Friday, March 31, 2023

James O. Young's "A History of Western Philosophy of Music"

James O. Young is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Victoria. His books include Art and Knowledge (2001), Cultural Appropriation and the Arts (2008), and Critique of Pure Music (2014) and Radically Rethinking Copyright in the Arts (2020).

Young applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, A History of Western Philosophy of Music, and reported the following:
Fortuitously, page 99 would give a reader a good idea about my book. At the highest level of generality, a major claim of A History of Western Philosophy of Music is that the central debate in philosophy has always asked whether music is appreciated as contentless form or whether it is heard as having a relation to something extra-musical (usually emotion). In other words, the question of whether musical beauty is autonomous or not has been ubiquitous.

In the ancient world, several writers on music believed that music is primarily appreciated for formal qualities such as proportion and balance. Some of these writers, notably Ptolemy, believed that music’s proportion and balance are appreciated for their own sake. Many of these writers, including Augustine and Plotinus, believed that listeners appreciate these formal properties because they reflect the proportion and order of divinely-created reality. Other ancient writers held that music is an imitative art was widespread and it was adopted by philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle. Aristides Quintilianus is typical of such thinkers when he writes that “music imitates the characters and passions of the soul.” In the middle ages, the view that music is valuable due to its order and harmonious proportions was widely-adopted and very little is said of musical expression or music’s relation to emotion. In the early modern period the same division of opinion about music re-emerges. One school of thought, which stretches from Gioseffo Zarlino in the sixteenth century to Descartes in the seventeenth and Rameau in the eighteenth, held that music was valuable as a result of its harmonic form. The other early modern school begins with the revival of ancient philosophy of music by the Florentine Camerata and continues into the eighteenth century in thinkers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau. These thinkers adopted a version of the resemblance theory of musical expressiveness and held that music is expressive of emotion by resembling human expressive behaviour. In the contemporary world, the debate is between formalists and their anti-formalist opponents but the debate has raged from the earliest days of philosophy of music.
Learn more about A History of Western Philosophy of Music at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Kimberly Quiogue Andrews's "The Academic Avant-Garde"

Kimberly Quiogue Andrews is an assistant professor of English at the University of Ottawa. She is the author of two collections of poetry, A Brief History of Fruit, winner of the Akron Prize for poetry, and BETWEEN, winner of the New Women’s Voices award.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, The Academic Avant-Garde: Poetry and the American University, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Academic Avant-Garde contains a break that moves the reader from the second to the third section of my chapter on Jorie Graham and the work of teaching. The end of the section (at the top of the page) reads as follows:

“The freedom, in other words, comes from speaking a private language. The pleasure comes from giving that language away.”

That’s how I describe the peculiar situation of being an “experimental” creative writer: on the one hand, you retain a degree of autonomy by producing relatively hermetic work—work, that is, that isn’t beholden to market expectations. On the other hand, though, you still need readers, and of course there’s always pleasure in the idea that others are reading your writing, even if (or maybe particularly when) it’s very difficult. So the “private language” of avant-garde literature is always, one way or another, giving itself away, and that dynamic—particularly the way it structures the interplay between poets who work in the university and the critics that are often just down the hall from them—informs the entirety of The Academic Avant-Garde. So the top of the page absolutely passes the test.

The rest of the page delves a little more deeply into the particular contradiction of teaching at the university level, which is both the thing that buys many writers the chance to write while also (a) taking time away from writing (this is why professors, despite the job title, complain so much about teaching) and (b) forcing one to “disclose” the tricks of the trade. I don’t really deal with this specific matter anywhere other than this chapter, and if one were to only read this page, they might get the impression that the book is entirely about creative writing pedagogy. But there’s a focus on labor, here, that underlies how the book itself is organized. “Teaching,” the page says, “is very obviously labor in the traditional sense” because “it is a specific service done for a wage”—this is why “it is the [type of academic work] that feels the most like work.” The rest of the book deals with activities that feel less like waged work: reading and research. Nevertheless, these too are part of the job, and they all find their way into American avant-garde poetry as that poetry gets written more and more under the auspices of that very job.
Visit Kimberly Quiogue Andrews's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Geoffrey Block's "A Fine Romance"

Geoffrey Block is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Music History and Humanities at the University of Puget Sound. He is the series editor for Oxford's Broadway Legacies and has published widely on American musical theater and film. His books include Enchanted Evenings: The Broadway Musical from “Show Boat” to Sondheim and Lloyd Webber and The Richard Rodgers Reader.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, A Fine Romance: Adapting Broadway to Hollywood in the Studio System Era, and reported the following:
This is what happens when you turn to page 99 in A Fine Romance: the page begins with the final paragraph of a discussion of Call Me Madam, a popular stage musical from 1950 that was successfully adapted into a film musical three years later. The musical features music and lyrics by Irving Berlin and the huge star Ethel Merman on both stage and film versions. So far in the chapter readers have learned how the stage and film versions are both similar and different, including how and why one major song was replaced in the film and two others were deleted entirely in the transfer from stage and film. The first lines of page 99 come at the end of this story when they explain how the film version alters the context of the song “It’s a Lovely Day,” which appears in both versions, and alters its presentation from a non-diegetic stage song (a song in which the characters don’t know they’re singing) to a diegetic film song (where the characters are fully aware they are singing a great tune by Berlin). Both the characters and film viewers even get to see a close-up of the sheet music with Berlin’s picture on the cover.

What happens next on page 99 is the beginning of a new section about the last song to be introduced in the stage version, an “11 o’clock number”—“a show-stopping song designed to wake up an audience toward the end of an evening about 11:00 P.M. in the days when musicals started at 8:30 P.M and ended about 11:30 P.M.—called “You’re Just in Love” (99). The text explains that this song was a late addition that came about when Merman asked her friend Berlin to write a song that featured the star in a duet with her talented young co-star Russell Nype. “You’re Just in Love,” which quickly became the hit of the show, is a counterpoint song, “a Berlin specialty, a song-type that presents two (usually) contrasting melodies and lyrics successively before combining them simultaneously” (99). Nype sings a romantic love-song type of tune against Merman’s rhythmic and faster-moving counter line. The rest of the page is devoted to an explanation of the song’s context and what the characters are conveying in their individual tunes both before and after they sing them together.

Overall, browsers looking at page 99 would get a good idea of the work as a whole, which devotes considerable attention throughout to how stage musicals and their film adaptations treat songs and dances both similarly and differently. At the top of the page they get a sense of how one song (“It’s a Lovely Day”) was used in the film version and after that how another song, “You’re Just in Love,” was used on the stage. Browsers who turn the page would learn the song’s screen treatment and discover a musical example of the two melodies sounding together in counterpoint. And if browsers continued to break the rules and turn one more page they would discover an entire page devoted to a both a stage photo of Merman singing “You’re Just in Love” with Nype and a screenshot of Merman and Donald O’Connor singing the same song in the film. Thus with only a little cheating page 99 could serve as a reliable shortcut to the book’s content and approach. All that’s missing is one of the periodic connecting links that convey the central conclusions of this chapter and the book as a whole.

The larger context of the musical and dramatic changes from stage to film in Call Me Madam hinted at on page 99 is the transition between two sharply differing approaches to the adaptation process. Before 1950, film studios were not particularly concerned with producing faithful adaptations and employed studio composers to replace stage songs with new film songs that catered to their stable of popular film stars. The first film musical discussed in this chapter, On the Town (1949), illustrates this approach when it removed most of Leonard Bernstein’s now-acclaimed stage score. The new decade brought with it a new desire for more faithful film adaptations that preserved most of the original stage score and often one or more cast members from the original stage version. The film adaptation of Call Me Madam illustrates this now marketable approach with in which the film studios preserved nearly the entire Broadway score and Ethel Merman repeated her starring stage role. By converting the non-dancing Russell Nype with Donald O’Connor, who both sang and could make a suitable partner for great dancer Vera-Ellen, the film version also added an exciting new dimension destined to please a new film audience.
Learn more about A Fine Romance at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

William Jankowiak's "Illicit Monogamy"

William Jankowiak is professor of anthropology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He is the author of Sex, Death, and Hierarchy in a Chinese City: An Anthropological Account (1993) as well as the editor of Romantic Passion: A Universal Experience? (1995) and Intimacies: Love and Sex Across Cultures (2008), among other books.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Illicit Monogamy: Inside a Fundamentalist Mormon Community, and reported the following:
Page 99 is close but incomplete in encapsulating a recurrent theme: the tension between embracing a cosmologically inspired ideal that says plural love is superior to monogamous love, while often lapsing into unvoiced non-pluralistic pair bonds. The page also summarizes the community’s folk idea that a “good” wife is obedient, devoted, and kindhearted and the “ideal” husband has leadership ability, can provide for his growing family, and is fair to all his wives. The ideal in practice is seldom achieved with husbands often disdaining wives who embody the ideal in preference for a wife who is smart, opinionated, and interesting to converse with.

The book strives to divert the readers’ attention from the expected political economy and sexual economy which has been most of the popular discourse on polygynous families recently, and take them into the psychodynamics of it all, and especially the tension between the cosmological-theological rationale and the psychodynamics of everyday life.

Unlike the usual journalism that names names or the usual ethnography that names fake names, the book dispense with that style out of sensitivity to the community’s wants and gratitude for their cooperation to make a more vivid argument grounded in individual examples that become archetypes of people in a matrix of social relations, but at the same time highlighting how different people act and react, think and feel, differently even in the same structural matrix.
Learn more about Illicit Monogamy at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 27, 2023

Zachary Jonathan Jacobson's "On Nixon's Madness"

Zachary Jonathan Jacobson is the author of On Nixon’s Madness: An Emotional History. He received his Ph.D. from Northwestern University in U.S. History with a focus on the Cold War. He is a Community Scholar with the Society of U.S. Intellectual History and the American Institute of Thought at Indiana University—Purdue University Indianapolis. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, USA Today, and the Chronicle of Higher Education as well as journals including Presidential Studies Quarterly and Cold War History. He is currently writing The Saints and the Navigators: A Storied History of the Early Cold War.

Jacobson applied the "Page 99 Test" to On Nixon’s Madness and reported the following:
Rather than expound on the many themes of On Nixon's Madness, half of page 99 is taken up with a photograph of First Lady Pat Nixon on a diplomatic trip to a Polynesian village in January 1972, poised, bedecked in a crown of flowers. On first glance Pat appears to live up to her image as "Plastic Pat," ever a plastered smile across her face, her posture "stiff as an asparagus." Like her husband, Pat was a great performer. Her husband called her one of the great actresses of her time. Her cheeriness appears instrumental, a political trick to fashion the pleasing image of a satisfied wife. During her husband's time in office, she indeed garnered laurels for the Housemaker of the Year and Mother of the Year. Yet as I write in this book, as for Richard's pleasant stories of his childhood, Pat's sentimental sheen served not just political ends but a way to protect her from more unsettling feeling. "Plastic Pat" was not forever poised. She did not grow up in Camelot but in a dirt-poor tent community with a mother who died young and an abusive father. Pat soon learned how to take care of herself. She had little choice. She developed a constricted, ascetic ethos from early on to persevere and never to complain. On Nixon’s Madness examines the complications of such an ethos for both Nixons. Contrary to the former president’s image as a grump nonpareil, he also relished in the sentimental, time and again demanding from his speechwriters more schmaltz in his speeches, more stories of “warm instead of brittle,” of impossibly good children. Like Pat, Richard had a terribly difficult childhood that he found difficult to remember in the raw. As he told Kissinger, “Like Lot’s wife, Henry, never look back.” As this book explores, for both Richard and Nixon, their sentimentalism allowed them to emote a tremendous amount of care to the American people and, at the same time, protect them from more troubling feeling that might overwhelm.
Visit Zachary Jonathan Jacobson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Stevan M. Weine's "Best Minds"

Stevan M. Weine is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, where he is also Director of Global Medicine and Director of the Center for Global Health. He is the author of When History Is a Nightmare: Lives and Memories of Ethnic Cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Testimony and Catastrophe: Narrating the Traumas of Political Violence.

Weine applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Best Minds: How Allen Ginsberg Made Revolutionary Poetry from Madness, and reported the following:
Most of Best Minds’ page 99 is a 1953 photograph of Ginsberg’s lifelong friend Carl Solomon smiling and sitting cross legged on a bed, with two short paragraphs above which read:
When in 1986 I told Allen his diagnosis at PI was “pseudoneurotic-type schizophrenia,” I was surprised to hear he thought the diagnosis was accurate and to his liking. Allen said the constructs of pan-neurosis, pan-anxiety, and pan-sexuality were fairly apt descriptions of his situation, although he said he was not having much sex in those days. He really liked the idea that psychosis is near and accessible, which, notably, he saw as a good thing.

At PI, Allen had the amazingly good fortune to meet another patient named Carl Solomon, a young Dadaist from the Bronx who had read Genet, Artaud, Breton, Rimbaud, and Gide. They first met in the clinic, a week before Allen’s admission. Allen wrote in his journal, “This is a real madhouse—what a weird feeling,” and was taken by “a secret conspiracy of the great dichotomy—the lunatic v.s. society.”
In Best Minds, the Page 99 Test partially works. Page 99 contains several key elements of the overall book: new revelatory information about Ginsberg’s experiences of psychiatric treatment from never before seen psychiatric records and direct interviews with Ginsberg; fresh and revealing looks at key people in Ginsberg’s life - such as Carl Solomon; evocative photographs and other images; and a multidisciplinary lens where the literary and the psychiatric perspectives speak to one another.

On the other hand, unmentioned on 99 are: Allen’s mother Naomi, diagnosed with schizophrenia and lobotomized, but nonetheless his muse; new readings of Allen’s poems which deal with madness, including of course “Howl” and “Kaddish,” as well as poems inspired by his 1948 Blake visions; understanding how Ginsberg ended up at PI (the New York State Psychiatric Institute), how he was treated there, and the impact of this experience on his development as a young man and as a poet.

I like that page 99 shares Ginsberg’s belief that psychosis, or more broadly madness, is a key part of life which should be acknowledged, accepted, even embraced. This from a man who didn’t romanticize mental illness or madness, and knew very well the suffering it could entail, but nonetheless, saw its value, for individuals, culture, and society.

I love that page 99 introduces Carl Solomon, who I had the pleasure of meeting on several occasions in New York City in the 1980’s. I knew of Solomon from “Howl,” which turned Carl into a Beat legend (“Carl Solomon! I’m with you in Rockland”), but I came to know him as a sweet, humorous, and brilliant man and accomplished author in his own right. Solomon memorably said that he didn’t fit in so well with the other Beats who had celebrated madness, such as Jack Kerouac, because he was a genuine psychotic, unlike the others who he said were more neurotics.

Ginsberg maintained a friendship with Solomon over many years, as well as several other writers and artists with mental health problems who needed his support to keep them out of trouble. This is one way he stood by his belief that madness wasn’t something to hide from, shut up, or put away. Rather, it is an essential part of life that must be acknowledged and engaged and if handled with care and respected and heard with compassion and support for its miseries, may lead to spiritual, political, and social breakthroughs.
Learn more about Best Minds at the Fordham University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Ari Joskowicz's "Rain of Ash: Roma, Jews, and the Holocaust"

Ari Joskowicz is associate professor of Jewish studies, history, and European studies at Vanderbilt University and the author of The Modernity of Others: Jewish Anti-Catholicism in Germany and France.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Rain of Ash: Roma, Jews, and the Holocaust, and reported the following:
Page 99 concludes the end of my discussion of a major postwar survey conducted by Belgian administrators during the early 1950s. By this point, readers have learned that the people behind this initiative had invited 403 Jews to speak about their persecution under Nazism—and, surprisingly, also decided to ask them about the experiences of people persecuted as “Gypsies.” I seek to understand why they did this and what we can learn from their choice to venture beyond a focus on Jewish suffering alone, concluding with this paragraph:
Goldstein’s survey was revolutionary in the Belgian context. It not only identified but also singled out Jews as victims of racial persecution and prepared reports on their deportation from Belgium and France that could support Jewish claims for compensation and recognition. Originally “forgotten victims” themselves, Belgian Jews were asked to speak about the experiences of another largely ignored victim group whose fate they only knew from distant observation. Even those Jews who suggested that Roma had been treated worse than Jews indirectly found their experiences recognized as the benchmark for the treatment of racial persecutees. The questionnaires that illustrate the silencing of Roma thus enabled the empowerment of Jews. This is the enduring paradox of the Goldstein commission’s documentation work.
A new section entitled “The First Romani Archives of the Holocaust” then begins. Placing this Belgian survey into its larger context, the first paragraph of this section tackles the question of why so few people cared to talk to Roma themselves about their experiences. It reads:
Just as the Belgian questionnaires produced knowledge about Roma while centering the position of Jewish victims, Romani Holocaust Studies would eventually emerge as a field dominated by historians trained to study the Jewish Holocaust, while Romani Studies largely remained the domain of linguists, musicologists, anthropologists, social workers, and folklorists. […] This bifurcation meant that those who could speak to large numbers of Roma and had the resources to record their statements for posterity gave little support to historians who began their work decades after the fact.
The discussions that appear on page 99 are surprisingly representative and central to the argument of Rain of Ash. In the book, I trace the story of the unusual relationship between two heterogeneous groups both operating in the shadow of a shared genocide. I start with the little-known story of how Roma and Jews suffered next to each other, exposed to the images, sounds, and smells of the other group’s destruction, even as they remained largely ignorant of each other’s histories. I then show how initiatives such as the one in Belgium brought Jews and Roma together in unexpected ways, as Jewish survivors started to organize to demand justice and seek recognition, first for the genocide experienced by their own people and, with time, also for Romani victims of Nazi genocide. Such efforts first took shape as individual Jewish scholars, community leaders, and lawyers began to write about the Romani Holocaust in the 1950s and 1960s—and to use that knowledge to fight for compensation for them. By the 1980s, Romani and Jewish activists and intellectuals began to work cooperatively toward similar ends, yet the asymmetry of their relationship remained palpable throughout. The book follows this story through the contemporary moment, at a time when Jewish and Romani youth have for the first time created shared spaces of commemoration, regularly campaign for each other’s rights, and find new means of speaking about a relationship that remains unequal into the present.

The passages on page 99 mark one crucial turning point in how these developments played out in the immediate postwar period. They also offer an example of the complicated dynamics that shape this unequal relationship. While later parts of the book revolve around the experiences of Romani survivors in a world shaped by the memory of the Jewish Holocaust, in this early period of testimony collection Roma often remained completely unheard. As in many court cases, legal proceedings, and early historical works, the example above Jewish experiences served as a yardstick that could be used either to make the untold story of Romani suffering audible or to downplay the suffering of Roma. Ultimately, this is a book about the monetary, legal, and conceptual structures that shape how we get to know the past, as well as the moral choices entailed in the writing of history.
Learn more about Rain of Ash at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 24, 2023

Christine Kenneally's "Ghosts of the Orphanage"

Christine Kenneally is an award-winning journalist and author who has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Slate, Time, New Scientist, Scientific American, The Monthly, and other publications. Her book, The Invisible History of the Human Race: How DNA and History Shape Our Identities and Our Futures, was a New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2014, winner of the Bragg UNSW Prize for Science Writing, shortlisted for the 2015 Stella Prize and the 2015 Queensland Premier's Literary Awards, and appeared on many "best of" lists. Her first book, The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Before becoming a reporter, Kenneally received a Ph.D. in linguistics from Cambridge University and a B.A. (Hons) in English and Linguistics from Melbourne University. She was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia, and has lived in England, Iowa, and Brooklyn, New York. She was a senior contributor at BuzzFeed News for 4 years, working on an American orphanage story. Published in August 2018, the story was viewed more than six million times in six months. It won a Deadline Award and was a finalist for a National Magazine Award, a Michael Kelly Award and an Online Journalism Award. It was shortlisted for the Fetisov Prize. Her book, Ghosts of the Orphanage: A Story of Mysterious Deaths, a Conspiracy of Silence, and a Search for Justice, expands the story told in the article.

Kenneally applied the "Page 99 Test" to Ghosts of the Orphanage and reported the following:
Page 69:
Chapter 6
We must be aware my dear Sisters that education is by far the most excellent art of reaching the students. We must first show them dignity and Christian upbringing. It is the Holy Spirit that elevates these young people’s soul.

—Reports of Provincial Superior of Official Visits to St. Joseph’s Orphanage, April 23, 1948
It turned out that the nuns were right about Sally bringing back things from the outside world into the closed world of the orphanage. She has changed. They still beat her and lock her into frightening spaces, but after her time with the Pelkeys, Sally decides she isn’t going to scream any- more. She is going to stick up for other children, too, and when she is in trouble, she is not going to cry. Sometimes after she had been in the attic or the nuns beat her for doing something wrong, she makes a point of folding her arms and smiling at them once they are done.

Her refusal to cry makes all the nuns angry, but Sister James Mary seems to take it the most personally. Sally no longer fits into the pad box, so Sister James Mary tells her to climb inside a big empty metal water tank in the attic. Sally was so stubborn, Sister James Mary said, she wouldn’t cry or do anything. This may be the most confusing part of life with the nuns. They want Sally to cry when they want her to cry. It shows they can make her do what they want. But if she cries when they don’t want her to cry, then they really give her something to cry about. When they do that, they won’t stop until Sally stops crying.

Sister James Mary makes Sally climb up a little ladder on the outside of the tank. Then she pulls the lid shut.

At first, alone in the dark, Sally screams to be let out. But the echoes in the tank make it sound like other people are in there with her. It just about scares her to death. So she makes herself very quiet instead.

Sally tries not to move and doesn’t push against the lid. It is hard to tell how much time has passed. It is so still and so black, she is pretty sure that two days have passed by the time Irene finds her.
In fact, page 99 of Ghosts of the Orphanage aptly demonstrates one of the book's most important themes--the enormous gap between the written record and life as it was really lived. The page begins with a quote from a 1948 supervisor's report for the Sisters of Providence at St. Joseph's Orphanage in Burlington, Vermont. The supervisor reminds her sister nuns that dignity and christian values are paramount. It's characteristic of much of the Sisters' documentation, which is aspirational, positive, even noble. Page 99 then goes on to describe an episode in the life of the orphan Sally Dale, one of the book's real life protagonists. Sally had recently been returned to the orphanage from her stay with a family in the outside world. The orphanage nuns were clearly terrified that she would bring 'bad things back with her, which I believe meant they were afraid they wouldn't be able to control her as easily. The nuns were cruel and abusive, but indeed Sally had gained strength from being treated well in a family. Now when the nuns mistreat her, Sally refuses to cry. Provoked by this, the nuns escalate their terrible treatment. Sally still won't cry, and in doing so, she becomes stronger and stronger. Of course there are other themes and surprising counter examples to this theme in the book. One of the most striking elements in the documentation of the order is how often the nuns are enjoined to stay silent and never comment on or discuss what priests in the orphanage are up to. Over and over, the written record makes a virtue of what now looks a lot like explicit collusion.
Visit Christine Kenneally's website.

The Page 99 Test: The First Word.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Gary Smith's "Distrust"

Gary Smith is the Fletcher Jones Professor of Economics at Pomona College. He received his Ph.D. in Economics from Yale University and was an Assistant Professor there for seven years. He has won two teaching awards and written (or co-authored) more than 100 academic papers and 15 books. He is the author of The AI Delusion (2018) and co-author with Jay Cordes of The 9 Pitfalls of Data Science (2019), which won the 2020 Prose Award for Excellence in Popular Science & Popular Mathematics by the Association of American Publishers.

Smith applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Distrust: Big Data, Data-Torturing, and the Assault on Science, and reported the following:
I was skeptical when asked to try the Page 99 Test: Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.

I appreciate the power of random sampling but I also recognize the importance of sampling size. One page? Yet, if it can only be a single page, the number 99 is appealing. The initial and last pages are likely to be unrepresentative. Page 100 is closer to the middle of most books but it is a suspiciously round number. The number 99 sounds like it has been selected on the basis of some kind of scientific study. So, page 99 it is.

Here is page 99 of Distrust (the initial bracketed text is from the bottom of page 98 and is included because it is needed to understand the beginning of page 99):
[Page and Brin’s 1998 graduate school paper describing the Google algorithm anticipated the inability of search engines to distinguish between fact and] fiction and their vulnerability to manipulation by corporations peddling products:
There is virtually no control over what people can put on the web. Couple this flexibility to publish anything with the enormous influence of search engines to route traffic and companies which deliberately manipulate search engines for profit become a serious problem.
They did not anticipate manipulation for political reasons.

The easy access and wide reach of the Internet in general and social media in particular allows pretty much anyone to say pretty much anything and perhaps find a receptive audience, including such evidence-free assertions as the Earth is flat; school shootings are false-flag operations; and Bill Gates orchestrated the COVID19 crisis so that he can use vaccines to insert microchips in our bodies.

Ironically, such far-fetched nonsense is the kind of dragon that science was intended to slay, but now the dragons of fanciful delusion are more powerful than ever because of the Internet and social media that science created and developed. Like a Frankenstein monster that has gotten out of control, the Internet powers the anti-science movement. Too many people have reacted to the heroic successes of scientists in developing safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines with distrust, disinformation, and refusals to be vaccinated.

The costs of rejecting science are enormous, not just for scientists and anti- scientists, but for society as a whole.
I am definitely surprised by how well page 99 captures the content and style of the book. It may not be the very best page—it may not even be above-average—but it is remarkably apt. On the other hand, Distrust argues that there are three ways (disinformation, data torturing, and data mining) in which the hard-won reputation of science is being undermined. Page 99 only touches on the disinformation prong of the three-pronged assault, so it may mislead browsers into thinking that Distrust is just a book about the internet and social media.

I wager that this myopia is common. If a book covers a variety of topics or makes a complex argument, a single page is unlikely to capture the breadth of the work. On the other hand, the Page 99 test asserts that this page will reveal “the quality of the whole,” which may have more to do with the style of writing than the content. If so, then—for better or worse—I think a Page 99 Test of Distrust succeeds.
Visit Gary Smith's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Dean King's "Guardians of the Valley"

Dean King is an award-winning author of ten nonfiction books. He crossed the Sahara on camels and in Land Rovers while researching Skeletons on the Zahara, trekked the Long March trail in the mountains of Western China for Unbound, and was shot at while researching The Feud in Appalachia. For his most recent book, Guardians of the Valley: John Muir and the Friendship that Saved Yosemite, King traveled to John Muir’s boyhood homes in Dunbar, Scotland, and rural Wisconsin and spent months roaming Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Nevada.

King applied the "Page 99 Test" to Guardians of the Valley and reported the following:
Alas, page 99 of Guardians of the Valley is a service page and prelude to “Part 2: Making the Mountains Glad,” Muir’s phrase explaining his reason for founding the Sierra Club, which he will soon do. While this page, containing two brief lists of presidents and interior secretaries, does not give you a sense of the narrative style or soul of the book, it does tell you a few things.

The epic story of John Muir and Robert Underwood Johnson’s efforts to create and shape Yosemite National Park and to save the American landscape take place over four decades, involving six presidents, even more interior secretaries, and countless Congressional leaders, state politicians, and powerbrokers. The political landscape is an essential element of the story. This page tells you that the action in the next seven chapters takes place during the administrations of Harrison, Cleveland, and McKinley, from 1889 to 1901. Five secretaries of the interior served during that time, and Johnson would call the first of these, John Noble, in the role from 1889 to 1893, “officially the pioneer of the conservation movement in this country” (a veiled dig at the attention-grabbing “Wilderness Warrior,” Theodore Roosevelt).

Page 99 of Guardians shows that the book’s historical context is accessible and handy. If the ghost of an image on the preceding blank page tempts you to turn it, a spectacular century-old photograph of Half Dome on the other side just might hook you. And if you flip forward from page 99, you will find one of my favorite chapters, which recounts the rather humorous first meeting of Muir, the California nature savant, and Johnson, an urbane New York City magazine editor, at the grand Palace Hotel in San Francisco, followed by their groundbreaking visit to the even grander Yosemite Valley, a visit that sets the stage for the rest of the book.
Learn more about the book and author at Dean King's website and Facebook page.

The Page 99 Test: The Feud.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Sander van der Linden's "Foolproof"

Sander van der Linden is professor of social psychology in society at the University of Cambridge and a regular advisor to governments and social media companies on fighting misinformation. His research has been featured in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, and elsewhere.

Van der Linden applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Foolproof: Why Misinformation Infects Our Minds and How to Build Immunity, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Foolproof, you’ll find the following story:
There is one video, in particular, that has been linked to multiple deaths. In this viral video – which looks like grainy CCTV footage– two young boys are playing cricket near a driveway alongside a fairly empty street. After a short while, a black motorcycle appears with two individuals wearing black helmets. They approach the group of children but then suddenly make a U-turn and disappear from the frame. They reappear a few seconds later and this time the motorcycle stops next to a young boy. The boy was simply a bystander watching the other boys play cricket. The passenger then snatches the kid and wedges the boy between himself and the other passenger while quickly driving off. The other children notice and pursue the motorcycle, albeit unsuccessfully. The video ends with the children returning to the driveway conversing and expressing panic. For all intents and purposes, this looks like a genuine kidnapping.
This story is one example of a whole range of false rumours that went viral on WhatsApp in India and subsequently led to a series of violent mob lynchings. This video turned out to be fake but it nonetheless alarmed local villagers about the possible presence of kidnappers. I think the Page 99 Test does a pretty good job here of characterizing what the book is about: the harmful consequences of misinformation. In fact, page 99 just so happens to illustrate the most violent example in the book of how viral misinformation can lead a whole mob of people to violently attack innocent citizens suspected of kidnapping children. It’s also a nice example of the role of social media in spreading misinformation, which is another big theme that runs throughout the book. What page 99 doesn’t do as much is talk about solutions, though the remainder of the page details how a fact-checker ultimately uncovered that the video was misleading and presented out of context (the full video was actually part of an anti-kidnapping campaign in Pakistan). But if the reader wants to know more about evidence-based solutions grounded in our research, they’ll have to read beyond page 99!
Visit Sander van der Linden's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 20, 2023

Leslie Reperant's "Fatal Jump"

Leslie Reperant is a doctor of veterinary medicine and earned a PhD in ecology and evolutionary biology from Princeton University. She has published her research on emerging infectious diseases in leading scientific journals, including The Lancet and Science.

Reperant applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, Fatal Jump: Tracking the Origins of Pandemics, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Fatal Jump is the closing page of Chapter 3 on heirloom and souvenir parasites and pathogens that have afflicted humans (and other hominins) since prehistory. It opens on a world map showing the prehistoric dispersion routes of Helicobacter pylori along the migration of humans within and out of Africa tens of thousands of years ago: a pandemic that spread at the rhythm of our hunting-gathering ancestors. This spiral-shaped bacteria inhabits the lining of the stomach of more than half of the human population today, and is associated with increased risk of developing gastritis, ulcers, and cancer. Its association with humans started long ago, upon a prehistoric host jump from a mysterious animal into humans. Because the species of Helicobacter acinonychis present in the stomach of large African felids, like lions and cheetahs, is closely related to humans’ Helicobacter pylori, researchers proposed that prehistoric hunters may have acquired the bacteria after savoring some large felid stomach. But thorough analyses of the genetic sequences of these two species of Helicobacter revealed, shockingly (or perhaps not much so), that the jump had occurred in the opposite direction: the ferocious large felids acquired the bacteria after devouring prehistoric human stomachs instead, about 45,000 years ago. The remainder of page 99 reads:
So long for lions as the source of our once-zoonotic Helicobacter: our prestigious shoulder rubbing had turned ugly. The next closest relative of Helicobacter pylori and Helicobacter acinonychis is Helicobacter cetorum, found in dolphins and whales. This leads to yet more perplexing interrogations on the still enigmatic origin of Helicobacter pylori in humans and of Helicobacter cetorum in cetaceans for that matter.

Retracing the prehistoric origins of heirloom and souvenir parasites and pathogens is fraught with uncertainties, and often uncovers unexpected—and sometimes unexplainable—developments along the paths of their long associations with hominins. And yet, with languages and pottery cultures, the phylogeography of heirloom parasites and pathogens retraces the remarkable prehistoric journey of modern humans across the Earth’s continents and illuminates the enduring relationships hominins have had with some of the agents of humans’ most entrenched chronic diseases.
Fatal Jump passes the Page 99 Test fairly well. The short story of the rise of Helicobacter pylori in humans is a neat example of an unexpected jump of a zoonotic pathogen from a so-far mysterious animal—yet probably hunted for food or other resources—to humans. It illustrates well the global spread of such new associations due to the (long) mobile propensity of humans. It showcases these associations’ far-reaching consequences on today’s human health. But the end paragraph also provides a clue on what is to come. It ends on a reflection about the enduring relationships humans have had with some of the agents of our most entrenched chronic diseases. The changes that propelled humanity from prehistory into history would soon allow for the rise and spread of the agents of more devastating, acute infectious diseases.

Fatal Jump is indeed a journey, by leaps and bounds around the world and through time, that leads the reader to examine the extraordinary circumstances—evolutionary, ecological, and otherwise—that converged and gave birth to some of our most wicked plagues and pandemics, including the latest one. This journey is full of (often unsettling) surprises. In the field of emerging infectious diseases, we know to expect the unexpected. Dear prospective reader, the question I have for you is: Are you ready to meet the unexpected?
Visit Leslie Reperant's website and follow her on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Paula Marantz Cohen's "Talking Cure"

Paula Marantz Cohen is Distinguished Professor of English and Dean of the Pennoni Honors College at Drexel University. Her books include Of Human Kindness: What Shakespeare Teaches Us about Empathy; Alfred Hitchcock: The Legacy of Victorianism; Silent Film and the Triumph of the American Myth; and the bestselling novel Jane Austen in Boca.

Cohen applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, Talking Cure: An Essay on the Civilizing Power of Conversation, and reported the following:
Page 99 is part of the chapter titled “Schools of Talk,” which gives a quick overview of various artistic and cultural groups who gathered together to converse. On this particular page, I am in the midst of a discussion of the Romantics, and make reference to the creative sibling relationships of Charles and Mary Lamb and of William and Dorothy Wordsworth. I also refer on this page to the group that gathered in Geneva one stormy night that included Percy Bysshe and Mary Shelley; Mary’s half-sister Claire Claremont; Lord Byron; and Byron’s physician, John Polidori. Their conversation about galvanism, inspired by the lightning outside, led to Mary Shelley’s writing of Frankenstein.

I can’t say that this page is particularly representative of my book as a whole. I think more characteristic are chapters that connect conversation to other, more personal and whimsical things: food and drink, French culture, seminar teaching, discussing Shakespeare on zoom, etc. In fact, the chapter in which page 99 falls was the most difficult for me to write since it is not about my own cultural observations (though it obviously it contains my selection of and take on these various groups). Along with the Romantic poets, I present mini-commentary on Socrates’ conversations, Dr. Johnson’s Literary Club, The Bloomsbury Group, The Algonquin Round Table, The Partisan Review Crowd, and others. In writing this chapter I felt obliged to cover a vast terrain in a cursory fashion and am likely to be taken to task for mistakes and omissions. Still, I think the page reflects my interest in literature and family dynamics and a bit of my sense of humor.
Visit Paula Marantz Cohen's website.

The Page 99 Test: Of Human Kindness.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Guian A. McKee's "Hospital City, Health Care Nation"

Guian A. McKee is Associate Professor of Presidential Studies, Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia, and author of The Problem of Jobs: Liberalism, Race, and Deindustrialization in Philadelphia.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Hospital City, Health Care Nation: Race, Capital, and the Costs of American Health Care, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book, Hospital City, Health Care Nation: Race, Capital, and the Costs of American Health Care, captures an important moment in the overall narrative. It describes the complex 1969 negotiations between leaders of an African American community organization and Johns Hopkins Hospital administrators over the establishment of a community-based health care organization in the East Baltimore neighborhoods surrounding the hospital. These discussions took place within the context of the social movements of the 1960s generally and the urban rebellions of April 1968 specifically – a moment of high tension in Baltimore and around the U.S. They also followed the recent implementation of the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs, the latter of which had experienced a troubled rollout, but which provided an important source of funding for the new program. As a result, the negotiations involved profound questions about power and financing that determined who would pay for the new health program and by whom it would be controlled.

Interestingly, the first line of page 99 concludes a comparison on the previous page to another experimental Hopkins health program in the new suburban city of Columbia, Maryland. There, Johns Hopkins had a far easier task in arranging financing because of the widespread availability of private health insurance, which offered a revenue stream for the suburban program, and the presence of corporate investment capital ready to finance its health facilities. Neither of these conditions applied in the low-income neighborhoods of East Baltimore.

While the Page 99 Test effectively captures several key themes of Hospital City, Health Care Nation, it also misses critical components of the book. It does an excellent job of highlighting two things. First, it captures the deep tensions that characterized the relationship between Johns Hopkins and the neighboring African American community, rooted in experiences of sometimes discriminatory care at the hospital, in the low wage labor that many neighborhood residents supplied for Hopkins, and above all, in an urban renewal project a decade earlier that cleared a large amount of housing but did not ultimately supply new apartments that had been promised for displaced residents (a story that is recounted in chapter 2 of the book). Second, it effectively highlights how the financing of health care in the United States has contributed to deep disparities in access to quality health care – the goal of the East Baltimore project – and in health outcomes. Although page 99 itself doesn’t make this explicit, those disparate outcomes fall heavily along lines of race and class. In this sense, the page 99 test provides a snapshot of the processes that have created racial health disparities in the United States.

Hospital City, Health Care Nation, however, is more than just a local history of Baltimore and Johns Hopkins. It moves across scales of local, regional, state, and federal to retell the story of the U.S. health care system by focusing on the economic weight and political power of hospitals and large health systems. Specifically, the book shows that this economic importance is rooted in the high costs of the U.S. health care system, which play out in both the creation of jobs and the provision of care in every community around the country. These costs and what they represent, I argue, are central to why the system has been so hard to reform, and why its inefficiencies and irrationalities persist to the present. This is examined in chapters about national debates over health care policy in the U.S, which Hospital City, Health Care Nation in turn relates back to the local context of Baltimore. As useful as the Page 99 Test is in capturing the community and racial dimensions of such relationships, it does not give the reader a sense of this larger structure and argument.
Learn more about Hospital City, Health Care Nation at the University of Pennsylvania Press website and on a book page on the website of the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 17, 2023

Toby Matthiesen's "The Caliph and the Imam"

Toby Matthiesen is a Marie Curie Global Fellow at Stanford University and Ca’ Foscari University in Venice, leading a project on Sunni-Shii Relations in the Middle East. In the fall of 2023, he is joining the University of Bristol as Senior Lecturer in Global Religious Studies/Global Islam, and he has previously held fellowships at the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and the LSE.

Matthiesen applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, The Caliph and the Imam: The Making of Sunnism and Shiism, and reported the following:
From page 99:
In fact, strongly Sunni Sufi orders like the Naqshbandiyya also expanded. A founding figure of the order, after whom it is named, Baha al-Din Naqshband Bukhari (718–791/1318–89), received patronage by Central Asian rulers, who supported a shrine complex around his tomb in Bukhara. Naqshbandis retained a strong influence on Timurid rulers and their successor states. Since they emerged in a region with a marginal Shii presence, they had no major quarrels with Shiism at the outset. Yet since the Naqshbandiyya is unique amongst Sufi orders in that it traces its spiritual lineage to the Prophet back through three chains, one of them, which in time came to be the most important one, through Abu Bakr, made it especially averse to Shii attacks on Abu Bakr. Its anti-Shiism intensified when the order spread to Herat in the fifteenth-century amidst Sunni–Shia tension there and competition with some of the pro-Alid Sufi orders mentioned above that were slowly becoming more openly Shii.

Abd al-Rahman Jami (817–898/1414–92), the poet and Naqshbandi mystic, epitomises this. He and other Naqshbandis were elegiac defenders of the Ahl al-Bayt, who, they argued, had been misappropriated by Shiism. Sultan Hussain Bayqara, who had an interest in Shiism and expanded the Ali shrine, was apparently encouraged by a Shii cleric to include the names of the Imams in prayer and on coins, and the Sultan may have seen this as an affirmation in the line of the local allegiance to the Ahl al-Bayt. However, he may have been dissuaded by Jami and other Sunnis from doing this. Still, Jami endorsed the ‘discovery’ of the Ali shrine at Mazar-i- Sharif, despite himself having just returned from a visit to the Ali shrine in Najaf on the way to the Hijaz. Jami was trying to get Hussain Bayqara to prevent Shia from ‘discovering’ more graves associated with descendants of the Imams in the area. His endorsement of the Ali shrine may have been a way to limit that practice and claim the Ahl al-Bayt for Sunnism. In a poem written for the ruler, Jami refuted Shiism. The anti-Shii turn of the Naqshbandis thus came at a time when a ruler considered adopting Shiism. Unlike many other Sufi orders, the Naqshbandiyya emphasised adherence to Islamic law and Hadith. This emphasis on the Sunna and on the order’s lineage through Abu Bakr intensified after the rise of the Safavids in Iran.
Based on a synthesis of decades of scholarship in numerous languages, The Caliph and the Imam: The Making of Sunnism and Shiism, is the first truly global and longue durée history of Sunni-Shii relations. The dispute over who should guide Muslims, the Caliph or the Imam, marks the origin of the Sunni-Shii split in Islam. Moving chronologically, my book sheds light on the many ways that it has shaped the Islamic world, outlining how over the centuries Sunnism and Shiism became Islam’s two main branches, and how Muslim Empires embraced specific sectarian identities. Focussing on connections between the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East, it reveals how colonial rule and the modern state institutionalised sectarian divisions and at the same time led to pan-Islamic resistance and Sunni and Shii revivalism. It then focuses on the fall-out from the 1979 revolution in Iran and the US-led military intervention in Iraq. As I show, however, though Sunnism and Shiism have had a long and at times antagonistic history, most Muslims have led lives characterised by confessional ambiguity and peaceful co-existence. Tensions arise when sectarian identity becomes linked to politics.

A book of almost a 1000 pages can obviously not be summarised just by looking at page 99. Having said that, I think the test works quite well. Page 99 deals with a topic that can be seen as almost a secret thread throughout the book: The question of Sufism and how it fits into the story of Sunnism and Shiism. In general, Sufism often straddled the line between the two and Sufis are often thought to have at least an inclination towards Shiism. Sufis usually trace a spiritual lineage back to the Prophet, often through his offspring, the Ahl al-Bayt, the Family of the Prophet, who are especially revered by Shia. Yet, historically, most Sufis would probably have said they were Sunnis, with the exception of specifically Shii Sufi orders like the Safavids. The more I investigated this question, the more difficult it became to answer. Hence, the story of different Sufi orders and the ways in which they influenced early modern Muslim Empires and later Muslim Revivalism occupies a significant space in the book. On page 99, I introduce the Naqshbandi order, the perhaps most anti-Shii of the Sufi orders, and one that played a formidable role in Islamic history, from India to the Middle East. I then outline the role of Abd al-Rahman Jami (817–898/1414–92), the poet and Naqshbandi mystic, and how he tried to convince a Central Asian ruler to embrace the Ahl al-Bayt but not go as far as embracing Shiism. The Naqshbandi order is an important exception to the story of Sufism’s alleged closeness to Shiism, and Naqshbandis were in various contexts responsible for strong anti-Shii polemics and actions. And yet, the Naqshbandi order also saw different subbranches and iterations, some of whom even accepted Shii pupils. Later in the book I explain how such different figures as Syria’s official clergy, the Turkish Islamists of the AKP, and former Baathists in Northern Iraq all have roots in the Naqshbandi order, and yet can embrace very different kinds of politics and alliances, and sometimes even more nuanced stances towards Shiism.
Visit Toby Matthiesen's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Other Saudis.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Monique McDade's "California Dreams and American Contradictions"

Monique McDade is an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Kalamazoo College.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, California Dreams and American Contradictions: Women Writers and the Western Ideal, and reported the following:
On page 99 you will find a critical reading of a character often oversimplified and overlooked in Helen Hunt Jackson’s enormously successful sentimental romance, Ramona:
Aunt Ri is often discussed as Jackson’s ‘woman-centered critique’ of western American expansion. Such arguments read Aunt Ri’s benevolence towards Ramona and Alessandro as a model for how Jackson wishes popular society to treat Native American communities. However, Aunt Ri’s benevolence is still inappropriate given her intrusion upon Native American lands, and when Ramona is read as a cross-regional account of American labor anxiety in the post-Reconstruction era, Aunt Ri’s character serves as Jackson’s vision for an imperial maternalism.
The rest of the page offers a few textual examples of how Jackson’s seemingly progressive character, Aunt Ri, is rhetorically and thematically fueled by an ambivalent acceptance of Native Americans.

The Page 99 Test plays out perfectly here.

The page sets up a reading of Aunt Ri, a character many have read as Jackson’s representative of progressive politics, that pulls out the inconsistencies, complacencies, and ambivalence in western American histories of regional progress and progressive politics. The page sets a foundation for reading Aunt Ri as a character Jackson builds out of tropological progressive language that actually serves to prop up white women’s power over ethnic others rather than incorporate them into western American society as equals.

As a whole, the book “draws attention to the fundamental problems in the American literary establishment’s cooption of a ‘progressive’ rhetoric to produce and disseminate literatures about the American West from the Manifest Destiny era through the American civil rights movement” (24). In the particular discussion I offer on page 99, I critique Helen Hunt Jackson’s “Indian reform novel” as less about Native Americans and raising awareness for their displacement in the American West as it is about the particular anxieties Anglo-American women faced in the late 19th century as changing forms of labor impacted Victorian “women’s culture.” As such, Jackson’s implications of “progress” and “progressive” politics lends itself to a settler-colonial impulse that can’t help but objectify Native American identities and undermine Ramona’s and Alessandro’s claims to the land and to their humanity. The literary examples on page 99 imply that Aunt Ri—a Southern, white woman displaced after emancipation changed the social labor landscape in the South—is more prepared to “mother” the West than Ramona, effectively repurposing Aunt Ri’s disintegrating “Republican motherhood” in the South onto a western American Native American family.
Learn more about California Dreams and American Contradictions at the University of Nebraska Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Tatjana Višak's "Capacity for Welfare across Species"

Tatjana Višak has a BA in psychology, an MA in political science, and a PhD in philosophy. She has been a lecturer and researcher in philosophy at various universities across the globe over the past 20 years. She is currently working in the field of psychology. She is the author of Killing Happy Animals - Explorations in Utilitarian Ethics (2013) and editor of The Ethics of Killing Animals (2016). She has published more than 30 papers about welfare and animal ethics in scientific journals and books.

Višak applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, Capacity for Welfare across Species, and reported the following:
From page 99:
for synchronic welfare. Proponents of EQU would probably feel more attracted to the relativize-to-natural-lifespan view than proponents of DIF, since EQU itself can be seen as a relativizing view. Nevertheless, I think that even in conjunction with EQU, the total-duration view has more going for it. I will further defend and apply the total-duration view in chapter 4.3.

4.3 An application of the total-duration view

In this chapter, I apply the total-duration view about how to take different lifespans into account in comparisons of welfare. (I introduced the total-duration view in chapter 4.2.) The chapter also engages with McMahan’s work on capacity for welfare across species and his notion of fortune, which I introduced and criticized in chapter 2.4.

In his paper “Eating Animals the Nice Way” Jeff McMahan (2008) explores whether there are ways of routinely using non-human animals for human consumption that are morally acceptable. McMahan ends his paper with the following consideration:
The only form of benign carnivorism that is possible now – raising animals humanely and killing them painlessly – seems morally unjustifiable because the interest the animals would have in not being killed would decisively outweigh the interest people would have in killing and eating them. It does not, however, seem morally objectionable to eat an animal that has died of natural causes, which suggests that it could be permissible to use techniques of genetic modification, when they become available, to create animals that would die naturally on a predictable schedule and in good health. It is hard to see what could be wrong with this practice … (McMahan, 2008, 75)
So, what could be wrong about creating individuals with a shorter natural lifespan? I will refer to the practice of benign animal agriculture that McMahan considers to be available now as the “mundane practice” and I will refer to the practice that may become available in the future as the “engineering practice”. McMahan says about the engineering practice that it is hard to see what would be wrong with it. He means this literally: while he would intuitively judge that the engineering practice is no improvement as
Does page 99 reveal the quality of the book?

Yes, it does. Page 99 reveals that the book

· … is written in a clear and accessible language.
· … is well-structured.
· … distinguishes different theoretical approaches and applies them to interesting practical questions.
· … engages with major work in the field.

Page 99 is roughly two thirds through the book. Readers are already familiar with the “different capacity for welfare view” (DIF) and with the “equal capacity for welfare view” (EQU). These are the main views about capacity of welfare across species that the book aims at exploring. According to DIF, different species (such as humans, dogs, and mice) have different capacities for welfare due to different cognitive and emotional capacities. In contrast, according to EQU all welfare subjects have the same capacity for welfare despite different cognitive and emotional capacities. I defend EQU in the book.

EUQ and DIF T are views about the capacity for welfare of an animal at any given point in time, but what about capacity for welfare across time? I discuss this question around page 99. Do animals with a longer lifespan have a greater capacity for lifetime welfare, simply because they live longer and can gather more good moments in their lives? According to the total-duration view (which seems plausible to me) the answer is ‘yes’.

On page 99 I propose to apply the total duration view to evaluate an imaginary form of animal agriculture that Jeff McMahan explored in his paper “Eating Animals the Nice Way”. In this imaginary practice, animals are not killed, but they are genetically modified to have a shorter lifespan and so they die at the exact age at which they would otherwise have been killed. Would this engineering practice be an improvement? On the one hand, there is no killing, which seems better. On the other hand, McMahan has the intuition that we would still harm the animals by engineering them in that way. I distinguish different theories that can explain this intuition and point out their implications.

Browsers should not expect to grasp everything that is written on page 99 upon reading only this page. They should not expect a perfect overview of the book. Expecting merely some revelations about a book’s quality, I think the Page 99 Test can deliver.
Visit Tatjana Višak's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Frank Gerits's "The Ideological Scramble for Africa"

Frank Gerits is an Assistant Professor in the history of international relations at Utrecht University, a research fellow at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa, and an external fellow at Shanghai University. He is the coeditor of Visions of African Unity.

Gerits applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, The Ideological Scramble for Africa: How the Pursuit of Anticolonial Modernity Shaped a Postcolonial Order, 1945–1966, and reported the following:
Page 99 appears to the reader at a time in the book where Ghana’s use of propaganda to protest the French atomic bomb tests in the Sahara of 1959 and 1960 yields results. As Algeria was fighting for its independence, France tested its nuclear devices in the Sahara which angered African nationalists. After all, what did independence mean if empires could still use their formerly colonized territories as a testing ground? Ghana took the lead in the anti-bomb campaign because it had become independent on 6 March 1957 under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah. His vision of pan-African modernity and African unity clashed with the French neo-colonial plan of continued presence on the continent. When a second device detonates on the first of April 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower feels pressured by Nkrumah and is compelled to implore French President Charles de Gaulle to stop these tests. In his conversation the U.S. president claimed the tests were driving African leaders to the Soviet Camp in the Cold War. Nkrumah’s actions also had some unintended consequences. By highlighting his message of African unity, international peace activists such as Bill Sutherland who had flocked to Accra to support the cause of peace became disillusioned. He felt Nkrumah had misused the peace movement to advance his own political cause.

Readers opening the book on page 99 would thus be introduced to the key theme of the book: the importance of African agency in the international relations of the 1950s and 1960s. It is a clear example of the ability of African leaders to break old alliances in the North, project their message of anticolonial modernity abroad and shape international relations through ideological struggle. Postcolonial African leaders did not simply play off the Cold War powers against each other to extract as many benefits as possible. Rather, they projected their own model of anticolonial modernity. What is a bit more difficult to grasp from one page is that the actions of Nkrumah were part of an ideological struggle that erupted after 1945 between Liberationists Imperialists, Communists, and Capitalists who were locked in a battle over the meaning of European modernity and the Enlightenment values. Decolonization did not only germinate modernity but also increased modernity’s complexity. In revolutionary centers in Accra, Cairo, and Dar es Salaam, an idealized “authentic” image of the past, such as the “African Personality” or Ujamaa, was held up as an important corrective to European dominated progress. The ‘rise of the Rest’ therefore has a history that predates the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and influenced diplomacy. It is that history that The Ideological Scramble for Africa attempts to capture.
Visit Frank Gerits's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 13, 2023

Molly Farneth's "The Politics of Ritual"

Molly Farneth is Associate Professor in the Religion Department at Haverford College. She is the author of Hegel’s Social Ethics: Religion, Conflict, and Rituals of Reconciliation.

Farneth applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, The Politics of Ritual, and reported the following:
On page 99 of The Politics of Ritual, I introduce the concept of “vocatives.” Vocatives are a category of speech acts in which the speaker calls another: “A vocative, then, hails a person or group. In doing so, it recognizes that person or group ... and then calls him, inviting his response. [The person hailed] can recognize the call as directed to him, or not.” I connect this concept of vocatives to what Louis Althusser calls “interpellation” into an identity or subjectivity. On Althusser’s account, “when a person hails someone or something, they are not only recognizing the already-existing identity of that person or thing; they are also contributing to the creation or constitution of that identity within particular social structures.”

Taken on its own, it isn’t immediately clear what this page has to do with the argument of the book. In that respect, the Page 99 Test doesn’t work here! But the introduction of vocatives and interpellation sets up a major theme of the book: that liturgies and rituals can work like speech acts to change the social (and political) world. For example, when a prayer leader says, “Let us pray!,” they hail an “us.” Their hail names a group, and calls to that group, inviting them to respond. The people who are hailed, I argue, can recognize or refuse the call. People can – and do! – disagree about who ought to be included in these hails and about how those hailed should respond. Their disagreements can change the ritual, or even change the group itself. As I write a few pages later, “a prayer leader who says ‘Let us pray!’ may have a particular ‘us’ in mind, but the people who hear those words need not show up or respond as that ‘us.’ Sometimes unexpected people show up. Sometimes the expected people show up but respond in an unexpected way… [This] suggests that the authority to perform a ritual, or to have one’s role or status conferred or changed through such a ritual, depends on practices of recognition (103).”

The Politics of Ritual shows how rituals create and maintain groups. Rituals regulate the boundaries of groups, and distribute social goods including power and authority. Rituals also shape the habits and dispositions of the people who participate in them. But The Politics of Ritual also shows rituals’ dynamism – the ways that people recognize, refuse, and reshape the rituals that constitute their lives together. Page 99, and its discussion of vocatives, is one piece of that bigger argument.
Follow Molly Farneth on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Hegel's Social Ethics.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Maeve Kane's "Shirts Powdered Red"

Maeve Kane is an associate professor in the Department of History at the University at Albany, State University of New York. She received her PhD in American History from Cornell University.

Kane applied the "Page 99 Test" to Shirts Powdered Red: Haudenosaunee Gender, Trade, and Exchange across Three Centuries, her first book, and reported the following:
From page 99:
After the introduction of cloth and woolen yarns, Haudenosaunee women incorporated these new materials into twined and fingerwoven fabrics alongside Indigenous plant and animal fibers. They used imported yarn to elaborate on existing Indigenous weaving techniques from the seventeenth century into the twenty-first century. Together with imported beads, the combination of technique and material created a visual vocabulary that did not previously exist and that continues to flourish in the present. Dutch and French merchants sold narrow, one and two-color woven bands out of Albany and Montreal beginning in the seventeenth century, but fingerweaving has persisted into the twenty-first century. European materials replaced plant materials, but this merely shifted the labor burden of the production of raw materials to European workers and allowed Haudenosaunee women to spend more time on decorative work. Purchasing beads and multicolored yarns from traders like Wendell, and outsourcing basic clothing production opened new design possibilities for Haudenosaunee women to elaborate on existing decorative traditions.
My first impulse was that page 99 wasn't a very accurate reflection on the book, since this is the only section where I deal with this specific kind of evidence. But after some reflection I think it does actually reflect the heart of my argument and the kinds of questions that drew me (and hopefully readers) to the project in the first place.

My book is about self-fashioning. I'm interested in how people define themselves and their communities and we all declare who we are when we get dressed every morning. There's so much written in archival records and in scholarship about what Europeans thought about non-Europeans in the 17th and 18th centuries, and I wanted to more directly see how Indigenous people in that time period thought about themselves.

The passage on page 99 is talking about relatively small, mundane objects--fingerwoven bands were often used as belts, hair ties, and stocking garters. I think what page 99 shows here is how much you can get by asking why something was made, who made it, and why the way it was made changed over time.

I start the book with an 18th century watercolor of a Mohawk woman and end with a 19th century photo of Ga:hahno Caroline Parker, a member of the Seneca Wolf clan. I think page 99 captures the distance between those two images really well. The watercolor is like a lot of European written descriptions of Indigenous people: the woman is anonymous and it's not clear if it shows a specific woman or just what the painter thought Mohawk women looked like. The photo of Parker shows her wearing clothing she made to specifically articulate her vision of Seneca tradition and push back against American definitions of savagery. In between, there's many small objects made by many different people, and what they might mean about how Haudenosaunee people saw themselves and their nations.
Visit Maeve Kane's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Thomas Aiello's "Practical Radicalism and the Great Migration"

Thomas Aiello is a professor of history and Africana studies at Valdosta State University and the author of several books, including Hoops: A Cultural History of Basketball in America; The Life and Times of Louis Lomax: The Art of Deliberate Disunity; and The Grapevine of the Black South: The Scott Newspaper Syndicate in the Generation before the Civil Rights Movement.

Aiello applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Practical Radicalism and the Great Migration: The Cultural Geography of the Scott Newspaper Syndicate, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Practical Radicalism and the Great Migration tells two different but interrelated stories. In the first, the Alabama Tribune, part of the Scott Newspaper Syndicate, describes the 1940s promises of governor-elect Chauncey Sparks who claimed to believe that “the Negro in Alabama had a right to demand justice.” The paper’s criticism of the previous governor’s race policy and its “reporting favorably without fawning on the limited concessions made by Sparks” demonstrated that “the paper was holding leaders accountable in a time and place that scholars generally assume to have been impossible.”

The second story describes the Tribune’s coverage of the Recy Taylor rape case in 1944, wherein six white men raped a black woman. All of them were acquitted of the charges by an all white all male jury. E.G. Jackson, editor of the Tribune, confronted now-governor Sparks to demand an investigation into the case, openly shared his reporting with competing papers like the Chicago Defender, and helped organize protest meetings that included leaders like E.D. Nixon and Rosa Parks, who would become more nationally prominent a decade later.

Practical Radicalism and the Great Migration spans three decades and much of the country, but page 99 does, in these two stories, encapsulate much of what can be found within its pages. On one side, the papers of the Scott Newspaper Syndicate used their coverage strategically to make a case for Black equality without drawing the ire or violence of racist demagogues and their acolytes. It was a practical radicalism that picked its spots and strategically worked to push back against an overweening Jim Crow system.

On the other side, those involved in the more than two hundred newspapers of the syndicate were more than just editors and reporters. They were Black citizens who lived the daily reality of that Jim Crow system and used their time and influence to fight against such harsh realities in protests, letters, and organizational meetings. There was a bifurcation of action in the same vein as the “double consciousness” described by W.E.B. Du Bois, wherein Black journalists in the South were careful reporters and editorialists on one hand–steering through racial waters to ensure that the message of opposition got through while the paper still managed to stay afloat–and activists on the other, taking the information they learned in the field and acting on it how they could outside the margins of the printed page to make a variety of different efforts at social justice reform.

Those efforts would look different in Michigan than they would in Alabama, different in the 1930s than in the 1940s, but the basic elements of the fight itself and the strategic way that Black journalists worked in the era remained relatively consistent throughout. Page 99, then, provides a good example of the practical radicalism that stretched north from Alabama through the Great Migration and through time in the generation before the civil rights movement.
Follow Thomas Aiello on Twitter and visit his website.

The Page 99 Test: Jim Crow's Last Stand.

--Marshal Zeringue