Friday, April 20, 2018

David Vogel's "California Greenin'"

David Vogel is professor emeritus in the Haas School of Business and the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, California Greenin': How the Golden State Became an Environmental Leader, and reported the following:
Page 99 of California Greenin’ describes the opposition of local governments and business firms to one of California’s most important environmental initiatives, namely the establishment of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission. The world’s first coastal development agency which was made permanent in 1969 the Commission was given planning authority over all developments within 100 feet of the Bay’s shoreline. Its enactment by the California state legislature was the culmination of an extensive grassroots campaign by the Save Our Bay Action Committee, comprised of citizens who wanted to stop the beautiful San Francisco Bay from being rapidly filled it. Since western settlement, the amount of open water in the Bay had been reduced by more than 300 square miles while less of a quarter of the original tidal marshlands that had surrounded the Bay remained. Without strong and effective government regulation, one of California’s best known natural features would have continued to shrink.

The Commission’s establishment represents one of several important and innovative environmental initiatives in California that are described and explained in the book. They include the nation’s first protected wilderness area in Yosemite (1864), three large national parks to protect the sequoias in the Sierras, (1890), the nation’s first emissions standards for pollutants from motor vehicles (1964) and the California Coastal Commission (1976). More recently California has led the United States in issuing energy efficiency standards for appliances, buildings and motor vehicles and in addressing the risks of global climate change.

The book argues that California’s long history of environmental policy leadership is linked to three factors. First, many citizens have effectively supported regulations to protect the state’s unusually attractive but also highly vulnerable natural environment from destructive economic developments. Second, these citizen efforts have often been backed by business firms who benefiting by putting California on a “greener” growth trajectory. Thus both steamship firms and the Southern Pacific Railroad lobbied to protect California’s wilderness areas in order to promote tourism in the state, while the real estate industry in Los Angeles supported pollution control regulations to improve the city’s deteriorating air quality. Third, California has developed a regulatory bureaucracy that has enabled the state to develop and enforce its own environmental regulations - often independent of the federal government. Its effective and extensive environmental regulations has enabled California to remain a “golden state.”
Learn more about California Greenin' at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Politics of Precaution.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Kate White's "The Gutsy Girl Handbook"

Kate White is the New York Times bestselling author of twelve murder mysteries and thrillers and several hugely popular career books, including I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: How to Ask for the Money, Snag the Promotion, and Create the Career You Deserve, and Why Good Girls Don’t Get Ahead but Gutsy Girls Do. For 14 years, White was the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, where she increased overall circulation by 30 percent and made Cosmo the #1 magazine in the U.S. in single copy sales.

White applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Gutsy Girl Handbook: Your Manifesto for Success, and reported the following:
I’ve done this test before (with my mysteries and thrillers, as well as my non-fiction business books) and the results are uncanny. It’s based on an idea suggested by the novelist Ford Madox Ford: that if you open a book to page 99, “the quality of the whole will be revealed to you."

That’s certainly the case with my new book, The Gutsy Girl Handbook: Your Manifesto for Success. What appears on page 99 really does seem to capture the essence of the book.

I start off the page talking about the importance of asking for opportunities in the workplace. We hear a lot today about how critical it is to ask for money (whether a raise or a great starting salary), and that’s true. You have to come right out and ask for the money you want or you may end up short changed.

But it’s just as important to ask for opportunities. Don’t wait to be assigned special projects. Raise your hand and volunteer to take those on.

The whole point of my book is that in order to succeed, women need to be as gutsy as possible in the workplace, and asking for opportunities is a key way to do that. (And, hey, this works for guys, too!)

The kind of projects you should be asking for are ones that will help out your boss, strengthen your strengths, force you out of your comfort zone, increase your confidence, enhance your reputation at work, and set you apart from the pack. Perhaps it’s running a new team or representing the company at an industry event.

That’s the kind of work that gets you noticed and promoted.

And what if there doesn’t seem to be a project that fits the bill? Create one. Ask, “What are we missing here, what problem can I solve in my department?”

I once mentioned this strategy in a speech I gave and a woman later wrote me explaining how well it had worked for her. She was employed as an assistant in the PR department of an insurance company and after hearing my comments, she asked, “What’s missing?” She realized that her department lacked a crisis manual, so she took it upon herself to write one. That step and a few others like it led to her promotion from assistant to associate.

So don’t wait. Raise your hand and ask. Being gutsy is knowing that in order to succeed, we often have to take that first step, rather than be polite and wait for someone to tap us for the opportunity.
Visit Kate White's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Even If It Kills Her.

The Page 69 Test: Eyes on You.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

J. E. Smyth's "Nobody's Girl Friday"

J. E. Smyth is Professor of History at the University of Warwick and author or editor of Reconstructing American Historical Cinema from Cimarron to Citizen Kane (2006), Edna Ferber's Hollywood (2009), Hollywood and the American Historical Film (ed., 2012), Fred Zinnemann and the Cinema of Resistance (2015), and the BFI classics monograph on From Here to Eternity (2015).

Smyth applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Nobody's Girl Friday: The Women Who Ran Hollywood, and reported the following:
When I turned to page 99 of Nobody’s Girl Friday, I had to laugh—it was the one part of the book where I discuss director Ida Lupino’s career. In old Hollywood lore, Lupino stands out as the lone woman in a male-dominated occupation (her career transition occurred a few years after director Dorothy Arzner’s retirement). But the trouble with most histories of filmmaking during this era is the fixation on the director as a film’s only author. Scholars, critics, and, to a lesser extent, audiences are obsessed with the notion of the director-auteur—something popularized in the 1950s with the French New Wave and critics such as Andrew Sarris. But films aren’t novels or paintings—cinematic authorship is inherently collaborative. Back in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, editors – including Barbara McLean and Margaret Booth—could order retakes on a director’s work and were as responsible for assembling the classic films we love. They consulted with producers and writers. As my book reveals, women undertook many of these jobs, including Joan Harrison and Virginia Van Upp, two writers who transitioned into producing in the 1940s.

Nobody’s Girl Friday will hopefully make readers recalibrate what they think they know about women and power in studio-era Hollywood—but my work also undercuts a lot of popular and academic expectations about directors and authorship.

Lupino began as an actress, but like many of her peers in the 1940s (Bette Davis, Kay Francis, Rita Hayworth, and Constance Bennett), she branched out. Some of her early roles were produced by none other than Mary Pickford, cofounder and head of UA. Industry people today, students, and my historian colleagues are often stunned when I list how many women worked for the studios and the diverse professions they chose. Women rose to top executive positions, they lead their own agencies, ran guilds and unions, won Academy Awards, and controlled gossip columns. And women worked together and even supported each other’s careers—there was feminism and camaraderie (it didn’t just start with #MeToo!). After all, it was during this time that Democratic and Republican women finally came together to endorse the Equal Rights Amendment.

As I mention on page 99, Hedda Hopper (who we often dismiss as a Red-baiting shrew) adored Ida Lupino’s work and supported her career regularly in her syndicated column. Women in Hollywood’s “golden era” weren’t just secretaries and stars—and their industry recognized and even celebrated Hollywood’s leading role in gender equality. Lupino was touted as the new Orson Welles, and she subverted expectations with a lot of her tough, noirish productions. But all good things come to an end, and when the studio system started to fail through a combination of financial pressure, media competition, and the blacklist, women lost most of their power. By the 1950s, Lupino did indeed seem like a lone, embattled woman director. She, and many others moved into the television industry, but never achieved the wealth and influence they once had in Hollywood. It’s time we remembered them all—not only director “auteurs” such as Lupino, but writer Mary C. McCall Jr., secretary Silvia Schulman, executives Ida Koverman and Anita Colby, story editor Kay Brown, editor Barbara McLean, producer Harriet Parsons-- and many, many others.
Learn more about Nobody's Girl Friday at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Stuart Kirsch's "Engaged Anthropology"

Stuart Kirsch is professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan. His earlier work was influenced by two decades of advocacy on behalf of the Yonggom (or Muyu) people in New Guinea, including their response to the environmental impact of the Ok Tedi copper and gold mine. He is the author of Reverse Anthropology (2006) and Mining Capitalism (2014).

Kirsch applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Engaged Anthropology: Politics beyond the Text, and reported the following:
In Engaged Anthropology, I tackle questions about engaged research head-on, examining projects in which I have been involved in a number of different countries in the Pacific and the Amazon, as well as on campus. In particular, I ask whether engaged research methods produce adequate ethnographic description, whether they contribute to constructive political outcomes, and whether they provide results that are of value beyond the immediate context.

On page 99, I describe an attempt to establish a conservation and development project in Papua New Guinea in the 1990s. I originally visited the area to assess whether such initiatives offer viable alternatives to destructive forms of resource extraction like the Ok Tedi mine.

Page 99 describes differing attitudes towards development and protection of the environment among the four groups of people living in the Lakekamu River basin. For example, the Kurija reject:
mining and logging projects because of their likely impacts on wildlife and the local river system… Cut off from their political allies in the mountains to the east, and unsuccessful in their ventures in the closest urban centers of Kerema and Port Moresby, the Kurija regard subsistence agriculture and hunting as an integral part of their future; and consequently, they recognize the need to protect the resources of the river basin… Practical reliance on local resources, rather than conservation in the abstract, fuels Kurija desires to protect the Lakekamu River basin… In addition, by presenting themselves as responsible guardians of the southern half of the Lakekamu River basin, they hoped to gain support from Conservation International in their territorial disputes [with their neighbors].
In contrast,
The Kovio response to the initiatives sponsored by Conservation International differed significantly from the positions taken by their neighbors. Given their participation in the cash economy and their comparative political clout, they speak more favorably and confidently about the prospects of development... The Kovio make broad claims to much of the territory in the Lakekamu basin; and in the recapitulation of historical patterns of exchange, they regard the economic agenda for this territory as theirs to dominate.
The other two groups in the area
responded positively to some of the economic initiatives proposed by Conservation International… The major concern for the Biaru was that they continue to enjoy unimpeded access to their artisanal mining projects in the hills and mountains to the northeast… And while the Kamea had no objection to the projects proposed by Conservation International, they were equally interested in exploring other development options.
In revisiting an earlier article I wrote on the initiative, I acknowledge that while my ethnographic research correctly identified the reasons why the conservation project would ultimately fail—due to competing land claims and divergent aspirations for the future of the Lakekamu River basin—I remained optimistic about its prospects. Thus, the chapter shows how engaged anthropologists may be influenced by their desire to contribute to alternative outcomes.

Like the other examples discussed in the book, page 99 provides candid insight into the largely unexamined “backstage” of engaged research.
Visit Stuart Kirsch's webpage.

The Page 99 Test: Mining Capitalism.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 13, 2018

Amanda Porterfield's "Corporate Spirit"

Amanda Porterfield is Robert A. Spivey Professor of Religion at the Florida State University. She is the author of Healing in the History of Christianity and the co-editor of The Business Turn in American Religious History (with Darren Grem and John Corrigan).

Porterfield applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Corporate Spirit: Religion and the Rise of the Modern Corporation, and reported the following:
The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 was a feat of “gigantic artificial navigation” and great stimulus to commerce. To quote from page 99 of Corporate Spirit: Religion and the Rise of the Modern Corporation, “the 360-mile passageway up the Hudson River to the Great Lakes brought meat, whiskey, and flour to New York City” and transported goods to the north and west from “the city’s warehouses and famous auctions – everything from stoneware and iron chains to window blinds and black silk handkerchiefs.” As business opportunities expanded along the Erie Canal and elsewhere across the early United States, commercial corporations multiplied. Responding to demand for access to the legal protections conveyed through incorporation, many states established democratic mechanisms of incorporation to counteract the favoritism associated with earlier procedures.

While commercial corporations spurred industrial organization, churches and other eleemosynary corporations contributed to urban order, to regional and interregional networks of religious organization, and to the development of print media that promoted membership in numerous groups who practiced corporate life in terms of membership in the body of Christ. Methodist, Catholic, Baptist, and Presbyterian institutions grew exponentially during the early decades of the 19th century, while new corporate religions, including the Mormons, attracted many converts. Religious groups contributed as much as business did to the organization of people’s lives into state-chartered corporate institutions.

The first 98 pages of Corporate Spirit outline developments in corporate organization prior to this enormous spurt in religious and commercial growth in the early United States. The book shows how corporations originated in ancient Rome and developed to become mainstays of civic, religious, and commercial order in medieval Christendom. The book highlights the importance of networks of community and commerce based on the model of corporate order established by puritans and other religious groups in British America, and argues that these networks contributed to the organizational infrastructure that enabled American political independence.

The chapters that follow page 99 carry the story of American corporate development from the 19th century into the 21st. As these later chapters show, the abusive practices associated with modern forms of corporate organization rival the worst of corporate malfeasance in the ancient and medieval worlds. At the same time, the book shows how corporations served as organizational building blocks of American economic and religious prosperity, and even in some cases, as agents of good will.
Learn more about Corporate Spirit at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

David Bissell's "Transit Life"

David Bissell is Associate Professor in the School of Geography at the University of Melbourne where he researches the social, political and ethical consequences of mobile lives.

Bissell applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Transit Life: How Commuting Is Transforming Our Cities, and reported the following:
On page 99 we are confronted with a photograph of a very ordinary city scene. Three people are at a crosswalk. Even though the image is still, from our own experiences of walking through a city, we might be able to intuit that this scene is fizzing with different intensities of movement. A bus has just zoomed by, almost out of shot, a car is just about to whizz through the crossing. Two figures are stiller, poised, waiting for the green light to walk. Another figure is approaching the crosswalk, his foot about to touch the floor. The caption tells us that it is York Street crossing at Wynyard, and it is 7:20 a.m.

I am delighted that page 99 provides a brilliantly faithful sense of what the book as a whole is about. This is a book all about one of the most significant rhythms of city life. Lots has been written about commuting from a transport perspective, focussing on statistical information accompanied by diagrams about where people travel from and to. Yet somewhat surprisingly, much less has been written about the ordinary events and encounters that make commuting what it is. In part this might be because moments such as the photograph on page 99 are so ordinary as to be unremarkable. However, what this book tries to do is zoom in on these ordinary moments and the people experiencing them to draw out what is so significant about commuting.

The book is based on five years of fieldwork with commuters in Sydney, Australia. The image on page 99 is from a time-lapse photo experiment at a crosswalk in the middle of Sydney where I took photos every ten minutes for a week-long period during the morning rush hour. The point of doing this was to become attuned to the site itself in a way that, over time and through repetition, I could sense the unique intensities of this particular crosswalk. As I write on page 99, “Something is happening right now—a now that is so often obscured by projections and retrospections.” What these time-lapse images helped me to do is to try and be more present, helping me to sense some of the things going on in these ordinary scenes that would otherwise be concealed in the ongoing dance of everyday life; smothered with forward-tracing anxieties and backward-tracing ruminations.

What the book argues is that the intensities that bead our everyday lives in transit are subtly but powerfully changing who we are and the places that we travel through. The final sentence on page 99 strikes to the heart of this claim, where I write: “Rather than identifying similarities, I am interested in the shifts in intensities taking place in this space that might otherwise fly under the radar.” By drawing out and narrating these changing intensities across different sites in the city and with different people, my hope is that the book will raise questions for readers about their own transit lives, perhaps prompting heightened reflection on what might be particularly significant for them, and what they might wish to change.
Learn more about Transit Life at the the MIT Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 9, 2018

Dale Peterson's "The Ghosts of Gombe"

Dale Peterson is the author or editor of twenty books, including Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man, Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence (coauthored with Richard Wrangham), The Moral Lives of Animals, and Eating Apes.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Ghosts of Gombe: A True Story of Love and Death in an African Wilderness, and reported the following:
On July 12, 1969, Ruth Davis, a young American researcher at Jane Goodall's chimpanzee research site in the Gombe Stream National Park of Tanzania, walked out of camp following a chimpanzee into the forest. Six days later, her broken body was discovered floating in a pool at the base of a high waterfall. What happened?

The Ghosts of Gombe is my answer to that question, done by reconstructing in great detail two years of daily life at Gombe as it unfolded for the half dozen to a dozen young volunteers and researchers who were then assisting Dr. Goodall in her pioneering study. That daily life included marijuana-smoking among some, secret affairs among others, a marital breakup, snake bites and malaria, research discoveries and failures, as well as some astonishing personal friendships that developed between three of the people and some of the chimpanzees. The Ghosts of Gombe, then, is not merely a simple exercise in literary forensics, a non-fiction Who or What Done It? It is also a fine-grained portrait of life--or lives--at a remote African research station during the late 1960s. The lives portrayed include not only those of some chimpanzees and the Euro-American researchers but also those of the African staff and local fishermen who worked and lived there, and who supported the full operation with their labor and expertise, their cultural traditions and social knowledge, their good will and sympathies.

The Ghosts of Gombe is a complex weave, in other words, and page 99 presents a strand or two having to do with the Africans, particularly the camp cook, Dominic Bandora, and a local fisherman named Alphonse who lost his left foot in a railroad accident. To my mind, Alphonse is among the most compelling characters in the book. Like Dominic, he was a cultural outsider, a member of the Wafipa tribe from the south, whereas most of the staff and the local fishermen where Waha. Dominic, meanwhile, had a few years earlier been fired as the Gombe cook for failures due to drunkenness; he returned in the summer of 1968 asking Jane Goodall for his job back. Page 99 opens with Dominic, smiling, friendly, and just then meeting Jane again after a few years' absence. They begin catching up...
on family matters. His daughter, Ado, was, he told her, mkubwa sana sasa--"all grown up now." Then he asked for his job back, and so Jane hired him again. Thus, young Sadiki Rukumata, who had been the cook for some time, was demoted to assistant cook, and the quality of the meals improved. At least Ruth thought so, noting the appearance of some excellent deserts--chocolate cakes and apple pieces--and describing Dominic in a letter home to her parents as "a small, funny old man, extremely proud and an excellent cook."

Dominic was an Mfipa like Alphonse, which meant that Alphonse now had a natural ally in camp, a brother in the African sense, someone from the same tribe and region and background. Alphonse was funny and fair, and he became friends with a number of others on the staff, but now Dominic made sure to walk down to the beach every morning and sort through Alphonse's daily catch. That was good, but then Dominic went off one night and came back drunk. He started arguing with other men at the kitchen, and when Nic told him to leave the kitchen, he said, "That's my kitchen!" He wanted to fight. The following morning, of course, he was terribly apologetic....
Visit Dale Peterson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Joanna Lewis's "Empire of Sentiment"

Joanna Lewis is an Associate Professor in the Department of International History, London School of Economics and Political Science, having previously studied at the University of Cambridge after winning a Thomas and Elizabeth Williams Scholarship for students with a first class degree, and first-generation to attend university.

Lewis applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Empire of Sentiment: The Death of Livingstone and the Myth of Victorian Imperialism, and reported the following:
If you open this book to page 99, then you are drawn into the dangerous, violent and unforgiving world of the Scramble for Africa in the late nineteenth century – in this case central Africa and the quest to find by the 1890 the holy grail of exploration: the sacred spot where Dr David Livingstone had died. So remote was Chitambo in the Ila region (in present day Zambia near the border with the DRC), and so engulfed was the area in conflict as cheap guns, slavers, concession hunters, and company agents (like the men sent by Cecil Rhodes) that not only had the grave remained hidden, but finding it became a great competition between the Belgians and the British.

The section page 99 falls within is called ‘The destabilisation of central Africa’. On page 99 two key European forces trying to inch into the region and claim sovereignty over land and people are introduced to the reader. The missionaries – in this case the Church of Scotland were keen to move down from Lake Nyassa and push back other denominations. Dr Robert Laws arrived in 1875, young and idealistic. Arab slavers, African mercenaries, white hunting parties and trading companies would all clash. Britain was not keen to spend resources on converting informal influence into responsibility for new territory deep in the interior of ‘darkest Africa’. Livingstone’s grave was not far from the notorious Bangweula Swamps, an area so vast and flat, that it was rumoured you could clearly see the curve of the earth from its centre. In the rainy season, when Livingstone had tried to traverse it for a second time, the water and winds were so remorseless that it proved his down fall, and he perished in the region in 1873.

As page 99 suggests to the reader, it was the hinterland which now drew more men and more nationalities into its dangerous, and often fatal landscape. The King of the Belgians, desperate for an empire, had followed the death of Livingstone and the attempts of Henry Morton Stanley to find him, and later on find the source of the Nile and follow the course of the Congo. By the early 1890s, Belgian mercenaries were teaming up with local militia to stake their claim over the region. The most powerful chief in the area, Chief Misiri had tolerated Scottish missionaries inspired by Livingstone. These young, working class men called him ‘the perfect savage’. They told him not to cooperate with Cecil Rhodes’s British agents seeking to make treaties. He also declined when the Belgians arrived. They were not instructed to take no for an answer. They shot him dead. The Belgians took Katanga but the British took the area west, where the tree was located under which Livingstone’s body was buried and the rest of the chapter tells the story of the young explorers who set out to find the grave, many becoming martyrs in the process…

Not surprisingly, this chapter is called “A perfect savagery: the Livingstone martyrs and the tree of death on Africa’s ‘Highway to Hell’.”
Learn more about Empire of Sentiment at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Harold Schechter's "Hell's Princess"

Harold Schechter is an American true-crime writer who specializes in serial killers. Twice nominated for the Edgar Award, his nonfiction books include Fatal, Fiend, Bestial, Deviant, Deranged, Depraved, The Serial Killer Files, The Mad Sculptor, Man-Eater, and Killer Colt.

Schechter applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Hell's Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness, Butcher of Men, and reported the following:
Somewhat to my surprise, a reader limited to page 99 might actually get a fairly good idea of both the quality of my book and its subject matter. Hell's Princess recounts the ghastly crimes of the early-twentieth century serial murderer, Belle Gunness, aka “The Lady Bluebeard,” who, by means of matrimonial ads in Scandinavian-language newspapers, lured a string of lonely Norwegian bachelors to her farm in La Porte, Indiana, poisoned them, dismembered their corpses, and buried the parts in her hog lot. The page in question deals with the arrival of the sons of one of her victims, come to search for their missing father, or whatever was left of him. The last few paragraphs describe their viewing of the rank, rotten remains dug out of Belle’s makeshift cemetery and their identification of their murdered dad by the distinctive moustache on his decayed, decapitated skull.
Learn more about the book and author at Harold Schechter's website.

The Page 99 Test: Killer Colt.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Daegan Miller's "This Radical Land"

Daegan Miller has taught at Cornell University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his writing has appeared in a variety of venues, from academic journals to literary magazines.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, This Radical Land: A Natural History of American Dissent, and reported the following:
From page 99:
They were on us and over us before we could get out of the way.... When the last line of Rebs had passed over me, I was left amid the bushes with the breath nearly trampled out of me, and an ugly bayonet-gash through my thigh; and mighty little consolation was it for me at that moment to see the fellow who run me through lying stark dead at my side, with a bullet-hole in his head, his shock of coarse black hair matted with blood, and his stony eyes looking into mine.... Never have I seen, no, not in that three days’ desperate mêlée at the Wilderness, nor at that terrific repulse we had at Cold Harbor, such absolute slaughter as I saw that afternoon on the green slope of Malvern Hill. The guns of the entire army were massed on the crest, and thirty thousand of our infantry lay, musket in hand, in front. For eight hundred yards the hill sank in easy declension to the wood, and across the smooth expanse the Rebs must charge to reach our lines. It was nothing short of downright insanity to order men to charge that hill; and so his generals told Lee, but he would not listen to reason that day, and so he sent regiment after regiment, and brigade after brigade, and division after division, to certain death....

It was at the close of the second charge, when the yelling mass reeled back from before the blaze of those sixty guns and thirty thousand rifles ... that I saw from the spot where I lay a riderless horse break out of the confused and flying mass, and, with mane and tail erect and spreading nostril, come dashing obliquely down the slope. Over fallen steeds and heaps of the dead she leaped with a motion as airy as that of the flying fox, when, fresh and unjaded, he leads away from the hounds, whose sudden cry has broken him off from hunting mice amid the bogs of the meadow. So this riderless horse came vaulting along.... When I saw this horse, with action so free and motion so graceful, amid that storm of bullets, my heart involuntarily went out to her, and my feelings rose higher and higher at every leap she took amid the whirlwind of fire and lead. And as she plunged at last over a little hillock out of range and came careening toward me as only a riderless horse might come... I forgot my wound and all the wild roar of battle, and, lifting myself involuntarily to a sitting posture as she swept grandly by, gave her a ringing cheer.
What is history: the past, or the sense we make of it?

Page 99 of This Radical Land: A Natural History of American Dissent, is the first of a four-page excerpt from W.H.H. Murray’s Adventures in the Wilderness, published in 1869, a standard guide to the Adirondack Mountains in northern New York State, which concludes with a far-from-standard final chapter called “A Ride with a Mad Horse in a Freight-Car”: a story, recounted by Murray, that he and his camping companion first heard when into the light of Murray’s campfire stepped a man identified only as the Stranger, a sportsman but also a veteran of the Civil War, an ex-Union Soldier, who tells them of a beautiful horse that he first saw while he lay gravely wounded in the field at Malvern Hill, a horse that followed him to the field hospital and became his mount and his constant companion—his true love, even—throughout the war’s final three years. Once the guns fell silent after Appomattox, the Stranger and his horse boarded a train to head home. But the horse went mad. She had contracted phrenitis—a swelling of the brain. The Stranger watched helplessly as she beat herself to death against the walls of the car.

That’s how Adventures in the Wilderness ends.

In one way, page 99 resonates only moderately with the rest of the book’s content: though it is a bridge between a part on the Adirondacks and the meaning of wilderness, and a part on the transcontinental railroad in the post-Civil War US. But the excerpt stands alone at the center of the book, the pivot point, a story within a story living at the heart of the history I tell.

And so page 99 lies near the point of the book—that who we are depends on the stories we tell ourselves, that those stories are plastic, that we make our histories just as we make our presents and our futures. Just like we make our world. I’d like that world to be green, just, and free.
Visit Daegan Miller's website.

--Marshal Zeringue