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 conundrum of who women dress for, the unspoken question of why we mind about our clothes, as Austen herself did, when we know that the effect on other people is most often negligible at best and at worst deleterious, has never gone away. The correct answer today is that we dress for ourselves, but that isn’t quite true either. We dress to say something about ourselves and the question is: to whom are the remarks addressed? They can be, indeed often are, misinterpreted by men who think or pretend to think that it is for them or, worse, that ‘a woman who goes out looking like that is asking for it.’ The effect on other people is, however, one end of an arc, the point where it comes to earth in the outside world. The other end, the spring of the vault, is in the interior world of the wearer and it is somewhere between the two that frock consciousness happens. The other line of descent from the 19th century begins with Jane Eyre. Charlotte Brontë famously objected to Austen’s ‘Chinese fidelity’ to the external world of the real and material, and to ‘the smooth elegance’ of her narrative. However partial that view of Austen, she certainly understands dress entirely from the outside. Charlotte Brontë didn’t and in Jane Eyre frock consciousness springs fully formed into English literature as a bearer of narrative and emotional force.
Editorial Intern Sydney Bradley
Excerpt from “What does she think she looks like?” The London Review of Books, Rosemary Hill, April 5, 2018
Over the last decade or so, the story of how hot chicken was invented has become part of local mythology, the sort of tale Nashville residents can recount with dramatic pauses and wry chuckles.
It happened this way: Back in the 1930s at the height of the Great Depression, there was a man named Thornton Prince. He was a handsome man, tall and good looking.
“Beautiful, wavy hair,” his great-niece Andre Prince Jeffries tells me. He was also a bit of a womanizer. “He was totally a ladies’ man,” she laughs. “He sure had plenty of women.” Women handle cheating partners in all sorts of ways. Some look the other way. Others walk out. A few get even.
One of Thornton’s women got fed up with his philandering ways. He had stayed out all night and come home expecting breakfast. She wanted retribution. That morning, just like all their other morning-afters, she got up before him. And she didn’t make him dry toast or gruel. Oh, no, she made him his favorite. She made him fried chicken.
Then, she added the spiciest items she had in her kitchen.
No one knows what went into that first hot chicken. “She couldn’t run to the grocery store to get something,” Jeffries muses. By the time the bird was cooked, she was sure she had spiced it beyond edibility.
As Thornton Prince took his first bite, she must have braced herself for his reaction. Would he curse? Whimper? Stomp out?
But her plan backfired. He loved it. He took it to his brothers. They loved it, too.
The woman disappeared from his life, but her hot chicken lived on. The Prince brothers turned her idea into the BBQ Chicken Shack.
“We don’t know who the lady was that was trying,” Jeffries says. “All the old heads are gone. Gone on. But hey, we’re still profiting from it.” She pauses. “So women are very important.” Jeffries has an easy explanation for the chicken’s popularity. “My mother said, if you know people are gonna talk, give them something to talk about,” she says. “This chicken is not boring. You’re gonna talk about this chicken.”
Executive Editor Allison Wright
Excerpt from “How Hot Chicken Really Happened,” The Bitter Southerner, Rachel L. Martin
Consider the following facts: In the United States, approximately half of the people in prison are African American. A black male born in 1991 has a 29% chance of being imprisoned, compared to a 16% chance for a Hispanic male, and a 4% chance for a white male.
If punishment is being allocated properly, these statistics suggest that half of the most dangerous or immoral Americans are black, even though African Americans make up only about 12% of the population. It means that black men pose such a threat that they must be locked up at a rate more than seven times that of white men, and that Hispanic men must be locked up at four times the rate. The person who has confidence in the American criminal justice system probably has an unfavorable view of blacks and Latinos and a more positive view of whites.
The hip-hop nation rejects this view. It does not see morality or dangerousness as allocated along the race and class lines that the prison population suggests. A frequent theme in hip-hop is that the law does not correctly select the most deserving candidates for punishment. Specifically the law does not properly weigh the immorality posed and danger caused by white elites. On the other hand, it exaggerates the threat posed by the poor and by minorities. From this perspective, blameworthy conduct by privileged white people or the government often goes unpunished.
Editorial Intern Caroline Hockenbury
Excerpt from “Much Respect: Toward a Hip-Hop Theory of Punishment,” Stanford Law Review, Paul Butler, July 18, 2008