Ford Madox Ford proposed the page 99 test: “Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.” This is the inspiration for an excellent books blog run by Marshal Zeringue, who asks authors to tell him about their books, starting with page 99. The blog often covers history books—as I write, the current post is about Jennifer Jensen Wallach’s How America Eats: A Social History of US Food and Culture. Wallach talks about “the paradoxical fact that European American eaters have been willing to embrace the foods of members of various racial and ethnic groups but generally reluctant to bestow first class citizenship on the creators of these cuisines”. Not on page 99 of her book, though: that’s about refrigeration in the meat-packing industry, and she sounds a bit embarrassed about it.
The Page 99 test