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Week of 3/11/18

PUBLISHED: March 16, 2018


In an effort to better acquaint you, the reader, with the VQR staff, members of our team will share excerpts from our personal reading—The Best 200 Words I Read All Week. From fact to fiction, from comedic to tragic, we hope you find as much to admire in these selections as we do.

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The Army was requesting information from Rufus Harms, a failed and forgotten private from the era of Vietnam. Detailed information. Information Harms had no way of giving. His finger navigating true even without light, Harms touched the place in the letter that had first aroused fragments of memory drifting within him all these years. These particles had generated the incapacitation of endless nightmare, but the nucleus had seemed forever beyond him. Upon first reading the letter, Harms had dipped his head low to the paper, as though trying to reveal to himself the hidden meanings in the typewritten squiggles, to solve the greatest mystery of his mortal life. Tonight, those twisted fragments had suddenly coalesced into firm recollection, into the truth. Finally.

Office Manager Laura Plaia
Excerpt fromThe Simple Truth by David Baldacci


The skin of the tiger was the pattern on the wrapping paper, white background with red candy canes and green Christmas trees.

I reached out to Mom’s creation. Its tail twitched, and it pounced playfully at my finger. “Rawrr-sa,” it growled, the sound somewhere between a cat and rustling newspapers.

I laughed, startled, and stroked its back with an index finger. The paper tiger vibrated under my finger, purring.

Mark, one of the neighborhood boys, came over with his Star Wars action figures. Obi-Wan Kenobi’s lightsaber lit up and he could swing his arms and say, in a tinny voice, “Use the Force!” I didn’t think the figure looked much like the real Obi-Wan at all.

Together, we watched him repeat this performance five times on the coffee table. “Can he do anything else?” I asked.

Mark was annoyed by my question. “Look at all the details,” he said.

I looked at the details. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to say.


Graphic Designer Jenn Boggs
Excerpt from short story “The Paper Menagerie” in The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu


Usually I did what Meadow liked and I was better for it, I think. She wanted to challenge the very idea of what films were or could be. She was always questioning everything. She wanted to challenge herself and the audience. But I was different, kind of lazy maybe. Flabby in every way. It only emerged slowly, and in contrast to Meadow, what I wanted from movies. I didn’t want to change everything. I didn’t want to challenge in dramatic formal ways. I watched a bad sitcom, and I thought, what would make this good? What would make this really funny? I saw a comedy that I liked, and I imagined what my version of that would be. A silly teenage comedy with girls as the main characters instead of boys. From a girl’s point of view, but just as raunchy and silly. That seemed radical to me. That’s what I wanted to make. I wanted seduction, not challenge. Or maybe I wanted to smuggle the challenge in a little, not subvert the whole form. Meadow and I were very different, but it was Meadow who made me see that I could-and should-make films. She did it, so I did it. And if we disagreed, had different ideas about the kinds of films worth making, it made us both all the better. I wouldn’t have become a filmmaker, I think, if it wasn’t for Hosney’s class and Meadow’s friendship. If it wasn’t for them, I would have become a Tarzana housewife who cracks a lot of silly jokes after a few glasses of white wine on girls’ night out. Nothing wrong with that, really, that’s my audience, my people. But now they have something to watch at the movies….

I will close with what Meadow once told me about being an artist. It is partly a confidence game. And partly magic. But to make something you also need to be a gleaner. What is a gleaner? Well, it is a nice word for thief, except you take what no one wants. Not just unusual ideas or things. You look closely at the familiar to discover what everyone else overlooks or ignores or discards.

Executive Editory Allison Wright
Excerpt from Innocents and Others by Dana Spiotta


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