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Week of 3/18/18

PUBLISHED: March 22, 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 shore is an ancient world,” Rachel Carson wrote from a desk in that house, a pine-topped table wedged into a corner of a room where the screen door trembles with each breeze, as if begging to be unlatched. Long before Carson wrote “Silent Spring,” her last book, published in 1962, she was a celebrated writer: the scientist-poet of the sea. “Undersea,” her breakout essay, appeared in The Atlantic in 1937. “Who has known the ocean?” she asked. “Neither you nor I, with our earth-bound senses, know the foam and surge of the tide that beats over the crab hiding under the seaweed of his tide-pool home; or the lilt of the long, slow swells of mid-ocean, where shoals of wandering fish prey and are preyed upon, and the dolphin breaks the waves to breathe the upper atmosphere.” It left readers swooning, drowning in the riptide of her language, a watery jabberwocky of mollusks and gills and tube worms and urchins and plankton and cunners, brine-drenched, rock-girt, sessile, arborescent, abyssal, spine-studded, radiolarian, silicious, and phosphorescent, while, here and there, “the lobster feels his way with nimble wariness through the perpetual twilight.”

Editorial Assistant Heidi Siegrist
Excerpt from “The Right Way to Remember Rachel Carson,” Jill Lepore, The New Yorker, March 26, 2018


If you chose to analyze a novel using psychoanalysis, you’d have to make that very clear from the start, and then you’d only use the material in the text to craft your essay. In the end, you’d only be analyzing characters, symbols. Perhaps, as a conclusion, you would allude to the author’s possible understanding of psychoanalysis that would have perhaps informed their work. You wouldn’t connect the dots, as obvious as they were, to the author’s personal life.

Dismissing the biographical seems a little absurd to me, now.

Can you separate the artist from his art? Art, when it is recognized, when it is bequeathed awards and shortlistings — and this recognition alone more often than not involves racial and sexual prejudice — elevates the artist, deifies them even, in this celebrity culture. The artist obtains privileged positions, events, deals, money, tenure. They exert even greater influence and power, as long as they continue to produce, as long as their talent remains intact or grows. This status enables the artist to continue producing art. The work and the person are indissoluble in this respect. The trampling and abuse of others along the way to artistic stardom (or once such stardom is obtained) is also indissoluble from the work of art.

Editorial Intern Maeve Hickey
Excerpt from “We Need to Talk About Derek Walcott’s Sexual Harassment Scandal,” Alexandra d’Abbadie, Electric Literature, March 15, 2018


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