Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Alvin Eng's "Our Laundry, Our Town"

Alvin Eng is a native New York City playwright, performer, acoustic punk raconteur, and educator. His plays and performances have been seen Off-Broadway, throughout the United States, as well as in Paris, Hong Kong, and Guangzhou, China. Eng is the interviewer/ editor of the oral history / play anthology Tokens? The NYC Asian American Experience on Stage. His plays, lyrics, and memoir excerpts have also been published in numerous anthologies. Eng’s spoken-word videos, songs, storytelling, and commentary have been broadcast and streamed on National Public Radio among others. He is a a two-time appointee to the Fulbright Specialists roster of Theatre / U.S. Studies scholars and a three-time recipient of NYSCA/ NYFA Fellowships.

Eng applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new memoir, Our Laundry, Our Town: My Chinese American Life from Flushing to the Downtown Stage and Beyond, reported the following:
Page 99 is a very good representation of the scope and tone of my memoir. On that page is a passage that explores my 1987 visit to an English language class in Guilin, China in their equivalent of high school. My mother and I were traveling with a small group of North American tourists and we were the only non-Caucasians. On this day, a rainstorm had cancelled our planned outdoor activities and somehow we were invited to visit this English language class. My mother sat out this visit. To quote from the text:
As soon as I entered the English class, whispers started buzzing around and smiles grew from welcoming to cunning as the teacher introduced her visitors. Finally, a delegation of the tallest boy in the class and a petite pig-tailed girl came forward. If she had been born twenty years earlier, this petite pig-tailed girl would have definitely been a Red Guard. Acting as both his agent and interpreter, the petite pig-tailed girl declared: “He would like to arm wrestle you!”

Taken aback, I sort of uttered, “Well . . . gee . . . I don’t know about that.”

The petite pig-tailed girl relayed my response in Chinese to her tall comrade. A round of whispers whipped around the room, and a new strategy was whispered into the ear of the petite pig-tailed girl.

“The friendship is first, the match is second,” she counter-offered. But her body language was screaming, “Let’s get ready to RUMBUUUUUUUULLLLLL!

“I don’t think that would be a good idea,” I politely declined. But the students were just getting started.

“Hey! If there was a war between the United States and China,” challenged a boy from the back row, “who would you fight for?”

“Yeah, who would you fight for?” the class started shouting—more or less in unison. But most aggressively, they were chanting in English.

The teacher finally chastised the students and regained order.

After a long pause in this calm after the storm, I finally said, “I think I’d move to Canada.”
Page 99 is from a chapter entitled “A Sort of Homecoming: But Where Are You Really From?” The chapter compares vignettes from my first trip to China with working in the 1980s rock music biz of NYC in my early 20s. In “the biz” I was regularly asked, “but where are you really from?” by many of my peers and even some musicians. For an American-born Chinese, was this any worse or bizarre than being asked by teenage students in China, “who would you fight for” if a U.S.-Sino war broke out? The finale of the memoir is in direct contrast with the Guilin episode. The final chapters revolve around teaching and creating a Fulbright devised theatre residency. The residency’s primary theme was inspired by the Chinese artistic influences on Thornton Wilder’s Americana play, Our Town. The 21st century Hong Kong college students now accepted and appreciated working with an Asian American professor. Throughout the book, as throughout life, the questions remain more or less the same, but the answers and revelations are always very different.
Visit Alvin Eng's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 16, 2022

Stephen L. Moore's "Patton's Payback"

Stephen L. Moore, a sixth generation Texan, is author of more than twenty books on World War II and Texas history.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Patton's Payback: The Battle of El Guettar and General Patton's Rise to Glory, reported the following:
The ninety-ninth page of Patton’s Payback is a segue that sets up the final failure of the U.S. Army’s campaign commander in North Africa, Lieutenant General Lloyd Fredendall, thereby setting the stage for the introduction of a fiery new leader, Lieutenant General George S. Patton.

Page 99 ends with: “The Americans had been stunned with the bold Axis thrust at Faid Pass. This time the alert Ranger patrols at Dernaia Pass were bypassed and the Allies would be surprised again at a different Tunisian mountain pass called Kasserine.”

Lieutenant Les Kness and his squad of Darby’s Rangers have just completed a grueling twenty-mile march through the Tunisian desert. The elite Army special forces group under Lieutenant Colonel Bill Darby would soon face the taunting rants of their new commander-in-chief for their failure to be in proper uniforms. But over the course of the next two months, Darby, Kness, and their Rangers would earn the respect of “Old Blood and Guts” for their daring assaults against German and Italian outposts.

George Patton’s rise to campaign commander is set up by the U.S. Army’s terrible showing at Kasserine Pass, which is hinted at on Page 99. In the six weeks that followed the introduction of Patton as the Army’s new leader, his Rangers, artillerymen, armored divisions, and infantry would face the best of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps in the desert near El Guettar.
Visit Stephen L. Moore's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Battle for Hell’s Island.

The Page 99 Test: As Good As Dead.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Michelle R. Warren's "Holy Digital Grail"

Michelle R. Warren is Professor of Comparative Literature at Dartmouth College, Her publications include History on the Edge: Excalibur and the Borders of Britain (2000) and Creole Medievalism: Colonial France and Joseph Bédier's Middle Ages (2011), along with several edited volumes.

Warren applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Holy Digital Grail: A Medieval Book on the Internet, reported the following:
Page 99 is a great representation of my book. If the browser opens here, the first words are actually in the header right next to the number 99: “Merchants, Chivalry, Data.” This is the subtitle of Chapter 2, which is about the medieval London guild for fur traders and artisans, the Skinners. Surprisingly, these three words also express really well the overall topic of my book: medieval merchants created a book about chivalry whose meaning has been transformed by digital technologies. Throughout my book, I analyze how data both preserve and erase the past—and how merchant capitalism is still making books on the internet, creating new cultural values just as chivalry did in fifteenth-century England.

The rest of page 99 tells three interconnected stories that also illustrate themes that weave through the whole book: how literary texts interact with historical events, how nationalism motivates book collecting, and how religion becomes political.

The page starts with a heresy trial that took place in 1415: the accused, a skinner named John Claydon, was condemned for owning a book that challenged church doctrines. The second paragraph turns to a related event in church politics that took place a few years later: in 1417 English officials claimed that English Christianity was the oldest in Europe because it had been established by Joseph of Arimathea, who cared for Christ’s body after the Crucifixion. Page 99 ends by noting that around the same time, Joseph’s story was translated into English by Henry Lovelich, a skinner like Claydon.

Remarkably, all the main characters of my book are mentioned on page 99: the translator Henry Lovelich, his patron Henry Barton, their guild the Skinners, Joseph of Arimathea, the Holy Grail, and King Arthur. Together, Lovelich and Barton planned an illustrated book that would have enhanced the social status of their guild. The book was designed to make merchants more like the aristocracy in their reading practices, knowledge of national history, and ownership of luxury goods like illustrated books. Later, the book was preserved for its value to the English Reformation and then variously catalogued, edited, and photographed over the centuries until it reached the internet in 2009 as part of Parker Library on the Web. By following this one book through its many transformations, my book shows how myths endure despite drastic changes in technology, language, and culture.

When I was writing Holy Digital Grail, I tried to imagine that readers could start almost anywhere—and the page 99 test has shown how true this idea can be!
Follow Michelle R. Warren on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 13, 2022

Clayton Butler's "True Blue"

Clayton J. Butler is a postdoctoral fellow at the Nau Center for Civil War History at the University of Virginia.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, True Blue: White Unionists in the Deep South during the Civil War and Reconstruction, and found that the illustration there did not reveal the quality of the whole. So he tried out page 69 to see if it gave a good preview of book and reported the following:
From page 69:
They condoned emancipation as a necessary war measure, just punishment, and future check on the slaveholding class—but retained a deep-seated antipathy toward African Americans the war did nothing to alter. For these atypical white Alabamians, the salvation of the Union—with or without slavery intact—subsumed all other concerns over the course of the war.

In all, 2,066 soldiers enlisted in the First Alabama Cavalry between 1862 and 1865, representing about two-thirds of the estimated total of Alabamians who took up arms for the Union. They forged a creditable military record over the three years of its existence and possessed a political significance to contemporaries on both sides that has been largely overlooked by current scholars. As Alabama historian William Stanley Hoole noted, 'the very existence of the First Alabama Cavalry entitles it to special consideration.' His own history of the regiment, however, is a somewhat boilerplate military history. Deeper investigation of the formation, career, and legacy of the regiment, as well as the stories of the men who comprised both its leadership and its rank and file, illuminates many of the complex facets of white Unionism in the state and in the Deep South as a region.

Alabama Unionists before Federal Occupation

During the period of more than a year between secession and the first arrival of Federal troops in northern Alabama, life for Unionists in the state had become increasingly fraught and precarious. Accounts of future soldiers and their family members recorded in diaries, letters, Southern Claims Commission files and other forms almost universally attest to the dire situation they faced as a result of their national allegiance. Confederate partisans attempted to enforce fealty to the new nation through intimidation and violence; especially after the institution of the Confederate draft in April 1862, even an outwardly neutral stance became untenable. As John Terry, a Cherokee County Unionist later testified, 'things got ... hot about the time the conscript law passed.' Men of military age could either report for Confederate service or face immediate forced conscription. The prospect induced many who still refused to fight against the Union to seek refuge in the woods. Women, nonmilitary-age men, and at times even enslaved persons helped to develop and sustain support networks for these 'lie-outs' which allowed Unionists in northern Alabama to carry on a dogged resistance to the draft."
Page 69 of my book (page 99 proved to be an illustration) would give browsers a direct look at the broader themes, if not the more minute details and vignettes, of the book as a whole. Page 69 finds us wrapping up the introduction to the third chapter, which centers on the First Alabama Cavalry, and beginning the discussion of the experience of Alabama’s white Unionists before the Union army’s first arrival in the state in 1862. The first sentence on the page refers one of the most important takeaways of the book— specifically, that Alabama’s white Unionists by and large did not oppose the Confederacy out of any any profound opposition to slavery and certainly not out of any sympathy for the enslaved. Indeed, with the Union’s integrity later assured by the early 1870s, they would help deliver the state back to the Democratic Party, banish the agents of so-called Radicalism, and “redeem” it from Republican rule. Alabama's white Unionists later abandoned black Alabamians politically, realigned with former rebels on the issue of race, and consigned their former Unionist comrades to another century of oppression and Jim Crow, an ignominious postscript to their Union service during the Civil War. Ultimately, though they made a brave and bold choice to oppose the Confederacy, solicitude for the plight of the enslaved almost never had anything to do with it. They were certainly Unionists -- True Blue -- but not for the reasons we might wish. The truth of history, as ever, is more complicated.
Follow Clayton Butler on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Keith Thomson's "Born to Be Hanged"

Keith Thomson is the author of several novels, including Pirates of Pensacola and the New York Times bestseller Once a Spy. The former Columbia history major also writes nonfiction for the New York Times, Garden & Gun, and the Huffington Post on a range of topics, including national security and piracy. He lives in Birmingham, Alabama.

Thomson applied the “Page 99 Test” to his nonfiction account of the first pirate expedition into the Pacific, Born to Be Hanged: The Epic Story of the Gentlemen Pirates Who Raided the South Seas, Rescued a Princess, and Stole a Fortune, and reported the following:
This is easy, because page 99 is smack in the middle of the April 23, 1680, clash between Spanish soldiers and the English pirates who are the heroes of Born to Be Hanged.

Originally there were 366 of them, banding together in the Caribbean with the intent of being the first buccaneer company to raid the Pacific. On their way to their first major target, Panama City, things went horribly wrong, as things so often do, and, on the morning of April 23, only sixty-eight of them arrived in the Bay of Panama, exhausted from rowing dugout canoes all night through a tropical storm that had waylaid the rest of their company. There were far too few of them to raid the city, even if they were in peak condition. But before they could retreat, they found themselves on the verge of being run down by 260 Spanish soldiers in three warships the size of 747s. Somehow, the pirates got it into their heads that they could defeat the Spaniards.

The resulting battle was arguably the greatest in pirate history, if not all of maritime history, and, not to give anything away, but page 99 is as representative as any in Born to Be Hanged of the Englishmen’s courage and resourcefulness—and insanity.
Learn more about the book and author at Keith Thomson's website.

The Page 69 Test: Once A Spy.

The Page 69 Test: 7 Grams of Lead.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 9, 2022

R. Isabela Morales's "Happy Dreams of Liberty"

R. Isabela Morales is a public historian based in New Jersey. She is the Editor and Project Manager of Princeton University's expansive public history initiative, The Princeton & Slavery Project; her research for the project has been featured in the New York Times. She is also the Digital Projects Manager at the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum, central New Jersey's first Black history museum.

Morales received her Ph.D. in history from Princeton University in 2019, specializing in the 19th-century United States, slavery, and emancipation.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Happy Dreams of Liberty: An American Family in Slavery and Freedom, and reported the following:
Page 99, near the middle of my book, opens at a critical moment in the Townsends' lives: the first stirrings of civil war. When the family was freed in early 1860, they expected that they would soon receive the inheritance that would help them complete their education, buy land and homes, and start new lives as free people in Ohio and Kansas. Yet when Abraham Lincoln was elected president in November 1860 and southern states responded by seceding from the Union, the Townsends saw their dreams of financial security begin to slip away.
With war looming, the estate Cabaniss once considered 'abundantly solvent' was at risk. Three days after Lincoln's election, the lawyer wrote a Mississippi planter that he was 'almost in despair' over the state of the country. With an antislavery president in office and Alabama likely to secede, Cabaniss 'entertained some doubts as to the propriety of proceeding with the sale' of the rest of Samuel Townsend's land and slaves. ... He had already sold land and slaves on credit; if he made the wrong decision now, the Townsends might never receive their full inheritance.
The Townsends' father, the wealthy Alabama cotton planter Samuel Townsend, had promised his once-enslaved children equal shares in his $200,000 fortune. With the outbreak of the Civil War, however, the Townsends were cut off from communication with Samuel's attorney S. D. Cabaniss, who managed the estate, and Cabaniss wouldn't be able to send the Townsends money from their inheritance for the next five years. This was a turning point in the Townsends' lives, as well as the lives of millions of Americans who would be affected by the Civil War.

Page 99 also points to the problematic origins of the freed Townsends' inheritance. The fortune Samuel's children hoped to inherit one day had been built by slave labor, as well as the sale of other enslaved people who weren't related to their master by blood. In some ways, the Townsends' inheritance looks like wealth redistribution: from an enslaver to the enslaved people he once owned. But that wealth was built on exploitation, and the Townsends were beneficiaries of that system too. It's just one example of the complexity of the Townsends' lives and experiences that I explore in Happy Dreams of Liberty.
Visit R. Isabela Morales's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Paul Craddock's "Spare Parts"

Paul Craddock is a cultural historian and award-winning author based in London. His debut book, Spare Parts: A Surprising History of Transplants was a Daily Mail Book of the Week and won the Special Commendation of the Royal Society of Literature Giles St Aubyn Awards.

Craddock is a Science Museum Group Senior Research Associate (SMGSRA), an Honorary Senior Research Associate of UCL’s Division of Surgery, and a Visiting Lecturer at Imperial College London.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to Spare Parts and reported the following:
Page 99 of Spare Parts is largely dedicated to an etching from 1705, of a blood transfusion from a lamb to a man. The slither of text below the image is the beginning of an introduction to George Acton, a sixteenth-century English doctor who proposed that you might treat epilepsy with a transfusion of cat’s blood.

In a way, page 99 gives a rather good idea of what Spare Parts is about. Most people think transplant surgery and transfusion are twentieth-century inventions, and the excerpt introduces some of the seventeenth-century ideas about transplants. My book is all about surprises (in fact, its subtitle in the UK is ‘the surprising history of transplants’), and this is certainly one of those. It’s complete with an image showing a rather disturbed man looking away as a transfusionist sees to his operation. His donor – the lamb – is looking similarly disturbed with an almost human face, and is looking away in the opposite direction. It looks simultaneously macabre and hilarious. And this is another way page 99 is indicative of the whole: Much of the history in Spare Parts feels incredibly silly, at least to someone with a British sense of humour. The idea of transfusion itself isn’t funny, of course, but we can affectionately chuckle at scientists earnestly assuming that a transfusion recipient might turn into a sheep. There’s some evidence, in fact, that people at the time loved to laugh at such silliness – plays were written poking fun at scientists for such outlandish suggestions, as playwrights created characters who had transfusions in order to transform into various creatures. So, the test worked in those few ways: it’s indicative of the kind of story a browser will come across, it gives an impression of the sheer age of transplant surgery as a medical idea, and it presents something of the inherent creativity and quirkiness in the history of this remarkable surgery.
Visit Paul Craddock's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 6, 2022

Patricia Saldarriaga and Emy Manini's "Infected Empires"

Patricia Saldarriaga is a professor of Luso-Hispanic studies at Middlebury College, Vermont. She is the author of Los espacios del ‘Primero Sueño’ de Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and co-editor (with M. Júdice, I. Araújo-Branco, and R. Marques) of Sor Juana e Portugal. Emy Manini is an independent scholar based in Seattle, Washington.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Infected Empires: Decolonizing Zombies, and reported the following:
Page 99 of our book is a fractional but representative snapshot of the entirety of our book. We discuss the Peruvian film The Year of the Apocalypse (El año del apocalipsis) and a plot point in which a group of young adult survivors of a zombie outbreak decide to sacrifice the children and elderly people they have been tasked with protecting when they are under attack. They do this in order to give themselves, the supposedly stronger, healthier, and abler demographic, a better chance of survival. From our page: “For this generation, the future is the present moment, and only by eliminating the children (of the future) and the elderly (of the past) will they be able to survive… They decide that, due to their respective ages, the elderly and the children are disabled, and so they poison them to control their present moment.” We refer to the “strange temporalities” proposed by J. Halberstam, in which the emergency of the AIDS era brought focus to the present moment instead of a long future life and the idea of futurity itself. The young adults in the film are rejecting a queer and crip temporality that goes beyond the idea of ableist and heteronormative narratives about the future. We liken this mindset to the way young, “healthier,” lives were valued over “disposable” elderly, poor, and immunocompromised subjects during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our page 99 ends by introducing the notion of an inclusive futurity, which we later go on to propose must consider the union of queer temporality and crip time to include intersectionalities of gender, disability, race, and class.

We believe this page is a good example of how we analyze global zombie narratives presented in films from around the world to examine what they tell us about how we understand the world we live in, how we came to this historical moment, and how we can navigate our anxieties about an apocalyptic future that are expressed by these films. Of course, it is only one example in a book that contains hundreds, and so it is not a complete view of our broader project. However, the example of page 99 is a good indicator of our methods and interests.

We study the zombie as a transnational cinematic phenomenon. We begin with an in-depth study of the ontology of the zombie and the decolonization of the soul, something that we trace back to classical philosophy. We go on to make connections between the zombie myth born in colonialism and the epistemic violence that enforces the continuation of coloniality of thought that props up the structure of the modern nation-state. We also consider the ways in which capital maintains coloniality over bodies and lives, even unto death. Therefore, we look at zombies as subjects of gore capitalism (as proposed by Sayak Valencia), as dead bodies and commodities that resist their economic exploitation through necroactivism. We study the zombie in its current expressions of difference and otherness, across categories of race, nationality, gender, class, dis/ability, and sexuality, in terms of how zombie narratives reflect real-world events. For example, we question categories of ability (especially under the weight of the global COVID emergency) and look at zombies as expressions of anxieties during Trump era immigration policies. It is our assertion that zombie films illustrate the consequences of oppressive societal systems including capitalism, globalization, as well as environmental, immigration and health policies. These films use horror to emphasize the traces of affects in humanity which allow for the visualization and understanding of historical apocalyptic moments and the means of moving past them towards the sort of futurity proposed on our page 99. In this way, the page delivers a dismembered slice of the fuller corpus of our book!
Learn more about Infected Empires at the Rutgers University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Kathryn S. Olmsted's "The Newspaper Axis"

Kathryn S. Olmsted is a professor of history at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of Right Out of California: The 1930s and the Big Business Roots of Modern Conservatism.

Olmsted applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Newspaper Axis: Six Press Barons Who Enabled Hitler, and reported the following:
The Page 99 Test works remarkably well for my book. The Newspaper Axis examines the Anglo-American media environment in which Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler came to power in the 1930s. In both the U.S. and the U.K., the most powerful media moguls dismissed or appeased Hitler—and in some cases, even published pro-fascist propaganda. Page 99 of the book details the efforts by two of these newspaper publishers, Joe Patterson of the New York Daily News and Lord Beaverbrook of the London Daily Express, which were the most popular papers in their respective nations, to engineer an Anglo-American campaign to ignore Hitler’s aggression. They agreed to publish front-page editorials, public letters, news articles, and letters to the editor to encourage their readers to support the cause of isolationism. As I write on page 99, “The Daily Express ran a story about how the Daily News was printing letters from Express readers about the Express stories about the Daily News. The two publishers created a transatlantic isolationist media echo chamber.”

It is this alliance between the U.S. and U.K. newspaper publishers that I refer to as the “newspaper axis.” I didn’t invent the term: one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s top advisers, Interior Secretary Harold Ickes, used it to describe the American isolationist newspaper publishers. But I believe that the phrase captures the transnational cooperation between the media barons of both nations, and page 99 explains the details of their alliance.

These publishers helped shape the responses of their governments to fascist aggression. The six press barons I examine in the book collectively reached tens of millions of readers. Their willingness to appease or even praise the Nazi leader made it much more difficult for their nation’s elected officials to stand up to the fascist threat. The book shows that the embrace of authoritarian dictators by today’s right-wing media has deep roots in the past.
Learn more about The Newspaper Axis at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Neall W. Pogue's "The Nature of the Religious Right"

Neall W. Pogue is an Assistant Professor of Instruction at the University of Texas at Dallas.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Nature of the Religious Right: The Struggle between Conservative Evangelicals and the Environmental Movement, and reported the following:
Page 99 demonstrates that Christian school educational material written in the 1980s by religious right supporters championed the views of famous preservationist John Muir. In the Christian schoolbook, Muir stops his money hungry father from chopping down all the trees on their farm. The Nature of the Religious Right illustration/photo section additionally features reprinted pages of this story about Muir, which can be located just before chapter 5 that begins on page 109.

The final paragraph on page 99 connects the Muir’s story with a previously discussed idea called Christian environmental stewardship. The analysis explains that Christian environmental stewardship is a theologically based perspective in which humanity was mandated by God to treat nature with respect even if it meant curbing financial gain. Such a moral is directly reflected by the story of Muir.

In summary, page 99 offers hard evidence of the book’s overall thesis that conservative evangelicals of the religious right surprisingly supported eco-friendly philosophies from the late 1960s to the early 1990s. Thus, although today this important American religious and political demographic stands in opposition to environmental initiatives, history shows they once held much friendlier views of nature.

In short, page 99 gives the reader a very good idea of the whole book. It demonstrates that religious right supporters, who wrote Christian school material, supported protecting the environment even if it meant curbing financial profits. Such a perspective nicely reflects the book’s thesis that conservative evangelicals of the religious right believed that humanity could use nature but must do it wisely because the earth is owned by God.

It is recommended, however, that one should read the introduction of The Nature of the Religious Right to clearly understand conservative evangelical culture and the book’s overall thesis. Nevertheless, the analysis of the Muir story on page 99 nicely reflects the book’s overall message.

The Nature of the Religious Right can help save our planet and therefore our survival as a species.

The book proves that conservative evangelicals of the religious right actually supported eco-friendly initiatives from the late 1960s to the early 1990s. Such a fact suggests that bridges of communication can be built between environmentalists and supporters of the religious right movement.

After all, this book is dedicated to “conservative evangelicals and environmentalists.” The information could, in other words, be used to assist in healing political divides, which if accomplished, can help protect the earth.
Learn more about The Nature of the Religious Right at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 2, 2022

David E. Gussak's "The Frenzied Dance of Art and Violence"

David E. Gussak is Professor for the Florida State University's Graduate Art Therapy Program and the Project Coordinator for the FSU/FL Department of Correction's Art Therapy in Prisons program. As an art therapist for almost 30 years, Gussak has presented and published extensively internationally and nationally on forensic art therapy and art therapy in forensic settings. These include, among others, Art on Trial (2015) and Art and Art Therapy with the Imprisoned (2019). He is also the co-editor, with Marcia Rosal, and contributing author for The Wiley Handbook of Art Therapy (2015).

Gussak applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Frenzied Dance of Art and Violence, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Frenzied Dance of Art and Violence is in the middle of chapter 2 which features artists impacted by situational and societal violence whose work seemed to emerge from a need of comprehension, control and resistance. The top half of this page is filled with Felix Nussbaum’s final painting, Death Triumphant, created shortly before he was arrested, deported and ultimately murdered by the Nazi regime. Yet the text on the page primarily refers to his self-portrait that appears on the previous page which conveys “…a sense of furtive insolence, the subject doing everything he can to maintain his humanity and identity [in the face of violent oppression]. Unfortunately, it is already too late.” The bottom of the page begins its reflections of Death Triumphant, which “depicts many skeletons playing and dancing to music among the ruins,” concluding its summary on the following page, ultimately reminding the reader “[i]n destruction nothing is sacred; all will eventually disappear.”

This page is paradoxically an excellent encapsulation and a meagre fragment of the entire book—it captures its essence, illustrating in depth the infamous work of one of many featured artists, relying on it to help tell his volatile story. Like all of the examinations throughout, it reflects deeply on the artist’s work to convey how it might reflect, contain, resist or sublimate their violent tendencies or volatile experiences. Yet it is just one of 85 examples depicted throughout, either by notoriously aggressive and violent creators, courageous resistors, psychopathic murderers who wielded their art as a weapon, or those whose creations facilitated peace and well-being for even the most incorrigible.

This page does indeed underscore the role that art has in maintaining and reinforcing one’s identity in the face of barbarism, and the artists’ ability to exhibit and express the volatility held within and experienced without. Yet, in exploring the complex interrelationship between art and violence, the book can’t help but provide an intricate, complicated and thought-provoking examination. Thus, while this single page can help draw the reader in and provide a sense of the book’s narrative rhythm, it can’t fully contain in a nice, neat parcel the frenzy ensued within.
Follow Dave Gussak on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Charlotte Mullins's "A Little History of Art"

Charlotte Mullins is an art critic, writer and broadcaster. Currently art critic at Country Life, she was formerly editor of Art Review, V&A Magazine, and Art Quarterly. She has published over a dozen books on visual art.

Mullins applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, A Little History of Art, and reported the following:
When I opened my book at page 99 I felt short-changed: page 99 falls at the end of Chapter 13 and as such there are only a few lines of print. That said, page 99 is an interesting moment in the book. It is the end of the chapter ‘East Meets West’, which looks at the multicultural city of Venice in the fifteenth century and its relationship with Constantinople (now Istanbul). Page 99 also introduces us to three of the biggest superstars of the age:
Venice was a melting pot of nationalities and cultures, with diverse and wealthy patrons who commissioned great art. Most Venetian artists felt no need to travel to other city-states to look for work but this was not the case elsewhere in Italy. Increasingly many of Italy’s most ambitious artists chose to move to Rome to try to work for the Pope. In the next chapter we will follow three of the greatest Renaissance artists as they all leave the city of Florence for lucrative commissions. These artists are so familiar to us today that we know them simply by their first names: Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael.
Page 99 does give you a flavour of the book’s accessible style and hopefully shows you that this book is packed full of context and content. That said, what page 99 doesn’t do is show the diversity of this book – and perhaps no single page could do this. For this book covers 100,000 years of art history. It travels from caves in Indonesia to Assyrian palaces, Chinese tombs to Peruvian plains. It covers monumental sculptures from Rapa Nui, the Terracotta Army, a urinal exhibited as art and the whole cast of a house. It features miniature paintings and murals, prints and videos and art made entirely of ideas. It covers cultural exchange, colonialism and slavery as well as abstraction, figuration and everything in-between.

Perhaps a line from page 4 ultimately sums up the book’s goal: ‘We will roam the world together, reinstating forgotten artists and expanding the traditional view of art history.’ So while page 99 introduces the Renaissance greats of Michelangelo, Leonardo and Raphael there are hundreds of less well known but brilliant artists to explore on the other pages of A Little History of Art.
Visit Charlotte Mullins's website.

--Marshal Zeringue