Friday, December 15, 2017

Joan Ramon Resina's "The Ghost in the Constitution"

Joan Ramon Resina is Professor of Iberian and Latin American Cultures at Stanford University. His books include Barcelona's Vocation of Modernity: Rise and Decline of an Urban Image.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Ghost in the Constitution: Historical Memory and Denial in Spanish Society, and reported the following:
On page 99 of The Ghost in the Constitution we find a parallelism between the claim of the Falangist “national movement” to combat political sectarianism and the syndicalist rejection of “politics.” In the 1930s, both the extreme right and the extreme left combated “bourgeois democracy” for the purpose of crushing political plurality. The right attacked dissidence in the name of timeless symbols of Castilian imperialism, in a move reminiscent of the Renaissance transference of the political-theological principle of absolute authority to the Castilian nation, identified with its king. “Franco, Spain’s Caudillo through God’s grace—as the motto in Spanish coins declared—turned to this theological foundation of absolute authority in a gesture that found support in Falange’s own recourse to a form of the nostalgic sublime anchored in the combined authoritarianism of Church and Army.”

This page, although from a chapter devoted to the etiology of the violence unleashed during the Spanish Civil War, references the historical background of the book’s subject, namely the social cost of Spain’s political amnesia during the years of the transition from the military dictatorship to the constitutional monarchy. A quarter of a century after the “pact of silence” and the approval of an amnesty law shielding perpetrators of human rights abuses from prosecution and even from exposure (through anti-defamation laws), concern about the “stolen past” emerged in the public media, leading to the enactment of an innocuous “law for the recovery of the historical memory.” The Ghost in the Constitution not only discusses the concept of historical memory, its appropriateness as a source of legislation, and the implications of remembering and denying for the social welfare of a democracy, but also delves into the conditions of forgiveness and reconciliation.

The book’s historical coverage includes the nationalist motivations of the coup d’état against the Republic, the bombing of Guernica, the assault on Catalonia’s cultural specificity and institutions, the experience of the concentration camps, exile, and the precarious nature of memory. The maintenance of indirect forms of censorship and the reemergence of fascist behavior in post-Franco Spain through the perpetuation of “sociological Francoism,” that is, in the expression of nostalgia and tolerance of the values and methods of the dictatorship, is considered as the latency of archaic elements ready to be reactivated under favorable conditions.

In this hypothesis, the established idea of Spain’s transition to democracy as a harmonious resolution of a conflicted past appears seriously flawed. The legend of a consensual suturing of the historical wound (based on a free social contract) disguises the extortion that took place under cover of a political pact and the violence that accompanied its promulgation. “The spate of violent actions in that ominous year of 1977 could not have been coincidental. Important elements of the Francoist apparatus utilized small right-wing groups, always ready for violence, to destabilize society, justify a coup d’état, and block the incipient liberalization.”

The book lays out the reasons for the exhaustion and ultimate failure of the Constitution of 1978 to heal a country that never achieved its alleged national cohesion except under duress. In light of Spain’s regression to undemocratic values and behavior, including negationism and its correlative, the unleashing of right wing violence against dissidents and minorities, the question of memory versus denial emerges as central to the exegesis of the present. Memory, in this sense, is the passkey that unlocks the riddle of Spanish society’s dearth of democratic conviction.
Learn more about The Ghost in the Constitution at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 14, 2017

David Clary's "Gangsters to Governors"

David Clary is a news editor at The San Diego Union-Tribune.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Gangsters to Governors: The New Bosses of Gambling in America, and reported the following:
The page is part of the chapter where I lay out how organized crime interests seized control of casinos in postwar Las Vegas. When Nevada became the first state in modern America to legalize most forms of gambling in 1931, official oversight was exceptionally weak. Nevada itself had no enforcement role and gambling licenses were handed out on the local level, a fatal flaw that would be exposed years later when mobsters like Bugsy Siegel received approval to run casinos in Las Vegas.

One of these sordid characters was Benny Binion, a Texas native who pulled himself out of poverty by running an illegal numbers racket and high-stakes craps games in Dallas that attracted the likes of oil tycoons H.L. Hunt, Howard Hughes, and Clint Murchison Sr. Binion's cowboy charm belied a steely edge. Binion's rap sheet included two murder charges in the 1930s. A reform-minded administration forced Binion to pull up stakes and move to Las Vegas where he could ply his trade in peace.

On Page 99, I tell the story of Binion's first trip to Las Vegas and his effort to secure a gambling license for his first casino there in 1947. Binion appeared before the Nevada Tax Commission, which then was responsible for handing out licenses and collecting fees. I read an oral history of one of the commissioners at the meeting and he reported that Binion bragged about his lawless exploits in Texas and confirmed that his history of violence was true. Binion's graphic accounts of how he killed the two men "had the Tax Commission in stitches" and the panel granted the license.

This page is representative of one of the themes of the book: How weak regulation led to organized crime's control of gambling in Las Vegas. Binion went on to become a fixture in Las Vegas and founded the World Series of Poker, which brought him and his casino vast amounts of publicity. When Binion died on Christmas Day 1989, a friend aptly summed up his wild life: "He was either the gentlest bad guy or the baddest good guy you'd ever seen."
Visit David Clary's website.

My Book, The Movie: Gangsters to Governors.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

G.R.F. Ferrari's "The Messages We Send"

G.R.F. ("John") Ferrari hs been a professor at the Department of Classics at the University of California, Berkeley, for over twenty-five years. His principal interests are in philosophical aesthetics and in ancient Greek philosophy, especially Plato.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Messages We Send: Social Signals and Storytelling, and reported the following:
If the idea behind the "Page 99" Test is that by that point an author who has lavished attention on a book's opening may be getting slapdash, then my page 99 would hold up reasonably well — at least, it reads much like the opening, even though by page 99 the book is more than half way done.  As it happens, the page also contains one of the book's more adventurous claims.  This tells you two things about the book: first, it is a concise and consistent read; second, it doesn't give everything away at once.  And the adventurous claim?  It's that the mimicry of actors is fundamental to all storytelling — not just to staged drama or to film.  If this is correct, it gives an insight into what the point of telling stories cannot be — it can't be anything personal between storyteller and audience — and suggests a reason why we tell stories in the first place: to transcend the delicate, sometimes tiresome personal negotiations that are the backbone of our day-to-day sociality, while still maintaining human touch with each other.  But the book has in fact spent the bulk of its first ninety-nine pages discussing exactly those delicate personal negotiations — how we dress for each other, flirt with each other, and in general manage the impressions that others get of us.  Why, then, does it spend the bulk of its next ninety-nine pages discussing storytelling?  Because its guiding ambition is to analyze the major types of social interaction that fall shy of full-out communication, assigning them to their appropriate position on an ascending communicative scale.  And it wants to show that the scale applies to formal communicative arts like storytelling as readily as it does to our day-to-day social interactions.  To move easily between established arts and everyday life is in fact among the book's distinctive qualities.
earn more about The Messages We Send at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Maria Belodubrovskaya's "Not According to Plan"

Maria Belodubrovskaya is Assistant Professor of Film in the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to  her new book, Not According to Plan: Filmmaking under Stalin, and reported the following:
The Test works well for my book: page 99 is central to my argument. The book explains why the regime of Joseph Stalin in Soviet Russia failed to install a true propaganda film industry, a filmmaking machine that produced Communist propaganda on order. The main reason why the Stalin regime failed was that the regime did not buttress its ambition for a mass propaganda cinema with the infrastructure, or the institutions and the workforce that this ambition required. Under Stalin, the Soviet film industry was structured such that the creative talent, and specifically the film directors, continued to be the critical decision makers in the production process. Page 99 belongs to Chapter 3, which details the director-centered mode that was at the core of Soviet film production. Page 99 addresses how in the 1930s the Soviet film administration tried and failed to introduce a powerful, Hollywood-style producer to counterbalance the authority of the film director. On this page, I quote Leontii Katsnel'son, the head of Lenfilm, a major film studio, who says that the attempt at forming production units headed by producers were unsuccessful at his studio. He states that the new producers were “unable to control the production life of all of their pictures and, as a result, work organization inside production units and even work discipline itself in many cases have deteriorated.” Ivan Kudrin of the Kiev Studio in Ukraine submitted a similar report. Why were these executives unable to implement the producer-based system? Because there was an extreme shortage of capable managers throughout the Soviet economy. For the reform to work, the Stalin regime had to train the new producers and initiate a better division of labor in film production. Absent a functioning institution of the producer and the division of labor, the regime had only a limited capacity at bringing film production under its control.
Learn more about Not According to Plan at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 9, 2017

David N. Schwartz's "The Last Man Who Knew Everything"

David N. Schwartz holds a PhD in political science from MIT. He has worked at the State Department Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs, and at Goldman Sachs in a variety of roles in both London and New York. He lives in New York with his wife, Susan. His father, Melvin Schwartz, shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1988.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Last Man Who Knew Everything: The Life and Times of Enrico Fermi, Father of the Nuclear Age, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Last Man Who Knew Everything provides background on one of Enrico Fermi's most important contributions, his theory of beta decay. In order to develop this theory, he needed first to understand Dirac's brilliant but extremely difficult theory of quantum electrodynamics and quantum field theory. Fermi, in typical fashion, decided that he needed to teach it to others in order to fully understand it himself. In the process he came up with an approach that was pedagogically superior to Dirac's - so much so that in later years Hans Bethe and Eugene Wigner both said that they learned quantum field theory from the paper Fermi wrote on the subject.

Fermi went on to use quantum field theory to explain beta decay, a radioactive process in which neutrons in the atomic nucleus become protons (or vice versa). At the same time, electrons and neutrinos are created and emitted at high speeds. The interaction that resulted in beta decay was for many years called the Fermi interaction. Today it is more commonly called the weak interaction because it is so weak that it occurs only when the particles in the nucleus are extremely close to each other. His beta decay theory kicked off some fifty years of intensive research including the realization that the weak interaction was closely linked to the electromagnetic interaction; the discovery of three types of neutrinos; and the discovery of the Higgs boson.

The theory of beta decay was classic Fermi: a radical simplification of a complex theoretical concept developed by teaching it to others, which he then proceeded to use to solve a seemingly unrelated problem.

My hope is that by page 99 the reader realizes that this book is for the non-scientist - that the explanation of the science is intended for the reader with little or no background in physics. I have tried on every page to present the material as simply and clearly as possible without dumbing it down. Fermi had an absolute conviction that anyone could understand physics and this conviction inspired the way I presented the material myself.
Visit David N. Schwartz's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Alexander Thurston's "Boko Haram"

Alexander Thurston is visiting assistant professor of African studies at Georgetown University and the author of Salafism in Nigeria: Islam, Preaching, and Politics.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Boko Haram: The History of an African Jihadist Movement, and reported the following:
Boko Haram is one of the deadliest jihadist groups in the world. It is the subject of a mounting academic literature, but the reasons for the group’s emergence and its embrace of violence are still debated. Much literature has suggested that the group is simply the manifestation of large, impersonal forces: some analysts point to poverty and inequality in Nigeria, where the group originated, while others point to the influence of transnational jihadism. My book argues for a hyper-local view of the conflict, and for an understanding that the founder, Muhammad Yusuf, fully committed to violence only after he lost support both among the wider Muslim community and among politicians. In other words, it’s important to understand Yusuf’s personal relationships with other important figures in the religious and political scenes.

Page 99 of my book deals with Yusuf’s rupture with Ja‘far Adam, who was at one time his mentor but who later became a bitter opponent. Both Yusuf and Adam belonged to what is called the “Salafi” trend, a loosely organized, global movement of Muslims who advocate strict, literal readings of the Qur’an and other sources. Yusuf and Adam disagreed, however, about topics such as Western-style education: whereas Yusuf made opposition to government schools one of his signature issues, Adam argued that Muslims could derive benefit even from secular schooling. The conflict between the two men became quite intense, with each trying to discredit the other.

From page 99:
Adam and others painted Boko Haram as agents of outside interests, including the Shi‘a, Nigerian Christians, the West, and foreign jihadists. These accusations reinforced Boko Haram’s sense of exclusivism, making Yusuf and his core followers feel that they could no longer trust Salafis who defended Western-style education or government service. The sect was likely responsible for Adam’s 2007 assassination.
That event – a crime that remains unsolved – became one of the key steps on Yusuf’s path to rebellion. A little more than two years later, isolated from most of his former mentors and allies, Yusuf and his followers launched a massive uprising in northeastern Nigeria. Over 1,000 people, including Yusuf, were left dead. But Boko Haram had started down the road to insurgency, and its violence still troubles Nigeria and neighboring countries today.
Visit Alexander Thurston's blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Annegret Fauser's "Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring"

Annegret Fauser is Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor of Music at UNC Chapel Hill. Her research focuses on music of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her books include Sounds of War: Music in the United States during World War II (2013), which was awarded both the Music in American Culture Award of the American Musicological Society and an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award.

Fauser applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring", and reported the following:
How musicians and critics abroad responded to Aaron Copland and his music for Appalachian Spring forms the thread that runs through page 99 of my book. Italians considered him “an American Grieg,” Chileans understood him as a regionalist, Germans worried about his lack of avant-garde sophistication, and the British saw him in a similar light as his local fellow travelers, Benjamin Britten and Michael Tippett. In the decades after World War II—when the high modernism of John Cage, Pierre Boulez, Luigi Nono, and Karlheinz Stockhausen dominated much of contemporary music—Copland’s Americana sounded out-of-date to the ears of many critics, but concert-goers and radio listeners, especially in the English-speaking world, reveled in the composer’s evocative music. Proving Ford Madox Ford’s point about the “page 99 test,” this particular page offers a surprisingly accurate snapshot of my book as a whole for two reasons. First, I am writing about a singular work, its genesis, and its history, tracing the vicissitudes of its existence in performance, recordings, and memory from its beginnings at the height of World War II to today. The often critical and even negative postwar reactions to Copland’s music for this particular work form part of this story. Later, however, musicians and scholars rediscovered the vernacular modernism of the score and began to appreciate its contribution to the soundscape of contemporary music as something more than just iconic Americana. Second, I consider this dance piece a collaborative work that intersected with the lives of many individuals, especially its three creators: the choreographer Martha Graham, the composer Aaron Copland, and the stage designer, Isamu Noguchi. Each of them was at a critical point in their careers when they joined forces, between 1942 and 1944, in crafting Appalachian Spring. The enmeshment of biography and art played a key role in shaping this work, particularly where Copland and Noguchi were concerned. In another section of the book (p. 37–38), I discuss how self-consciously Copland erased any trace of sentimentality in his idiom, considering it a problematic form of expression, one he associated both with his Jewish heritage and with German Romanticism. At the end of p. 99, I draw attention to the issue that the German criticism of Copland’s neoclassical idiom in the 1950s carries disturbing echoes of the ban, after 1935, of Copland’s music in Germany because he was “a left-wing Jew” (p. 23), and thus doubly suspicious in the eyes of the Nazis. Indeed, tracing such undercurrents—where biography and music interconnect throughout the story of Appalachian Spring—forms an important part of this book, and p. 99 is, in this respect, a cliff-hanger.
Learn more about Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring" at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Gavin Ehringer's "Leaving The Wild"

Gavin Ehringer is an investigative reporter who has covered the companion animal beat for 25 years. He’s written thousands of articles and six previous books on animal-related subjects.

Ehringer applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Leaving the Wild: The Unnatural History of Dogs, Cats, Cows, and Horses, and reported the following:
From page 99:
I recall the heroism of a cowboy I knew who walked into a shelter in Texas. After he’d looked at all the dogs, the clerk asked him which one he’d like to adopt. “I’ll take the next one in line to die,” he said. Danger, a spunky Jack Russell terrier plucked from death row, rode shotgun with him for a decade. Sadly for the dogs, cats, kittens and puppies of that generation, there simply weren’t enough cowboys to go around.

In the 1970s, a time when fewer than ten percent of Americans spayed or neutered their pet animals, public shelters euthanized as many as eleven million dogs a year - about one in every 10 dogs. Shelter managers began using the phrase “pet overpopulation” to describe the rivers of puppies, kittens, dogs and cats flowing through their doors in cardboard boxes and on leashes, only to exit through the backdoors in trash bags.

That was when we had a serious, serious dog overpopulation crisis...
I wrote Leaving The Wild to take a critical look at the often unexamined act of animal breeding. Page 99 begins to call into question the prevailing myth of dog overpopulation. While certainly a problem until very recently, the book shows that today, demand and supply are in balance. In 2016, for the first time, fewer than 1 million dogs were euthanized in shelters while 2.6 million found new homes. Eliminate old and infirm dogs euthanized for humane reasons, and the vast majority killed come from one breed: pit bulls. If pit bull breeders took more responsibility, neutered or spayed their animal and stopped overproducing, we could put “dog pounds” out of business overnight.

Dr. Emily Weiss, who writes an ASPCA blog for shelter professionals, says in the book that she loses sleep not over how many puppies are getting euthanized, but over where we’re going to get enough puppies to meet consumer demand.

Whether it’s dogs, cats, cows, or horses, I turn a critical eye toward myths, beliefs and misinformation, using data, expert opinion and personal anecdotes  to see which hold up and which fold up.

Many answers I discovered through five years of research challenged and changed my own beliefs and prejudices about the plight of domestic creatures.

I’m sure whichever animal interests you, you’ll be stunned, alarmed or pleasantly surprised by the dead-right facts and amusing tales found on every page of Leaving The Wild.
Visit Gavin Ehringer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Claudio Sopranzetti's "Owners of the Map"

Claudio Sopranzetti is a postdoctoral fellow at All Souls College, a research associate at the Future of Cities Center, and teaches at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at Oxford University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Owners of the Map: Motorcycle Taxi Drivers, Mobility, and Politics in Bangkok, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Nam, lost in the TV starlets’ secret love story with her handsome white-skinned boyfriend, quickly wais (salutes) Adun before sinking her teeth into the piece of KFC he brought back for her, temporarily fulfilling her craving for a different life, one with urban settings, lifestyles, and tastes. Adun is not indifferent to her desires, which mirror the yearnings that drew him to Bangkok three decades before. She is, he tells me, increasingly voicing her intention to migrate to the city, an intention that has been—consciously or unconsciously—cultivated not just by exposure to a variety of media, but also by the commodities and stories that Adun carries with him to the village.

All around Isan, sitting in poorly lit houses in the northeastern countryside, kids and older people listen with widened eyes and ears to the tales of the city that migrants bring back. These stories fuel imaginary trajectories and desires of urban life among rural dwellers, imaginations that oscillate between the celebration of urban life and its advantages, and the dismissal of urban experience, its perils, and struggles. In this sense, Adun acted for Nam as culture broker and mediator of life in the metropolis and its goods, from cellphones to KFC chicken. These circulations that Adun channeled, whether with presents, stories, or by buying her a TV, orient Nam’s future towards Bangkok, the endpoint of personal and collective linear trajectories of development. This, in turn, has made her only more conscious of her present distance from that future. Through this kind of awareness, “the harshness of peasant life and the squalor of the farmyard . . . appear intolerable.... [T]hey seem even more so once we become aware of the magnificent, grandiose character of the works they have produced with their labor. Our awareness of this contradiction becomes more acute, and we find ourselves faced necessarily with a new imperative: the practical, effective transformation of things as they are.”15 Munching in front of the TV, Nam sees this imperative solidify and the awareness of her exclusion grow.
When I received a request to do a blog entry for the 99 page test, it was late and night and I was in bed, about to go to sleep. I turned the light back on and rushed to the first copy of my new book, fresh off the press. I was too curious to see how it would pass the test. I do not want to add much. The judgement is left to you.
Visit Claudio Sopranzetti's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 30, 2017

David M. Edelstein's "Over the Horizon"

David M. Edelstein is Associate Professor in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and the Department of Government at Georgetown University. His first book is Occupational Hazards: Success and Failure in Military Occupation.

Edelstein applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Over the Horizon: Time, Uncertainty, and the Rise of Great Powers, and reported the following:
In the 1920’s, European great powers confronted what I call now-or-later dilemmas. For Britain, this meant deciding whether to attempt to constrain a revisionist Germany now or put off the costs of doing so until later. For Germany, it meant deciding whether to act more aggressively to reclaim its interests now or delay any revisionism until later. Unexpected levels of cooperation between Germany and Britain emerged out of the way in which each state chose to resolve their dilemmas. Britain was too focused on short-term economic challenges to address the potential long-term threat of Germany while German Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann understood that early aggression would undermine long-term German goals.

This historical detail is relayed on page 99 of Over the Horizon, and it encapsulates the more general argument made in the book. Temporal dynamics have been an underappreciated dimension of international politics. States respond differently to long-term threats and opportunities, and in particular, surprising levels of cooperation between existing and emerging great powers can be explained by the time horizons of political leaders.

One implication of the argument is that states have incentives to try to manipulate the time horizons of the leaders of other states. On page 99, I describe how Stresemann attempted to offer reassuring signals to other European leaders about the benign nature of German intentions. Whether or not those intentions were sincere and whether or not they would have persisted over the long term is less consequential, then that they contributed to an environment in which other European powers felt comfortable alleviating the pressure that that Treaty of Versailles had placed on Germany.

The argument has implications for how we think about contemporary rising great powers, including China. In the two decades after the end of the Cold War, Chinese grand strategy was motivated by the idea of laying low and avoiding provocations in order to allow China to continue to grow unimpeded. For a combination of domestic and international reasons, China has acted more assertively in the last few years. Patience was a virtue for China, and its emerging impatience may have dramatic consequences for the future of great power politics.
Learn more about Over the Horizon at the Cornell University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Occupational Hazards.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Lynne Viola's "Stalinist Perpetrators on Trial"

Lynne Viola is University Professor at the University of Toronto. She is the author of The Best Sons of the Fatherland: Workers in the Vanguard of Soviet Collectivization, Peasant Rebels Under Stalin: Collectivization and the Culture of Peasant Resistance, and The Unknown Gulag: the Lost World of Stalin’s Special Settlements.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Stalinist Perpetrators on Trial: Scenes from the Great Terror in Soviet Ukraine, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Stalinist Perpetrators on Trial, we find ourselves in Room 21 of the Uman NKVD offices in Ukraine. A nightmare unfolded in this small, multi-ethnic town in the course of 1937 and 1938 during Stalin’s “Great Terror.” Here, the local NKVD organs created a special “laboratory”—Room 21—for interrogations, beatings, and forced confessions. According to the NKVD indictment against the Uman NKVD perpetrators, “the task of this so-called laboratory...was to obtain from prisoners confessions about their supposed counterrevolutionary activities...Almost no one did not confess...20 to 30 people were called simultaneously into the room [for preliminary interrogations]...”. Those who “confessed,” were transferred to formal interrogation sessions; those who did not, were beaten until they did.

Room 21, however, was only the tip of the iceberg of atrocities committed during the Great Terror in Uman. Here, prisoners suffocated to death in the overcrowded holding cells. The chief executioner was said to have hacked out gold teeth from corpses with the barrel of his revolver. The commandant of the local prison was arrested and tried in a closed court hearing for, among other things, the pillaging of corpses following executions. The leaders of the Uman NKVD would later be arrested for these actions once Stalin called a halt to the terror. Stalin would scapegoat them for “violations of socialist legality.”

What happened in Uman was repeated, in variations of technique, across the Soviet Union. A select group of NKVD perpetrators were subject to arrest at this time. They were charged and placed on trial throughout the country. This “purge of the purgers” allowed Stalin to avoid blame for the terror as well as to wipe out various clientele networks within the NKVD. NKVD cadres blamed for “violations of socialist legality” were interned in the Gulag or subject to execution. On 7 December 1941, the new NKVD chief Beria would request permission from Stalin to free from the Gulag 1,610 former NKVD cadres punished in the “purges of the purgers” so that they could fight in the war.

The criminal files of these purged NKVD cadres, now declassified in what was formerly the Ukrainian KGB archives, allow us, for the first time, to enter the world of the Soviet perpetrators, following them into the darkest recesses of the terror, including the interrogation rooms, the prison cells, and the execution chambers.
Learn more about Stalinist Perpetrators on Trial at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Unknown Gulag.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 27, 2017

Michael Patrick Cullinane's "Theodore Roosevelt's Ghost"

Michael Patrick Cullinane is Professor of U.S. history at Roehampton University, London, and the author of Liberty and American Anti-Imperialism, 1898–1909, and coauthor of The Open Door Era: U.S. Foreign Policy in the Twentieth Century.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Theodore Roosevelt's Ghost: The History and Memory of an American Icon, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Alice and Ted presumed that they could preserve a particular memory of their father's legacy, but it was the Democratic Roosevelt who captivated public attention and redefined "Rooseveltian." Historian Richard Collin argues that Franklin's presidency relegated TR to the position of a "forgotten man," that FDR produced a "historical obliteration" of TR, but this claim does not ring true. Franklin eclipsed Theodore, and Henry Pringle's critical biography certainly revised the historical impression, yet TR endured, even thrived, in public memory. FDR and Pringle changed TR from a "unique, isolated" presidential icon "beyond confusion with anybody else" into a puzzling figure with a political association with Franklin. Hardly obliterated, TR's ghost adapted and remained pertinent in a new context.
When asked to open my book to the 99th page, I worried and wondered what I would find. But, true to the hypothesis of that magic number, the 99th page does not disappoint. One of TR's greatest admirers was his cousin Franklin who, soon after TR's death, began mimicking his most famous oratorical phrases such as "Bully" and "Dee-lighted." Franklin's campaign for vice-president in 1920 was characterized by a wholesale invocation and co-option of his dead cousin's popular memory. TR's family detested Franklin for this, particularly his eldest daughter Alice and eldest son Ted who spent their lives attempting to discredit FDR's reinterpretation.

Chapter 4 of Theodore Roosevelt's Ghost, where page 99 falls, examines the ways in which Franklin changed popular conceptions about the name "Roosevelt." It is an example of how the past is re-imagined, and it exemplifies the purpose of the book. Theodore Roosevelt's Ghost is an analysis of a character that haunts American history. Every president has invoked TR; you can find his likeness carved into Mount Rushmore, in the performance of Robin Williams in Night at the Museum​, or as a giant bobble-head racing around National's Park in the intermission of the fourth inning of a Senators' game. Theodore Roosevelt endures as a figure with substantial meaning, be it for politics or pop culture.

The page 99 test has exposed one of several historiographical contributions. The rise of FDR did not erase TR from memory; it merely changed perceptions. The changing nature of TR's posthumous image closely follows the historical context of the American Century. The Great Depression launched FDR's career and focused greater attention on TR's progressive legacy. It did not obscure the Rough Rider, however, and when the Cold War prompted a surge in nationalism and anti-communism, TR's legacy as an advocate of Americanism re-emerged. The contemporary green movement has reminded a new generation of TR's conservation credentials. Likewise, personal agency played a role in shaping his legacy, as FDR demonstrates. Other individual stories come to light in the book, such as the rationale for Mount Rushmore and the person responsible for TR's place on the mountain (spoiler: it was not the artist Gutzon Borglum, but Peter Norbeck).

Theodore Roosevelt's Ghost​ details the most important commemorative activities over a century of relentless depictions with the aim of showing how memories of the past are used to serve the present.
Learn more about Theodore Roosevelt's Ghost at the LSU Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Rachel Fulton Brown's "Mary and the Art of Prayer"

Rachel Fulton Brown is associate professor of history at the University of Chicago. She is the author of From Judgment to Passion: Devotion to Christ and the Virgin Mary, 800–1200 (2002) and coeditor of History in the Comic Mode: Medieval Communities and the Matter of Person (2007).

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Mary and the Art of Prayer: The Hours of the Virgin in Medieval Christian Life and Thought, and reported the following:
At the top of page 99 is the end of a quotation from one of the most famous passages ever written about what it means to pray to Mary. The speaker is the great Cistercian abbot Bernard of Clairvaux (d. 1153), and he is encouraging his audience to turn to Mary whenever they feel themselves overwhelmed by the tempests of life:
Asking her help, you will never despair. Keeping her in your thoughts, you will never wander away. With your hand in hers, you will never stumble. With her protecting you, you will not be afraid. With her leading you, you will never tire. Her kindness will see you through to the end. Then you will know by your own experience how true it is that “the Virgin’s name was Mary.”
This is the experience that my book attempts to capture for modern readers, but here, at the end of chapter 2, we have already come as far as most modern studies of the medieval devotion have been able to take us. We know by this point that every medieval Christian who could read—man, woman, or child; clerical, religious, or lay—would have known the Hours of the Virgin, the text at the core of their prayer books. We have also learned what we can about their experience of praying to her from the accounts that they gave of saying the invitatory antiphon at the first of these Hours and repeated by many throughout the day: “Ave, Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum.” Above all, we have noted, they reported sensations of lingering sweetness and exhilarating joy.

But why focus these prayers on the name of Mary? Most modern Christians, certainly most Protestants, think of Mary primarily as a humble maiden of Nazareth, remarkable only in that she was a virgin overshadowed by God—or raped, as certain feminist theologians have claimed. But medieval Christians had a whole range of other names for her—ark, tabernacle, temple, house, throne, city, mountain, river, tree, mirror, bride, queen—which they invoked to describe her relationship with God and which they professed to have found in the scriptures. As the book asks on page 99:
Where—other than in their desire to exercise their onomastic skills—did they get the idea to read the scriptures in the way that they did, as filled with names for her, almost none of which (other than her actual name) were invoked by the evangelists Matthew, Mark, or Luke?
The puzzle has been a persistent one ever since the eighteenth century, when philosophes like Casanova and Voltaire ridiculed interpreters like Sor María de Jesús de Ágreda (d. 1665) for imagining Mary as the Mother of Wisdom, filled with the knowledge of creation as God, the maker of heaven and earth, prepared her to be the temple of his Incarnate Son. The answer, as the remaining chapters of the book set out to show, lies in rethinking the history not only of the devotion to Mary, but of the origins of Christianity itself, grounded as it was in the recognition of Jesus not just as the Christ, but as the Lord worshipped in the psalms—and of Mary as the Mother of the Lord, the Lady of the temple in which the Lord became visible to the world. It is on page 99 that the full dimensions of this mystery first become clear and the doors of the temple begin to open wide.
Learn more about Mary and the Art of Prayer at the Columbia University Press website, and visit Rachel Fulton Brown's blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Daniel Siemens's "Stormtroopers"

Daniel Siemens is professor of European history at Newcastle University. His new book is Stormtroopers: A New History of Hitler's Brownshirts. He is author of three previous books and has published widely on European and U.S. history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Siemens applied the “Page 99 Test” to Stormtroopers and reported the following:
From page 99:
‘Only smoke your own brands. Do not spend money in other circles. To be a National Socialist means fighting and agitating until the last breath.’
This call is from an advertisement that ran in the early 1930s. It was directed at the rank and file Stormtroopers, or Brownshirts, the paramilitary wing of the Nazi party. Hitler and his followers had not yet taken power in Germany, but they were already a political force to reckon with. As I demonstrate in my book, the Nazis were not only skilled propagandists which since the late 1920s successfully reached out to a wide variety of German voters, they were also open to new business models. They centralized the sales of their uniform, of party badges and flags – similar to today’s sports clubs who make a fortune with cheaply produced shirts that bear the name of prominent athletes.
Stormtrooper cigarettes
The NSDAP also cooperated with a Dresden-based cigarette company that produced a variety of cigarettes exclusively marketed to appeal to Nazi supports.

It was a win-win situation: The party promised to order its quickly growing number of paramilitary supporters to smoke this particular brand of cigarettes, and in return the company employed Stormtroopers as salesmen and paid a share of its profits to the paramilitaries. What is more, such a cooperation fit with the Nazi propaganda of the pre-1933 era which accused big business and cartels to sell out the interests of the German workers.

After the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ in the summer of 1934 that cut the Stormtroopers of much of their previous influence, this business model quickly collapsed to the benefit of the traditional big players in the German cigarette business. Yet the idea that group identity and feelings of belonging can be stimulated by the consumption of specially tailored products has proven a great success ever since.
Learn more about Stormtroopers at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Jeanne Guillemin's "Hidden Atrocities"

Jeanne Guillemin is senior advisor at the Security Studies Program in the MIT Center for International Studies. Her books include Anthrax: The Investigation of a Deadly Outbreak (1999); Biological Weapons: From the Invention of State-Sponsored Programs to Contemporary Bioterrorism (2004); and American Anthrax: Fear, Crime, and the Investigation of the Nation’s Deadliest Bioterrorist Attack (2011).

Guillemin applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Hidden Atrocities: Japanese Germ Warfare and American Obstruction of Justice at the Tokyo Trial, and reported the following:
Hidden Atrocities is a book about how, with covert US intelligence intervention, Japanese World War II war crimes involving germ warfare were suppressed at the post-war Tokyo tribunal, the very trial where victims ought to have been vindicated. The Chinese delegation was convinced that the Japanese attacked four of their cities with plague in 1940-1941 and had told the world so. On page 99, it is March 1946 and a team of American prosecutors from the tribunal’s International Prosecution Section is about to set off on a month-long investigation in China for trial-worthy evidence. There is still time to select Japanese defendants and develop charges against them. But can David Nelson Sutton, the Virginia lawyer assigned to structure China’s case, penetrate the wartime secrecy that surrounded the Japanese-caused epidemics, which were passed off as natural outbreaks? As the reader is already aware (but Sutton and his team are not), in the name of national security and using its own channels of inquiry, US Military Intelligence is avidly pursuing former Japanese military scientists who organized the plague attacks, along with campaigns using anthrax, cholera, typhus, glanders and other infectious diseases against Chinese civilians. On page 99 the tension is established between the ideal of criminal justice—that solid evidence should lead to the just punishment of wrongdoers—and the political forces that can corrupt the judicial process.

The Tokyo trial, unlike the Nuremberg trial which took barely a year to complete, lasted for more than two years, with many stops and starts. Eleven nations had judges and prosecutors there: the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, China, France, the Soviet Union, India, and the Philippines. By April 1948, when the trial proceedings ended, many opportunities for introducing evidence about Japanese germ warfare crimes, including years of systematic human experimentation on Chinese captives, had passed with no initiative from the United States, the United Kingdom, or the Soviet Union, each of which might have acted on information they chose instead to repress.

In the 1970s, revelations about Japanese germ warfare crimes finally began to emerge, after the United States abandoned its once enormous biological warfare program and began to declassify its records. In the 1990s, the Japanese and Western media were revealing the full range of atrocities, backed by belated confessions from Japanese military men who in their youth had been complicit in them. In China, increasingly open to the outside world, activists for the victims brought law suits against the Japanese government, but without significant results. Japanese judges decided that terrible germ warfare crimes had taken place, causing great suffering and death, but refused compensation or apology.

The failure to prosecute these crimes in Tokyo left what seems a permanent injustice. In 1946, Japan and China were both wrecked by war, with broken economies. Today the two are major powers, with a legacy of unresolved war crimes still troubling their relations. Is any resolution possible? Perhaps, as some have argued, there is a role for an official Japanese apology, one in which the United States could participate—and finally honor the thousands of nameless victims ignored at the Tokyo trial.
Learn more about Hidden Atrocities at the Columbia University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: American Anthrax.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 20, 2017

Elizabeth L Silver's "The Tincture of Time"

Elizabeth L Silver is the author of the memoir, The Tincture of Time: A Memoir of (Medical) Uncertainty, and the critically acclaimed novel, The Execution of Noa P. Singleton.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to The Tincture of Time and reported the following:
From page 99:
I’m in the waiting room of the first neurosurgeon’s office about to find out the results from Abby’s first outpatient MRI. There is a large screen showcasing an aquarium scene, stretching from floor to ceiling. We get free water with the logo of the office printed on the bottles.

It is hours after Abby has awakened from anesthesia. She is cranky but not terribly so. I wait for an extra hour. It’s OK. These are neurosurgeons. Pediatric neurosurgeons. Nothing I do will ever be as important—not in writing or in law. I wonder if other doctors feel impotent comparatively. Still, I know that this pediatric neurosurgeon is just a person. He is not a God. He’s a meticulously well-trained technician, and yet I wait for his answers the way a penitent stands outside a confessional hoping for absolution.

While I wait, the termites of guilt return. Hospitals are infested with them, as are waiting rooms.
Page 99 represents the theoretical core of the book, in that it is a book about waiting, about wondering what the future may hold, and learning how to navigate that unknown terrain – specially with respect to medical crises. This page opens on a section exploring waiting rooms in hospitals, doctor offices, therapists’ offices, and any place where life is forced to the periphery for a moment. It is the place of temporariness, it is a place filled with anxiety and possibility. This short excerpt is taken from a hospital waiting room, where we await results from a brain MRI for our infant daughter and must speak with a pediatric neurosurgeon about the results as soon as we are called back from our soft chairs in the waiting room. Everything in our lives will lead up to the short conversation we know we will have when called back, but in that moment in the waiting room, life and its mysteries can take any form it likes. There are no answers yet, and it is this place of emotional stasis that intrigued me as a writer, a person, a parent. What does it mean to wait – to be forced to wait or to embrace the waiting? In so many ways, this makes us human.
Learn more about the book and author at Elizabeth L. Silver's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Execution of Noa P. Singleton.

My Book, The Movie: The Execution of Noa P. Singleton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Padraic Kenney's "Dance in Chains"

Padraic Kenney is Professor of History and International Studies at Indiana University,

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Dance in Chains: Political Imprisonment in the Modern World, and reported the following:
Writing about the experience of political imprisonment, I examine a wide variety of actions that prisoners engage in, ranging from communal education to hunger strikes. One of the hardest activities to write about is escape from prison. It is challenging to discuss, as I do on page 99 of Dance in Chains, because the motives are so simple: anyone who is confined against his or her will should want to get out. But in the case of political prisoners, escape is also part of politics: you escape to rejoin the movement and also, perhaps, to show what your movement is capable of.

Not that everyone had much of a chance to escape. But in some regimes, political prisoners seem to spend most of their time devising jailbreaks. This was certainly true in Ireland during the years of the Revolution and Civil War (1916-1923). Page 99 features a postcard from 1919, showing Irish revolutionaries merrily escaping en masse from Mountjoy Prison in Dublin, while a little boy alerts the clueless guard.

The Irish Free State that took over the prisons and camps in 1921 did not have more success holding on to the men and women they detained. We see Sean MacBride—future winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on human rights, but in 1923 a lowly IRA soldier—given the task, in Newbridge Camp near Dublin, of managing the multiple escape schemes being hatched by his fellow prisoners, in order to identify those with the best chance of success. Thus escape became proof of the IRA’s organizational superiority.

I understand the political prisoner as someone who develops a politics of the prison: that is, who sees the fact of being imprisoned as an opportunity to advance one’s cause. The men in Mountjoy Prison and Newbridge Camp, as well as those I portray in prisons and camps ranging from Stalinist Poland to Apartheid South Africa to Guantanamo Bay, demonstrate this very well.
Learn more about Dance in Chains at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Stephen R. Bown's "Island of the Blue Foxes"

Stephen R. Bown is a critically acclaimed author of several literary non-fiction books on the history of science, exploration and ideas.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Island of the Blue Foxes: Disaster and Triumph on the World's Greatest Scientific Expedition, and reported the following:
On page 99:
The flotilla was soon engulfed in “thick” weather, and one of the ships became lost and returned while two continued on south, one commanded by Spangberg, the other by Lieutenant William Walton. They reached the island of Honshu in northern Japan in late June. Here they spied many small ships in the shallow bays. Coastal villages were surrounded by people working in fields of grain of a variety they did not recognize, while large forested hills dominated inland. On several occasions, boats sailed out to meet them, and men came aboard their ships to trade fresh fish, water, large tobacco leaves, rice, fruit, salted pickles, and other foods for Russian cloth and clothing. They were small men who bowed when entering the ship’s cabin and were “excessively polite.” Spangberg did not allow his men to go ashore, nor did he allow many Japanese to board his ship, “since Japan’s history abounds in accounts of attacks on Christians.” He observed that “in each Japanese craft was a number of stones, each of about two to three pounds weight. Perhaps the stones served as ballast, but being of that size, they could also have been used as projectiles, if things should have gone wrong.”
My latest book, Island of the Blue Foxes: Disaster and Triumph on the World’s Greatest Scientific Expedition is about the mighty decade long Great Northern Expedition, conceived by Russia’s Peter the Great in the early 18th century. It was the most ambitious and well-financed scientific expedition in history, lasting nearly ten years and spanning three continents, its geographic, cartographic and natural history accomplishments are on par with James Cook’s famous voyages and Lewis and Clark’s cross-continental trek. The expedition involved thousands of scientists, artists, surveyors, naval officers, mariners, soldiers, and skilled laborers, all of whom had to cross through Siberia (which had no roads or accurate maps at the time), build a shipyard from scratch in Kamchatka, then build two ships, before setting off across the North Pacific to Alaska. It was a hugely important undertaking both politically and scientifically – Siberia was charted and a route across it formalized, while it laid the foundation for the Russian Empire to conquer Alaska (before selling it to the US over a century later). But it was also one of the Age of Sail’s darkest tales of shipwreck, suffering and survival. Page 99 does convey something of the content of the book – the adventurous events of a sea voyage – but it doesn’t get to the meat of the story, neither politically with Peter the Great in St. Petersburg, nor scientifically with the German naturalist and physician Georg Steller, nor nautically with the lurid and dramatic shipwreck, nor adventurously with the demoralized group’s survival on an uninhabited island. So this time I’d have to say sorry Ford Madox Ford, no dice, as they say.
Learn more about the book and author at Stephen R. Bown's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: The Last Viking.

The Page 99 Test: White Eskimo.

My Book, The Movie: Island of the Blue Foxes.

Writers Read: Stephen R. Bown.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Kelley Fanto Deetz's "Bound to the Fire"

Historical archaeologist and historian Kelley Fanto Deetz is a research associate at the James River Institute for Archaeology, and a Visiting Assistant Professor at Randolph College, in Lynchburg, Virginia. Deetz, who was a professional chef for several years, is a contributor to The Routledge History of Food and Birth of a Nation: Nat Turner and the Making of a Movement. Her work has appeared in National Geographic History.

Deetz applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Bound to the Fire: How Virginia's Enslaved Cooks Helped Invent American Cuisine, and reported the following:
Page 99 is the start of chapter 4: "In Dining: Black Food on White Plates." It opens by introducing Mary Randolph, a well-known wealthy white plantation mistress as she discusses the excitement about throwing a ball.  White southern nostalgia oozes throughout the first paragraph, and reflects most American’s ideas about plantation dining and southern hospitality as a whole.  Mary Randolph was the quintessential housewife, and her social world revolved around entertaining.  The language and images presented are quickly derailed as paragraph two states “Behind every meal and in the shadow of every mistress was an enslaved cook who was responsible for creating these lavish dinners.”

It is this juxtaposition between how we, as a nation, have chosen to remember our shared cultural heritage and how things actually were, and continue to be.  Misrepresentations baked in generations of racism and exploited labor have led us to not just misremember, but to forget the contributions of enslaved African Americans to our culinary history. Page 99 sits at the crossroads of race, gender, and memory and represents the greater point of the book; enslaved cooks and West African foodways were central to the creation of American cuisine, and its due time to give credit where credit is due.
Learn more about Bound to the Fire at Kelley Fanto Deetz's website.

My Book, The Movie: Bound to the Fire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Helen Fry's "The London Cage"

Historian and biographer Helen Fry is the author of more than twenty books focusing mainly on intelligence, prisoners of war, and the social history of World War II. She lives in London.

Fry applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, The London Cage: The Secret History of Britain's World War II Interrogation Centre, and reported the following:
Few stories of the Second World War have been as controversial as the London Cage – the secret wartime interrogation centre run by British intelligence from three luxury stately houses in a road parallel to Kensington Palace. The street was Kensington Palace Gardens, still known today as ‘Millionaire’s Row’, and the most unlikeliest of places to hold German prisoners of war. But their quarters were far from luxurious – the once grand rooms of Nos. 6-7 and Nos. 8 and 8a were stripped of their opulent furniture, carpets and priceless art and turned into a harsh interrogation centre.

Applying Test 99 to The London Cage gets to the heart of one of my major revelations – that the intelligence services were using ‘truth drugs’ on enemy prisoners at least a decade before the Cold War. Page 99 lands at the controversial point in 1941 and 1942 when MI6 – the British Secret Service – was holding Rudolf Hess (Hitler’s deputy) in a secret location after his failed solo flight to Britain in May 1941. ‘Truth drugs’ were administered to him in the belief he might spill some of the closely guarded secrets of the Third Reich. I place the Hess drugging episodes within the wider context of the experimental use of ‘truth drugs’ at the London Cage. The intelligence services were using a combination of  barbiturates, amphetamines and hypnosis on its prisoners in an attempt to ‘break their will to resist’ and induce them to speak the truth in interrogation. The discussion about Hess comes immediately after an incident in 1940 when Colonel Alexander Scotland, the commanding officer of the London Cage, arrived at another interrogation site to inject a prisoner with ‘truth serum’. In that instance, Colonel Scotland hoped to ‘turn’ a captured German spy into a double agent for Britain. He failed and was banned from ever entering that site again.

Truth drugs are of course not the only controversial revelation in the book – I'm interested in the four mysterious ‘suicides’ and try to get to the root of their deaths. I succeed in revealing the names of two of them for the first time.

At the end of the war, the London Cage became the most important war crimes unit outside Germany and was responsible for bringing some of the worst Nazi war criminals to justice by a painstaking, forensic gathering of evidence for the trials. These interrogations were not without their controversy either. Returning to the core of page 99, did Colonel Scotland sanction the use of ‘truth drugs’ on Nazi war criminals to gain their confessions?  Probably not, but it would appear that he crossed a line even further and allegedly used brutality, and forms of torture on them – physical and psychological. Had the tables turned such that Colonel Scotland himself was now guilty of war crimes? Issues raised by page 99 are still relevant today – posing challenges in this age of global terrorism for both opponents and exponents of torture.
Visit Helen Fry's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 10, 2017

Cathy Gere's "Pain, Pleasure, and the Greater Good"

Cathy Gere is associate professor of history at the University of California, San Diego, and the author of Knossos and the Prophets of Modernism and the newly released Pain, Pleasure, and the Greater Good: From the Panopticon to the Skinner Box and Beyond.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to Pain, Pleasure, and the Greater Good: From the Panopticon to the Skinner Box and Beyond and reported the following:
Page 99 of Pain, Pleasure, and the Greater Good is the first page of Chapter 3, entitled “Nasty, British, and Short.” My terrible pun on Thomas Hobbes’s famous phrase ‘nasty brutish and short’ is actually a serious statement. The book is about the psychology of pain and pleasure, which originated with Hobbes’s Leviathan, and became more and more influential in England and Scotland through the succeeding centuries. Chapter 3 is about the early-nineteenth-century version, as proposed by Thomas Malthus and Jeremy Bentham. The point of changing ‘brutish’ to ‘British’ is that pain-pleasure psychology always presents itself as being about the true brutish nature of the human animal, but in fact, it inevitably reflects very specific geographical, economic and political conditions, in this case British laissez-faire capitalism, rampant industrialization, and poor law reform.
Learn more about Pain, Pleasure, and the Greater Good at the University of Chicago Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Knossos and the Prophets of Modernism.

Writers Read: Cathy Gere.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Kevin Carrico's "The Great Han"

Kevin Carrico is Lecturer in the Department of International Studies at Macquarie University and the translator of Tsering Woeser’s Tibet on Fire.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Great Han: Race, Nationalism, and Tradition in China Today, and reported the following:
From page 99:
When the Qin Emperor founded the first unified Chinese state, Han Clothing was there. When the great inventions of paper, gunpowder, and the compass were discovered, Han Clothing was there. When Emperor Taizong reigned over the golden age of the Tang, Han Clothing was there. And when Zhu Yuanzhang led the victorious establishment of the Ming after the Yuan invasion, Han Clothing was there, just as it was when Koxinga gave all that he could to resist the murderous Qing. And having been there at these moments, it is also here in the present, providing a link from these moments in the past today… According to movement mythologies, the sole remnants in the Yellow Emperor’s tomb today are his Han Clothing: such permanence and stability is lacking in every aspect of real human existence, yet is imaginarily given concrete form in Han Clothing.

Such transcendent stability and indeed immortality is particularly resonant in an era of unpredictable and destabilizing change, as we see in China today, in which identity not only faces the usual existential challenge of its own impossibility but the further challenges of increasingly rapid sociocultural transformation.
The Great Han is an ethnographic study of the Han Clothing Movement (Hanfu yundong), a popular nationalist group that has emerged in cities across China in the decade and a half since 2001. Members of this group promote a purportedly eternal style of “traditional clothing” that they imagine was worn through history by members of the Han nationality, China’s majority constituting 92% of the population, until it was lost in early modernity. Revitalizing this apparel for the Han majority, then, is viewed as a way to revitalize authentic Chinese culture against the depredations of China’s painfully long nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

This narrative, however, not only misrepresents history, but also the movement’s driving forces in the present. The Han nationality is a thoroughly modern concept, and Han Clothing, while presented as a timeless tradition, is in fact a very recent invented tradition. Therefore, rather than tracing the revitalization of lost authenticity, The Great Han finds the origins of these constructions of history and tradition located firmly in the contradictions of life in the present.

In this book, I focus in particular upon the relationship between socio-political processes and individual experiences. Although recent developments in China are often glossed as “China’s rise,” individual experiences of this rise are considerably more complex: new opportunities also produce new anxieties and uncertainties. Based upon my research in cities across China, I profile a number of participants in this movement, providing a glimpse of how the alter egos they construct therein, presented as their genuine selves, are in fact fantasies of the self that imaginarily invert real-life challenges and uncertainties, while legitimizing these imaginings through the ideas of “culture” and “tradition.” Participants, in short, imaginarily transcend their mundane living environment by constructing an alternate fantasy reality that is presented as more genuine and thus real than reality itself.

This is where we find ourselves on page 99. In an era of disillusioning modernity plagued by uncertainties and anxieties, the threads of Han Clothing functions provide links to a more authentic, more peaceful, and genuinely prouder time in the past: what participants call “the real China.” Most importantly, these metaphorically laden threads can now be held and indeed possessed as one’s very own. In contrast to a disillusioning reality constantly slipping out from beyond one’s control, Han Clothing thus provides a stable and indeed possessible link to an inverted fantasy world presented as one’s authentic self.
Learn more about The Great Han at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Randolph Lewis's "Under Surveillance"

Randolph Lewis is a professor of American studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He has written extensively on how visual culture shapes our sense of the nation, often focusing on people who work outside the cultural mainstream. His books include Navajo Talking Picture: Cinema on Native Ground.

Lewis applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Under Surveillance: Being Watched in Modern America, and reported the following:
The page 99 test is useful for my new book, which is about living in a society making unprecedented investments in surveillance technologies. The page in question is part of a chapter called “Growing Up Observed” that deals with the strange ways we get accustomed to (or hostile to) invasive monitoring during our earliest years. What makes us sensitive to being watched is not a question that scholars have been able to really answer, and I don’t make any definitive claims in this essayistic chapter. Instead, I’m considering some ways of thinking about the topic that might help readers to understand their own attitudes about the NSA, drones, Big Data, and other forms of surveillance that the book explores.

Moreover, page 99 is not just about childhood and surveillance, which is a fascinating topic in the era of “Elf on the Shelf”, but also a reflection of the personal nature of this book. While the various chapters on surveillance in nature, churches, or media gently touch on my own experiences, “Growing Up Observed” has a short section that draws on my own life in some detail. That makes page 99 the most personal part of a fairly personal project, and in that sense it’s quite revealing about the origin and deeper nature of the book. Yet am I really writing about myself on page 99 and the pages nearby? Yes and no: mostly it is my attempt to think through the subtle things that make us sensitive, or not, to this vast organizing force in the world today. That was my goal at least.

Finally, I would say something about the writing style that I noticed when I flipped to page 99. Happily, for me at least, the writing on page 99 feels a little more vibrant and personal than the academic work I did in my younger years. Frankly, to the extent that authors can say such a thing about their own books, page 99 seems written with the sort of care and warmth that I hope is characteristic of the book as a whole. So in that sense, I hope the reader of the book gets something that page 99 seems to promise: big questions and subtle insights about a subject of great urgency, written in clear prose with a gently philosophical bent.
Learn more about Under Surveillance at the University of Texas Press website.

Writers Read: Randolph Lewis.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 6, 2017

Daniel Swift's "The Bughouse"

Daniel Swift teaches at the New College of the Humanities in London. His first book, Bomber County, was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and the Guardian First Book award, and his essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, the New Statesman, and Harper’s.

Swift applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics, and Madness of Ezra Pound, and reported the following:
Page 99 is the heart of my book The Bughouse, for this is the page on which I describe Pound’s room on Chestnut Ward of St Elizabeths federal hospital for the insane. Pound spent a decade in this room, as a patient at the hospital between 1945 and 1958, and here he met with the many poets, artists, political activists, and students who came to visit him. He was, in his years at St Elizabeths, a most provocative figure: a great poetic genius and a patient in a mental hospital; a traitor and a madman; a fascist, a teacher, and a fool. This ward, and this room, were his setting, and here he played so many roles.

What is the room like? It is not big but nor is it a prison cell. It is perhaps ten feet by twenty, with two windows which look out upon the trees and lawns which surround St Elizabeths. It has heavy blue wallpaper which is peeling now, and it is no different, really, from the ten other rooms on the ward. No different except this one is the scene of what is perhaps the world’s most unorthodox literary salon: convened by a fascist, held in a lunatic asylum, with chocolate brownies and mayonnaise sandwiches served for tea.
Learn more about The Bughouse at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: Bomber County.

The Page 99 Test: Shakespeare's Common Prayers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 4, 2017

John Sharples's "A Cultural History of Chess-Players"

John Sharples is a cultural historian. He completed his PhD at Lancaster University. He has published on the chess-player, flying saucers, and Jules Verne.

Sharples applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, A Cultural History of Chess-Players: Minds, Machines, and Monsters, and reported the following:
My book puts forward the idea of the chess-player as a fragmented cultural figure. In an attempt to engage with the various forms of its subject, it is divided into three sections – Minds, Machines, and Monsters. The thought that a solitary page could encapsulate the entire work’s themes was an intriguing one. Despite initial doubts, it arguably does do so. Page 99 comes from the concluding remarks of chapter four, entitled ‘Future Shocks: IBM's Deep Blue and the Automaton Chess-Player, 1997-1769.’ This chapter examines a range of cultural responses to Garry Kasparov's 1997 defeat by the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue and to Wolfgang von Kempelen's eighteenth-century Automaton Chess-Player. By suggesting that ‘both Deep Blue and the Automaton Chess-Player functioned as highly ambiguous cultural messages congealed in one object’, I frame the chess-player as a kaleidoscopic cultural figure capable of generating multiple meanings. This is the main theme of the whole work. Other chapters apply this theme to chess-player forms including the human, animal, child-prodigy, and super-villain, utilising comics, detective fiction, sci-fi, and film.

On page 99, I conclude by summarising some of the ways cultural construction occurs and consider the efficacy of the crude binary oppositions which have been used to assert the superiority of the human chess-player over machine counterparts. Characterisations of Kasparov’s contest as ‘Linda Hamilton vs. the Terminator’, for example, raise questions of historical timeliness and cultural power. In an age of pervasive computer systems, the ‘historical moment’ of the chess-player as a figure of reason and intelligence may have passed. This thought is amplified elsewhere throughout the book, in the context of a number of more disreputable, more monstrous, and more Gothic theoretical readings of the human chess-player. These themes are closely linked to chapter four’s readings of the machine chess-player, particularly the idea of the chess-player as a statue, often static and frequently isolated in performance, and the way the chess-player is viewed as a distant emblem of ‘intelligence’ and ‘reason’ under the gaze of others. In this regard, the ‘quality of the whole’ work is revealed on this single page.
Learn more about A cultural history of chess-players at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue