Thursday, March 31, 2022

Richard Hingley's "Conquering the Ocean"

Richard Hingley is Professor of Roman Archaeology at Durham University and the author of several books, including Londinium: A Biography; Boudica: Iron Age Warrior Queen (with Christina Unwin); and Hadrian's Wall: A Life.

Hingley applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Conquering the Ocean: The Roman Invasion of Britain, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book is mainly taken up with a plan of the Roman colony at Colchester in the late first century CE, although there is also some text discussing the Temple of Claudius, which is marked on the plan. This is an important section of the book since the building of this classical temple celebrated the emperor Claudius’ conquest of Britain in the years following 43 CE. Claudius was the first Roman emperor to gain a foothold in Britain, a century after Julius Caesar had crossed the Channel and forced the submission of some British kings before returning to Rome.

Looking at page 99 would give the reader some idea about the content of the book since Claudius’ activities were a central element in the Roman conquest. This temple was the first substantial classical building to be constructed in Britain and was almost certainly built on the order of Claudius successor as emperor, Nero, during the 50s CE. Nero is famous for his misdemeanors and it was during his reign that the uprising of Boudica occurred in Britain. This chapter off the book focuses on Boudica’s uprising and the threat it posed to Roman rule over southern Britain.

An even better page to sample would be page 73 since this has a reconstruction of the Arch of Claudius in Rome, drawn by Christina Unwin. This monumental arch, which has been demolished, included an inscription which emphasized Claudius’ conquest of Ocean. Significantly, one of the main aqueducts that supplied water to the city of Rome flowed across the top of the arch, emphasizing Claudius conquest of Britain which the Roman elite considered was a highly significant island as a result of its fabled location within Ocean.

My book focuses on the activities of Roman emperors and generals as they sought to conquer the Ocean and also the resistance and gradual submission of the Britons.
Learn more about Conquering the Ocean at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Andrea C. Mosterman's "Spaces of Enslavement"

Andrea C. Mosterman is Associate Professor of Atlantic History and Joseph Tregle Professor in Early American History at the University of New Orleans.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Spaces of Enslavement: A History of Slavery and Resistance in Dutch New York, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Dutch American painter Gerardus Duyckinck ordered Henry Rensselaer to sell one of his enslaved women with child “if you can get 60, or even 58 pounds in cash for them, or forty-eight pounds for her without the child.” Not surprisingly, Duyckinck did not direct Rensselaer to consult with the mother before doing so.

Many of these children would have remained in the same county, but there are also plenty of bills of sale that detail transactions in which children were sold to enslavers who lived far from their parents, thus creating long distances between family members. Elizabeth Boelen of New York City, for instance, sold the eleven-year-old Florah to Jacob Van Schaick of Albany in 1752, and in doing so Florah was taken to the upriver settlement far away from her friends and family in New York City. The family of Sare, an enslaved woman in Albany, had been spread out along the Hudson River with her daughter Mace living in Poughkeepsie and her son Bob in New York City. Their separate residencies made the chances that these family members would see each other again highly unlikely.
Page 99 certainly gives a good indication of the book's main idea: Slavery in (Dutch) New York was a brutal system, which in many ways resembled systems of enslavement elsewhere in the Americas. The page details forced family separation at the hands of Dutch American enslavers. Every day, children, some as young as one-year old, were taken away from their parents by the people who claimed to own them. Yet, New York slavery has often been presented as a system in which enslavers kept families together. In fact, some sources suggest that enslaved people were treated as members of the family, though surely Dutch American parents would not sell their own children. Such inaccurate and romanticized depictions of slavery in New York have significantly influenced how we think about slavery in this northern part of the United States. The book looks closely at the system of slavery in Dutch New York, and the experiences of the people who were enslaved through a close examination of spaces of enslavement. In doing so, it shows that just because enslaved New Yorkers often lived in the same home as their enslaver or worshipped in the same church that does not mean that slavery in New York was humane or benign. Page 99 shows this reality of slavery in the region through its discussion of family separation.
Visit Andrea C. Mosterman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Danielle S. Rudes's "Surviving Solitary"

Danielle S. Rudes is a Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology at Sam Houston State University and the Deputy Director of the Center for Advancing Correctional Excellence. She was formerly an Associate Professor of Criminology, Law and Society at George Mason University.

Rudes applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Surviving Solitary: Living and Working in Restricted Housing Units, and reported the following:
On page 99 of my book, Surviving Solitary: Living and Working in Restricted Housing Units, readers will find a representative selection of quotes and observations from my team’s time collecting data with residents and staff in solitary confinement units in several U.S. adult men’s prisons. This particular page highlights several quotes from correctional staff regarding how many (but certainly not all) staff treat residents. One correctional officer notes, “…They have to be caged like an animal. You know, I get to go home, take my kids out to eat, go to the golf course. You [residents] get to stand in a cell and yell profanities for the next twenty-three hours and maybe pass out because you’re retarded.” Another correctional officer describes how he denies residents rights such as showers via a process both staff and residents call “burning.” He says, “Earlier, I yelled 'shower!' He…was sleeping. I go by policy. I announced showers. He didn’t come to the door. He thinks we should be his mom and dad and that we should knock on his door. We don’t have time to wait for you.” In these quotes, the correctional staff openly discuss their views on residents and the ways they navigate their work duties within the unit.

Each topical chapter of the book juxtaposes resident and staff perceptions and actions related to rights, rules, relationships, reentry, and reform. The selection on page 99, specifically considers how staff understand and negotiate RHU rules. While it does not show residents’ views on rules, it provides a telling example of one of the overall messages of the book…that of the masked (or hidden) malignancy (harm) faced when living or working with in RHUs.

The second main message of the book is one of tenacious resilience among both staff and residents as they find both manifest and latent pathways to cope with the masked malignancy of the RHU. The book also provides an overview of daily living in these spaces but told uniquely from both sides of the bars…a rare find in the existing literature on solitary confinement. Finally, the book closes with two powerful chapters: one on suggested reforms/changes and another that painstakingly details the methods and positional choices the researchers made to give voice to the staff and residents who so graciously allowed us access to their world.
Follow Danielle S. Rudes on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 28, 2022

Lynda Mugglestone's "Writing a War of Words"

Lynda Mugglestone is Professor of the History of English at the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of Pembroke College. Her research explores language history, language change and attitudes, and lexicography from the eighteenth century onwards, as well as on the history of pronunciation and its social and cultural framing. She is the author of Talking Proper: The Rise of Accent as Social Symbol (2nd ed., 2007), Dictionaries: A Very Short Introduction (2011), and Samuel Johnson and the Journey into Words (2015), and editor of The Oxford History of English (2nd ed., 2012).

Mugglestone applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Writing a War of Words: Andrew Clark and the Search for Meaning in World War One, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Barbed wire had already made a limited appearance in defensive structures in the Boer War. Nevertheless, across the autumn of 1914, Clark found himself documenting the consolidation, and chilling connotations, of the wire in war-time use, alongside cutters (wire-cutters or nippers) as useful pieces of trench kit, and barbwire as yet another verb for the art of war. ‘We found their barbed wire all right, and got to work with our cutters, when a searchlight began to play all around’, narrates another first-person account. Barbed in OED1 (in an entry written in 1885) had referred to horses, and armaments of a very different kind. Entanglements had been made of wood. ‘Talk about entanglements!’, a reprinted letter from Private Watts of the Cheshire Regiment (carefully pasted into ‘Words in War-Time’) instead exclaimed:
Give me shells and bullets before them. A man never knows how useless struggling is till he gets into loose barbed wire. Every movement mixes him worse, and he is lucky if he can keep his face out of the spikes. Some of our chaps will carry ugly marks all their lives.
By December 1914, as Clark noted with interest, barbed wire entanglements had moreover been appropriated as a war-time metaphor for language itself, deftly reminding of the caution necessary in approaching contemporary songs such as ‘Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts for Soldiers’ (briefly popular ‘as a tongue-twister at soldier’s concerts’, he explained). Even a few months earlier, uses of this kind would have challenged popular comprehension. ‘Extremely frequent, 1914‒15’, Clark commented: ‘Not in N.E.D as military term’.

A changing language of space and place was equally evident. Clark in his diary repeatedly documented the departure of the young men of the village ‘to the front’. At the front, Macnaughtan contends, was so common that it might best be seen as a single word. Front, referring to ‘The foremost line or part of an army or battalion’ was, by 1914, familiar and familiarized. Contemporary comment, Clark noted, nevertheless often suggested new specificities as well as new combinatory forms. The red-asterisked fighting front, war front (dated to 1950 in the modern OED), or battle front, another unregistered term in 1914, to particularize the zone of active engagement, as was battle zone (dated to 1931 in the modern OED). These operated, Clark suggested, in contradistinction to the front in general – itself referred to, in other neologism, as the
Writing a War of Words explores the real-time work of Andrew Clark, a historian and logophile extraordinaire, to track the changing language of WWI between 1914-1919., drawing on the series of almost one hundred densely documented notebooks, replete with clippings, annotations, ephemera, and an acutely observant sense of words, that Clark created, and which have hitherto remained largely unexamined. As even a quick glance page 99 readily confirms, for example, Clark’s focus was directed not to canonical writers – the great writers and poets who formed, for instance, main sources of the contemporaneous Oxford English Dictionary, the first edition of which, in 1914, was still making its way through the alphabet, and on which Clark had long been a volunteer. Instead, his notebooks centre on the ordinary and every-day, in a collection that privileges the language of newspapers, advertising, of letters from the front or, say, reported speech and the words of, and about, men, women, and children as Britain navigated new forms of warfare, at home and abroad.

If the opening chapters of the book therefore introduce Clark and his chosen methodologies, alongside a reading campaign of daunting ambition, page 99 takes us to the language of war itself, and the shifting diction and discourse of trench warfare alongside the new salience (and shifting meanings) of entanglements and barbed wire, and of the colloquial cutters and nippers that made up other vital aspects of trench kit. We can, for instance, easily see Clark’s interest in the value of first-person accounts, and his magpie-like salvaging of the kind of information that might otherwise be lost as part of his living history of words in use. Significant, too, is his comparative reading against the Oxford English Dictionary as it then existed, and the gaps and absences that he carefully identified. At the same time, however, page 99, with its focus on the male-orientated world of conflict, is strikingly unrepresentative of the diversity of Clark’s interests as explored elsewhere in the book where e.g. the language of recruiting, or of women and children on the home front, or health and sickness, death and injury, and the discourse of total war – and the terror and terrorism of aerial bombardment on civilian targets -- were all traced with Clark’s habitual zeal. A single page can, in this light, offer an illuminating snapshot – but it will, of necessity, produce silences that are, in a range of ways, contested or removed as the rest of the book unfolds. As in Clark’s original notebooks, the work as a whole investigates a micro-history of English in a period of unprecedented historical change, documenting thousands of words and meanings that have since been lost from view.
Learn more about the English Words in War-Time Project.

The Page 99 Test: Samuel Johnson and the Journey into Words.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Steven Cassedy's "What Do We Mean When We Talk about Meaning?"

Steven Cassedy's books include To the Other Shore: The Russian Jewish Intellectuals Who Came to America (1997), Dostoevsky's Religion (2005), and Connected: How Trains, Genes, Pineapples, Piano Keys, and a Few Disasters Transformed Americans at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century (2014), which won a gold medal in US history at the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY). He retired as a Distinguished Professor of Literature and Associate Dean of the Graduate Division at the University of California, San Diego, in 2018 and now lives with his wife Patrice, a playwright, in Riverdale, Bronx.

Cassedy applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, What Do We Mean When We Talk about Meaning?, and reported the following:
What’s on page 99: I’m discussing Tolstoy’s War and Peace and how the hero, Pierre, struggles to find something that he can call the smysl (meaning) of life or of his life. Having always been skeptical of Tolstoy’s moral philosophizing, I show how Pierre’s efforts, like those of the male hero of Anna Karenina, always fall short of the mark.

I’m not sure a browser opening to page 99 would get a good idea of the central thesis of my book. At this point in the book, I’ve already established a history of the concept of meaning as used in such phrases as “the meaning of life.” In the chapter that includes page 99, I discuss Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, more for the impact that English translations of their works had on the use of the phrase “meaning of life” in English than for a discussion of the two Russian giants in their own right. By the end of the chapter, the point is really that, while it might be difficult to find a coherent definition of smysl (the Russian word translated into English as “meaning”) in Tolstoy, the phrase “meaning of life” was closely associated with him in English-language discussions of his works.

The aim of my book is to demonstrate that the English word meaning, as used in the “metaphysical” context that I discuss, is richly ambiguous. Because of its association with signifying, it suggests the notion of interpretation, that is, if there’s something that we call “the meaning of life,” then we may gain access to that something through an act of decoding or interpreting. Because of its association with intention (“What’s the meaning of what you’ve done?”), it suggests purpose and value. Virtually no one who uses such expressions as “the meaning of life” ever pauses to define the word meaning. That, I propose, is because the ambiguity and polyvalence of meaning is its essential property. In the end, it is almost always suggestive, not determinative.
Visit Steven Cassedy's website.

The Page 99 Test: Connected.

My Book, The Movie: Connected.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 25, 2022

Rachel Elizabeth Whitlark's "All Options on the Table"

Rachel Elizabeth Whitlark is Assistant Professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, Georgia Institute of Technology. Her articles have appeared in Security Studies, International Studies Quarterly, and International Studies Perspectives.

Whitlark applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, All Options on the Table: Leaders, Preventive War, and Nuclear Proliferation, and reported the following:
Page 99 of All Options on the Table examines a moment from President Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign that showcases Clinton’s views on how and where threats manifest in the global system. Specifically, page 99 describes Clinton’s “New Covenant for American Security” speech in which he identified the threat from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) as posing a central challenge to international politics and argued that the United States should proactively combat that WMD threat. I use this and other material to define Clinton’s nuclear beliefs – those beliefs leaders hold about what nuclear proliferation means generally within the international system and what particular adversaries’ acquiring nuclear weapons portends for their state – that are suggestive for how leaders will undertake counter-proliferation decisions later once in executive office. As I demonstrate, these beliefs and early salience of nuclear threats for Clinton carry over to the start of his presidential administration: indeed, combating proliferation was a top priority — expressed both rhetorically through Clinton’s presidential speeches and substantively in executive orders that formalized the need to confront “the unusual and extraordinary threat [that the] proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, and the missiles that can deliver them” pose to the United States. Subsequent pages of the book track these beliefs and action to later in the Clinton presidency, including the U.S. confrontation of North Korea’s advancing nuclear weapons program in 1994.

Though the passage on page 99 is a deep dive into Bill Clinton’s nuclear beliefs, it is illustrative of the evidentiary approach I take throughout the book to identify and define leaders’ nuclear beliefs more broadly. I explore each leader’s pre-executive period to investigate their earliest thinking on what nuclear and other threats mean for international politics and their state’s security. With Clinton, as with the other leaders I explore in this book – U.S. Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush, as well as Israeli Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin, and Ehud Olmert – I scour available evidence from their formative years. This means I explore their military service, university education, and previous political offices, using letters to family and friends, draft collegiate theses, and personal diaries to assess their earliest views of international politics and where threats manifest and how best to combat them.

For example, one document germane to assessing Kennedy’s nuclear beliefs is his Harvard undergraduate thesis, titled “Appeasement at Munich.” There, Kennedy highlighted dangers that emerge internationally when imperial powers threaten democracies. He criticized Britain’s slow recognition of the Nazi threat and Europe’s failure to rearm promptly before the looming Second World War. Why England Slept, the published book form of Kennedy’s thesis, concludes that proactive defense and preparedness are critical to forestalling dangerous global challenges wherever they emerge. Using Kennedy’s thesis and other materials, I define his nuclear beliefs and explain how we should expect Kennedy to be predisposed to behave once president. Kennedy was deeply concerned about the systemic challenge of nuclear proliferation and not confident in the United States’ ability to deter Communist China once nuclear armed from undermining U.S. security and foreign policy; he was therefore likely to consider and potentially use preventive military force to destroy Communist China’s nascent nuclear program. I repeat this exercise throughout All Options on the Table to assess each leaders’ nuclear beliefs and analyze their response to the challenge of nuclear proliferation when on the horizon.
Visit Rachel Elizabeth Whitlark's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 24, 2022

David Sehat's "This Earthly Frame"

David Sehat is a professor of history at Georgia State University. He is the author of The Jefferson Rule and The Myth of American Religious Freedom, which was awarded the 2012 Frederick Jackson Turner Award.

Sehat applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, This Earthly Frame: The Making of American Secularism, and reported the following:
Page 99 of This Earthly Frame finds the U.S. Supreme Court trying to define the limits of religious freedom. In 1940 the Jehovah’s Witnesses brought a case seeking to have their children excused from saluting the flag in public schools. The Witnesses understood the flag as “the devil’s emblem” and thought the requirement to salute it violated their religious freedom. The members of the Court are making up their mind about how to decide the case.

The Page 99 Test works for my book. The story of This Earthly Frame is about the making of American secularism, a political arrangement in which religious ideas have no authority outside a religious organization or institution. That arrangement emerged through social conflict between various religious groups as they fought for their own views through the court system. The court, confronted with the bewildering set of religious ideas in the middle of the twentieth century, responded by privatizing religious authority and by altering the historical place of Christianity in the United States.

But within its rulings was a key tension. The court received its constitutional authority to decide the role of religion in public life from the religion clauses of the First Amendment. The Amendment begins, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The Court decided that the first clause, the establishment clause, required a secular political order. It decided that the second clause, the free exercise clause, protected religious freedom as a component of social, intellectual, and moral pluralism. On page 99 the Court began to see the problems that religious freedom would pose for a secular political order. The Witnesses claimed a nearly unqualified religious authority for themselves. In practice, that meant that the Witnesses demanded exemption from a whole range of neutral laws that offended their conscience. The Court struggled to uphold religious freedom without undermining secular authority entirely.

In time this tension would grow more acute, particularly as others joined the Witnesses in demanding recognition. By the 1970s, the Religious Right began to mobilize under the banner of religious freedom. As the Republican Party turned to conservative religious voters and as appointees to the court became more ideological, the rhetoric of religious freedom became more prominent. The result has been the creation of an alternate kingdom within the wider legal system of the United States, in which religious authority holds near total sway. My book seeks to explain how we got where we are, which cannot be understood without taking account of the history that caused the American secular order to take the shape that it did.
Visit David Sehat's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Myth of American Religious Freedom.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Andrew Fiala's "Tyranny from Plato to Trump"

Andrew Fiala is an expert on ethics and political philosophy. He is the author or editor of more than a dozen books and more than 50 scholarly articles. He has published hundreds of op-ed essays and newspaper columns. Fiala is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Ethics Center at Fresno State. He gives frequent public lectures on topics related to ethics, ethical decision-making, ethical leadership, peace, politics, and religion.

Fiala is past President of Concerned Philosophers for Peace. He is an internationally respected expert on the philosophy of peace, nonviolence, and pacifism; and a strong advocate for civility, religious liberty, and freedom of thought.

Fiala applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Tyranny from Plato to Trump: Fools, Sycophants, and Citizens, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book is found within Chapter 6, which is entitled “The Fool’s Stupidity.” On page 99 we read:
While we might blame the foolish morons who actively participate in violence, there is another level of analysis worth considering. The fun of violence can be transformed into art and show. The spectators cheer it on in the name of amusement and fun. This point was made by Diogenes the Cynic, who called the Dionysian festivals of ancient Athens “a spectacle for morons.” Diogenes used the word “moros” here in a phrase that has also been translated as “peep-show for fools.” Perhaps we could call this “moronic amusement.” Moronic amusement includes much of popular culture, pornography, gossip, and so on. Violence and sex and rude and raunchy behavior are entertaining. Quentin Tarantino is a master of this. But before Tarantino, there was the cornball violence of professional wrestling, kung fu movies, and spaghetti westerns. Prior to that—and much more serious—were the spectacular festivals of violence associate with lynching, public executions, and the like. This is what one author has called, following Nietzsche and Foucault, a “carnival of atrocity.”
This passage sums up an important part of my account of tyranny. I argue that the tyrant’s rise is facilitated by the cunning of his sycophants and the moronic urges of the mob. A key to this is violence and amusement. The mob is titillated by the tyrant’s bullying and potential for violence. This is a crucial part of my analysis. The mob is not merely coerced into supporting the tyrant. Rather, they enjoy the “carnival of atrocity.”

I argue throughout that this moronic tendency is not merely a political problem. It is more broadly a spiritual problem. We all have this tendency. The popularity of Tarantino’s movies provides a well-known example. As Tarantino once said, “violence is fun, man.” This is a sad but true statement about the human condition. It explains quite a bit: from bullying in schools and at work to the rise of tyrannical political regimes and war.

So does this pass the Page 99 Test? I think that page 99 does make manifest one of the most important claims of my book. This is a crucial part of my diagnosis of tyranny. But page 99 does not provide the remedy, which is moral education and the rule of law. So I think the page 99 test provides a mixed result in this case.
Visit Andrew Fiala's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Lillian Faderman's "Woman: The American History of an Idea"

Lillian Faderman is an internationally known scholar of lesbian and LGBT history and literature, as well as ethnic history and literature. Her books on the history of gender and sexuality have won numerous prizes, including seven Lambda Literary Awards, two Stonewall Book Awards, and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award.

Faderman applied the “Page 99 Test” to her newest book, Woman: The American History of an Idea, and reported the following:
On page 99, it is 1805 and Abraham Luckenbach, a Moravian missionary who is determined to save the Indians from the demon alcohol by baptism, mocks Beate, a Delaware wise woman, for her own efforts. Beate has tried to convince her people that they must “live again as in olden times and drink no more whiskey.” To Europeans such as Luckenbach, who scoffed at women as spiritual leaders, Beate is reduced to “a babbling old woman.”

If readers opened my book to page 99 they would get a fair hint of what Woman: The American History of an Idea is about. The book covers 400 years of the notion of “woman” as it was conceptualized and reconceptualized for and by American females of all races and classes. I begin in 1637, with the utter bafflement of Puritan leader Roger Williams when a woman leader of the Pequot Indians comes to the colonists to negotiate peace on behalf of her tribe. I show in these opening pages how different the colonists’ idea of woman and her role was from that of the Pequot.

Woman examines the persistence through the centuries of the ideas of “woman”—“the weaker vessel,” “yielding subjugation to her husband,” forbidden to be “a rash rambler abroad.” I show how race or class affected those ideas; I tell stories of women who were complicit and women who resisted; and I depict how rebel ideas frequently became the catalyst for an evolution in the concept of “woman.” I conclude the book by asking whether women have now moved so far from the confines of “woman” that never again can the tyranny of old notions reemerge—as they did, for instance, in the 1950s, after the upheavals of the Depression and World War II. Will “woman” always be the default concept that takes hold in times of duress? Or have the ideas of “woman” now mutated so completely that there will never again be a long return to the prison of gender?
Visit Lillian Faderman's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Gay Revolution.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 21, 2022

Adrian Shirk's "Heaven Is a Place on Earth"

Adrian Shirk is the author of Heaven Is a Place on Earth: Searching for an American Utopia (2022), a personal odyssey of American utopian experiments, and And Your Daughters Shall Prophesy (2017), a hybrid-memoir exploring American women prophets and mystics, named an NPR ‘Best Book’ of 2017. Shirk was raised in Portland, Oregon, and has since lived in New York and Wyoming. She’s a frequent contributor to Catapult, and her essays have appeared in The Atlantic, Lit Hub, and Atlas Obscura, among others. She teaches in Pratt Institute’s BFA Creative Writing Program, and lives at The Mutual Aid Society in the Catskill mountains.

Shirk applied the “Page 99 Test” to Heaven Is a Place on Earth and reported the following:
Page 99 begins with the final clause of a paragraph from the page before, where I detail a conversation with my gynecologist about finding two teratoma cysts, one on each ovary. She tells me that if I don’t make plans immediately to either get them removed or have a baby, that I will risk losing my fertility, to which I respond by driving around the gloomy suburb I am currently living in, and buying myself an ice cream cone. The sentence is: “I decided to not make any decision at all.”

Deciding to not make any decision at all is, of course, a paradox, and one that feels very central to the book – if I think about the way that Heaven is a Place on Earth is about utopians deciding to do things that should be impossible, that couldn’t possibly work, but which they try anyway, and one of the main warnings of the book is both the costs that always come with “the leap,” but also the costs of “deciding to not making any decision at all” being often more grave a bargain than the former. The rest of page 99 is one of the more ordinary and mundane narrative moments of the book, a brief interlude where my husband and I have road-tripped to Phillips Exeter Academy where I’ve been invited as a visiting writer. We meet our kind and visionary host, the religion scholar, writer, teacher and assistant managing director of Čuvaj Se / Take Care, a literary human rights nonprofit dedicated to supporting and amplifying survivors of war and trauma, especially from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The three of us eat dinner together in the cafeteria. Tom tells us about his housing situation with his two kids and his wife; for ten years, they’ve lived for free on campus in a dorm suite, and he tells me how this was gotten to by an unhappy atomized existence a decade earlier where they felt stranded in a Midwestern suburb waiting for his academic job to pay off. He tells me about that era, coming home to his wife nightly, with what was then their two young children, and her anguish: “We can’t live like this anymore.” Though I don’t say it on that page, it echoes a statement I make earlier in the book to my husband, about our own unsustainable life in a lonely suburb taking care of his very ill father while we waited for my husband’s academic pursuits to pay off, and I worked full time, researching the history of utopian alternatives on the side.

As for whether it represents the book as a whole: On one hand, my ego is like, No way, so much of the book is this rollicking historical adventure, and this page makes it look like it is mostly a chronicle of quotidian life. But perhaps both are true. Throughout the book, I include several interstitial sections like this one, all titled LIVING, because I didn’t know how to braid my quotidian reflections into some of my historical studies without making the histories awkwardly bend to an artificial constraint. So the LIVING chapters were a temporary container that eventually became an important refrain, a critical term, an ethic that is very central to the book, and to the ever-evolving pursuit of utopian experimentation. Utopian dreaming is nothing without a central concern for the living. Utopian pursuits need to draw from the gnarly conditions of living itself, first and foremost. The big philosophies and beliefs and programs may emerge, but they are dangerous if they’re not anchored by the minute and morally ambiguous substance of daily life.

I like using page 99 of this book as a kind of divining rod. I think it works as a test, in a way I never would have expected. As much as I fancy the book to be a thrilling odyssey of the things we didn’t know happened and so didn’t know we could also do, it is also a deeply practical and personal book, where the minutiae of people’s lives and the particular conditions that led to their own innovation really matters. In a way the book resists loftiness, and is more interested in questions like, Why did my friend Tom need to radically revise what “home” meant to him? How does his experience offer us as a way to re-evaluate security, luxury, freedom, wholeness, “at least for a little while, at least for ten years.”
Visit Adrian Shirk's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Daniel Byman's "Spreading Hate"

Daniel Byman is a professor at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at Brookings. He is a widely published and nationally recognized expert on terrorism. Byman was a US government analyst and a staff member on the 9/11 Commission, among other positions. His most books include A High Price: The Triumphs and Failures of Israeli Counterterrorism; Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and the Global Jihadist Movement, and Road Warriors: Foreign Fighters in the Armies of Jihad.

Byman applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Spreading Hate: The Global Rise of White Supremacist Terrorism, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Social media platforms are now counterterrorism battlegrounds. Killers like Tarrant become more radicalized there and seek to radicalize others through their words and achievements. At the same time, most social media companies are stepping up their efforts to fight white supremacy, and government officials often detect, and stop, potential terrorists with information gleaned from social media.
The Test highlights one important argument from my book: that social media are changing the very nature of terrorism and counterterrorism, especially for white supremacists. Although my book also examines how white supremacist views and violence evolved before the information age, social media are an important driver of one of my most important themes: the greater globalization of white supremacy today. Indeed, my book opens with the story of Brenton Tarrant, the white supremacist who shot and killed 51 Muslims at mosques in New Zealand and did so while livestreaming it on Facebook. Drawing on his livestream and the associated publicity, white supremacists around the world applauded Tarrant, and some in the United States and Europe emulated him. In addition to Facebook, white supremacists have exploited almost every form of social media, ranging from household names like Twitter and YouTube to more specialized platforms like Gab and 8kun, which are extremist cesspools. However, social media are a mixed blessing for terrorists, as the quote above suggests. Many users casually reveal their plans, not recognizing that concerned civil society and government officials, as well as like-minded extremists, may be following them online. Social media is also a great way to learn about the views and networks of various organizations. Finally, just as social media has fragmented mainstream politics, so too has it divided extremists, leading to a bewildering range of combinations of extreme beliefs that are often very scary but also dilute the movement as a whole, making it far less dangerous.
Learn more about Spreading Hate at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 69 Test: The Five Front War.

The Page 99 Test: A High Price.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Bedross Der Matossian's "The Horrors of Adana"

Bedross Der Matossian is Associate Professor of History at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. He is the author of Shattered Dreams of Revolution: From Liberty to Violence in the Late Ottoman Empire (2014).

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Horrors of Adana: Revolution and Violence in the Early Twentieth Century, and reported the following:
If you open page 99 it will describe the ways in which the massacres began due to a minor altercation between an Armenian and three Muslims. This means that without page 99, it will be difficult to understand how the massacres began.
Follow Bedross Der Matossian on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 18, 2022

Dan Canon's "Pleading Out"

Dan Canon is a civil rights lawyer and a law professor at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. In his practice, he has served as counsel for plaintiffs in the US Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, which brought marriage equality to all fifty states, and in a number of other high-profile cases. He lives in southern Indiana.

Canon applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Pleading Out: How Plea Bargaining Creates a Permanent Criminal Class, and reported the following:
Smack-dab in the middle of page 99 of my book is this paragraph:
Without a doubt, plea bargaining is a chief enabler of bad policing. US cops, tasked with enforcing an enormous number of criminal laws, are driven by arrest quotas to make criminals out of an unprecedented number of people. Prosecutors and judges can’t closely examine every arrest, and they know that the result of nearly every charge is going to be a guilty plea anyway. As such, no one polices the police. In this way, widespread plea bargaining, which by its very nature shrouds criminal proceedings in secrecy, allows even the worst police misconduct to go undetected. What stops an officer from overcharging someone, exaggerating the facts, or even totally inventing the circumstances that led to an arrest?
As much as I'd like to say "no way could a reader get the gist of a book as complex as mine in a single paragraph," this passage does sum up a central theme that runs throughout. Namely: the need for speed, enabled by the ubiquitous use of plea bargaining, has replaced any broader "search for truth" in the criminal justice system, and that this state of affairs has led to all kinds of awful consequences. As a browser's shortcut to understanding my book, I'd give the Page 99 Test a solid 'B.'
Visit Dan Canon's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Karen Stohr's "Choosing Freedom"

Karen Stohr is the Ryan Family Professor of Metaphysics and Moral Philosophy at Georgetown University, where she is also a Senior Research Scholar in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics. She publishes in the areas of Kantian ethics, Aristotelian virtue ethics, and contemporary ethical theory, focusing especially the relationship between moral norms and social norms. Her books include On Manners (2011) and Minding the Gap: Moral Ideals and Moral Improvement (2019). Her articles have appeared The New York Times and the Houston Chronicle, and she writes an ethics column for the Washingtonian.

Stohr applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Choosing Freedom: A Kantian Guide to Life, and reported the following:
The actual page 99 is pretty boring, as it merely introduces Part II of the book, a section called Moral Assessment. So instead I’ll tell you what’s on page 97, which is the last page of Chapter 9 and also the last page of Part I, called Kantian Basics. Since it’s not very long, I’ll just quote it:
I promise, we’re really almost finished! There’s one more kind of duty that is not an official category, but that shows up rather sneakily in a number of places in Kant’s ethics. This is what he calls a “duty to humanity as such.” What makes this an odd duty is that it is not a duty to a particular person. We might think of ‘humanity’ in this context as functioning like it does when we talk about crimes against humanity. A crime against humanity is often a crime against specific individuals. When we call something a crime against humanity, however, we generally mean something that is over and above the specific violations of duty toward those individuals. It’s a crime against the human race, past, present, and future. Kant’s duty to humanity as such seems to rely on a similar sense of humanity. It’s a duty that we owe to humanity over and above the duties that we owe to specific human beings. To keep things simple, I’m going to talk about the duty to humanity as such as a duty to the moral community, in the sense of the ethical commonwealth. This is not perfectly accurate, but it’s close enough for our purposes. And anyway, by this point you’re probably running out of mental space for additional distinctions.

We now have quite an array of duties before us. You do not need to memorize them. There is no quiz at the end of the book. When we talk about specific duties in later chapters, I’ll remind you about where each of them fits into this overall schema. Still, you might find it helpful to refer back to this chapter once in a while to keep some of these duties straight in your head. And congratulations! You just survived Kantian duty boot camp!
This page would give the browser a very good sense of the tone of my book, which aims to make Kant’s rather formidable moral theory both interesting and accessible to lay readers. It is the last page of a chapter in which I have just spelled out Kant’s complicated system of moral obligations. It is also the last page of Part I of the book, the goal of which is to set out the essential framework of Kant’s ethical thought. That’s why I’m congratulating the reader for having made it through that far. As for the content on page 97, it introduces a concept in Kant that is often (unfortunately) overlooked by his commentators, which is the concept of a moral obligation to humanity as a whole. Kant thinks that we should be doing our best to move humanity forward, both intellectually and morally. Essentially, we should aim to leave the world better than how we found it. As I discuss later in the book, this concept ends up being quite important to Kant’s ideas about things like respect, trust, self-development, and hope. So it’s a pretty useful page.

Kant is certainly a famous philosopher, but he tends not to inspire much affection. In this book, I aim to introduce readers to a different side of Kant. The Kant in this book is someone who has insights into why self-knowledge is so hard, why we should avoid expressing the contempt for people that we sometimes feel, why truth-telling is so important in our relationships, why friendships cannot survive without reciprocity, why we are occasionally resentful when people do us favors, and why we should be careful about playing competitive games at dinner parties. A Kantian life is one dedicated to moral ideals like respect, self-respect, equality, dignity, and community. These are ideals we probably already have, but Kant can teach us how to make them more concrete in our daily lives. One of the things I find most appealing about Kant is that while he thinks that the world can be a very dark place, he also thinks that human beings are capable of making it much better. We are, he thinks, beings with extraordinary possibilities, if only we choose to see and act on them. Even in the darkest of times, we always have reason for hope in ourselves and in each other.
The Page 99 Test: Minding the Gap.

Learn more about Choosing Freedom at the Oxford University Press website, and visit Karen Stohr on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Danielle J. Lindemann's "True Story"

Danielle J. Lindemann is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Lehigh University interested in gender, sexuality, the family, and culture. She is the author of Commuter Spouses: New Families in a Changing World and Dominatrix: Gender, Eroticism and Control in the Dungeon. Her research has been featured in media outlets such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Billboard, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. She has spoken about her work on National Public Radio and has written op-eds for CNN, Newsweek, Salon, Fortune, and Quartz.

Lindemann applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, True Story: What Reality TV Says About Us, and reported the following:
Page 99 of True Story: What Reality TV Says about Us is in the middle of chapter 4, which explores how reality TV teaches us about our cultural expectations for families and the roles that we play within them. Specifically, drawing on Sharon Hays’s research on “intensive mothering,” this page discusses how reality programming exposes our narrow guidelines for what makes a “good mom” and how these guidelines ultimately reflect a middle class, white ideal. “Ultimately,” I argue, “legitimate mothering gets tied to class privilege because it’s generally the privileged who have the bandwidth to be intensive.”

The test works for this book…somewhat. The content on page 99 of True Story is fairly specific, so it’s not the single best page for illuminating the book’s overall argument. That said, readers turning to the page will get some sense of the larger work! Page 99, like the book overall, deploys sociological research (e.g. Lareau’s work on parenting and social class, Hays’s research on intensive mothering) to explain how reality television can teach us about ourselves as a culture. And, the page reflects two key arguments in the larger work. The first is that, for all of its zaniness, reality TV tends to show us how conservative we are—that is, how we view the world in narrow and unyielding ways that reflect the persistent tug of history. On page 99, specifically, we see how rigidly we define and understand “legitimate” motherhood. Secondly, True Story argues that reality TV exposes the categories and meanings that shape our lives, and that we falsely take for granted to be biological and fixed. On page 99, I’m discussing how our ideas about what constitutes “natural,” “normal” mothering are inexorably linked to the society of which we are a part. Reality TV may not always be “really real,” but neither is “reality” itself. In many ways, it’s a social construction.

One central argument of the work, not reflected on page 99, is that reality TV reveals, in amplified form, both the ugliest and prettiest parts of ourselves, as a culture. As I say in the introduction, “These programs show us the ugly places we’ve been and the ugly places where we still are; they illuminate the inequalities that cut our culture deeply, leaving ruts we may never repair. They showcase elements of our culture in drag form, bold and garish. At the same time, the genre holds the potential to explore new possibilities, diversities, and creativities.” I add that when we look into the “funhouse mirror” of reality TV, “the reflection may not be pretty, but we gain a keener understanding of ourselves.”
Visit Danielle J. Lindemann's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Emily Mendenhall's "Unmasked"

Emily Mendenhall is a medical anthropologist and Professor in the Science, Technology, and International Affairs (STIA) Program in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Previously, she was a visiting Fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, National Institutes of Health Fogarty Scholar at the Public Health Foundation of India, and Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand, where she still holds an Honorary Appointment. She received a PhD in anthropology from Northwestern University and MPH in global public health from Emory University. She lives in the DC area with her husband (Adam Koon), young daughters, and pup.

Mendenhall applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Unmasked: COVID, Community, and the Case of Okoboji, and reported the following:
Unmasked delves into the complex ways people responded to COVID-19 in the author's hometown. A medical anthropologist who has studied the emergence and experience of illness around the world returned home to explain how and why people ignored public health guidelines and in many ways charted their own course for the pandemic response. In Iowa, few policies directed how people should behave after the Governor opened up the state in late April. When the economy ramped up in the tourist town, the community shifted their focus from the virus to the community. This was in part because many people make their year's income during the three months of tourism when the water heats up and people flock to the boats, beaches, and booze in Okoboji. When you turn to page 99 of Unmasked, the reader will realize how complex business interests were in resistance to public health guidelines for COVID-19. Businesses were interested in staying open for a tourist town in a community that depended upon the tourist season.

In many ways, page 99 embodies the heart of the book: without strong policies in place, local individual and business interests took hold and drove community responses. Even when few people were masked and the restaurant decks were full, Unmasked describes how and why many locals stayed home and grappled with conflicting views on politics and risk for themselves and their loved ones. The author describes how most locals were very careful and even those who stated, "I don't fear the virus because I believe in God," quarantined when they were Covid positive. Others, however, actively rejected public health recommendations as government overreach and embodied a theory of building immunity (and some emphasized infecting others to achieve this for the community).

The divergent perspectives on the virus during that first pandemic summer caused everyday friction when some masked and most unmasked, breaking up friendships, book clubs, and families. Yet, many people eventually gave up their masks in part to align with in-group politics and move collectively through and beyond the pandemic when virus continued to cause social, economic, and biological stress around the world.
Visit Emily Mendenhall's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 14, 2022

Jeff Sebo's "Saving Animals, Saving Ourselves"

Jeff Sebo is Clinical Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Affiliated Professor of Bioethics, Medical Ethics, and Philosophy, and Director of the Animal Studies M.A. Program at New York University. He works primarily in bioethics, animal ethics, and environmental ethics. Sebo is co-author of Chimpanzee Rights and Food, Animals, and the Environment. He is also an executive committee member at the NYU Center for Environmental and Animal Protection, an advisory board member at the Animals in Context series at NYU Press, a board member at Minding Animals International, a mentor at Sentient Media, and a senior research affiliate at the Legal Priorities Project.

Sebo applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Saving Animals, Saving Ourselves: Why Animals Matter for Pandemics, Climate Change, and other Catastrophes, and reported the following:
Here are the two full paragraphs on page 99 of Saving Animals, Saving Ourselves:
In contrast to plant-based meat, cultivated meat is still in early stages of development. The idea has existed for at least a century, and the basic technology has existed for decades. But use of this technology to produce meat is still relatively new. In 2002, researchers announced that they made a fish filet, and in 2013 Mark Post debuted the first edible cultivated hamburger in London. Since then, many companies have worked to improve cultivated meat production methods, and they have reached important milestones in recent years. For instance, in December 2020, Singapore became the first country to grant regulatory approval for cultivated meat, and the Singaporean restaurant 1880 became the first to sell cultivated meat—in this case, “lab-grown chicken made by U.S. start-up Eat Just.”

Plant-based and cultivated meat are promising alternatives to conventional meat. Production of these alternatives is more humane, healthful, and sustainable than production of conventional meat. For instance, one study predicts that cultivated meat will require only 1% as much land and 4%–18% as much water as conventional meat, and that it will emit only 4%–22% as many greenhouse gases as conventional meat. Even if these estimates are optimistic, cultivated meat is still likely to be better than conventional meat overall. Thus, while a food system based entirely around simple plants might or might not be ideal in the long run, a food system based partly around plant-based and cultivated meat might at least be a reasonable compromise in the short term, as we wean ourselves from conventional meat.
These paragraphs are part of a section that presents a positive vision for the future of food. It discusses how we can move beyond our current system of industrial animal agriculture, which causes massive and unnecessary harm to humans, animals, and the environment, and towards alternatives like plant agriculture, plant-based meat (meat made from plants), and cultivated meat (meat made from cell cultures). It also considers obstacles that might stand in the way of adopting plant-based and cultivated meat, so that we can develop these alternatives thoughtfully and strategically.

This page is not really representative of the book, mainly because the book covers too much ground for any single page (other than perhaps in the introduction or conclusion) to be representative. For instance, the book discusses why animals matter, how our use of animals contributes to pandemics and climate change, how pandemics and climate change contribute to animal suffering, how we can reduce our use of animals and increase our support for animals, and how some of our basic scientific, moral, legal, and political assumptions might be relevant to these issues.

But while this page might not be representative of the book, I like that this is the one that came up on the Page 99 Test. When we consider how inhumane, unhealthful, and unsustainable many of our current social, political, and economic systems are, it can be easy to feel pessimistic about our prospects for change. But as this page illustrates, there are many things that we can do to build a more humane, healthful, and sustainable future, and so I think that we have reason to be cautiously optimistic instead – provided that we do the work necessary to make that stance warranted.
Visit Jeff Sebo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Chris Armstrong's "A Blue New Deal"

Chris Armstrong is professor of political theory at the University of Southampton. He is the author of Global Distributive Justice, Justice and Natural Resources: An Egalitarian Theory, and Why Global Justice Matters: Moral Progress in a Divided World.

Armstrong applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, A Blue New Deal: Why We Need a New Politics for the Ocean, and reported the following:
Page 99 discusses the way in which existing forms of ocean governance are seriously underperforming, given the massive environmental challenges we face today. It notes that countries have embraced some seemingly ambitious goals for the protection of the ocean’s ecosystems. But we are not making sufficient progress towards meeting them. Meanwhile some environmental problems are falling between the cracks of a fragmented institutional system. Towards the bottom of the page, the book raises a second major issue, which asks who will benefit from the booming ocean economy: whether the ‘blue economy’ will be an arena of growing inequality, as seems to be the case, or whether we can turn back the tide of inequality.

This page is actually pretty representative of the message of the book as a whole. These two challenges – environmental destruction at sea, and growing inequality in the ocean economy – are actually the two reasons I argue we need a ‘Blue New Deal.’ A reader opening the book on page 99 would get a good sense of what I think is going wrong out there on the wider ocean. What they wouldn’t get is an insight into what I think we can do about it.

Later in the book, we get much more of a sense of how we could do things better. Page 99 falls in the middle of a pivotal chapter, where I set out some key principles of ocean justice. The following five chapters then go on to apply them in a series of areas. I discuss the plight of marine animals, and the ways in which we could better protect them; the exploitation and abuse that people working in the fishing industry can face; and the prospects for people whose countries might be submerged by sea level rise. I present a case for a Blue New Deal that would put equality and environmental protection centre-stage.
Visit Chris Armstrong's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Ian Tyrrell's "American Exceptionalism"

Ian Tyrrell is emeritus professor of history at the University of New South Wales. He is the author of numerous books, including True Gardens of the Gods: Californian-Australian Environmental Reform, 1860 –1930, Historians in Public, and Reforming the World: The Creation of America’s Moral Empire.

Tyrrell applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, American Exceptionalism: A New History of an Old Idea, and reported the following:
My book is a history of American exceptionalism, not as fact but as belief, seen through its kaleidoscopic characteristics and challenges. Page 99 introduces the case of Sir Archibald Alison, a now obscure historian and jurist writing within the tradition of the Scottish Enlightenment. His History of Europe sold over 100,00 copies in an American edition in the early 1840s, even as little of the book dealt with the United States. The book’s relevance to American exceptionalism was its theme of a providential British Anglo-Saxonism which, transplanted to the Mississippi Valley, would turn the fledgling ex-colonies of British America into a material powerhouse of global significance. The American Home Missionary Society embraced Alison’s advocacy of a transnational Anglo-Saxonism as a stimulus for westward expansion, giving the United States the material platform to project worldwide influence in the extension of Christian “civilization”. Anglo-Saxonism became quite suddenly in the 1840s an exceptionalist ideology justifying this expansion under the term Manifest Destiny, which first appeared in print in 1845.

This vogue for Anglo-Saxonism provided a new and yet problematic view of exceptionalism. On the one hand it gave encouragement to the seizure of lands from “savage” or “barbaric” peoples but, on the other, brought into question the idea of exceptionalism as a singularly U.S. characteristic. A foundational exceptionalist formulation, derived from the American Revolution, saw the United States as a model nation based on a political ideology of republicanism and democracy. But Anglo-Saxonism’s reception revealed a strain of ethno-exceptionalism as a white domain, a characteristic shared with Britain and its settler colonies. This idea did not displace political rights as an issue, but did complicate and create contradictions within the overarching belief system of American exceptionalism, when seen in a world-historical perspective. These conflicts intensified as the struggle over the future of slavery became tied to Manifest Destiny and its assumption of white expansionism based on Anglo-Saxon superiority. Anglo-Saxonism became a hegemonic ideology to the extent that even some mid-nineteenth century African-American advocates of equal rights had to engage with the language of Anglo-Saxonism and its (faulty) assertion that human progress occurred on a basis of a racial civilization. The contest over the conflicted meanings of American Exceptionalism raised here is the major theme of the book.
Visit Ian Tyrrell's website.

The Page 99 Test: Reforming the World: The Creation of America's Moral Empire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 11, 2022

Thomas Helling's "The Great War and the Birth of Modern Medicine"

Thomas Helling, MD, is Professor of Surgery and head of General Surgery at the University of Mississippi in Jackson. He has vast experience in military medicine, trauma, and critical care. With this clinical experience and understanding of the evolution of military surgery, Helling lends a unique perspective to twentieth century combat casualty care. He lives in Jackson, Mississippi.

Helling applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Great War and the Birth of Modern Medicine, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Yet, Lemaitre’s débridement gained popularity. Surgeons could agree it was better than amputation. The pleas of men about to lose an arm or leg depleted their equanimity. A revolution in wound care had begun. French surgeon Alexis Carrel would propel it forward. An imposing figure, Carrel was a man of forceful attention. His close-set eyes peered below a skeptic’s brow; a countenance analytic, intolerant of frivolous traits, his address to the camera one of probing intensity. He was an analyst through and through. Carrel had already achieved international notoriety for his work in suturing blood vessels together. This had been a major stumbling block in the far-fetched idea of organ transplantation. Carrel remedied that hurdle with his clever techniques of connecting small arteries and veins. In fact, it had earned him the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1912. Fame notwithstanding, he had become disenchanted with his native France long before. At about the same time as his groundbreaking article on vascular anastomosis was published, he was caught up in a controversy of a different nature, one quite unworldly and seemingly the antithesis of science. After witnessing and testifying to the cure of Marie Bailly from tuberculous peritonitis at Lourdes in 1902, he seemed to have a spiritual transformation. Miracles, he had said before, were distinctly unscientific. “Physiologic laws oppose miracles,” he wrote, adding, “to the scientific mind a miracle is an absurdity.” But, privately, Lourdes had made him a believer. Prayer indeed can hasten recovery, he had seen. “The only condition indispensable to the occurrence of the phenomenon [miracle] is prayer,” he averred. His report on Maire Bailly, which appeared in the local paper Le Nouvelliste de Lyon in early June 1902, was incriminating. He freely admitted he had no ready explanation for the sudden improvement of this patient, also witnessed by two other physicians.
Page 99 of The Great War and the Birth of Modern Medicine gives a fair portrayal of the very human character of the many medical geniuses who, by necessity, formulated some of the innovative and modern concepts of medical care during the First World War over a century ago. Men such as Alexis Carrel, so instrumental in revolutionizing treatment of battle injuries to prevent the feared gas gangrene, had demons of his own, in his spiritual conflict of science and religion. This book is full of such personal adventures by many notable physicians and scientists who had to meet head on the destructiveness of modern weapons. They were ordinary men who rose to extraordinary achievements in extraordinary times. From George Crile and his treatment of hemorrhagic shock to Madam Curie and her persistent attempts to send X-ray capabilities to the battlefield to William Rivers and his dogged insistence that “shell shock” was not cowardice but bravery exhausted, medicine evolved in short order to cement a foundation of diagnostics and therapeutics still employed today. The Great War in truth provided a calamitous medical proving ground ushering in a new era in care of the stricken, an improbable redemption from the horrors of battle - and disease itself - for modern man.
Visit Thomas Helling's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Jeffrey Frank's "The Trials of Harry S. Truman"

Jeffrey Frank was a senior editor at The New Yorker, the deputy editor of The Washington Post’s Outlook section, and is the author of Ike and Dick. He has published four novels, among them the Washington Trilogy—The Columnist, Bad Publicity, and Trudy Hopedale—and is the coauthor, with Diana Crone Frank, of a new translation of Hans Christian Andersen stories, which won the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Prize. He is a contributor to The New Yorker, and has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Bookforum, and Vogue, among other publications.

Frank applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Trials of Harry S. Truman: The Extraordinary Presidency of an Ordinary Man, 1945-1953, and reported the following:
Page 99 does its job: It’s the summer before the 1946 midterms, which would go badly for Truman, and just as Secretary of Commerce Henry Wallace-- the former vice president-- is about to embarrass himself and Truman by promoting his own policy vis-à-vis Russia, and claiming Truman’s imprimatur. After that, stuff happens.

It’s not my favorite part of the book—far from it—but it does give an idea of what I was aiming for: to cover the sometimes strange, and fascinating, personalities of the Truman era, along its pressing issues—some of them still pressing in 2022.

The book is the biography of a presidency—at a time when America became a colossus. It’s also a character study of Harry Truman and the people around him—some of them forgotten by history. And it’s also a snapshot—even a panoramic snapshot—of an unsettled time that included: a federal "loyalty" program, rumors that Adolf Hitler was alive and living in Argentina, and such personalities as Joseph McCarthy, Billy Graham, and Mickey Spillane.
Visit Jeffrey Frank's website.

The Page 99 Test: Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Helen Roche's "The Third Reich's Elite Schools"

Helen Roche is Associate Professor in Modern European Cultural History at Durham University. Her first book, Sparta’s German Children: The ideal of ancient Sparta in the Royal Prussian Cadet Corps, 1818-1920, and in National Socialist elite schools (the Napolas), 1933-1945 has subsequently received critical acclaim from reviewers in several disciplines, including Classics, intellectual history, and the history of education.

Roche applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Third Reich's Elite Schools: A History of the Napolas, and reported the following:
From page 99:
A brown-skinned, short, thick neck leads into a broad body, completely enshrouded in a sack-like, greasy, much-tattered kaftan, from which the knock-kneed short flat feet still poke out. Short, drooping arms with gesticulating hands, often holding gnarled sticks, complete this unlovely picture.
As we can see from this depiction, Boneß has completely internalized the negative Nazified image of the ‘common-or-garden’ Jew, and approaches his subject with a seemingly anthropological or ethnographic interest, fuelled by contempt. There is no trace of sympathy or fellow-feeling with the people whom he is observing, and indeed, he goes on to extend his disparagement to every type of Jew that he sees, whether they be young or old, male or female:
Mostly some of them stand around, mumbling loudly and casting frowning, poisonous glances our way. Others cling to us with sinister importunacy, in order to ‘do a little deal’ with us (um ‘ä Geschäftsche’ zu tätigen). In between pale Jewboys buzz about…, rouged floozies (‘Schicksen’) with ever-painted nails, and abysmally ugly old women with snarled grey hair, crooked gait and usually a strongly pronounced Jewish nose. Here and there a few abject-looking peasants, the objects of exploitation by this sinister community. On the street, deals are being done; an elderly disciple of the Talmud has set himself up with a giant basket full of foul rubber balls. But then, a Jew can make a business out of anything…
No opportunity is lost here to use the most negative language, connoting disgust, filth, fear, or even suggestions of sexual depravity – as well, of course, as references to the supposed Jewish global economic conspiracy. This tendency becomes even more marked in the following description of the Jewish market hall, which is portrayed as incredibly unhygienic, full of vagrants, stink and unbearable noise. Metaphorical filth becomes ever more interchangeable with physical filth, as Boneß describes seeing thousands of flies swarming over a long table full of unprotected cuts of meat, some of which are apparently beginning to decay; or a single room in the cellar which serves as home to an entire family, from which an evil odour arises, and the stink of mouldering flesh. Thus, although we encounter no actual violence or specific antisemitic action in Boneß’s narrative, this trip nevertheless seems to denote an active attempt by the school authorities to instil loathing and repugnance for Jews by taking pupils to see them in their supposedly ‘natural habitat’ (as if they were mere animals in a zoo or nature reserve).

Such excursions appear to have been common at many of the NPEA; other surviving accounts document the experiences of Jungmannen at Bensberg, Klotzsche, Loben, Naumburg, Neuzelle, Rottweil, and Schulpforta, who made similar trips; many of these testimonies also concern visits to those ‘ghettos’ which had been deliberately created as part of Nazi occupation (and ultimately extermination) policy in Eastern Europe after the outbreak of World War II.
Page 99 of The Third Reich's Elite Schools: A History of the Napolas actually touches on a passage which originally wasn't part of the book at all - an in-depth analysis of an antisemitic account by a teenage pupil at one of these Nazi boarding-schools, written for a school newsletter following a school trip to the Jewish quarter in Sosnowice, Poland, in 1938.

This was one of the earliest parts of the book to be written, chronologically - it originally formed part of a stand-alone article on pupils' attitudes towards Jews and the Holocaust. So, it's fairly uncharacteristic of the book as a whole, since the sort of detailed linguistic analysis employed here is fairly uncommon throughout the narrative (it bears some hallmarks of my former incarnation as a Classicist, rather than my current profession as a modern Historian).

In general, the book aims to give readers a sense of how these Nazi elite schools fitted into the broader social and political context of the Third Reich, and to show how crucial they were to the National Socialist dictatorship's mechanisms of exploitation and domination. It also aims to tell the previously little-known story of everyday life at the schools. So, most of the narrative throughout the book as a whole is more straightforward and less overtly analytical, even though it synthesises a vast number of archival sources and testimonies from former pupils.

Still, there's a sense in which the content of this 99th page is rather apt, in that it gives the reader a real sense of the extreme kind of ideological indoctrination and racial hatred which was inculcated at the Napolas, which their young charges often swallowed unhesitatingly. It demonstrates that the Napolas were undeniably implicated in the regime's genocidal impulses, and the ways in which the schools deliberately trained future military leaders and SS officers who might easily have been conditioned to commit the worst of atrocities against the Jewish minority. (It's hard to know exactly how many former pupils might have been involved directly in the Holocaust, but some arguably will have been.) Overall, then, I would argue that this section of the book is still a highly significant one, since it enables us to draw a direct line between the ideological content of teaching at the Napolas, and the effect that this had in encouraging individual pupils to harbour extreme racist views.
Visit Helen Roche's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Ashley Ward's "The Social Lives of Animals"

Ashley Ward is a professor and director of the Animal Behavior Lab at the University of Sydney, where he researches social behavior, learning, and communication across the animal kingdom. His work has been published in top journals including PNAS, Biological Reviews, and Current Biology. He lives in Sydney.

Ward applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Social Lives of Animals, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Social Lives of Animals covers what a disaster shoaling has been as a strategy for a particular fish, the Atlantic cod, since it causes the animals to concentrate in one place, so making it easier for trawlers to scoop them all up. Indeed, it was this strategy, combined with some extraordinarily intensive and focussed fishing efforts, that caused the collapse of the Grand Banks Fishery.

Given that it deals with the disastrous consequences of being social, it’s probably the single least appropriate page of all to represent the book as a whole. The content on page 99 is one of the very rare cases in which animal aggregations tend to work against the best interests of the animals, rather than in their favour. It’s the exception that very much proves the rule!

The Social Lives of Animals relates the incredibly widespread phenomenon of sociality in a swathe of different animals, from ants to chimpanzees, and describes how aspects of group living, such as co-operation and teamwork, make such a crucial contribution to the success of these animals. Working together, rather than independently, is one of the most compelling solutions to life’s challenges that has ever been devised and for so many animals, not least ourselves, it’s been invaluable. For most of their evolutionary history, group living was a recipe for success for the Atlantic cod, too. It provided them with safety in numbers, the ability to learn generations-old migration routes across the sea bed, and brought them together to spawn. Regrettably, however, this instinct to aggregate was the very thing that factory fishers were able to use against them…
Visit Ashley Ward's website.

--Marshal Zeringue