Sunday, June 30, 2024

Jonathan Connolly's "Worthy of Freedom"

Jonathan Connolly is assistant professor of history at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Worthy of Freedom: Indenture and Free Labor in the Era of Emancipation, and reported the following:
Worthy of Freedom is about a system of indentured labor migration created shortly after the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. From the early 1840s to the end of the First World War, this system brought more than a million Indian workers to sugar-producing colonies across the empire. As such, it played a crucial role in shaping the “history of emancipation”—a complex history of conflict and change—and the meaning of “freedom” after slavery.

Opening the book to page 99 parachutes the reader into a set of arguments about the discursive normalization of indenture during the 1850s. Earlier chapters explain that indenture caused a public scandal when planters began recruiting (and policing) migrant workers fifteen years earlier, in the immediate aftermath of abolition. At that point, many British observers denounced indenture as a covert revival of slavery. But this changed over time, alongside broader conceptions of free labor and emancipation. Chapter 4 explains how and why. The chapter argues that new forms of social-scientific analysis reshaped debate on indenture, displacing older antislavery critiques. Drawing on wide-ranging scholarship on nineteenth-century race thinking, it then shows that hardening attitudes toward race, linked to a growing consensus that emancipation had “failed” economically, served to legitimize the penal structures surrounding indenture. Finally, it explains that an important economic shift—increases in sugar production and profit following large-scale labor migration—consolidated public support for indenture as the 1850s wore on. Page 99 introduces this third strand of argument:
The prospect of economic failure had been a catalyst for indenture from the beginning. But starting in the mid-1850s, a new economic story—a story of growth rather than decline—altered the material basis of support for indenture. By the end of the decade, nearly 370,000 Indian workers had arrived in the colonies. In Mauritius, British Guiana, and Trinidad, the impact was transformative. Against the “failure” of emancipation, indenture soon stood for economic success.
So, does this encapsulate something important about the book as a whole? Yes! It brings us to the heart of one of the book’s core subjects, which is how indenture gained legitimacy as “free labor” and how perceptions of the system related to wider conflicts over the meaning of emancipation. Page 99 also hints at the book’s general interest in relating ideas and political culture to economic change. But because change over time is so important to the book, skipping to page 99 also leaves a lot out. One’s sense of what’s shifting in chapter 4 depends on earlier material. When one reads the Times of London celebrate indenture on page 98, the impact of such language is amplified having read the same newspaper stridently condemn indenture nearly two decades earlier on page 21. The book’s core arguments concerning ideology, law, and state power all move forward chronologically. It’s of course easy for me to say this, but to appreciate the book’s arc of historical change, it’s best to start at the beginning.
Learn more about Worthy of Freedom at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Jared Schroeder's "The Structure of Ideas"

Jared Schroeder is Associate Professor of Media Law at University of Missouri School of Journalism. He is the author of The Press Clause and Digital Technology's Fourth Wave: Media Law and the Symbiotic Web (2018) and co-author of Emma Goldman's No-Conscription League and the First Amendment (2019).

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, The Structure of Ideas: Mapping a New Theory of Free Expression in the AI Era, and reported the following:
The Supreme Court, for a brief moment, was of two minds about the nature of the space for discourse. Justices both sought to create an expansive marketplace of ideas that protected the most amount of speech possible and, concurrently, protect the space from forces that would distort the flow of ideas. That’s what page 99 of The Structure of Ideas covers.

I would not pick page 99 as a representative of the entire book. The passage catches me in the middle of identifying the conceptual development of the Supreme Court’s understandings of the space for discourse. Justices eventually tossed aside the idea that the marketplace of ideas should be protected from distortion and leaned fully into an expansive, generally unregulated space where almost any expression is protected.

A reader opening to that passage, and that passage alone, would get the kernel of an idea about one of the book’s narratives about the past, present, and future of the space for human discourse, but they would not engage with the overall context of the book. Overall, that passage is doing somewhat specialized work and is far less thematic than many other areas of the work.

Page 89 gets at crucial themes about the overall structure of the space for discourse and Page 119 begins to explore the impact of non-human speakers, such as AI, on the space for discourse. So, perhaps, I was both early and late. In either case, page 99 is a foot soldier passage in a work filled with historical narratives and crucial concepts about the development and future of the space for human discourse.
Learn more about The Structure of Ideas at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 28, 2024

Robert Goodin's "Consent Matters"

Robert E. Goodin, Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Australian National University, specializes in political theory and public policy. He was founding Editor of the Journal of Political Philosophy and General Editor of the eleven-volume Oxford Handbooks of Political Science. A Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, he has been awarded the Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science and the Stein Rokkan Prize for Comparative Social Science Research.

Goodin applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Consent Matters, and reported the following:
Ninety-nine is an odd number and it is an odd page in my book Consent Matters. It comes at the end of a long chapter introducing various different 'modes of consent' – explicit consent, tacit consent, presumed consent and implicit consent. All of those can, in suitable circumstances, be valid ways of giving consent. What I discuss on page 99 – David Estlund's 'ought-to consent' – is not. Just because you ought to give someone your consent to do something does not mean that that person actually has (or may properly proceed as if they had) your consent to doing it. As I had argued in chapter 1, to consent is to do something, internally (mentally) in the first instance and externally (performatively, typically communicatively) in the second. Until and unless you have actually done those things, you have not consented. It may have been wrong not to have done so, but that does not make it all right for others to treat you as if you had done when you haven't.

Most of my book is devoted to operational questions about consent: evoking it, invoking it, revoking it. There are some things we should ask consent for before doing, but even asking for consent to do them would be offensive. Revoking consent would be wrong after someone else has already performed the consented-to action. And if you revoke it before that, you must at least compensate others for the costs that they reasonably incurred in preparation for acting on your now-revoked consent. And so on.

Mistakes about consent loom large in the book. Jack says or does something that has led Jill to think – reasonably but, as it happens, wrongly – that she has Jack's consent to her doing something. Those are not genuine cases of consent because Jack lacked the requisite internal mental attitude (he did not intend to consent). But externally he has said or done something that has led Jill to reasonably conclude that he had consented. If Jack knew, or could and should have known, that Jill would understand his words or deeds that way, then Jack should be treated 'as if' he had consented. Jack should permit Jill to do what he seemingly consented to permitting her to do, or at least Jack should compensate Jill for her reasonable costs in acting in reliance on his seeming consent. That is not because he genuinely consented but, instead, because he led her on (in ways he could and should have realized) in thinking that he consented. If Jack misled Jill 'deliberately fraudulently', he should be regarded as having literally forfeited the rights that his deliberately false consent purported to waive. Where consent was falsely signalled through 'innocent error' or 'culpable negligence', then Jack should be allowed to 'correct the error' and 'take back' his apparent consent – but not without compensating (to a greater or lesser extent) Jill for costs she bore in reasonable reliance on Jack's misleading indications of consent.

Consent Matters finishes with a discussion of three 'special cases'. One concerns political consent conferred through voting. Two others involve 'consent of the uncommunicative', one concerning 'simulated necrophilia' and the other a hunger striker who internally wishes for assisted feeding but cannot externally say that they consent for fear of betraying the other hunger strikers.
Learn more about Consent Matters at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: On Complicity and Compromise by Chiara Lepora and Robert E. Goodin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Don H. Doyle's "The Age of Reconstruction"

Don H. Doyle is the author of The Cause of All Nations: An International History of the American Civil War and other books on America and the world in the Civil War and Reconstruction era. He is professor emeritus of history at the University of South Carolina and has had visiting appointments at universities in Britain, Italy, France, and Brazil.

Doyle applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, The Age of Reconstruction: How Lincoln's New Birth of Freedom Remade the World, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Age of Reconstruction is an excellent illustration of Ford Madox Ford’s axiom. It is the opening of chapter four and the place to tell readers where we have been, where we are going, and what I am trying to make of it all. Chapter Three, “The Mexican Lesson,” tells the little-known story of the United States’ role in forcing France to withdraw the armed forces they sent to protect the throne of Maximilian, the ill-fated Austrian archduke Napoleon III had installed as Emperor of Mexico. Chapter Four, “Russia Exits,” takes up the evacuation of North America by another European empire when, at the end of March 1867, a few days after the French left Mexico, Secretary of State William Seward concluded a treaty between the United States and Russia to purchase what became Alaska. Historians have routinely treated the Alaska Purchase as a lark, which skeptical members of Congress ridiculed as “Seward’s Folly” or, my favorite, “Walrussia.” The treaty did meet stiff opposition in Congress, partly because many Republicans were at odds with Seward due to his loyalty to President Andrew Johnson and because taking over non-contiguous territory, never mind the colony of a European empire, seemed to contradict republican principles. Charles Sumner, a Radical Republican leader in the Senate, turned the tide with a magnificent speech that portrayed the Alaska Purchase, just as I interpret it in the following chapter, as part of a massive geopolitical shift in which European empires retreated from the Western Hemisphere. Out of this came a new Monroe Doctrine whose slogan, “America for Americans,” expressed a Pan-American vision of the Americas as a haven for independent republics free of European imperialism and slavery.

The epigraph for Chapter Four has Sumner telling Congress that by this treaty, “we dismiss one more monarch from this continent. One by one they have retired; first France; then Spain; then France again; and now Russia; all giving way to that absorbing Unity which is declared in the national motto, E pluribus unum.” Unlike France, Spain, and Britain, Russia had befriended the Union during the Civil War. On the contrary, the Alaska treaty stimulated a popular idea that Russia and America, despite their vast differences, were forging a bond based on their common enmity toward European powers and commitment to the abolition of unfree labor. Though the friendship between Russia and America may have been exaggerated, it served to justify the Alaska Purchase and ennoble America’s post-Civil War vision for the hemisphere.
Learn more about The Age of Reconstruction at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Cause of All Nations.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Aziz Rana's "The Constitutional Bind"

Aziz Rana is the incoming J. Donald Monan, S.J., University Professor of Law and Government at Boston College. His writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Dissent, n+1, the Boston Review, and Jacobin. He is the author of The Two Faces of American Freedom.

Rana applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, The Constitutional Bind: How Americans Came to Idolize a Document That Fails Them, and reported the following:
Page 99 explores the early twentieth century changes various reformers and activists proposed to the federal courts, given the growing sense that the judiciary was beholden to business interests in a way that thwarted essential and widely backed policies for addressing extreme economic inequality and workplace domination. These judicial reforms would have “dramatically restructured” the bench through everything from term limits to checks on the power of judges to overturn legislation, such as by requiring “supermajorities for Supreme Court decisions to be binding” or “granting Congress the power to override court rulings through legislative action.” The page then highlights how discontent with the Supreme Court spilled over into concerns about whether “the constitutional system as a whole was truly democratic.” For a range of activists at the time, the Court’s intransigence seemed of a piece with how numerous features of the constitutional system, as embodied by the state-based structures of the Senate and the Electoral College, placed profound hurdles in the path of broad sentiment.

Taking a step back, the goal of the discussion on page 99 is to underscore a feature of that era’s constitutional culture that would be surprising for many Americans today. In those years, politically relevant politicians, commentators, and activists thought seriously about the need for radical constitutional change. They treated the existing text as a template for legal-political governance, just one among many possibilities, and that increasingly failed to fulfill collective ends. In recent decades, however, the Constitution instead has become deeply enmeshed with a pervasive and shared story of national peoplehood. It is not simply a decision-making apparatus, but also stands for a vision of the American project—intertwining liberal equality, market capitalism, and extensive checks and balances at home with the promotion of American primacy abroad. By contrast, at the beginning of the last century none of these ideological components of today’s constitutional compact would have been taken for granted. These were disparate strands that did not necessarily fit together and the document itself faced real skepticism during a period of profound political uncertainty.

The Constitution Bind is thus not an ideal fit for the Page 99 Test, since the page only captures a small slice of the book’s overall arguments. Still, page 99 does offer context for the book’s larger animating question: How did Americans come to embrace, so deeply, their Constitution along with a very specific account of text and nation? I argue that this particular embrace is a distinctly twentieth century development, one tied—perhaps surprisingly—as much to transforms in the global system as to those at home. It was bound up with the United States’ move from a regional settler polity to a globally dominant power. In hinting at this shift, page 99 speaks to the pre-history of modern constitutional veneration. It presents the conflicts that swirled before our more familiar narratives took hold.

At the same time, page 99 also provides a glimpse into another central element of the book. I discuss how the official story of the Constitution is exhausted today. This is because many of the critiques from that first Gilded Age have proven accurate, and the existing legal-political system—along with the vision of U.S. exceptionalism that eventually grew around it—does not now serve most Americans. As a consequence, there is value in thinking deeply again about the range of alternative constitutional visions that once circulated in public debate. In this way, the reforms on page 99 are an initial invocation of the vast array of ideas developed by Black, Indigenous, feminist, labor, and immigrant reformers across large swathes of the twentieth century. Today, their visions remain vital, if under-utilized, starting points for confronting our own dilemmas.
Visit Aziz Rana's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Patrick Moser's "Waikīkī Dreams"

Patrick Moser is professor of writing and French at Drury University. He is the author of Surf and Rescue: George Freeth and the Birth of California Beach Culture and the editor of Pacific Passages: An Anthology of Surf Writing.

Moser applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Waikiki Dreams: How California Appropriated Hawaiian Beach Culture, and reported the following:
After an introductory quote from the Los Angeles Times, page 99 begins:
Mary Ann Hawkins (1919–1993) was fifteen years old when she ran into Gene “Tarzan” Smith for the first time at Corona del Mar. “Pretty Mary Ann Hawkins,” as the Los Angeles Evening Post had called her, a “tall, slender’ swimmer for the Los Angeles Athletic Club who had won the national junior championship in the 880 freestyle in 1933.”
The rest of the page (the first of Chapter 4) provides further biographical details for Mary Ann Hawkins, tracking her rise as the greatest waterwoman of her generation in California during the Great Depression: swimmer, surfer, paddleboard champion—and lifeguard aspirant who, as an unofficial participant in the annual physical test, performed “on a par with the swimming prowess of the regular contenders” (i.e. the men) and yet was never offered a job because women at the time were not allowed to be lifeguards. This century-old gender bias still impacts surfing today in terms of fewer female surfers because surf culture in California grew out of the lifeguarding profession.

The Page 99 Test captures well “the quality of the whole.” Readers will gain a good sense of my path to treating broader ideas of appreciation and appropriation of Native Hawaiian culture during the interwar period: through the biographies of the top influencers. Hawkins and the other historical figures all have such interesting stories. I wanted to showcase their accomplishments by dropping into story-telling mode myself and (hopefully) pulling readers into the day-to-day lives of these women and men who had an important impact on the rise of California beach culture. Who were these young people and what did they do that made such a difference? To answer these questions, each chapter begins with a critical moment in the life of the influencer and then spirals out to capture the intersections where personal appreciation for all things Hawaiian turns into appropriation of Native Hawaiian land, culture, and racial identity.

While readers would gain a sense of the quality of the work by reading page 99, they would not necessarily fathom the broader directions that work would take them in. To help readers along that path, I use storytelling techniques—character development, detail and description, dramatic tension—to encourage them to turn the page. Part of the great debt that surfing owes to Native Hawaiian culture is its prevalence for “talk story.” I hope that Waikīkī Dreams acknowledges that influence in its own way.
Learn more about Waikīkī Dreams at the University of Illinois Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 24, 2024

Elsa Devienne's "Sand Rush"

Elsa Devienne is Assistant Professor in US History at Northumbria University. Her work has won the Willi Paul Adams Award awarded by the Organization of American Historians for the best book on American history published in a language other than English. She regularly appears on radio, podcasts, and TV shows to speak about her research in English and French.

Devienne applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, Sand Rush: The Revival of the Beach in Twentieth-Century Los Angeles, and reported the following:
How do you feel about a highway being built on your favorite beach? Not so great, I imagine. Then I would recommend you flip quickly through page 99 of Sand Rush because you’ll see the image of a highway project planned for Venice Beach in the 1930s. Yes, that’s right. In the 1930s, what I call the “Los Angeles beach lobby”, that is a group of engineers, businessmen and public officials interested in modernizing the city’s shoreline, planned to artificially enlarge Venice Beach and build on it a massive highway. Thankfully, this never came to fruition but it’s a great example of the beach lobby’s goal: developing modern beaches for a middle-class, automobile public.

Page 99 falls half-way through chapter 3, where I describe the emergence of this beach lobby. Horrified by what they viewed as eroded, dirty, and crowded shores, this group of mostly white men set on to remake the coastline, which they saw as intimately linked to the city’s fate. Page 99 is not only home to this shocking illustration of their vision for Venice; it goes into their shrewd work getting all coastal property owners on board. Now I should give some credit to the beach lobby. While their plans for beach highways may seem horrifically dated to us, they also pushed for key legislation to plan the coastline at the regional level, taking into account ecological phenomena such as littoral drift. They also campaigned successfully for public beach acquisition, which means we can all access and enjoy most of the county’s shorelines.

The Page 99 Test works well for Sand Rush in the sense that it highlights one of the key primary sources for the book: the archives of the beach lobby who campaigned for the California coastline throughout the 20th century. The California Beaches Association, the lobby’s main organization in the 1930s, published a monthly newsletter which I mined extensively to write the book. Without those, I wouldn’t have been able to understand how LA became the testing ground for these engineers and planners to imagine what a modern beach should look like.

Yet page 99 fails in showcasing the breadth of the book. Sand Rush describes the modernization campaign that transformed LA into one of the world’s greatest coastal metropolises. But it also explores how ordinary Angeleno/as responded to these transformations and the role that Hollywood played in spreading the hallmarks of LA beach culture across the world. The book follows black entrepreneurs, bodybuilders, Hollywood stars, Venice beatniks and beach-crazed teenagers as it charts the making of this most iconic site in international imaginaries.

In other words, if you were to stop at page 99, you’d think the book investigates the beaches from an environmental and urban planning lens. But Sand Rush is, in my view, a lot more! It’s a combination of urban, environmental, social, cultural, policy, and body history. It’s as much about bulldozers transporting sand to eroded beaches as it is about Pamela Anderson reinventing the silent-movie-era bathing beauty phenomenon for the late 20th century. This richness of sources and topics is what I loved about writing Sand Rush and I hope the readers enjoy it too!
Learn more about Sand Rush at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Sara E. Davies and Jacqui True's "Hidden Wars"

Sara E. Davies is Professor of International Relations at Griffith University, Australia and Deputy Director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the Elimination of Violence against Women (CEVAW).

Jacqui True is Professor of International Relations at Monash University and Director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the Elimination of Violence against Women (CEVAW).

They applied the "Page 99 Test" to their new book, Hidden Wars: Gendered Political Violence in Asia's Civil Conflicts, and reported the following:
When you open page 99 of our book you learn that sexual and gender-based violence in situations of protracted conflict, can be hidden, silenced, and kept in private spaces. Page 99 falls in the middle of Chapter Four, ‘Probing Silences in the Philippines’, the second of three empirical chapters in the book that examines patterns of reporting sexual and gender-based violence in three protracted civil conflicts in Asia: Burma, the Philippines and Sri Lanka – from 1998 to 2016. The book’s premise is that while there has been increased international awareness of widespread and/or systematic sexual and gender-based violence as crimes against humanity and acts of genocide, most attention has focused on situations recognised by the UN Security Council as meeting the definition of ‘conflict-related’ sexual violence. However, there are many situations around the world where sexual and gender-based violence is systematic, widespread, and targeted against particular groups, but is not identified as connected to the patterns of armed conflict. As a result, conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence is under-reported. In the book, we argue that the political support required to safely report this violence is often lacking, but needs to be taken seriously by the international community.

Returning to page 99, the page under examination has two paragraphs. The first paragraph concludes a section on what we know about reported sexual and gender- based violence in the Philippines on the politically fragile island Mindanao where there has been decades-long protracted conflict as well as the rise of violent extremism over the past decade. We find that while local actors understand that sexual and gender-based violence is associated with local-level armed conflict, the violence is rarely recorded as being related to conflict events. Violence against teenage girls and young women from different clans, may escalate armed violence or be a form of retaliation by armed groups, but it is rarely recorded by authorities as such. As a result, the impunity for perpetrators is high, and the culture of accountability in the Philippines government to end these crimes is low.

In the second paragraph on the page, we discuss the patterns of sexual and gender- based violence reported in Mindanao between 1998 and 2016. We find that they were closely associated with key conflict-related events. Namely, the highest level of sexual violence was recorded in 2010 and 2014. The former (2010) was associated with the settlement of disputes amongst clans during a fragile negotiation phase (2009-2014), which included the Zamboanga siege in 2013 by an armed group that was excluded from the peace process. The large-scale displacement of people as a consequence of the siege was associated with higher rates of sexual violence. Even though the Philippines government was aware of this relationship between conflict and sexual violence and the need for early warning reporting and monitoring, there was no system put into place during the peace process.

So, if you opened our book at page 99, you would be able to glean two of its key ideas: First, conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence is frequently under- reported in situations of protracted armed conflict. Thus, the patterns between political violence and gendered violence are not apparent. Second, and consequently, we don’t identify the political conditions necessary to make reporting of this violence safe and to improve our knowledge and responses to it. While Hidden Wars meets the Page 99 Test, two further contributions of our book are not evident on this page.

First, our book explains why describing acts of sexual and gender-based violence as gendered political violence transforms how we understand conflict. We examine the societal conditions in each context, Burma, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka, to explain why gender-targeted violence may be advantageous to armed actors to secure political gains at particular junctures of the conflict. Second, our knowledge of widespread and/or systematic acts of sexual and gender-based violence should not be dependent on a political process on the UN Security Council that determines which violent situations can be called ‘conflict’. In so many situations we observe only the tip of the iceberg of conflict because violence is not counted and there are no institutions to report to or safe pathways for victim-survivors. Reporting sexual and gender-based violence is fundamentally a political act. It is inseparable from conflict dynamics, political struggles, and local understandings of gender relations.

We focus on silence and power – including the power to report and when violence receives attention – in this book. We argue that a key focus for researchers in each situation of concern is to identify the preventative and protective factors that can improve reporting and build institutional capacity at the ‘early warning’ stage to reduce the risk of sexual and gender-based violence. Scholars have an important role to play in breaking silences that perpetuate impunity alongside and in collaboration with local actors.
Learn more about Hidden Wars at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Arang Keshavarzian's "Making Space for the Gulf"

Arang Keshavarzian is is Associate Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University. He is the author of Bazaar and State in Iran: Politics of the Tehran Marketplace (2007) and coeditor of Global 1979: Geographies and Histories of the Iranian Revolution (2021).

Keshavarzian applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Making Space for the Gulf: Histories of Regionalism and the Middle East, and reported the following:
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, British colonial officers devised treaty systems to extend their authority in the Indian Ocean world and forge alliances with select ruling families on the Arab coast of the Persian Gulf. While the treaties empowered the British Navy and enhanced commercial rights of British subjects, it helped recognize specific families and shaykhs as rulers of Kuwait, Bahrain, Dubai, and other port cities and coastal regions of the Arabian peninsula. Page 99 discusses protests and movements in the 1930s that critiqued and challenged this political configuration. During these economically volatile times, a combination of merchants, seamen, dissident members of ruling families, and pearl divers called for the creation of councils (or majles) to pass laws to review spending, revenue and invest in public works. Even if these attempts to build political accountability were short-lived and unsuccessful, these movements were also part of the formation of collective national polities and histories that cut across imperial imaginations and geopolitical conceptions of the Gulf as a regional unit.

This page does illustrate the contested nature of imperialism and captures the multiplicity of actors that occupy and travel through the Persian Gulf. These are central themes in Making Space for the Gulf. It also denaturalizes monarchical rule on the Arabian Peninsula and gestures to the book’s emphasis on thinking of geography as shapeshifting and relational, rather than static and existing prior to society.

Where the test falls short is that page 99 does not capture the overall puzzle motivating the book. Making Space for the Gulf seeks to understand what it means for the Persian Gulf to be a region and how the multiple conceptions and social processes of region-making reflect struggles and generate conflicts across the past century and a half. The book presents regionalism as aspirational, representational, and a set of structured practices that taken together help us understand the contradictory ways the Persian Gulf is viewed as a regional whole as well as fractured and variegated. This page does capture some of the tensions generated by one specific regionalization project, the British creation of a set of protected states, but can’t fully articulate the layered histories and multiple vantage points that I try to chart across the book.
Learn more about Making Space for the Gulf at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 21, 2024

Matthew D. Morrison's "Blacksound"

Matthew D. Morrison, a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, is a musicologist, violinist, and Associate Professor in the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Blacksound: Making Race and Popular Music in the United States, and reported the following:
From page 99:
[African Americans were largely seen as] property, unable to claim rights for their own bodies, unequal in producing work deemed worthy of property claims (as they were also viewed as subhuman through the systematization of slavery). Under these conditions, the very aesthetics they produced became sources of property to be copyrighted and claimed by white music industrialists through sheet music, through other publications, and in their own performances within the exploitative models of the developing popular music industry.

Blackface effectively established the commercial industry between the United States and United Kingdom, and it provided the aesthetic/sonic basis of popular sound and culture in both nations, albeit to differing degrees. The theatrical form created scripts of black performativity (developed within Blacksound) that became racialized as “authentically” black and often degenerate when taken up by black people. For white people, the same scripts were thought of as “othered,” through which they could freely express and imagine/construct their own self identity. Blackface allowed white performers to take blackness on and off at will, both on and off the minstrel stage, and their audiences bore witness to the transformative acts within their own imaginaries, safely distanced from having to actually be and experience blackness.

(White) Europeans/European-Americans had the ability to simultaneously insert themselves into the ruse of the blackface mask and, in turn, blackness, while being able to remove the minstrel mask and/or reassume more proper performances of citizen in their public selves. Blackface performance allowed white people to negotiate their bodies, personhood, and construction of whiteness by reveling in blackness under the rules of Victorian and antebellum societies. At the same time, this culturally homogenized group vis-à-vis blackness was able to carefully and effectively manage the commercialization, circulation, and absorption of the very aesthetics that were exploited in the performances of the black musicians from whom they originated. The following chapter considers how the aesthetic of intellectual performance property became even more subtly embedded into the formalization of blackface minstrelsy and the amalgamation of Blacksound through Stephen Foster, one of its most prolific composers, known affectionately as the “Father of American Popular Song.”
As it turns out, page 99 provides a snapshot into the larger thesis and political stakes of my book, Blacksound. This page happens to be the last page of Chapter 2, which is also the end of Part I of my book. The book is organized chronologically: Part I addresses the development of commercial music through blackface minstrelsy during the antebellum era under slavery, while Part II considers how blackface’s commercialization throughout the nineteenth century shaped the emergence of the commercial music industry and music copyright at the turn of the twentieth century in the establishment of Tin Pan Alley, Vaudeville, Broadway, film, and the popular recording industry–all taking place during the Jim Crow segregation era.

Because page 99 is essentially the end of a conclusion, it directly lays out my study of the legacy and impact of blackface minstrelsy on the making of American popular music, its industry, the construction of race and race-relations, anti-blackness, culture and politics. It also foreshadows the discussion in the following chapter/Part of how we begin to develop notions of intellectual property (in music) during slavery, as mostly white blackface performers, producers, and audiences took up ephemeral black performance aesthetics in sheet music and in live minstrel acts.

Blacksound is defined most simply as the sonic complement to blackface minstrelsy that serves as the foundation of American popular music, its industry, culture, politics, and entertainment. One thing that the page misses is that a major aspect of the book is deep musical and cultural analysis of mostly non-recorded music performances (both commercial and folk) throughout the nineteenth century to support the thesis and demonstrate how Blacksound is constructed and shifts over time. But overall, if someone read this one page, they would have a general (though not nuanced) understanding of the overall book and concept of Blacksound.
Learn more about Blacksound at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Stephen Schryer's "National Review's Literary Network"

Stephen Schryer is Professor of English at the University of New Brunswick. He is the author of Maximum Feasible Participation: American Literature and the War on Poverty (2018) and Fantasies of the New Class: Ideologies of Professionalism in Post-World War II American Fiction (2011).

Schryer applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, National Review's Literary Network: Conservative Circuits, and reported the following:
Page 99 recounts a key moment in the history of National Review’s literary network, when two literary critics – Hugh Kenner and Jeffrey Hart – argued over Governor Ronald Reagan’s proposed cutbacks to the University of California system. Before 1968, Kenner had been a conservative stalwart who supported National Review’s attempts to push the Republican Party to the right; he wrote an article supporting Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential run. He believed that Goldwater, if elected, would promote a cultural revolution in the academy, one that would benefit conservative intellectuals like himself. However, faced in 1968 with the practical consequences of electing a populist conservative, he became disenchanted with National Review’s brand of politics.

Kenner also lost faith in his ability to create a conservative cultural renaissance. Throughout the 1960s, Hugh Kenner used National Review as a venue for bringing highbrow literary culture to the American right. He published poems by Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Louis Zukofsky, and other experimental writers, and he published essays testing out ideas that would make their way into his ground-breaking study, The Pound Era (1971). However, when Kenner criticized Reagan, the standard-bearer of movement conservatism, National Review recruited fellow literary critic and Reagan speechwriter Jeffrey Hart to rebut him. Echoing Reagan’s anti-intellectual rhetoric, Hart ridiculed Kenner’s multi-syllabic prose style, depicting him as an out-of-touch liberal. Deeply disillusioned, Kenner temporarily withdrew from active participation in the magazine. “After painful thought,” he wrote to his close friend Guy Davenport, “I have formally but not publicly severed all connection with NR . . . the ideologues have gotten control.”

Readers flipping to page 99 will get a good sense of my book’s argument. I’m interested in the network of writers who gravitated towards National Review in the 1960s: figures like Kenner, short-story writer Guy Davenport, novelist John Dos Passos, historian and new journalist Garry Wills, and novelist and new journalist Joan Didion. Especially in the early 1960s, National Review was a great place for up-and-coming writers to make their mark. However, this upwelling of conservative writing didn’t last. By the 1970s, most of the high-profile literary figures associated with the magazine in the 1960s had drifted away, publishing in liberal magazines and sometimes embracing political positions that were unpalatable to movement conservatives. After 1970, it became increasingly difficult to find literary critics or highbrow writers openly affiliated with conservative politics.

Kenner’s debate with Hart highlights a crucial reason for this leftward drift. Kenner was drawn to National Review because of his friendship with William F. Buckley, Jr. He was also drawn to the magazine’s critique of what Buckley and other editors called the liberal establishment: left-wing ideologues whom conservatives believed had taken over the academy, the media, and the federal government. Kenner wanted to use his public writing to differentiate himself from this establishment, fashioning himself as a maverick anti-academic critic whose prose style echoed the experimentalism of modernists like Pound and Williams. When conservatives were political outsiders, he was able to overlook the populist anti-intellectualism that was always implicit in the idea of the liberal establishment. After 1968, this selective blindness became increasingly difficult. Kenner realized that the conservative attack on the liberal establishment threatened the very possibility of institutional expertise – the lifeblood of his career as a literary critic.
Learn more about National Review's Literary Network at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Matthew Kadane's "The Enlightenment and Original Sin"

Matt Kadane is a professor of history at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He is the author of The Watchful Clothier: The Life of an Eighteenth-Century Protestant Capitalist.

Kadane applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, The Enlightenment and Original Sin, and reported the following:
This is in many ways two books in one, a macro- and a micro-history, with one tending to ebb when the other flows. So it is not surprising to me that I only partly pass the test. Page 99 captures just one “book.”

Missing from that page is, for example, the big argument. I maintain that the Enlightenment can be defined by its opposition to original sin, as that doctrine was understood theologically. People at the time recognized that the Enlightenment entailed a new view of human nature that threatened a major premise of Christian orthodoxy, which was the Augustinian view that humans are naturally depraved and dependent on Christ for salvation. But if that’s where the coherence of the Enlightenment began, it ended, I also maintain, in the eventual debates enlighteners had about human nature on their own terms. Some wanted nothing to do with religious orthodoxy but, still convinced of Augustine’s psychology, anchored their worldly vision to the belief that people are irreparably self-interested. Against these anthro-pessimists, more optimistic enlighteners instead held that a society restructured would in turn improve human nature and set people on a more benign path. Original sin has the capacity, then, to explain where the Enlightenment was both consistent and contradictory.

Page 99 nevertheless does manage to capture the microhistory told in the book. This relates to a recovering Puritan alcoholic named Pentecost Barker, who rejected original sin in his early forties and, with the zeal of a convert, embraced the Enlightenment. On page 99, the reader finds Barker describing his late-life view that “God” is tantamount to what the ancient Greeks called “Nous,” or pure intelligence. On the same page, Barker characterizes Jesus as a mere man and recounts an argument he once had with a religious “bigot” who he “stunned…with a few plain texts, indeed: God so loved &c that He sent &c.” The language is cryptic. But here, as elsewhere, Barker wrote in shorthand to a fellow traveler, the Unitarian minister Samuel Merivale, who knew well the anti-Trinitarian argument Barker was referencing: God could not send Jesus to earth if the two beings were folded into the same entity. The Trinity was therefore a contradiction in terms, not to mention being absent from the Bible.

At the bottom of page 99, Barker then tells Merivale that there are two types of Christians. Some recognize “how fine and beautiful are the sermons of X on the Mount.” But others, who Barker snidely calls the orthodox, “run to Paul’s Epistles…transub[stantiation] Confession Absolution etc etc makes Deists in France. The ∆ [Trinity] and Satisfaction [predestination] makes em [deists] in England. But tho I am censur’d for the Rational, nothing but Reason will make reasonable xtians.” The language is again obscure. But Barker was unmistakably dividing Christians (much as in an adjacent frame of reference we could divide enlighteners) into two general camps. One was animated by the hopeful idea that people still reflect the divine image in which they were made. The other, rooted in the Pauline and Augustinian tradition, rested on an accretion of doctrines and ceremonies that had the intended effect of keeping people in check. Barker was further convinced that this latter tradition made “deists” out of reasonable people. In this and in other passages in his writing, he drew on his own experience to try to answer one of the vexing questions in European history. Why, for some people, did traditional religion stop making sense?
Learn more about The Enlightenment and Original Sin at the University of Chicago Press website.

My Book, The Movie: The Watchful Clothier.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

"Assembling Tomorrow" by Scott Doorley, Carissa Carter, et al

Scott Doorley is a writer, designer, and the creative director at the Stanford He has overseen everything from books to workspaces to digital products and initiatives focused on the future of learning and design. He co-wrote the book Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration and teaches courses in design communication. His work has been featured in museums from San Jose to Helsinki and in publications such as Architecture + Urbanism and the New York Times.

Carissa Carter is a designer, geoscientist, and the academic director at the Stanford She's the author of The Secret Language of Maps: How to Tell Visual Stories with Data, and teaches design courses on emerging technologies, climate change, and data visualization. Her work on designing with machine learning and blockchain has earned multiple design awards, including Fast Company Innovation and Core 77 awards.

The Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, known as the, was founded at Stanford University in 2005. Each year, more than a thousand students from all disciplines attend classes, workshops, and programs to learn how the thinking behind design can enrich their own work and unlock their creative potential.

Armando Veve is an award-winning illustrator whose drawings have appeared in publications including The New Yorker, National Geographic, Scientific American, MIT Technology Review, and Wired, among others. He studied illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design and currently resides in Philadelphia.

The authors applied the "Page 99 Test" to their new book, Assembling Tomorrow: A Guide to Designing a Thriving Future from the Stanford, and reported the following:
A bee. Softly but realistically rendered in graphite and resting at the bottom of the page. That’s what you’ll see on page 99. It doesn’t necessarily belong there, but bees come up a couple of times in the book and, because of their repetition, they became a sort of symbol for the clash between nature and technology. Bees helped us to ask the question: How far is too far when tinkering with the natural world? For a book concerned about the future, and how humans, technology, and nature are colliding, it felt like a good metaphor. And so this page 99, while it contains no text, offers a nice, concise (though perhaps obscure) metaphor for the book. However, what is wonderful about page 99, beyond the image, is that it sits as a bridge between two distinctive aspects of the book: a short piece of speculative fiction and a deep exploration on the qualities of design.

If you turn back one page you’ll be at the very end of a “History of the Future”—a fiction story tucked among the book’s nonfiction passages—titled “Compassion School.” In it we imagine a time when empathy and compassion are the core curriculum at K12 schools, and high achievers in social-emotional learning are lauded as being the best future leaders. How would the world change if capacity for compassion was the driver of success?

If you move ahead two pages, you’ll be at the beginning of chapter 4, which is titled Make-Believe: Our View Is Limited (Yet We Think We See the Full Picture). At the start of this chapter we introduce the idea of Umwelt (“surround-world”), a quirky word used to describe the quirky ways individuals experience the world through the limits of their senses. All creatures have enhanced senses in some area(s), and diminished senses in others. For example, butterflies can see more of the electromagnetic color spectrum, cockroaches are more sensitive to vibrations, and dogs have a tremendous sense of smell. But all of us–including the butterfly, cockroach, and dog–are stuck in our own sensory bubbles, forever unable to see the full picture. Yet we’re not really aware of what we’re missing. And the point is this (and more): “If we can learn to love the search for what we don’t know and can’t sense as much as we cherish what we think we do know, we may find our way to a thriving future.” Much of the book is about getting comfortable with, and finding opportunity within our own limits.
Visit the Stanford website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 17, 2024

John Strausbaugh's "The Wrong Stuff"

John Strausbaugh is a well known author of history books. His titles include Victory City, City of Sedition, and The Village. A former editor of New York Press, he has written about history and culture for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Evergreen Review, the Wilson Quarterly, and other publications.

Strausbaugh applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, The Wrong Stuff: How the Soviet Space Program Crashed and Burned, and reported the following:
The Wrong Stuff is a history of the surprisingly ramshackle Soviet space program, and how its success was more spin than science. Driven by propaganda-crazed political leaders, Soviet rocket scientists achieved great feats of make-do ingenuity against bedeviling odds – except when they failed. The government trumpeted the victories and hid the failures, which only became public knowledge after the Soviet Union fell.

A good part of the book is about the young cosmonauts who risked life and limb in jerry-rigged space vehicles, and sometimes died in them. Page 99 is about one of them, Gherman Titov, as a young recruit. Like most cosmonauts, he had grown up dirt-poor in a poor country. From that page:
By February 1960 an initial field of three thousand cosmonaut candidates was whittled down to a group of only twenty. Korolev called them his “little eagles.” [Yuri] Gagarin emerged early as one of the front-runners. His chief competitor was Gherman Titov, who came from a similar background but was of a very different temperament. Two years younger than Gagarin, Titov grew up poor in an isolated, often snowbound Siberian village in the region called the Altai Krai. His father, a schoolteacher, built the family’s one-room log cabin. Gherman slept on a shelf above his mother’s narrow bed. A sister would later say that maybe it was sleeping up near the ceiling that gave him his first dreams of flying. His father filled the little home with books, and Gherman grew up to be unusually literate for a fighter pilot. He wrote poetry and recited Pushkin at length. An uncle who was a World War I flyer inspired him to join the air force. He earned his wings on his twenty-second birthday. Where Gagarin was a middling pilot, Titov was an ace. Unlike Gagarin, who always looked like his uniform was a little too big for him, Titov looked sharp, natty, well-tailored. And while Gagarin could be friendly as a puppy, Titov could be argumentative to a point that nearly derailed his career more than once when he popped off at superior officers. He and Gagarin admired each other the way opposites do. When it grew clear that they were the stars of the group, they engaged in a fierce competition to be the first human in space.
Except for a small hint of what the rest of the book is like, I don't think a single page can possibly give a sense of the scope of the story. It begins at the end of World War II and follows the Soviet space program through decades of triumphs and defeats to the end of the USSR and its legacy in the equally cash-strapped and slapdash Russian space efforts today. Page 99 is just one step on a much longer journey.
Visit John Strausbaugh's website.

The Page 99 Test: Victory City.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Sandra E. Bonura's "The Sugar King of California"

Sandra E. Bonura is a historian, researcher, and writer. A retired professor of education and school counseling, she is the author of Empire Builder: John D. Spreckels and the Making of San Diego; Light in the Queen’s Garden: Ida May Pope, Pioneer for Hawai‘i’s Daughters; and An American Girl in the Hawaiian Islands: Letters of Carrie Prudence Winter, 1890–1893.

Bonura applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, The Sugar King of California: The Life of Claus Spreckels, and reported the following:
From page 99 [footnotes omitted]:
The transaction caused a huge uproar with cries of “land grabber.” In 1880 the going rate for land in Maui was about $1.50 an acre, making the crown lands worth around $1.5 million. Princess Ruth’s claim to a half interest in the lands would then be estimated, not at the paltry $10,000 Claus paid but at $750,000.29 The sale was hotly contested and legally questioned throughout the Hawaiian kingdom. First and foremost, members of the ruling monarchy believed that Princess Ruth’s legal claim to the crown lands was debatable because she “had no estate, right, title or interest of any description in the crown lands.” Liliʻuokalani was angry: “Mr. Spreckels paid the Princess Ruth $10,000 to release her claim to a small tract of these lands, although she had never ascended the throne.” It was true the princess herself never took the throne, and some royals, behind her back, questioned her self-claimed close genealogical relationship with the Kamehamehas.

Claus sought legal advice in both San Francisco and Hawaiʻi to ensure he had a plausible claim to the land, and came away with conflicting opinions, but most concluded that his position was “legally weak.” Nevertheless, some haoles in the Hawaiian legislature were more than happy to assert that he had good title to those crown lands: his real estate deal would set a precedent for the sale of prime crown lands, and if he could own some of the best agricultural lands in the kingdom, perhaps they could too! However, those legislators who claimed that Claus had a weak legal case “feared the power of his money to hire the best legal talent and, one way or another, get title to half the crown lands.” Realizing they couldn’t finance a long and drawn- out lawsuit by Claus, the Hawaiian legislature, out of sheer frustration, was persuaded to quiet any subsequent claims of his by passing the contentious Act to Authorize the Commissioners of Crown Lands to Convey Certain Portions of Such Lands to Claus Spreckels in Satisfaction of All Claims He May Have on Such Lands. Since Claus had previously been leasing the land under a thirty-year contract for $1,000 per annum, he settled the case for $30,000 in “lost lease money and the future value of less than .05% of the Crown Lands.” Once this compromise was signed on August 11, 1882, the kingdom finally conveyed the 24,000 agricultural acres to Claus.

Princess Ruth had been suffering from heart disease for some time and likely paid little attention to all the legal commotion surrounding the act. She died at fifty-seven, just nine months later. In her will she left everything, including 353,000 acres of Kamehameha lands, to her cousin Princess Bernice
Page 99 was revealing to me in that it made my biography subject look like a hated monopolist which is dispelled later in the book. So, if I were an average person and asked to look at page 99, I would think …oh here is another rich guy who pushed his way up the ladder with force. I’m not reading it.

The Page 99 Test doesn't work very well for my book. A prospective reader would get a better sense of the book from this take:
Sandra Bonura is the first biographer to give a heart and soul to Claus Spreckels, his era’s [Elon] Musk. Fiercely independent, resourceful, and combative, Spreckels arguably altered the history of California more than anyone in his time. In this deeply researched biography Bonura paints a complete tapestry of Spreckels’s complicated business and family life, wealth beyond imagination, and the incredible drive of a titan without peer.
That's from Victor J. Dicks, author of Forsaken Kings: Emma Spreckels, the Surfer of Asbury Park.
Learn more about the book and author at Sandra E. Bonura's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Andrew M. Gardner's "The Fragmentary City"

Andrew M. Gardner is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. He has focused his research on the places, peoples and societies that interact on the Arabian Peninsula, where he has conducted extensive fieldwork.

Gardner applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, The Fragmentary City: Migration, Modernity, and Difference in the Urban Landscape of Doha, Qatar, and reported the following:
The 99th page of my new book primarily consists of a description of The Pearl, the man-made island just off the coast of Doha, Qatar. I’ll quote here the first of two paragraphs describing The Pearl:
The final example is the development known as The Pearl, which is the Qatari example of the offshore residential developments for which the Gulf states are renowned. Developments like The Pearl have a symbolic resonance that is unprecedented, for they are visible from outer space. In local parlance, and as if often repeated in writing, these developments have been “reclaimed from the sea.” In this case, The Pearl is a man-made island that occupies the shallow coastal waters once vital to the pearl industry and of great environmental importance (Burt 2014). Construction of The Pearl commenced in 2003. Altogether, the island development contains some 18,831 dwellings intended to accommodate an estimated 45,000 residents. The 400 hectares (985 acres) of reclaimed land are built and arranged to provide more than thirty-two kilometers of new beachfront, and the retail and commercial offerings that suffuse the island development reach for a stylistically cosmopolitan and culturally diverse tenor. Costs for the project were initially estimated at $2.5 billion, but estimates have now ballooned to nearly $15 billion.
This section doesn’t really illuminate the central thesis of my book. But like any ethnography, it’s details, examples, and specifics that lead readers to the overarching theses that undergird the book. In that sense, detailed descriptions like those presented here are threads that one can follow to those central themes. Let’s follow the thread leading from page 99 for a moment!

First, migrants come from all over the Indian Ocean world to work in Qatar. Those migrants end up living in particular locations and spaces in the city. Consigning foreigners to particular enclaves and specific spaces is characteristic of the contemporary Gulf city. But as I demonstrate in this book, all sorts of things other than people are also consigned to enclaves and to specific spaces in the urban landscape.

It’s this juncture where the description of The Pearl found on page 99 fits: The Pearl is an exceptional space, for it is one of the only places in Qatar where foreigners can own property. Notably, while The Pearl is an exceptional space in that sense, it’s also quintessentially emblematic of the pattern by which Doha has grown in recent decades — a pattern that I refer to as an urban spatial discourse. This urban spatial discourse has deeply shaped the city one encounters there today. Indeed, in this book I contend that the city itself is best comprehended as a conglomeration of these enclaves and gargantuan urban spaces.

While these enclaves and distinctions in the urban landscape have been a lightning rod for much Western critique, in this book I point in another direction. I suggest that the fragmentary nature of the city’s urban landscape has been an integral feature in the preservation of cultural differences amidst such dramatic transnational movements and flows. Simultaneously, I also argue that this urban spatial discourse has been the key tool by which Qatar’s citizen-minority govern the “foreign matter” they host on the peninsula and in the city. In the final accounting, what’s notable about Doha is the superdiverse demography of the city, and the absence of integration as an ideal (or even a desire) by most of its residents. With so much diversity packed into the urban landscape, we should all pay attention to the urban ethos of Doha and cities like it.
Learn more about The Fragmentary City at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 14, 2024

D. Marcel DeCoste's "Professing Darkness"

D. Marcel DeCoste, professor of English at the University of Regina, is the author of The Vocation of Evelyn Waugh: Faith and Art in the Post-War Fiction.

DeCoste applied the Ford Madox Ford inspired "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Professing Darkness: Cormac McCarthy's Catholic Critique of American Enlightenment, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Professing Darkness would seem, on the face of it, to offer an instance of a text that fails Ford’s test. Engaged in a detailed reading of the final pages of just one of the dozen McCarthy works that my book considers, it seems far too focused a passage to fairly represent the monograph as a whole. It reads as follows:
result of his denying his own culpability and his embracing Enlightenment dreams of perfection. Yet even years after this grisly climax, Holme is granted another chance to repent of his crimes against charity and community, but while Frye contends that his travels culminate “in a realization, albeit a weak one, of his own error and a muted attempt to correct it” (“Histories” 8), Outer Dark instead concludes with Holme affirming both his refusal of relationship and the guiltlessness of that choice. His encounter with a blind man offers him a moment in which he may both heed the gospel of forgiveness and perform an atoning altruistic act. “Ragged and serene” (239), this sightless itinerant hails the passing Culla, attempts friendly conversation, and extends concern: “Is they anything you need?” (240). He denies the title of preacher, asking “What is they to preach? It’s all plain enough. Word and flesh” (240). He then shares a tale of a failed faith healer and expresses the desire to find that man and relieve him of whatever guilt he may yet feel: “If somebody don’t tell him he never will have no rest” (241). While the blind man offers welcome, models solicitude, and implies that the Incarnation expresses both a duty to succor others and uni­versal access to divine solace, Culla wants none of it. In keeping with his merce­nary outlook, he assumes this evangelist’s overtures are those of a salesman and seeks to move on. Doing so, he finds that the road terminates in an impassable swamp, “a landscape of the damned” (242). Returning, he spies the blind man still coming and passes by him without a word, reflecting “did he know how the road ended. Someone should tell a blind man before setting him out that way” (242). Even here, Holme might be the Samaritan to offer this warning, to recog­nize as his own the duty to extend the same concern that has been shown him. But having spent the novel betraying—in his lies and rejection of kinship—both word and flesh, Holme once again refuses the call to speak truly or forge a saving fraternity. Seeing in this refusal no sin he is empowered to commit or to forbear, he balks at that recognition of moral responsibility for and before others that is the essence of penitence, and persists in his benighted roving.

That this penitent’s hope remains open even to so perverse a figure as Culla Holme might well surprise, but the ultimate fate of Lester Ballard enacts even more forcefully Knox’s Catholic notion that no sinner is irredeemable, provided he takes the path of contrition and surrenders an enlightened insistence on his perfect sovereignty. In his lurking in the shadows and retreat to subterranean haunts, Ballard typically flees the scrutiny and judgment of his community.
The bulk of the page thus offers an interpretation of the fate of one Culla Holme, anti-hero of McCarthy’s second published novel, Outer Dark. More specifically, it argues that, even after this novel’s bloody climax (which sees him play passive witness to the murder and cannibalization of the son of his incestuous relationship with sister Rinthy), Holme is afforded a chance at reform in his meeting with the blind preacher. This, I note, he ignores. I then move on, at the foot of the page, to signal that the even more depraved Lester Ballard, necrophiliac and serial-murdering focus of McCarthy’s next novel, receives and successfully seizes upon a similar shot at redemption.

I say that the test might be judged to fail here, because the claims being dealt with on page 99 are so focused and granular. The larger argument of the book is that Cormac McCarthy’s oft-noted critique of American culture is fuelled by his likewise frequently remarked interest in matters spiritual. The novelty of my study lies, first, in its drawing a clear line between these two currents in the fiction and, second, in its demonstration that the religious concepts that so frame the author’s dissection of American Enlightenment consistently derive from his education and upbringing as a Roman Catholic. Professing Darkness thus makes a case for the centrality to his fiction of such key notions as the sacramental character of creation, humanity’s fallen state, the subsequent need for charitable communion with God and neighbor, and the necessity, and radical availability, of penitential conversion. Page 99 above would seem to address but one of these four ideas as it relates to only part of a single work and with little regard for the study’s concern with Enlightenment thought or American culture.

Nonetheless, this page might also fairly be judged to pass Ford’s test. Certainly, it deals with such dominant themes of the study as sin, charity, communion, and repentance. It offers the reader a representative taste, therefore, of the tone of the work as a whole. Moreover, it fairly introduces the book’s orienting lexicon (Catholic), its methodology (close reading married to a history of ideas) and its approach—thematic, moral, and theological. As such, the browsing reader could use it to make a pretty well-informed decision as to their willingness to undertake a study of the volume as a whole.
Learn more about Professing Darkness at the LSU Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Justine Firnhaber-Baker's "House of Lilies"

Justine Firnhaber-Baker is Professor of History at the University of St Andrews. A former fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and a graduate of Harvard University, she is the author of The Jacquerie of 1358: A French Peasants’ Revolt (2021) and Violence and the State in Languedoc, 1250-1400 (2014).

Firnhaber-Baker applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, House of Lilies: The Dynasty That Made Medieval France, and reported the following:
From page 99:
…unsuccessful expedition in 1141 to capture Toulouse, which Eleanor claimed by right of her grandmother. Louis’s anger at these failures and Thibaut’s assault, as they saw it, on Petronilla’s happiness and indeed her salvation, grew white hot when it became known that Thibaut was sheltering the pope’s preferred candidate for the see of Bourges. By August 1142, Louis had invaded Champagne, and when his army reached the town of Vitry, whose unarmed inhabitants fled from the violence of his ravaging soldiers, he ordered the massacre that still haunted him years later.

As the war in Champagne dragged on, Queen Eleanor, too, began to have doubts. She had not yet carried a pregnancy to term, a fact which suggested God’s displeasure. Although her influence on her husband’s reign during these unhappy early years is hard to prove – the sources are scant and coloured by knowledge of her later actions – she does seem to have gained some say in the kingdom’s governance soon after her marriage, and many blamed its ‘confused and chaotic’ character on her. Certainly, Bernard of Clairvaux faulted her for Louis’s aggressive policy toward Champagne and his unwillingness to settle with Count Thibaut or to concede to the pope’s wishes for the see of Bourges. When Bernard came upon Eleanor praying for a child during the reopening festivities for Abbot Suger’s renovated Saint- Denis in June 1144, he seized the opportunity and promised her that God would finally bless her womb, but only if she dropped her obdurate stance and worked zealously for peace. She agreed, and his prediction proved correct. Once Thibaut and Louis were reconciled and the pope’s candidate took up the see of Bourges – though at the cost of Louis breaking his sacred oath never to allow it and incurring yet another sin to weigh on his conscience – Eleanor did at long last bear a child, albeit a disappointingly female one.

The queen was far from alone in agreeing to do what Bernard asked of her. The honey-tongued abbot had a talent for convincing people to do things, and it was he who convinced the kingdom to undertake Louis’s crusade. The dubious nobles at Louis’s Christmas court had promised to seek Bernard’s advice, and he in turn sought guidance from the pope, who was more than happy to have Bernard…
A conflicted king, a powerful queen (Eleanor of Aquitaine, no less!), a saint, a crusade, a massacre of innocents, and a family drama that changes the fate of a nation: It’s all there on page 99. House of Lilies is a history of the Capetian dynasty that ruled France from 987 to 1328. It follows the intertwined stories of this royal family and the nation it ruled – and in many ways built – over these formative centuries in European political and cultural history. When the first Capetian king was crowned, national borders were still fluid, kings were weak relative to their position in later centuries, and iconic elements of medieval life, like chivalry, gothic architecture, and crusading, had yet to be invented. But by the time the last Capetian king died, all those things – and much more – had come into being, in no small part because of the Capetians themselves.

On page 99, we meet King Louis VII, first husband of Eleanor of Aquitaine, as he is trying to get the Second Crusade off the ground, partly to expiate his sin in burning 1,300 people alive in a church while warring against one of his barons. The crusade will be preached by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, whom we also meet on page 99, where he promises Eleanor that if she influences Louis VII for good then she will get pregnant. Eleanor and Louis’s barren marriage – which only produced two daughters in fifteen years – was the reason that Louis eventually divorced her. This proved to be a terrible decision because Eleanor then immediately married King Henry II of England, one of the most dangerous foes France ever faced. Heiress to vast duchy of Aquitaine in southern France, Eleanor brought these lands to Henry, who ruled not only England but also a collection of French lands much larger than the Capetians’ own. (Adding insult to injury, Eleanor then gave Henry baby after baby after baby, five of them boys.) Louis VII’s son and grandson would conquer most of these lands – and even invade England itself in 1216 – but Gascony, the last remnant of Eleanor’s duchy, stayed in English hands until the end of the Hundred Years War (1338-1453), the beginning of which is where my book ends.
Learn more about House of Lilies at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Madiba K. Dennie's "The Originalism Trap"

Madiba K. Dennie is the deputy editor and senior contributor at the critical legal commentary website Balls and Strikes, the co-director of the Democracy Committee of the New Jersey Reparations Council, and was previously a counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice. Her legal and political commentary has been featured in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and elsewhere, and she has been interviewed on the BBC, MSNBC, and other media outlets. She has taught at Western Washington University and New York University School of Law. Dennie is a graduate of Columbia Law School and Princeton University.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to The Originalism Trap: How Extremists Stole the Constitution and How We the People Can Take It Back, her first book, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Originalism Trap falls very close to the end of Chapter 2, “Stealing Our Liberties,” and it includes some direct recommendations for Americans to reclaim the rights they’ve lost to originalism’s takeover of constitutional interpretation. For instance, the first sentence on the page is “Inclusive constitutionalism argues that we should be strengthening rather than shrinking our substantive due process analyses in order to make the Constitution’s principles real for all of us.” And the next paragraph begins with the lines, “Positive rights such as these have been disfavored by the Supreme Court, to be sure. But the Supreme Court is disfavored by the public, and neither the Founders nor the Supreme Court have the final word in the nation’s ongoing dialogue about constitutional interpretation.”

I was pleasantly surprised by how well the Page 99 Test worked for The Originalism Trap. The book rejects originalism as a method of legal interpretation and proposes “inclusive constitutionalism” as an alternative. And on page 99, I straightforwardly describe what that would mean with respect to the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process protections. Throughout the book, I aim to empower readers to play an active role in reshaping constitutional meaning. And here on page 99, I remind readers that there is no inherent finality to the Supreme Court’s decisions; without the public’s assent, the Court’s decisions are just words on paper. And, while I think my best jokes are on other pages, page 99 does provide just a taste of the irreverence with which I regard the Supreme Court. Browsers who opened the book up to page 99 would get a decent grasp of the book’s thesis and, importantly, see that they don’t need to be a lawyer to understand it. From both the substance and the style, a casual reader would recognize that this book about the Constitution is indeed for “we the people.”
Visit Madiba K. Dennie's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 10, 2024

J. Matthew Ward's "Garden of Ruins"

J. Matthew Ward is assistant professor of history at Quincy University.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Garden of Ruins: Occupied Louisiana in the Civil War, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Alarmed at the rate of refugees, especially formerly enslaved people, who crossed the lines as the war continued, Union forces did their best to catalog the number and identity of refugees, as well as provide limited aid. “You will be pleased to make returns to this office monthly the numbers of males and also of females coming into our lines in your parish as refugees,” Bowen wrote to Provost Marshal George Darling in early 1864. He was also ordered to note the number of Confederate deserters. All refugees from beyond Union lines who entered New Orleans had to appear before the provost marshal, “who will immediately examine them with a view of determining their character and their motive in giving them selves [sic] up.” After December 1863, Union officers were required to read Lincoln’s Amnesty Proclamation to all refugees in case any of them desired to take the oath. Even as they provided relief and worked to incorporate southern refugees back into national society, Union officers still appraised the loyalties of refugees to prevent Confederate spies from infiltrating the occupation zone.

To secure the occupation zone from Confederate infiltration and optimize their relief efforts for southern citizens, the Union army increasingly implemented banishment. This war tactic affected men and women across the occupied South who chose to maintain Confederate allegiance. Ardent Confederate supporters or simple public nuisances could be ejected from the occupation zone. As Banks informed a subordinate in May 1863, “All persons have had opportunity in New Orleans at least, to determine whether they can live under the government of the United States. The hour has now come when they must choose their destination.”
Military occupation was crucial to the success of Union forces during the US Civil War because occupation forces held strategic supply and communication centers, patrolled important sections of Confederate territory, and slowly undermined the system of slavery. But, as page 99 of my book demonstrates in part, occupation duty was complex. Occupation commanders in Civil War Louisiana had to manage a large population of Confederates, white southern Unionists, and black people (both free and enslaved)—all of whom had competing visions about what the war should accomplish and what relation they shared with the military government. Page 99 of my text reveals some of the policies that Union forces engaged in when fighting the war and dealing with the occupied population at the same time. Commanders carefully identified refugees, distributed aid as best they could, required loyalty oaths, and even banished some of the more troublesome Confederates that yet remained behind Union lines.

These were only a few of the tactics that both Union and Confederate governments employed as they struggled not only to militarily defeat their enemy, but also win the hearts and minds of the civilians in Louisiana. I describe my book as a social history of military occupation. It investigates the major policies of powerful leaders like Confederate Governor Henry Allen or Union General Benjamin Butler, and it also reveals numerous ground-level stories from common people and how they endured the troubled terrain of Civil War Louisiana. For most people during the war, the local matters around them was the Civil War, not major battles. Household order and survival were central themes for commanders and commoners alike in the war of occupation. With Louisiana as the setting, Garden of Ruins is my effort to uncover the complicated process of military occupation and indicate its historical importance to how the war developed.
Learn more about Garden of Ruins at the LSU Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue