerman, as a writer. University of New Mexico professor Morris Freedman recognized his unusual student—40 year-old newspaperman—had enormous talent but needed to break the shackles of news-style writing, Here he convinces his eager student to write in the first person and mine his memories for material. The result is a college paper that offers an early sample of Hillerman’s evocative scene setting that he would use to his advantage years later in his Navajo novels filled with wonderful descriptions, turning the barren landscape into a character.
Learn more about the book and author at the official James McGrath Morris website.

The Page 99 Test: Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power.

The Page 99 Test: Eye on the Struggle.

The Page 99 Test: The Ambulance Drivers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Rhacel Salazar Parreñas's "Unfree"

Rhacel Salazar Parreñas is Professor of Sociology and Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Southern California. She is the author of numerous books, including Illicit Flirtations: Labor, Migration and Sex Trafficking in Tokyo, and Children of Global Migration: Transnational Families and Gendered Woes. She is the recipient of the 2019 Jessie Bernard Award from the American Sociological Association.

Parreñas applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Unfree: Migrant Domestic Work in Arab States, and reported the following:
Unfree is a book about the labor and migration of domestic workers in the United Arab States. Page 99 somewhat captures the essence of the book. In the middle of the page is a quote from a research participant, who describes her struggles over food. She shares:
"I told her, “Madam, if you don’t want to give me food just send me back to the agency, my agency told me I have free food.” She called the agency and said your housemaid is asking for viand [dish of food], she was told then give her even just Indomie, egg or tuna, but said she doesn’t want to. No, because when her children eat and I ask for food, she gets mad. She says the food budget is for the children and that doesn’t include me, that I can only have rice. Exactly what I did is I would mix, just ask for, coffee and put it in my rice. She said that is the way of eating in the Philippines, put coffee on rice. I told her how can I possibly eat rice without viand."
This quote establishes that domestic workers are indeed mistreated and perceived as subhuman. It reveals the dehumanization of domestic workers, which I wish to note is only one of the three cultures of employment I identified across households in the region. As I discuss at the end of the page - which summarizes the findings - domestic workers are also treated humanely (given adequate food of their choice) or infantilized (given adequate food but without consideration of their preference). Along with the day off, food consumption is one of the conditions I use to measure the labor of domestic workers. This quote is also revealing, as it establishes that domestic workers do not passively accept their mistreatment. Instead, they attempt to reason with employers. This research participant, for example, lets her employer know that what she is being fed is not enough. In doing so, she is attempting to "mobilize the morality" of her employer.

From this page, one gets a sense how labor conditions for domestic workers vary greatly across households in the region. This lack of standard is one of the main points in the book, one which disagrees with most other studies as they tend to give a more monolithic picture that insists that domestic work there is nothing but oppressive or violent. The discussion also clearly establishes the agency of domestic workers and reveals how they proactively negotiate for improving their labor conditions.
Visit Rhacel Salazar Parreñas's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Audrey Watters's "Teaching Machines"

Audrey Watters is a writer on education and technology. She is the creator of the popular blog Hack Education and the author of widely
read annual reviews of educational technology news and products.

Watters applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Teaching Machines: The History of Personalized Learning, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Teaching Machines: A History of Personalized Learning finds one of the book’s main protagonists, the psychologist B. F. Skinner, frustrated with negotiations with several major companies – IBM, Harcourt Brace, Lockheed Martin, Comptometer – that he was trying to convince to manufacture his teaching machine and the “programmed instruction” materials that accompanied them.

Skinner’s attempts to commercialize his invention – a machine whose design was based on his behaviorist theories and one he claimed would teach students far more effectively and individually than human instructors – were largely a failure. (Spoiler alert.) Nonetheless, his struggle to convince corporate interests in the potential – financial and educational – comprise much of my book. While the events on page 99 do not capture all of Skinner’s endeavors (or all of the history that I tell), they do underscore one crucial theme to Teaching Machines – one that most other books about educational technology (and perhaps even technology in general) do not examine: the role of business in dictating what comes to market. It’s not the best technology – in the case of education, the technology that helps students learn better, faster – that determines what gets built and used; it’s not the best science – much to the chagrin of a scientist like Skinner. Education itself is an incredibly complex system, of course, but the promise of a quick and easy technological fix doesn’t just run headfirst into the traditional practices of teachers or expectations of parents and students, as we’re so often told is the reason why, supposedly, schooling remains unchanged and technologies unused. It’s often business itself that snubs “innovation” that does not fit into its demand for profitability or into its vision of what the future (or at least future product catalog) should look like.

Teaching machines are often depicted as a flash-in-the-pan – briefly popular in the 1950s and 1960s and then supplanted by the development of computer technologies. Personalized learning is often talked about as a brand-new idea, made possible by these very devices and the penchant for big data. My book tells a much different story, demonstrating how the underlying theories and practices of programmed instruction and personalized learning became a foundational part of educational technology almost a century ago and remain so to this day – despite the failure of Skinner himself, as page 99 reveals, to commercialize his own teaching machine.
Visit Audrey Watters's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 11, 2021

Dan Breznitz's "Innovation in Real Places"

Dan Breznitz is a Professor and Munk Chair of Innovation Studies in the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy with a cross-appointment in the Department of Political Science of the University of Toronto, where he is also the Co-Director of the Innovation Policy Lab. He is a Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, where he co-founded and co-directs the program on Innovation, Equity and the Future of Prosperity. His award-winning books include Innovation and the State, The Run of the Red Queen, and The Third Globalization.

Breznitz applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Innovation in Real Places: Strategies for Prosperity in an Unforgiving World, and reported the following:
Opening the book at page 99 lands the reader in the last page of chapter 6 of the book.
The establishment and development of two international trade shows created a stable bridge between Livenza’s producers and global pipelines.

As we have seen, stage 2 and stage 3 innovation are a viable option for locales seeking sustained and widely distributed innovation-based economic growth. They are not a panacea—an ecosystem honed to produce and scale-up firms focused on those stages is ill equipped to support and sustain firms that strive to succeed in cutting-edge innovation. The other side of the strengths of complementarities enhancing each other, the gestalt of the system that they form, means that companies needing different sets of public and semi-public goods will be ill-served. Further, as the cases of Taiwan, Brenta, and Alto Livenza show, developing such a system is not a task for a day or even a year, it is a long-haul endeavor of experimentation and development and co-evolution of the four fundamentals that leads to success. Further, the global economic system is not a static one, and hence it is not enough to just engage the local with the global. Public policies need to constantly redefine, improve, and excel in connecting the right parts of the global to the local, changing those connections in time as both the region and the global industry change and evolve.
As such it immediately leads the reader to few of the main tenets of the book.

First that innovation is not invention. Innovation is the complete process of taking new ideas and devising new or improved products and services. It comes in all stages from the first vision, design, development, production, sale, usage, to the after-sale of products and services. The true impact of innovation was not in the invention of the internal combustion engine, nor even the invention of the first automobile. The true impact of innovation is the continuous stream of implementation of large and small inventions to make the car a better and cheaper product, to improve the way we produce it, and to continuously find ingenious ways to sell, market, and service cars. If innovation was invention, a smartphone would still be a very large wooden box with a rotating dial and it would take us about a minute to even attempt a call. In technical terms, invention is the process of coming up with a truly novel idea; while innovation is the process of using ideas to offer new or improved products and services at the same factor cost.

Second that we have to understand globalization, specifically the global fragmentation of production and services if we want to understand how and where does innovation translate to growth, jobs and prosperity. If there is something truly new in our supposedly new global economy, it is the global fragmentation of production. As production of goods and services fragments, and vertically-integrated production – a system in which a product or services was manufactured from basic materials to a final product in one location – come crushing down, new entry points for innovation-based growth have been opening in old and new industries for places who know how to take them. In the book I schematically break down this production system into four stages from novelty to assembly.

Third that there are multiple paths for communities to secure innovation-based local prosperity, each one focused on a different stage of production, each one with different distributional outcome and each one necessitating a long process of experimentation and co-evolution between local actors and the local actors and the global economy.

Last, but certainly not least, the readers get some teasers about Taiwan and the Rivera del Brenta, two of my favorite cases in the book.
Learn more about Innovation in Real Places at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Antulio J. Echevarria II's "War's Logic"

Antulio J. Echevarria II is Professor at the US Army War College and former Elihu Root Chair of Military Studies. He is the author of Military Strategy: A Very Short Introduction (2017); Reconsidering the American Way of War (2014); Clausewitz and Contemporary War (2007); Imagining Future War (2007); and After Clausewitz (2001).

Echevarria applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, War's Logic: Strategic Thought and the American Way of War, and reported the following:
Page 99 of War’s Logic contains a brief discussion of some of the ideas of American nuclear strategist, Herman Kahn. At the heart of the discussion is Kahn’s On Thermonuclear War which appeared in 1960, less than a year before the Bay of Pigs fiasco and two years before the Cuban missile crisis. Of note, this page covers Kahn’s three types of “doomsday” machines, devices designed to destroy the planet if certain international rules or expectations were violated. The three devices were: the Doomsday Machine, the Doomsday-in-a-Hurry Machine, and the Homicide-Pact Machine. While the idea of a doomsday machine was widely criticized at the time, Kahn used it to highlight the illogic of some of the concepts underpinning nuclear strategy, such as countervalue and counterforce targeting, as well as some of the military hardware being purchased by, or being considered for purchase by, the US defense department. Weapons that appeared too destructive, he feared, would provoke a war rather than deter it. However, the doomsday metaphor backfired for Kahn, as many of his readers understood him to be saying, however horrible, a nuclear holocaust was better than allowing America’s enemies to win.

Unfortunately, page 99 only partially captures the thinking of one of the twelve theorists (Mahan, Mitchell, Brodie, Osgood, Schelling, Kahn, Henry Eccles, J.C. Wylie, Harry Summers, Boyd, Lind, and Warden III) analyzed in War’s Logic and, thus, is not a true reflection of the book. Nor does page 99 get at the book’s core theme, namely, teasing out the underlying assumptions each theorist held about the nature of war itself.

War’s Logic describes four different paradigms of war’s nature—traditional, modern, political, and materialist—which shaped how some of America’s leading strategic thinkers thought about war. Kahn’s assumptions fell within the political paradigm of war, though he was more optimistic than some of his RAND colleagues about how easily policy could control war and keep it from escalating. War’s Logic does not assess which paradigm(s) were more accurate with respect to what war, at root, is. Rather, it seeks to explain how powerful paradigms themselves can be in terms of shaping our strategic thinking and our notions concerning the utility of war. Three of the four paradigms—modern, political, and materialist—are still alive and well today, shaping the American way of war.
Learn more about War's Logic at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 8, 2021

Daniel Groll's "Conceiving People"

Daniel Groll is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Carleton College in Northfield, MN and an Affiliate Faculty Member at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Minnesota.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Conceiving People: Genetic Knowledge and the Ethics of Sperm and Egg Donation, and reported the following:
Here's some of what's on page 99:
It is hard for us to watch ourselves navigating the world from a third-person perspective. There are times when we are able to see ourselves from above, so to speak, to observe or reflect on what we are like. But the activity of doing this—of projecting ourselves into a third-person point of view of ourselves—tends to be self-conscious which, in turn, affects the very activity we are trying to observe. We turn to face ourselves, but never catch a glimpse. Interacting with someone who is like you can give you an opportunity to catch a glimpse of yourself you would not otherwise get. And inasmuch as your genetic progenitor is like you in some respects, then knowing your genetic progenitor can be a source of self-knowledge about what you are like.

But notice that this only works to the extent that you already have a pretty good idea of what you are like. If you did not already know that this person is in your mold (or you are in their mold) then the fact that they do things this way, or move in that way, or deal with problems in this way won’t teach you anything about yourself even if the person’s behavior accurately reflects a part of you back at yourself. Velleman gets the connection between the formation of his family-resemblance concept and self-knowledge backward. Once we move beyond simple forms of resemblance, the formation of the family-resemblance concept (at least a rationally formed one) presupposes that the members have enough of a grasp of themselves to be able to see the other and say, “Hey! You resemble me in these ways!”
These paragraphs give a really good idea of one of the central questions in my book: What value, if any, is there in knowing who your genetic parents are? The discussion on page 99 finds us in the middle of my attempt to answer that question. My focus on page 99 is on the ideas of the philosopher David Velleman who thinks that being acquainted with your genetic parents is really important for coming to understand yourself. While I think Velleman is on to something, I don't agree with the importance he attributes to knowing who your genetic parents are or the role that knowing your genetic parents plays in answering the question "Who am I?"

The question I'm grappling with on page 99 is crucial to the overall book, which is about the ethics of creating people with donated eggs and sperm (aka gametes). There are lots of good questions to ask about donor conception (e.g. is it Ok that people are paid to donate their gametes?), but the one I focus on is whether there's something wrong with creating children by using anonymously donated sperm or eggs. I try to show that there is something wrong with creating children with anonymously donated gametes. My account aims to stay true to the experiences of donor conceived people, many of whom are very interested in acquiring genetic knowledge and some of whom are not at all interested. I argue that having genetic knowledge can play a role in answering the question “Who am I?” but that it is not required. Even so, the fact that most donor conceived people want to know who their donor is gives people that are planning to create a child with donated gametes a very good reason to use what is often called an identity-release or open donor, i.e. someone who is willing to make their identity available to the resulting child.

Figuring out whether it is morally acceptable to create children with anonymously donated sperm or eggs is important for people involved in the world of donor-conception. This is particularly true in places like Canada and the United States where anonymous donation is still permitted. But thinking about the ethics of gamete donation raises a host of questions that matter to everyone who has a family (which is to say, everyone): What’s important, if anything, about knowing your genetic origins? What makes us who we are? What makes someone a parent? Anyone interested in these questions – and intrigued by the brief discussion on page 99 – will enjoy the book.
Visit Daniel Groll's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Samuel Moyn's "Humane"

Samuel Moyn is the Henry R. Luce Professor of Jurisprudence at Yale Law School and a professor of history at Yale University. His books include The Last Utopia and Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World.

Moyn applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Humane is part of a section on the Boer War (1899-1902). It narrates how W.T. Stead, the most famous British journalist of his age (who later died on the Titanic in 1912), condemned his country’s conduct in the conflict — including violations of the then-new Hague Regulations of Land Warfare. Opponents of such “pro-Boers” as Stead included Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, who insisted that the British were fighting in morally and legally appropriate ways.

The page helps get at the before-and-after story my book tells. What the two sides in the standoff of the two sides in debating the Boer War is that they completely ignored Black victims of the conflict—including the more than 100,000 herded into much worse concentration camps than the better-known ones British used to intern whites. And my point is that, to the extent they were heeded at all, the constraints the laws of war were supposed to provide applied for a long time mostly to warfare among whites. For all his outrage around violations of the laws of war, Stead was drawn (like Scotch-American magnate Andrew Carnegie) to the ideal of “white peace,” while Doyle — offering apologetics for British military conduct in the field — explicitly stated that otherwise necessary and noble restraints on vile conduct did not cover non-whites.

The rest of Humane narrates how, in a series of stages, Americans late in the Cold War and since adopted a different mode of warmaking, in which constraints in fighting were taken more seriously than before. I do not at all mean to claim that race dropped out of American war, but factors like the civil rights movements global decolonization, the integration of the armed services, and the rise of people of color to high political leadership — including the U.S. presidency — meant that racial exclusion could not work through the laws of war in the same way. Before our time, they often simply did not apply to enemies regarded as distinctive in race or religion.

But the universalization of the laws of war, I argue in the book, came with its drawbacks. War could become endless on condition of being humane. Global hierarchy organized along racial lines has hardly disappeared—but when it involves north-south violence it is often exercised more humanely, in part for it to earn a dubious legitimation.
Visit Samuel Moyn's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History.

The Page 99 Test: Christian Human Rights.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 4, 2021

Yveline Alexis's "Haiti Fights Back"

Yveline Alexis is an Associate Professor of Africana Studies and Comparative American Studies at Oberlin College.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Haiti Fights Back: The Life and Legacy of Charlemagne Péralte, and reported the following:
Page 99 is from the chapter Péralte Leads/Péralte kòm Lidè and vividly captures how Haitians defied the US military empire. Three snapshots from that one page describe how the cacos (Haitian guerrilla fighters) fought for their nation’s sovereignty. The page begins with “One caco chief, Hello, who was stationed at Jaco with thirty men and had a camp in a cane field.” In this example, one sees how the cacos intentionally used their geography as resistance zones, including sugar cane fields and old forts, etc. In the middle of the page, we read about a US marine’s interrogation of a caco whom the former assumed was coerced into this anti-invasion fight by Charlemagne Péralte The caco corrects the marine, stating plainly that he voluntarily accepted his role as a caco chief of said area. In the book, I write about how the US military used these and other tactics to defame and delegitimize Haitian resistance. The page ends with Péralte appealing to a British ambassador about Haiti’s fate and naming the cacos’ military and political struggle against the US, as a revolution. Péralte writes, “Since, today, the revolution in Haiti has spread all over the country.”

The Page 99 Test works really well in capturing the layers to this anti-invasion struggle. The test introduces readers to one of my key arguments that Péralte and the cacos were political thinkers and strategists and not the ruthless bandits that the invaders portrayed them as. I use a multiplicity of voices, including what I term as living archives, silence, murals, and other primary sources from Haiti and the United States in capturing this long, complex history. The book educates readers about how the US has sought to undermine the Caribbean nation’s independence and how Haitians have thwarted these aggressive efforts.
Learn more about Haiti Fights Back at the Rutgers University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Alex Gregory's "Desire as Belief"

Alex Gregory is Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Southampton. He has published most frequently on the nature of desire, but also on other issues such as the nature of normative reasons, the nature of disability, and questions about wellbeing.

Gregory applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Desire as Belief: A Study of Desire, Motivation, and Rationality, and reported the following:
From page 99:
A fourth way in which our beliefs can be irrational is that they can be recalcitrant. By this, I mean that they can persist over time even if conscious reflection concludes in their rejection. For example, you might consciously avow that women and men are intellectual equals, and yet still find yourself acting and making inferences as though they are not, as when you treat intelligent women as surprising outliers. Or for another example, imagine that you have been going to yoga on Wednesday nights for many years, but then give up. If you have been going for long enough, you might find yourself habitually believing that you have yoga on Wednesday, even though you consciously know this is mistaken. Such recalcitrance is obviously also possible with our normative beliefs. For example, you might consciously judge that planes are 100 per cent safe and yet still find yourself acting and making inferences as though they are not, such as by making the effort to check whether the wings look wobbly. Or, for another example, you might consciously judge that you have no significant reason to meet your ex-boyfriend, but persistently find yourself thinking that you should. In such cases, you might have desires that you consciously reject (see also §7.5, and Enoch 2011, 228–9).

In summary, our beliefs can be irrational because we form them quickly, because they are oversensitive to particularly salient facts, because they are biased by wishful thinking, and because they are recalcitrant. Desire-as-belief predicts that our desires can be irrational in these very same ways: they can be impulsive, oversensitive to the near, biased, and recalcitrant. To this extent, desire-as-belief predicts that our desires can be irrational. And to repeat, these were just illustrations of the more general point: according to desire-as-belief, any common failure with respect to belief formation is bound to also be a common failure with respect to desire formation. In this way, desire-as-belief is certainly not a view on which our desires are always rational. If the objections from underwanting and overwanting merely amount to the thought that we can be irrational in what we desire, then they are not objections to desire-as-belief at all.
Does this page give a good sense of the book as a whole? Yes and no. Yes, because the book defends a certain view about desire - "desire-as-belief" - and these passages are clearly engaged in that task. Obviously, this is just one very small part of the wider defence of that view, but as samples go it's probably as representative as any other small sample. In fact, possibly one of the main objections to the theory in the book is that desires can't be beliefs of any kind, because desires are too "hot": they are wildly fluctuating irrational features of our mental lives, in contrast to our cold and boring intellectual beliefs. The passages above are not the only thing I say about that objection, but they are part of the story: our beliefs can definitely be wild and irrational too, and so there's no straightforward problem here for the idea that desires might be a kind of belief.

But nonetheless it's not clear whether this passage gives a perfect sense of the book. One central problem is that someone coming to the book from the outside would have little idea what "desire-as-belief" was, or why we might be interested in it. That person would get no help from this particular passage, which focuses on the nitty gritty of one very specific objection to the view. The book is structured so that the opening chapter explains the view and the following chapters present some reasons for thinking it true, in part because it explains some interesting facts about human motivation and rationality. Those issues are of clear intrinsic interest. The later chapters of the book - including the one containing the quote above – are more defensive, and focus on explaining how the view can overcome various objections. I do think there is intrinsic interest to those chapters, but probably they are of *most* interest if you were already engaged in the broader topic. To put that another way, the book is really designed to be read from the start onwards. But the test was nonetheless fun! And I can see that you at least get a sense of the style of a book in this way - but in this case, you probably learn only that the book is (predictably) written in the style of much contemporary academic philosophy.
Visit Alex Gregory's webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Brad Ricca's "True Raiders"

Brad Ricca was born in Cleveland and still lives there with his family in a 100-year-old house. He teaches sometimes at Case Western Reserve University, where he earned a Ph.D. in English.

Ricca's books include written Olive the Lionheart, Mrs. Sherlock Holmes, Super Boys, and American Mastodon. He made a movie, Last Son, that won a 2010 Silver Ace Award at the Las Vegas Film Festival. He loves books and comics ... and hates mummies.

Ricca applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, True Raiders: The Untold Story of the 1909 Expedition to Find the Legendary Ark, and reported the following:
From page 99:
The hour was late when Monty finally got up to his room at the tall ramshackle house that they were renting from the mukhtar, the chieftain of Silwan. Monty walked up the creaky stairs. Its high ceiling were guarded by uncompromising spiders. The men had turned the first floor into what appeared to be a Jerusalem version of a jumble sale. There were bits and pieces of digging equipment scattered over handsome Persian rugs, pickaxes propped up against heavy cracked bowls spread out on the Turkish divans. Wall shelves and cupboards had been repurposed to temporary storage spaces . . . Monty clicked his door shut and walked over to the closet. As he passed a mirror, he caught a glimpse of himself, or at least a version of it: different, but generally recognizable in the moment. He walked into the closet -- it was still dark -- and switched on the special bulb. He looked into the shallow tray on the small table before him. A shadow had begun to form, like smoke, on the surface of the paper. As the image began to fade in, the strange black cloud solidified into a sharper rectangle. Monty shook the tray a little, before grabbing it with the tongs.
Ok, so this page may not be all that thrilling or full of adventure, but it really does portray one of the major themes of the book, at least as I saw it. I usually don’t like talking about process because I like things to be more open-ended for a reader but writing about something like the Ark has that built-in anyway, so this is just my interpretation. Monty going up the stairs is him moving past the down-and-dirty part of their dig near Jerusalem to think about the quest for the Ark in a higher, more imaginative way. One of my main inspirations for the structure of the book was William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, not only in the multiple (and sometimes unreliable) narrators it has, but in the way Faulkner continually moves them through all kinds of boxes and spaces, some filled, some not. For me, that is the quest for the Ark, trying to find some ancient box with an unknowable interior that is so tantalizing in its mystery and lack of truth that it is overwhelming. In the closet, Monty is confronted with that lack of knowledge as darkness before he begins to see the image take shape – but what is it? He may see the Ark in the tunnel (for a moment) but it is ethereal and changing. There is nothing concrete about any of this, but there is some hope – some faith – in even the briefest of signs that pushes him to continue. When Monty looks in the mirror, that’s also my admission that I can't portray him exactly as he really was (I don't have a working time machine). Much as we all sometimes look in the mirror and say “who is that?” there is a disconnect between the book's Monty and the real Monty – and how he views the Ark – that exists in the space between what we see and what is true. For me, that conflict -- and power -- is at the hidden core of this book. It’s a busy page. Full admission: I changed that adjective before "spiders" at least forty times.
Visit Brad Ricca's website.

The Page 99 Test: Mrs. Sherlock Holmes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Ada Ferrer's "Cuba: An American History"

Ada Ferrer is Julius Silver Professor of History and Latin American and Caribbean Studies at New York University, where she has taught since 1995. She is the author of Insurgent Cuba: Race, Nation, and Revolution, 1868–1898, winner of the Berkshire Book Prize for the best first book by a woman in any field of history, and Freedom’s Mirror: Cuba and Haiti in the Age of Revolution, which won the Frederick Douglass Book Prize from the Gilder Lehrman Center at Yale University as well as multiple prizes from the American Historical Association. Born in Cuba and raised in the United States, she has been traveling to and conducting research on the island since 1990.

Ferrer applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Cuba: An American History, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Cuba: An American History drops the reader into Chapter 8 and one of Cuba’s most important conspiracies and rebellions against slavery. The story of that episode, from 1843 to 1844, counts on a remarkable cast of characters: a provocative Scottish abolitionist waging a battle against Cuban slave traders; a slaveholder who ran the island’s largest “slave-breeding” operation on one of the plantations where the conspiracy was allegedly uncovered; a prominent Cuban writer with liberal sympathies who happened to be the son-in-law of one of the wealthiest families on the island; American plantation owners, visitors, and diplomats who watched everything unfold from close proximity; a prolific poet named Plácido, the illegitimate son a Spanish ballerina and a Black barber; African women and men rising up on sugar plantations. Over a century later (as discussed in Chapter 31), Fidel Castro would name a Cuban military operation in Angola after one of them: the rebel leader Carlota Lucumí. Like most conspiracies and rebellions of its kind, the 1843-1844 one was crushed by the state. Scholars estimate that some three thousand people died—in the fighting or later from diseases incurred in jail, by suicide on the part of those who feared getting caught, and, unsurprisingly, by execution and torture. It was the torture inflicted by the government on suspects that ended up giving this historical episode its name: La Escalera, or the Ladder, because people were tied to ladders and whipped.

The conspiracy that is the subject of page 99 is just one tiny part of a book that chronicles more than five hundred years of the island’s history. Yet landing on that page does cast light on some of the most important elements of the book. In telling the history of Cuba, I have approached it from both within and without. I pay particular attention to external forces that have shaped the island’s past and present. The United States plays a prominent role in that regard. At the same time, I have written the history of Cuba in ways that stress the experiences of ordinary men and women. As I write in the prologue, “in this history of Cuba, kings and presidents, revolutionaries and dictators share space with many others . . . . whether those taking up arms in a revolution or sewing to the light of glowworms in a slave hut or building a raft to take to sea.” By opening to page 99, readers may sense some of that, of the ways many different kinds of people act on history, and have history act on them. I just wish that page 99 was one with a little less on the Scottish abolitionist and more, say, on Plácido (97-98) or Carlota (102).
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--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 27, 2021

Max Waltman's "Pornography: The Politics of Legal Challenges"

Max Waltman is an assistant professor at Stockholm University who has published on the politics of legal challenges to prostitution, sex trafficking, and pornography, including its association with gender-based violence and sex inequality.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Pornography: The Politics of Legal Challenges, and reported the following:
Although the page 99 test does not provide a distillation of the essence of the book's analysis or conclusions, it works well in exemplifying its depth and analytical rigor. That is, the book's central argument stands on three pillars:
An exhaustive analytical review of the best empirical evidence to date of the exploitative conditions of production of pornography, i.e., how the people having sex on camera are used and abused, and what the effect of watching pornography has upon the viewer in terms of becoming more sexually abusive toward women and desensitized to such behavior.

A feminist, political, intersectional, and legal theory of how to mount a legal challenge that empowers those multiply disadvantaged and disempowered by pornography, either in its production or by its consumers.

An empirical test of the theory and analysis of the extent such legal challenges could be successful and to what extent alternative challenges exist.
Each of the three "pillars" of the book needs to be solid—if one is not, it breaks the foundation and relevance of the others. Page 99 illustrates that no stone is untouched by this book and that readers will find, thoroughly illuminated, all the necessary components for a politics of legal challenge to pornography.

Page 99 deals with the nitty-gritty details of dissecting studies in psychology. Since most serious psychologists accept the overwhelming evidence that consuming pornography makes men significantly more likely to adopt attitudes supporting violence against women and behave sexually coercively toward women, the debate has shifted to what extent these effects are harmful. Page 99 is part of a section of the book that identifies misleading studies published by relatively respected researchers. For example, an often-referred survey of the association between pornography and rape myths for no good reason "controlled for" similar variables, in this case, among other things, "hostility toward women." Such a research design is "akin to asking, 'Does hostility lead to hostility?,'" page 99 concludes.

Furthermore, page 99 shows how other studies made similar statistical errors termed "post-treatment bias," which means that the researchers statistically soak up the visible effect of pornography on sexual coercion by adding questionable control variables that are not independent of the causal pornography variable (e.g., sexual promiscuity or hostility toward women). Men tend to become more promiscuous and sexually aggressive toward women due to viewing pornography, which means promiscuity and hostility toward women are not appropriate controls. The effect of promiscuity and hostility toward women on sexual aggression in part originate from pornography consumption; thus, the statistical model minimizes these true associations under the false impression of promiscuity and hostility being independent "control" variables.

While psychologists have often been goaded to "control for" as many variables as possible, doing so can falsely attribute the effect to variables that may themselves be partial outcomes of pornography consumption, such as a sexually aggressive predisposition. Several studies have made this statistical error. However, this mistake is difficult to identify for readers new to the literature on pornography and aggression and unfamiliar with common statistical problems. Yet, these studies are often referred to by those wishing to downplay the harms. Like the tobacco and fossil-fuel industries, which long denied the harmful consequences of their activity by distracting the debate, pointing to misleading research to say that the science was "inconclusive," these filibustering techniques of the apologists of pornography is a pernicious political problem. Any book intent on making a meaningful intellectual contribution to its legal challenges must thus address it.
Learn more about Pornography: The Politics of Legal Challenges at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue