Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Christopher J. Fuller's "See It/Shoot It"

Christopher J. Fuller is lecturer in modern American history in the faculty of humanities at the University of Southampton.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, See It/Shoot It: The Secret History of the CIA’s Lethal Drone Program, and reported the following:
Opening up to page 99 drops the reader straight into one of the many controversial debates around U.S. counterterrorism policy covered in the book. It explores the aftermath of Operation El Dorado Canyon, an American bombing raid launched against Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi in retaliation for his connection to the bombing of a nightclub in West Berlin frequented by U.S. service personnel in 1986.

The Reagan administration’s use of a large-scale bombing raid was controversial for a number of reasons. First, despite his tough rhetoric, the bombing marked the first time Reagan had directly authorized the use of military force in retaliation for a terrorist attack. This decision is still significant today as it marks the first time the United States shifted from treating terrorism as a criminal offense to a matter of national security.

Second, as the page reveals, the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh later uncovered evidence that members of Reagan’s National Security Council (NSC) had ordered the U.S. Air Force bombers to target Gaddafi’s personal residence in an attempt to kill the Libyan dictator. In targeting a head of state, the Reagan administration had technically acted in breach of international law, and Reagan’s own Executive Order 12333 (EO12333). A restatement of Gerald Ford’s Executive Order 11905, signed in the aftermath of the Church Committee’s investigations into CIA wrongdoing, Reagan’s order barred U.S. forces from engaging in any act that could be construed as political assassination. EO12333 is still in place today, although the United States’ counterterrorism efforts have long since evolved legally, with the U.S. authorizing targeted killings of members of terrorist groups based upon the state of non-international armed conflict America now argues it is in. This reveals that while the counterterrorism objective has very much remained the same – the elimination of terrorist leaders and their sponsors – the legal language and approach to this has become significantly more nuanced.

The final point of continued relevance covered on page 99 is the reason Gaddafi survived. Despite the aggression of launching a bombing raid on Libya’s capital, the United States went to significant lengths to try to limit civilian casualties. The bombers were fitted with state of the art laser-guidance systems — a precursor to the precision strike technology utilized for today’s drone strikes. On the night of the raid, these systems malfunctioned on four of the nine aircraft tasked with attacking Gaddafi’s compound. As the Rules of Engagement — written to limit collateral damage — stated any aircraft that was not 100 percent functional was to be withdrawn, these bombers never dropped their payloads, and Gaddafi’s compound was spared the sixteen two-thousand pound bombs they carried. Post-strike photography revealed a line of craters leading right to his home. Had the additional munitions been employed it is unlikely the dictator would have survived. In the end, the very technology designed to allow the U.S. to more accurately eliminate its foes saved Gaddafi’s life. Furthermore, despite these efforts the raid still killed dozens of Libyan civilians, revealing the enduring problem of utilizing military tools against terrorists who hide among innocent citizens.

It is apt that page 99 discusses the Gadaffi raid. As this book goes on to reveal, the failure of this raid, and the high collateral damage it incurred played a key role in inspiring the CIA to seek a more precise method of eliminating those responsible for prosecuting terrorism against the United States. That pursuit would eventually inspire the very technology that would evolve into the armed drones that have become so integral to the United States continued pursuit of security against terrorist threats.
Learn more about See It/Shoot It at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Wayne Franklin's "James Fenimore Cooper: The Later Years"

Wayne Franklin is professor of English at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. His biography James Fenimore Cooper: The Early Years was selected as an Outstanding Academic Title in 2008 by the AAUP and Choice magazine.

Franklin applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, James Fenimore Cooper: The Later Years, and reported the following:
This page in James Fenimore Cooper: The Later Years concerns an episode during Cooper’s European sojourn (1826-1833). After producing six books in as many years in New York, Cooper had gone abroad as the first internationally famous American novelist. Almost against his better judgment, he soon became entangled in the tumultuous politics of post-Napoleonic Europe. At this particular moment in the story (December 1830), he has just arranged a “grand dinner” among his fellow ex-pats in Paris to celebrate the Marquis de Lafayette’s seemingly triumphant role in a political uprising that began late the previous July and promised welcome liberal reforms for France. Cooper’s toast to Lafayette was unusually warm. Having specified the services Lafayette had performed not only for France but also for the U.S. during its own Revolution, the novelist proclaimed that his countrymen of course had deep respect and admiration for the idealistic nobleman. But their feelings went deeper. “Gentlemen,” Cooper added with an unusual show of public affection, “we love him.” Almost immediately, as Cooper’s report to a New York newspaper continued, the eighty Americans present jumped to their feet as if they “had but one soul and delivered nine such cheers as have rarely been heard within the walls of Paris.” When the uproar subsided, Cooper said, “Yes, gentlemen, and we have reasons to love him,” and once more the assembly burst into loud applause. The elation, though, was to be short-lived. Within a few days, the new monarch whom Lafayette had helped place at the head of a hopeful new republican state, the seemingly liberal Louis Philippe, dismissed the old statesman from his role as head of the National Guard and cynically tightened his own hands on the reins of power. The latest French revolution thus came to an ignominious end.
Learn more about James Fenimore Cooper: The Later Years at the Yale University Press website.

Writers Read: Wayne Franklin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Daniel Brückenhaus's "Policing Transnational Protest"

Daniel Brückenhaus is Assistant Professor of History at Beloit College. He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Policing Transnational Protest: Liberal Imperialism and the Surveillance of Anticolonialists in Europe, 1905-1945, and reported the following:
Page 99 tells the story of how, in 1919 and 1920, French officials decided to send secret agents into Germany, to observe the political activities of Cameroonian immigrants living there. The French were especially worried about one of these Cameroonians, Martin Dibobe. As an informant had told them, Dibobe had agreed to a deal with the German government to carry out an anti-French campaign in his African home country. A former German colony, most of Cameroon had just been given to France as a League of Nations mandate after the German defeat in World War I.

This story brings together several main themes of my book. First, it shows the high level of pro-colonial surveillance in Europe during the first half of the twentieth century. Second, it illustrates the fact that much of this surveillance was carried out across inner-European borders, often as a result of anti-colonial activists moving from one European country to the next.

Third, the events described on page 99 also illuminate the importance of French fears of Germans (and communists) secretly steering the growing anti-colonial movements directed against the Western empires. However, as becomes clear in the book, French officials severely under-estimated the agency of activists such as Dibobe. It was true that Dibobe had been in touch with the German government. However, it was in fact him who had initiated contact with the German authorities; and in return for his offer of carrying out pro-German propaganda he had made wide-ranging demands. These included the promise of reforms in Cameroon if it were to return to German rule, which would have given Africans a status much more equal to that of Europeans living in the colony, including them being accepted as Germans. Far from mere German puppets, Dibobe and other African activists therefore negotiated their national allegiances in independent and strategic ways.

Over time, the Cameroonians, disappointed with the German authorities’ unwillingness to acknowledge them as Germans, increasingly turned to a more radical, left-wing form of anti-colonialism. As described in later chapters of the book, they sometimes cooperated with organizations such as the League Against Imperialism, founded in 1927, which had its headquarters in Berlin. In the German capital, they worked together with local Indian and Egyptian activists in developing an inherently cosmopolitan vision of fighting colonialism on a global scale, and thus helped lay the foundations for the world-wide wave of decolonization after 1945.
Learn more about Policing Transnational Protest at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Peter S. Ungar's "Evolution’s Bite"

Peter S. Ungar is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Environmental Dynamics Program at the University of Arkansas.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Evolution's Bite: A Story of Teeth, Diet, and Human Origins, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Cerling was an undergraduate majoring in geology and chemistry at Iowa State University in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The geology department there at the time was on the rise, with a fresh infusion of creative and energetic young scholars like Carl Vondra, who studied the accumulation of sediments at fossil hominin sites. And the chemistry department was keen on students double majoring. Harry Svec, an alumnus of the Manhattan Project, was at the time pioneering new approaches to combining chemistry and geology. Cerling took full advantage of the opportunities that Iowa State had to offer and managed to score an invitation to help map sediments on the eastern shore of Kenya’s Lake Rudolf (now Lake Turkana). The hominin fossil rush in eastern Africa was starting to heat up, and there was much to do to understand the geology of the new sites. What he learned in those early years about geochemistry and tracing deposits across the landscape would serve him well into the future.

Cerling continued to work in Kenya through the 1970s during his graduate school years at Berkeley. His passion was the chemistry of sediments, and he began to collect the popcorn-like calcium carbonate nodules that accumulated over time at the sites. He spent months each year walking the deposits, gathering samples from each of the layers that had produced fossil hominins. It was blistering work, tracing layers of rock and sediment mile after mile, day after day, across the hot and dusty badlands on the eastern edge of the lake. The search took him up, down, and around erosional gullies and barren hills broken only by the occasional bush or acacia tree. I’ve always been jealous of geologists who can look out over a desolate landscape and see the past. Rocks and dirt become ancient streambeds, river deltas, and lake shorelines in their mind’s eye. Cerling knew exactly where to sample.
Page 99 of Evolution’s Bite presents the story of Thure Cerling, an important figure in paleoclimate research. He is a founding father of the use of chemical signatures in soils to reconstruct past environments. And his work provided pivotal evidence used to trace the spread of savannas across eastern Africa millions of years ago. This helps us understand the conditions under which our hominin ancestors evolved, those that triggered human origins.

Is page 99 representative of Evolution’s Bite as a whole? Yes and no. The book starts with the premise that we hold in our mouths the legacy of our evolution. The basic idea is that we can use teeth, living and fossil, along with an understanding of climate variation over deep time and how animals earn a living from their surroundings, to understand how a changing world made us human. It begins with the earliest mammals, during the age of the dinosaurs, and takes the reader from milestone to milestone -- our early, apish ancestors, the first humans, the origins of agriculture.

The text on page 99 has nothing to do with teeth and it has nothing to do with human evolution per se. But it does provide a piece to the puzzle. Evolution’s Bite builds the case, bit by bit, bringing together evidence from paleontology, primatology, climate research, archaeology, and myriad other disciplines. And it brings the tale to life through the stories of the scientists, and by peering over their shoulders as they made the discoveries that gave us the knowledge we have today.
Learn more about Evolution's Bite at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

James Mark Shields's "Against Harmony"

James Mark Shields is Associate Professor of Comparative Humanities and Asian Thought at Bucknell University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Against Harmony: Progressive and Radical Buddhism in Modern Japan, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Against Harmony begins mid-quote, as follows: “[If] these things make up what is called ‘Buddhism’, then it is an ‘old Buddhism’ that is on the verge of death.” This, very succinctly, catches the critical and rhetorical spirit of the New Buddhist Fellowship, one of the early twentieth-century progressive Buddhist movements discussed in my book. However, it also points to the fact that the so-called New Buddhists were actually recapitulating a discourse about Buddhist “decadence” that had been around in Japan for several centuries, and was increasingly wielded against Buddhism by secular modernist and Shinto nationalist critics alike.

This line of argument, in turn, has clear roots in the Protestant Reformation: the New Buddhists self-consciously styled themselves after Luther and Calvin in their protest against the “abuses” and “mystifications” of the Buddhist clergy and still-powerful monastic institutions. And yet, while largely content with a moderate, liberal, even “bourgeois” reformism, New Buddhist rhetoric opened up more radical possibilities—some of which would come to fruition in later, revolutionary movements such as the Youth League for Revitalizing Buddhism of the early 1930s. Here the language of “protest” bleeds into Marxist critiques of not only institutional religion, but of all forms of transcendental, otherworldly aspiration. This is where Buddhism becomes thoroughly secularized, and fixed onto what are clearly materialist premises.

What are the implications of this attempt to merge the Buddha and Marx (or Bakunin, Kropotkin, Tolstoy)? It certainly raises the value of poverty and injustice as key aspects of “suffering” (duhkha)—the liberation from which must always be the end game for Buddhism, in all its many forms. More particularly, I suggest it may help contemporary Buddhists (or contemporary Westerners interested in Buddhism) resist the creeping impact of neoliberalism, with its pernicious assumptions regarding the “self,” “rights” and “autonomy”—assumptions that may superficially resonate with Buddhist concerns. On the other hand, Buddhist insights into the danger of too-rigid adherence to “ideas,” coupled with a near-absolute commitment to compassionate action, may provide new ways of looking at Marxist and anarchist strategies for individual and social liberation. Perhaps we can find new resonance between Marx’s dictum about the necessity of philosophers “changing the world” and the reputed final words of the Buddha, to recognize change, while remaining “vigilant.”
Learn more about Against Harmony at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Jon Lewis's "Hard-Boiled Hollywood"

Jon Lewis is the Distinguished Professor of Film Studies at Oregon State University. He is the author of twelve books and the former editor Cinema Journal.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Hard-Boiled Hollywood: Crime and Punishment in Postwar Los Angeles, and reported the following:
Page 99 attends one of the many scandals discussed in the book -- the doomed romance between the movie star Lana Turner and the mobster Johnny Stompanato. At this point in the story, we see how the gossip columnists Hedda Hopper, Walter Winchell, and Louella Parsons and fellow celebrities like Gloria Swanson viewed the story. Hard-Boiled Hollywood tracks how, accompanying the demise of the studio system, paths crossed in postwar Hollywood -- how various subcultures; here, actors and mobsters, overlapped and intermingled, frequently with tragic results. At this point in that narrative, we see how the gossip industry exploited the complex and fraught relationships between various types or styles of media celebrities. Key and apparent on this page is the complex role of gossip in this era as a policing discourse, as a way to not only reign in celebrity excess but as well to cast such excess as un-American at a moment when that term was rather loaded with meaning and consequence.
Learn more about Hard-Boiled Hollywood at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Richard E. Ocejo's "Masters of Craft"

Richard E. Ocejo is associate professor of sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY. He is the editor of Ethnography and the City: Readings on Doing Urban Fieldwork and author of Upscaling Downtown: From Bowery Saloons to Cocktail Bars in New York City.

Ocejo applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Masters of Craft: Old Jobs in the New Urban Economy, and reported the following:
My book is about traditionally low-status manual labor jobs that have been transformed into “cool” taste-making occupations that many young people want to do as careers. I studied cocktail bartenders, craft distillers, upscale men’s barbers, and whole-animal butchers. I structured the book into two parts with four chapters each. Each chapter in Part I discusses a different job, workplace, and industry, while the chapters in Part II combine them under different themes. Page 99 is from Chapter 3, which is the chapter on barbers. This particular page is part of a longer episode at the barbershop, and it is certainly an important part of the chapter. And interestingly, the more I think about it, the more I can see how it is somewhat representative of a specific argument of the book.

Out of context, the action on page 99 is very simple: a barber greets his regular client, they start talking about food and restaurants, other barbers join in, and the conversation shifts to movies, while the barber regularly stops cutting hair to chat face-to-face with his client. It sounds like a typical scene in a barbershop, specifically one that serves as a social gathering place of some sort. African American and ethnic barbershops come to mind.

But what makes this episode interesting is how rare it is for the shops I studied. Upscale men’s barbershops have opened in hip, gentrifying neighborhoods for culturally savvy and professional men to achieve a cool style. They deliberately model themselves on traditional barbershops, like black barbershops, to be havens for men to be men. They want community and socializing, but they rarely get it. Most of the clients travel from outside the neighborhood and are in and out. The barbers, however, provide the social atmosphere: they regularly have loud group conversations with each other, which entertain clients, who do not participate. In this episode, the client happens to be African American, and, for whatever reason, whenever he comes in to get his hair cut, the shop becomes the communal place the owners originally intended it to be.

I think these shops are fascinating examples of how young, well-to-do urbanites consume examples of traditional working-class and “lowbrow” culture, which is an important theme in my book. This episode really shows it in action.
Learn more about Masters of Craft at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Upscaling Downtown.

My Book, The Movie: Masters of Craft.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Jenna Weissman Joselit's "Set in Stone"

Jenna Weissman Joselit is the Charles E. Smith Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of History as well as the former Director of the Program in Judaic Studies at The George Washington University; she now directs two graduate programs in Jewish cultural arts. She holds a B.A. from Barnard College, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University.

Weissman Joselit is a frequent contributor to several publications including The New Republic and Gastronomica. Her column for the Forward ran for sixteen years. She now contributes a monthly column to Tablet.

Her books include The Wonders of America: Reinventing Jewish Culture, 1880-1950, which received the National Jewish Book Award in History in 1995, and she has authored more than 70 articles and reviews.

Weissman Joselit applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Set in Stone: America's Embrace of the Ten Commandments, and reported the following:
Ford Madox Ford would be pleased. Page 99 of my brand new book does reflect one of its central themes: the ways in which the Ten Commandments once unified the nation. Today they’re a source of dissension and internal conflict. But for much of American history, they brought people together. The ancient biblical code, I write, was a “symbol of commonality,” especially in the wake of World War II. At a time when the notion of the Judeo-Christian tradition began to take flight, the Ten Commandments “served handily as its visual companion.”

In his 1955 manifesto of America’s “cultural oneness,” Protestant-Catholic-Jew: An Essay in Religious Sociology, Will Herberg argued that each of the three faith traditions cherished the same ‘spiritual values, the spiritual values American democracy is presumed to stand for.’ That Protestantism, Catholicism and Judaism valued the Ten Commandments proved his point, highlighting what they had in common and bringing them closer to one another – and into the fold.

Their widespread use by American Jews of the 1950s and early 1960s was no accident. In affixing the two tablets to the synagogue’s exterior, where they functioned much like an oversized mezuzah, or better yet, as a giant exclamation point – we belong! – the synagogue declared itself as much an American institution as the meetinghouse or the parish church, a place where Judaism and Americanism came together as a unified whole. A deliberate visual strategy, the prominent positioning of the Ten Commandments defined Jewish space in familiar American terms, even as it celebrated, once again, the transformation of this age-old covenant into the stuff of common ground.
Learn more about Set in Stone at the Oxford University Press website and at Jenna Weissman Joselit's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Carol Dyhouse's "Heartthrobs: A History of Women and Desire"

Carol Dyhouse is Professor (Emeritus) of History at the University of Sussex. She has written extensively about the social history of women, gender, and education. Her recent publications include Glamour: Women, History, Feminism (2011) and Girl Trouble: Panic and Progress in the History of Young Women (2013). She is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and in 2004 she was awarded an honorary D.Litt from the University of Winchester in recognition of her work on history and education.

Dyhouse applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Heartthrobs: A History of Women and Desire, and reported the following:
Heartthrobs: A History of Women and Desire looks at men through the eyes of women. It has a lot to say about the influence of fairy-tale romance and fantasy, particularly the story of Cinderella. Walt Disney’s animated cartoon version of Cinderella premiered in 1950 and was a big hit in the postwar world. In England, young girls’ dreams of meeting Prince Charming were amplified by the glittery spectacle of a royal wedding and the coronation of a young Queen Elizabeth, who, though hardly Cinderella, wore a dress to die for and arrived at the abbey in a golden coach. In the United States, a romantic comic book series launched with the title Cinderella Love. Cosmetics manufacturers introduced lipstick in a ‘Cinderella’s pumpkin’ shade of orange. In such and so many ways, culture patterns our dreams.

By the 1980s, social change and the rise of feminism had diluted the appeal of the Cinderella story and a new kind of irony crept into representations of her Prince. On page 99 of Heartthrobs I describe British pop star Adam Ant’s performance as Prince Charming in his hugely successful music video of 1981. He poses first as a masculine Cinderella, vulnerable in a grubby singlet, before being transformed by his fairy godmother into a sexily trussed-up and dandified Hussar. Arriving at the ball in a sleek, low-bodied sports car, he struts towards a mirror wearing tight, silver-leather breeches. There’s a hypnotic drumbeat. He dashes the mirror to pieces. Shots of the star posing as Clint Eastwood, Alice Cooper and Rudolph Valentino’s Sheik represent the shards from which this picture of desirable maleness was composed. The performance unpicks cultural representations of gender, showing masculinity as both cocky and vulnerable, as haunted by a fear of female voraciousness (the ugly sisters chomp on heart-shaped chocolates), and as needing to overcome ridicule. It is oddly profound, and both men and women found it appealing.

My page 99, then, suggests changing templates of desirable masculinity, reflected through a cultural hall of mirrors: a fair clue, I think, to what this book is about.
Learn more about Heartthrobs at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Naomi Haynes's "Moving by the Spirit"

Naomi Haynes is a Chancellor’s Fellow and Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh. She is coeditor of the Current Anthropology special issue The Anthropology of Christianity: Unity, Diversity, New Directions and of the Social Analysis special issue Hierarchy, Values, and the Value of Hierarchy. She is also co-curator of the Anthropology of Christianity Bibliographic Blog.

Haynes applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Moving by the Spirit: Pentecostal Social Life on the Zambian Copperbelt, and reported the following:
From page 99:
…Bana Mfuwe had persevered despite these difficulties, she explained, and had ultimately experienced a breakthrough. The women listened attentively as she spoke of how her husband had welcomed her back into the home and no longer stood in the way of her religious practice, but instead allowed her to host meetings at their house. And not only that; he also gave her money for household expenses, bought her gifts, and—notably—called her ‘Sweetie’.
This bit of ethnographic detail, excerpted from a larger testimony-cum-sermon that I recorded during my fieldwork with Pentecostal believers on the Zambian Copperbelt, speaks to the broader argument of my book, Moving by the Spirit. My primary claim in this monograph is that Pentecostal Christianity offers a set of social and cultural frames that make life in urban Zambia possible. More specifically, Pentecostalism allows believers to “move,” as people on the Copperbelt put it – to advance according to multiple, overlapping metrics of achievement, whether socioeconomic status, professional development, or through lifecycle milestones like marriage or parenthood. To this list, Pentecostalism also adds spiritual achievement, perhaps in an improved capacity to pray, sing, or prophesy. Pentecostal adherence does this because it embeds believers in networks of relationships that propel them forward along these various axes. Of these various relationships, the most important is unquestionably a layperson’s connection to her pastor, whose superior spiritual (and in some cases economic and social) status means that he or she is able to help a believer move by pulling her up. This is why the testimony that Bana Mfuwe gave, including the details of her happy marriage, was so important. By sharing how she had “moved” on to enjoy, among other things, such a good relationship with her husband, Bana Mfuwe presented herself as someone capable of effecting similar transformations for others. By building relationships with church leaders like Bana Mfuwe, then, believers “move by the Spirit,” and in so doing seek to make a good social and material life for themselves and their families.
Learn more about Moving by the Spirit at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 8, 2017

David R. Montgomery's "Growing A Revolution"

David R. Montgomery is a MacArthur Fellow and professor of geomorphology at the University of Washington. He is an internationally recognized geologist who studies how erosion shapes topography and the effects of geological processes on ecological systems and human societies. An author of award-winning popular-science books, he has been featured on NPR, BBC, PBS, CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera America, and Fox News programs, as well as in documentary films. When not writing or doing geology he plays guitar and piano in the band Big Dirt.

Montgomery applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life, and reported the following:
“If tillage was good at eliminating weeds, all the weeds in the U.S. and Canada would be gone by now.”

Weeds. Farmers hate them. Gardeners do too. But that’s what page 99 of Growing A Revolution is all about.

The book tells the story of how a growing movement in which farmers are forgoing conventional practices and ditching the plow, planting cover crops and diversifying their crop rotations. Why are they doing this? To rebuild fertile soil on their farms. These are not back to the land types. They are, or were, conventional farmers who found a better way to do things. This new system works for them because they make more money by growing as much and paying for less diesel, fertilizer, and pesticides.

Page 99 finds us in South Dakota talking with Dwayne Beck about weeds. Plowing them up is the time-honored, conventional way to suppress weeds. But that’s something Beck won’t do. He’s seen what tillage does to the soil. When the 1930s drought hit freshly plowed fields in the region the native prairie no longer held the soil and high winds lofted great clouds of black earth skyward. Beck led a decades-long effort to adopt no-till farming and stop the soil from blowing.

Beck didn’t stop innovating after adopting no-till methods. He experimented with cover crops and diversifying crop rotations and found that by so doing he improved his soil and could control weeds and pests and thereby reduce fertilizer and pesticide use. Beck’s farm was my first stop on a journey to visit soil-building farms in Ghana, Costa Rica, and across North America. The farmers I met showed me how reshaping agriculture around practices that build healthy fertile soil would be one of the best investments that society could make in the future of humanity—and that farmers can make in their own farms.
Visit David R. Montgomery's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Hidden Half of Nature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Alexis L. Boylan's "Ashcan Art, Whiteness, and the Unspectacular Man"

Alexis L. Boylan is an Associate Professor of Art History with a joint appointment in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Program at the University of Connecticut.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Ashcan Art, Whiteness, and the Unspectacular Man, and reported the following:
I’ll start by saying this is a lot of pressure to put on one page. I worried for my page 99—could it take the scrutiny?

As it turns out, a major point of my book is summed up there:
Race, ethnicity, productivity, and potential could all be seen—it was repeatedly argued—if the viewer could properly read the body. Yet, Ashcan paintings disable these associations and logics of sight by painting obscurity and bodies that attempted to deny the possibility of categorization, beyond the categorization of white manhood.
Basically, I start the book with a question: why do Ashcan artists paint so many images of men in New York City not doing anything? They paint men mostly standing around, not working, not looking good, not saving the day. It struck me as odd that a group of white male artists would break with the conventions of the period (turn-of-the-twentieth-century) and paint white men as being supremely average and unspectacular. If other kinds of visual media (photography, movies, and illustrations, for example) were being used to code bodies in terms of race and gender, why make these painted white men so forgettable and interchangeable?

My answer, as noted on page 99, is that Ashcan artists tried to create a white male body that would stand outside of regimes of sight. The power of whiteness and maleness is the power not to be anything, not to represent anything but the authority of whiteness and maleness. In other words, while visual arts are coding and quantifying other bodies, Ashcan white men get to be nothing, which is a pretty diabolical power. Also, on page 99 I mention Blue Morning, by George Bellows which is on the cover of the book and might be my favorite Ashcan painting.

All-in-all page 99 did right for the team.
Learn more about Ashcan Art, Whiteness, and the Unspectacular Man.

My Book, The Movie: Ashcan Art, Whiteness, and the Unspectacular Man.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Allan J. Lichtman's "The Case for Impeachment"

Allan J. Lichtman is Distinguished Professor of History at American University in Washington, DC, and formerly Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Chair of the Department of History. His books include FDR and the Jews (with Richard Breitman), which won the National Jewish Book Award in American Jewish History, and was a New York Times Editor’s Choice pick and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in History. He has also been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Lichtman applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Case for Impeachment, and reported the following:
I wrote the case for impeachment because every American should be concerned about our constitutional order, our liberties, and our national security under President Donald J. Trump. The book transcends politics and punditry to provide an analysis of past impeachments, the process of impeachment, the prior history of Donald Trump, and the record of his early administration. It is our responsibility to arms ourselves with the knowledge to protect our great nation and keep alive its most precious traditions.

Already millions of Americans have risen in protest against the dangerous presidency of Donald Trump. These many robust demonstrations will be like smoke through a chimney unless, like the protests that led to the Revolutionary War, they are put to a purposeful end. If investigations uncover traitorous collusion with the Russians or Trump continues to clash with the law, the Constitution, the environment, and the nation’s traditions and its security, the American people must demand his impeachment. In addition to mass protests, they should engage their representatives through petitions, e-mails, letters to newspaper editors, tweets, town hall gatherings, and face-to-face meetings, directed to the goal of impeachment. If Republicans in Congress remain recalcitrant, voters should be swift to dismiss them from office in 2018. Justice will be realized in today’s America not through revolution, but by the Constitution’s peaceful remedy of impeachment, but only if the people demand it.

Page 99 refers to Trump’s unique, inveterate proclivity for lying, which could lead to his impeachment if he lies under oath in one of the civil lawsuits pending against him or lies us into a national crisis. Donald Trump has insisted that President George W. Bush should have been impeached for lying America into the war in Iraq. Lying will also destroy his credibility if Trump faces impeachment on one of the seven other grounds that I detail in the book. The page reads in part:
In just six months, Trump’s many falsehoods earned him the independent fact-checker PolitiFact’s annual “Lie of the Year” award for 2015. “In considering our annual Lie of the Year, we found our only real contenders were Trump’s,” the PolitiFact staff wrote of his misstatements. “But it was hard to single one out from the others. So we have rolled them into one big trophy.” In evaluating all presidential candidates of both parties at the end of the nominating process, PolitiFact found that Trump had more Pants on Fire ratings than all 21 other candidates combined. Pants on Fire is the fact-checker’s rock bottom designation, reserved for the most outrageous of calls.

These findings show that Trump is an outlier, that his lying far exceeds the normal tendency of politicians to stretch and sometimes even break the truth. It is this extreme, nearly automatic propensity to lie that shreds his credibility and makes him more vulnerable to impeachment and removal than any American president since Richard Nixon.
Visit Allan J. Lichtman's website and Facebook page.

The Page 99 Test: FDR and the Jews by Richard Breitman and Allan J. Lichtman.

The Page 99 Test: White Protestant Nation by Allan J. Lichtman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Tobin Miller Shearer's "Two Weeks Every Summer"

Tobin Miller Shearer is Associate Professor of History and African-American Studies Director at the University of Montana.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Two Weeks Every Summer: Fresh Air Children and the Problem of Race in America, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Some programs allowed children who had developed an especially close relationship with their host family to be re-invited until they turned sixteen. Children could be placed with new hosts until the turned twelve, but after that point Fresh Air Staff no longer arranged new hosting sites. Only a re-invitation from a prior host could bring a teenager to the country.
Age was everything for the Fresh Air programs. Page 99 of my book gets to the heart of that story.

My book explores the racially transformative years between 1939 and 1979 when administrators and boosters from the Fresh Air movement switched from sending white children from the city to the country for summer vacations to sending black and brown children from the city to the country for summer vacations. Key to the success of the hosting initiatives was the practice of cutting children off from further visits once they became adolescents.

I provide evidence of the hosts’ preference for younger children, program-wide distrust of teenagers by both hosts and administrators, and the problems of homesickness resulting from this drive to send out ever-younger children. Encapsulated in the second theme of the chapter’s title, “Sex, Seven, Sick,” the text on this page also connects to the theme of innocence that I address more specifically in the book’s final chapter. I contend that the Fresh Air programs tried to market an opportunity where everyone could be innocent of the complex burdens foisted on those attempting to address this country’s history of race relations.

This 99th page does exemplify the book as a whole in that it emphasizes archival evidence, critically engages its topic, and sweeps aside publicity claims in favor of insider information. For 140 years the Fresh Air Fund and its imitators ran their programs free of scholarly criticism. Seldom did they have to deal with public criticism of any kind. This page, and the book as a whole, also show how I have sought to examine Fresh Air initiatives with a balanced but critical eye.

A program dependent upon cutting children off once they became teenagers requires no less careful scrutiny.
Learn more about Two Weeks Every Summer at the Cornell University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: Two Weeks Every Summer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Carol Berkin's "A Sovereign People"

Carol Berkin is the Presidential Professor of History Emerita at Baruch College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. Her many books include The Bill of Rights: The Fight to Secure America's Liberties, Wondrous Beauty: The Life and Adventures of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, and A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution.

Berkin applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, A Sovereign People: The Crises of the 1790s and the Birth of American Nationalism, and reported the following:
Page 99 details the beginning of what came to be know as the Genet Affair. In 1793, President Washington issue a Proclamation of Neutrality in the war raging in Europe. But the new French minister, the zealous and highly undiplomatic Edmund Genet, quickly revealed that he had no intention of respecting this policy. His mission was clear: to turn the US into a satellite of France. In his long and bombastic letters to both Washington and Secretary of State Jefferson, the young Genet insisted on America’s moral and treaty obligations to advance French interests. He demanded that the federal government immediately make full payment of all loans incurred during the American Revolution. He then ran roughshod over American sovereignty, outfitting French privateers in American ports and setting up French admiralty courts in those ports to rule in favor of the refitting of any captured English vessels and the sale of their cargoes. Without Washington’s approval, he recruited American citizens to serve on those privateers and attempted to build an army of western Americans to invade Spanish Louisiana under the flag of France. His final insult to American sovereignty, to the Constitution, and to the President himself was to threaten to go over Washington's head with a direct appeal to the “people” if the administration did not accede to his every demand and approve his every action. Before the year was out, George Washington would issue his own demand; he called on the French government to immediately recall Edmund Genet.
My Book, The Movie: Wondrous Beauty.

The Page 99 Test: The Bill of Rights.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Jennifer Van Horn's "The Power of Objects in Eighteenth-Century British America"

Jennifer Van Horn is an assistant professor of Art History and History at the University of Delaware. She specializes in the fields of early American art and material culture.

Van Horn applied the “Page 99 Test” to her book, The Power of Objects in Eighteenth-Century British America, and reported the following:
My new book looks at a variety of types of artifacts produced for and used by elite consumers in early America, including portraits, dressing furniture, city views, gravestones, and even prosthetic devices. I argue that artifacts were key players in forming Anglo-American communities in early America and eventually of forming citizenship. The book explores how consumers in port cities assembled networks of similar objects not simply as markers of status or political identification, but as active agents to bind themselves together and to distance themselves from Native Americans and African Americans.

Each chapter tackles a different group of objects drawn from an early American port city. The first two chapters focus on Philadelphia and by page 99 we are just beginning the second chapter which concentrates upon a main player in the book: the artist John Wollaston.

From page 99:
In 1752, two years before George Heap and Nicholas Scull’s view of Philadelphia was published, British portrait painter John Wollaston made his first trip to the city. Wollaston was forty-two years old when he left England, where he had established himself as a successful, if not prominent, portraitist in the competitive metropolitan market. Over the next two decades (1749-1767), he journeyed extensively throughout the American colonies, traveling to the urban centers of New York, Philadelphia, Annapolis, Williamsburg, and Charleston, as well as the plantations of Maryland, Virginia, and the British Leeward Islands. The artist met with tremendous success on his North American sojourn, painting more than three hundred portraits of colonial elites before eventually returning to England.
Being a British artist, John Wollaston might seem a strange character to star in a book about the ways that early Americans used objects. But Wollaston’s portraits actually offer a great mechanism to recover elite colonists’ differing ideas about what paintings should look like and what they could do. Because he completed multiple depictions in different American locales we can draw out the differences between patrons’ desires. For example, if we look at only two of Wollaston’s paintings of early American women completed in New York City and Charleston, South Carolina, we see radically dissimilar portraits (different poses, different costumes, different sized canvases). Both sitters were elite women who wanted to signal their politeness through their portraits so what led them to do so in very different ways? I conclude that the similarities between objects made in specific port cities were visual bonds that allowed colonists to cohere into communities. By assembling networks of similar objects early Americans created civil spaces at the margins of empire. It was through their relationships with artifacts that Americans constructed a nation.

Thus Wollaston’s peripatetic career, the focus of page 99, proved critical for allowing me to trace local meanings for what at first seem to be similar objects.
Learn more about The Power of Objects at the University of North Carolina Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 29, 2017

William M. Epstein's "The Masses are the Ruling Classes"

William M. Epstein is a Professor in the School of Social Work at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and author of scores of books, articles, reviews, and research monographs.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Masses are the Ruling Classes: Policy Romanticism, Democratic Populism, and Social Welfare in America, and reported the following:
Page 99 discusses the romantic content in pop psychology – the triumph of emotion over reason, an extreme sense of personal agency, and the notion of chosenness. More broadly, these elements define the American ethos and have for centuries. The nation is open; there is little coercion; conspiracies of power and wealth are unlikely although very popular since political careers are not nourished by confronting Americans with the idea that social problems persist as a reflection of embedded preferences -- policy romanticism at the heart of democratic populism. The book illustrates its argument through characteristic social welfare programs – Year Up, Communities in Schools, Generations of Hope Communities in the private sector and the food stamp program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families in the public sector. Each of these popular programs fails to achieve its goals but each incorporates the romantic elements of the American ethos. Indeed, the programs persist as ceremonies of national values rather than as pragmatic responses to social problems.

Quoting from the Conclusion:
There may be some truth in the comment that “America is the only nation in history which miraculously has gone directly from barbarism to degeneration without the customary interval of civilization.” Underdeveloped, nostalgic, and often inattentive to the needs of its citizens, the society is stunted in adolescence by policy romanticism – a chosen people’s delusion of Divine entitlement with an exaggerated sense of personal agency. Policy romanticism persists in spite of enormous social and economic inequality, but along with the apparent failure of 100 years of free, compulsory, universal public education, which fancies itself as objective, worldly, informed, practical, and humane.
Without ever mentioning President Trump it goes far to explain his victory, the conservative ascendancy, and the refusal of this wealthy nation to share its bounty.
Learn more about The Masses are the Ruling Classes at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Jason King's "Faith with Benefits"

Jason King is Professor and Chair of the Theology Department at St. Vincent College. He has published essays in the Journal of Catholic Higher Education, Religious Education, Horizons, the Journal of Ecumenical Studies, American Benedictine Review, and the Journal of Moral Theology.

King applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Faith with Benefits: Hookup Culture on Catholic Campuses, and reported the following:
It is a funny exercise to turn to page 99 of one’s own book to see if it reflects the work’s main thesis. When I did so for Faith with Benefits: Hookup Culture on Catholic Campuses, I found a chart that related mass attendance and hooking up that included intercourse for Mostly Catholic campuses. These three aspects are what support my claim that there is a “benefit” to faith.

First, the page indicates that Catholic campuses have different kinds of religious cultures. While I found three different types – which I typically describe as Very, Mostly, and Somewhat Catholic – it is perhaps better to think of them as three different configurations. For Mostly Catholic campuses, the one referenced on page 99, the religious culture is a communio Catholicism that puts “a clear priority on people and relationships.”

Second, the religious culture of a Catholic campus is primarily constituted by the students themselves. For mostly Catholic campuses, the majority of students are Catholic and go to mass weekly. They understand Catholicism to be fostering kindness and hospitality, rooted in God’s love, and tend to place less importance on the church’s sexual teaching and the authority of church’s leaders.

Finally, it indicates that the religious culture, as constituted by the students, affects hookup culture. This effect is not a simple, linear relationships, where more Catholic means less hooking up. Instead, the different configurations of Catholic culture affect hookup culture differently.

The communio Catholicism of Mostly Catholic campuses, made up by students who go to mass weekly and value the church’s teaching on kindness but not sexuality, transforms hooking up from a “no strings attached” affair to an “entry way into a relationship.” In other words, the religious culture generates a relationship hookup culture.

Page 99 succinctly suggests that different Catholic campuses have different religious cultures and, as a result, different hookup cultures. Students constitute most of the culture, the culture affects expectations around hooking up, and these expectations shape students’ behavior. While there is more to understanding how a culture works and the limits of changing it, these basics indicate that, because the religious culture affects hooking up, there is a “benefit” to faith.
Learn more about Faith with Benefits at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Steven Casey's "The War Beat, Europe"

Steven Casey is Professor in International History at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His books include Cautious Crusade (2001) Selling the Korean War (2008), which won the Harry S. Truman Book Award, and When Soldiers Fall (2014), which won the Neustadt Prize.

Casey applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The War Beat, Europe: The American Media at War Against Nazi Germany, and reported the following:
On Monday, February 1, 1943, a group of correspondents including Homer Bigart of the New York Herald Tribune, Walter Cronkite of the United Press, and Bob Post of the New York Times, left London’s Paddington Station for Bovingdon airbase. This group, which would soon become known as the Writing Sixty-Ninth, were part of a bold new experiment in war reporting. The US Eighth Air Force intended to train them in the basics of high-altitude precision bombing, with the goal of sending them on a raid over Germany in the near future.

Page 99 of The War Beat, Europe shows how Bigart and Cronkite reacted to their training week. Cronkite, an airplane enthusiast, reveled in the experience, enthusing that he felt like a real aviator when kitted out in a heavy flying suit and oxygen mask. Bigart, a nervier customer, focused less on the buzz of flying and more on the perils associated with the whole enterprise. After days of listening to lectures, both men passed the course. For the next couple of weeks, they proudly paraded around London wearing the much-valued accouterments that identified them as members of the air force: a star with wings on their sleeves and a saggy hat with its wire stays remove. Then came the time for their one and only bombing mission, whose ultimate destination turned out to be the German submarine pens at Wilhelmshaven.

On their return, Bigart and Cronkite wrote dispatches that would help to establish their reputations, which would grow to legendary proportions in the years to come, as Bigart covered countless Cold War conflicts and Cronkite became America’s leading TV news anchor. In February 1943, however, both men were rookies compared to Bob Post of the New York Times. Before the Wilhelmshaven mission, Post had selflessly volunteered to fly on one of the Liberator bombers, allowing Bigart and Cronkite a space on the more glamorous Flying Fortresses. Tragically, Post was killed when his plane was shot down. Bigart never forgot this moment, and afterwards he would always view war as a hellish affair, run by officers whose wisdom needed to be challenged. Back in New York, America’s top editors were equally appalled, and within days they would send out firm instructions barring their correspondents from taking part in similar missions in the future.

The training week discussed on page 99 of The War Beat, Europe therefore turned out to be an eye-catching exception, rather than the start of something new. For the next two years, war correspondents would largely cover the unfolding air war from the safety of American air bases, counting how many planes had returned, before receiving official figures on how many bombs had been dropped and how much of the intended target had been destroyed. Such reporting was far from glamorous, and the correspondents with sufficiently big reputations soon headed off to cover other aspects of the war, Bigart and Cronkite among them. By the summer of 1943, Bigart was with George Patton’s Seventh Army as it conquered Sicily; he then reported on the grueling battles at San Pietro, Cassino, and Anzio, as Mark Clark’s Fifth Army tried to liberate Rome. In the summer of 1944, Cronkite did manage to report from the skies again, first when he went on a plane to look at the Allies’ Normandy beachhead on D-Day and then when he was allocated a place in a glider to cover the ill-fated Market-Garden operation.

The War Beat, Europe documents all of these events, as well as the equally intrepid exploits of reporters like Ernie Pyle and Don Whitehead, Drew Middleton and Bill Stoneman, Margaret Bourke-White and Helen Kirkpatrick. These men and women were part of American journalism’s golden generation, and this book is the first comprehensive account of both their exciting back stories and their vivid published stories.
Learn more about The War Beat, Europe at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: When Soldiers Fall.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 24, 2017

Mugambi Jouet's "Exceptional America"

Mugambi Jouet teaches at Stanford Law School. His writing has been featured in Mother Jones, Slate, The New Republic, San Francisco Chronicle, Huffington Post, Salon, The Hill, Truthout, Libération, Le Nouvel Observateur, Le Monde, and academic journals.

Jouet applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Exceptional America: What Divides Americans from the World and from Each Other, and reported the following:
My book Exceptional America: What Divides Americans From the World and From Each Other aims to answer three questions. Why did Donald Trump follow Barack Obama into the White House? Why is America so polarized? And how does American exceptionalism explain these social changes?

Page 99 of the book focuses on how faith in Christianity is generally far more intense in America than in other Western democracies—a dimension of American exceptionalism with distant historical roots that Alexis de Tocqueville had previously remarked upon. I describe on that page how these circumstances have been influenced by social pressure to be religious, especially in conservative regions of America. “[A] strong social norm of religiosity” among a rather devout population has led both Republican and Democratic U.S. politicians to regularly invoke God, including Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton, Mike Pence, and, to a lesser extent, Donald Trump. “In turn, religious rhetoric from the nation’s leaders helps normalize religiosity and dissuade skepticism, irrespective of whether such public displays of faith are heartfelt or contrived.” These circumstances are among the factors having led religion to play a huge political role in America compared to the rest of the West: European nations, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Yet religion is often as great a source of division as of unity in an American society where conservatives and liberals are divided by traditional and modern understandings of faith, as illustrated by clashes over abortion, contraception, gay rights, and the theory of evolution. In sum, this excerpt seems to exemplify the Page 99 Test. A distinctive understanding of religion is a major dimension of American exceptionalism, as well as a significant factor behind the acute polarization of modern America.
Learn more about Exceptional America at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Timothy H. Dixon's "Curbing Catastrophe"

Timothy H. Dixon received a B.Sc. degree in 1974 from the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, and Ph.D. degree in 1979 from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego. From 1979-1992, he worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. From 1992-2010 he was at the University of Miami. Since January 2011 he has been at the University of South Florida, where he is a Professor in the Department of Geology.

Dixon applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Curbing Catastrophe: Natural Hazards and Risk Reduction in the Modern World, and reported the following:
When I was asked to write an article for “The Page 99 Test,” the first thing I did was look at another entry to see what other writers had done with this challenge. I chose Chip Colwell’s Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits. In hindsight it may not have been the best choice. Page 99 of Colwell’s book includes the following riveting passage:
On the bitter cold morning of November 29, 1864, the U.S. Army attacked a peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho settlement at the eastern edge of Colorado, slaughtering upwards of 200 people, mostly women, children, and the elderly. After the killing ended, the soldiers plundered the dead—taking body parts as trophies, including fingers, genitalia, and scalps. When the Army returned to Denver they were greeted as heroes. During a parade that snaked through downtown Denver, the scalps were raised to cheers.
The book goes on to describe the anthropologic consequences of the genocide committed by our European ancestors against the original inhabitants of North America. It’s fascinating reading, and I highly recommend it.

In contrast, page 99 of my book drops the reader into the middle of a rather dry four page description of how scientists discovered that the Pacific coast of Oregon and Washington in the US, and the Canadian province of British Columbia (geologists call this region “Cascadia”) are at great risk from a giant earthquake and devastating tsunami. It's rather dry, but it's important – the Cascadia region is virtually certain to experience an event similar to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan, killing approximately 30,000 people and costing that country more than $200 billion (US). It was the world’s costliest natural disaster, and is discussed in Chapter 4 of my book. But unlike Japan, the US and Canada are actually much less prepared, for reasons discussed in Chapter 5 (including page 99). If it happened tomorrow, the consequences would be devastating, far worse than Japan. The main reason for the difference is that scientific understanding of the risk did not come until the 1990’s, long after the area had been settled by Europeans, and long after much of the region’s infrastructure have been built – so it's not earthquake-safe. In contrast, Japan has been settled for more than a thousand years, and that country’s inhabitants have learned to live with earthquakes, and design buildings accordingly. It’s a good example of the importance of time lag, a major theme in the book (in this case, the time difference between settlement and scientific understanding of local risk).

An interesting aside, related to Colwell’s book but not discussed in my book, is that the indigenous inhabitants of Cascadia were actually familiar with the earthquake and tsunami hazard (the last big one was in 1700 AD, and it was recognized in their oral traditions). European settlers (and scientists of the day) paid no heed to the natives, who were viewed as uncivilized.

We can’t predict when “the big one” will hit Cascadia, but we probably have at least a few decades to prepare. Let’s use the time wisely.
Learn more about Curbing Catastrophe at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Rebecca Schuman's "Schadenfreude, A Love Story"

Rebecca Schuman is a frequent contributor to Slate, where she writes about higher education, Germany, popular culture and parenting. She holds a PhD in German from the University of California, Irvine.

Schuman  applied the “Page 99 Test” to her first book, Schadenfreude, A Love Story: Me, the Germans, and 20 Years of Attempted Transformations, Unfortunate Miscommunications, and Humiliating Situations That Only They Have Words For, and reported the following:
This is approximately the fiftieth-saddest story I have ever known: In 1995, I was overexcited to be in Europe for the first time in the way only a chronically disaffected 90s young adult can be. That is, I’d made a pilgrimage of sorts, to pay homage to the remains of the most influential person in my life, Franz Kafka—to walk the streets he’d walked, to live in his hundred-year-old shadow for a few days and thus (obviously) osmote (osmosify? osmosificate?) just a fraction of his genius. It didn’t work.

Schadenfreude, A Love Story isn’t actually about Germans (although it is), as much as it’s the Bildungsroman of a doofus (the much less appealing backup title), told as a very digressive and somewhat petulant love letter to Kafka, the German who wasn’t German who started it all. It’s all about Kafka, whose “Das Urteil” (“The Judgment”) runs “an endless stream of traffic” in circles around dear Ford Madox Ford when it comes to unreliability—the one trait, rather than genius, I did manage to inherit in that summer of 1995, whose ignominy is immortalized on the book’s ninety-ninth page, where this happens:

After ditching my friends in great dramatic fashion so that I might be able to commune with Kafka’s ghost in proper writerly solitude, I grow immediately restless—so much so that I end up clumsily seducing a random guy I’d met the day before. (Or did I allow myself to be clumsily seduced by him? I’m too unreliable to allow you to be sure.) Before all that, however, comes this line, a line that does not take place in Germany and does not pertain to Germans, and yet does, curiously enough, reveal more or less the whole character of the book (or, at any rate, the version I’d like you to know): “I should have—I knew I should have—stuck to my café glowering and my artisanal travel journal, but my dirtiest secret turned out to be that I could only stand my own company for half a day.”
Visit Rebecca Schuman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Conan Fischer's "A Vision of Europe"

Born in Wellington, New Zealand, Conan Fischer is an Honorary Professor in the School of History at the University of St Andrews. He graduated in European Studies from the University of East Anglia in 1972 and received his DPhil from the University of Sussex in 1980 with a thesis on the social history of the Nazi storm troopers. His earlier research and publications concentrated on Nazism and Communism in inter-war Germany, before turning to the history of inter-war Europe and in particular Franco-German relations.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, A Vision of Europe: Franco-German Relations during the Great Depression, 1929-1932, and reported the following:
A Vision of Europe is the story of French and German efforts to put the sterile legacy of the First World War behind them by building a European Union organized around a Franco-German economic partnership.

Page 99 comes midway through a section that examines the multifaceted contribution of the Catholic Church and of Catholic political and cultural organizations to the cause of inter-war Franco-German reconciliation. It details a major conference held in Berlin in December 1929, which brought ‘together [French and German] forces that shared a similar domestic political agenda.’ These forces included ‘complementary economic interests’ and other ‘powerful elements [working towards] understanding and cooperation,’ which embraced wide-ranging academic collaboration and ‘the establishment of closer relations between the Catholic press and journalists of the two countries.’ The German and French press reported on two ‘dazzling official receptions hosted in turn by the French Ambassador [at Berlin] and the German Foreign and Justice Ministers,’ to the evident pleasure of the French Foreign Minister, Aristide Briand. And as the German Ambassador at Paris observed: ‘the impression is growing [in France] that the meeting of German and French Catholics in Berlin has been useful and it has undoubtedly encouraged circles previously opposed to a German-French dialogue to reconsider.’

This Catholic dimension was one factor among many that appeared to be paving the way to a peaceful, integrated Europe. Indeed, in September 1931 the French and German governments formally agreed to create a Franco-German customs and economic union as the first step along this road, but a series of major setbacks quickly followed. The Great Depression undermined France’s commitment to free trade just as German politics were convulsed by the rise of the nationalist demagogue, Adolf Hitler. The unauthorized publication of leaked German foreign policy documents in France and Germany added to the furore, as Europe and the wider world slid towards renewed war.

It took the Second World War to teach the international community the hard way of the virtues of collaboration. Collegial diplomacy came slowly to prevail, if only after the challenges of the Cold War had been defused. But now, it seems, we are once again condemned to witness the populist prioritization of national self-interest over multilateralism and collective well-being.
Learn more about A Vision of Europe at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Amy Bryzgel's "Performance Art in Eastern Europe since 1960"

Amy Bryzgel is Senior Lecturer in Film and Visual Culture at the University of Aberdeen.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Performance Art in Eastern Europe since 1960, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book says nothing about it, and yet it says everything, because page 99 is a list of endnotes! This page is about a quarter of the way into the book, and consists of the 7th page (of ten) of the endnotes to that chapter. While most may never even read this page, some may simply glance at it, and only the avid researcher will scrutinize it sharply, it is a very important page, as it forms the foundation and basis for the book, and reflects the rigorous research undertaken over the course of several years.

Performance Art in Eastern Europe since 1960 is the first substantial academic study that outlines the history and development of performance art, or live art, including action art and happenings, in the former communist countries of Eastern Europe. Because performance art developed as an experimental or unofficial art form in the region, it was not usually recorded or included in official art histories, and therefore still exists, in many instances, as primarily an oral history. Consequently much of my research involved traveling to the region and interviewing artists about their performative art practices. While that forms a substantial part of the research, it also relies quite heavily on primary, secondary and even tertiary published materials. What this page reveals is the extensive research that went into creating this text.

Page 99 may not be an exciting page to read, and it may tell you nothing about the topic of my book, but it is important that it is there, and in its very existence, can tell you everything.
Learn more about Performance Art in Eastern Europe since 1960 at the Manchester University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Nina Sankovitch's "The Lowells of Massachusetts"

Nina Sankovitch is the author of Tolstoy and the Purple Chair and Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Celebrating the Joys of Letter Writing. She was born in Evanston, Illinois, and is a graduate of Evanston Township High School, Tufts University, and Harvard Law School.

Sankovitch applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Lowells of Massachusetts: An American Family, and reported the following:
From page 99:
He was simply having too good a time to write home to his parents and siblings back in America. The lack of news made them worry. The initial wave of public approval for the French Revolution was receding. The onset of the Reign of Terror had turned American support into fear: what terrible violence had been unleashed in France? The French Revolution had seemed like a good idea – and a flattering imitation of America’s bid for independence –but now it had become something quite different. Revolution was supposed to lead to an evolution for the greater good but in France, the revolution was dissolving now into anarchy. The aristocracy was being massacred, churches desecrated, clergy decimated. The governmental institutions for law and order were breaking down. When the great French hero of the American Revolution, the Marquis de Lafayette, was called a traitor by Robespierre and then jailed by Danton, Minister of Justice, Americans cried out in protest. The French were no longer to be trusted.

But Frank never felt himself to be in any danger. He had numerous cousins living in France, safely and happily, and he himself was traveling with a special passport issued by the French Committee of Public Safety. Enjoying his cloak of official protection, he found French life interesting and satisfying more than demoralizing or terrifying. After witnessing mass executions of five hundred men while visiting Paris, the only mention of it he made to his father when he finally wrote a letter was about how very quiet the whole event had been: “One of our training days [at Harvard] made a great deal more noise...”

Little time was spent by Frank considering the moral or political implications of the French Revolution; instead, what fascinated him were the opportunities he saw everywhere he went…
This excerpt from page 99 of my biography of the Lowell family over three hundred years does a good job of placing one member of that family, Francis Cabot Lowell, well within the context of his times, while offering a perhaps surprising view of those times. Throughout my book, I offer not only portraits of individual members of the Lowell family but also of the important historical events of their eras. The story of the Lowells is interesting on its own merits, with its heroes and even a few villains, and its plot twists and resolutions and revolutions, but the book also brings to vivid life the history of the United States from the 1600s through the 1900s.

We tend to think of the French Revolution as all terror, all the time – and the paragraphs from page 99 invoke those horrors – but for a young American, fresh out of Harvard and trying to make his way in the world, France during the Revolution was a fascinating place offering so many opportunities. The Lowell family motto was Occasionem Cognosce (recognize opportunity, seize opportunity), and Frank took advantage of his time in France, learning not only the language and the customs but also the material needs of the French. The French were cut off from British goods and Frank realized that American suppliers could fill the void. He returned to Boston and began an import/export company, leading first Boston and then the nation to becoming world leaders in trade and manufacturing.

Every generation of Lowells, from the 68-year old patriarch who came to the New World in 1639 to start a new life, through to Francis Cabot Lowell and his siblings, and on through the Lowells of the twentieth century, had an uncanny ability to change course, to recognize new opportunities and seize upon them. This facility at reinvention, along with their ingrained ideal of working hard on behalf of the larger community, led them to be movers and shakers in all the eras in which they lived.
Visit Nina Sankovitch's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Lowells of Massachusetts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 14, 2017

Jennifer M. Randles's "Proposing Prosperity?"

Jennifer M. Randles, author of Proposing Prosperity?: Marriage Education Policy and Inequality in America, is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at California State University, Fresno. Her research explores how inequalities affect American family life and how policies address family formation trends.

Randles applied the “Page 99 Test” to Proposing Prosperity? and reported the following:
From page 99:
Chelsea made it clear she was not giving Simon an ultimatum that he needed to have a high-paying job before she would marry him. She just wanted him to be employable. Though Chelsea was willing to pay off his $5,000 [in traffic fines] if and when she had the money, Simon seemed like too much of a risk to marry until those traffic fines were paid off.
In 1996, Congress overhauled welfare policy to promote work, marriage, and responsible fatherhood for American families living in poverty. This led to the creation of the federal Healthy Marriage Initiative—often referred to as marriage promotion policy—which has spent almost $1 billion since 2002 to fund hundreds of relationship and marriage education programs across the country. I observed over 500 hours of healthy marriage classes, analyzed 20 government-approved marriage education curricula, and interviewed low-income parents—including Chelsea and Simon—who took classes.

Though healthy marriage policy is premised on the idea that developing relationship skills creates better marriages, which in turn lead to financial prosperity, the low-income couples I interviewed believed that marriage represents the culmination of prosperity, not a means to attain it. As Chelsea elaborated, “I didn’t dream about getting married, but now that I’m getting older and having babies, now I feel like [my son’s] mom and dad should be married, but I want Simon to have his license first….That’s one of the biggest problems in our relationship.” Chelsea knew marriage would not solve their financial or relationship problems, and she, like almost all of the other parents I interviewed, told me they could neither afford nor prioritize marriage until they were more financially stable. I detail their relationship stories to illustrate how financial challenges lead to curtailed commitments, especially when marriage between two economically unstable partners seems like a bad financial risk.

Though parents frequently challenged instructors’ claims that marriage could help them, they did find the classes useful. Participants experienced the classes as a rare opportunity to communicate free of the material constraints that shaped their lives and relationships. Hearing other low-income couples talk about their challenges with love and money normalized parents’ intimate struggles and allowed them to better understand how relationship conflict and unfulfilled hopes for marriage are shaped by poverty. Low-income parents’ experiences with marriage classes point to how relationship policies would likely be more useful if they focused more on how economic stressors take an emotional toll on romantic relationships and less on promoting the dubious message that marriage directly benefits poor families.
Learn more about Proposing Prosperity? at the Columbia University Press website.

Writers Read: Jennifer Randles.

--Marshal Zeringue