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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I’ve endured all the stomach-based confusion, mentally piecing together all the bits of things you’ve eaten like Tetris to try to work out if you’re feeling very, very full or actually still slightly peckish. I’ve nodded cheerfully every time an earnest waiter has explained that, “the dishes will all come out at, like, different times,” instead of the reasonable response, which would be to yell, “COULD THEY NOT, PLEASE?” And I’ve smiled serenely at the result, a plate of roast potatoes turning up 10 minutes after the rest of the food is finished. “Oh lovely, the potatoes we forgot we ordered!” I have said, believing I meant it. “What a nice surprise.”
When did the definition of fashionable dining become looking on, ravenous, while your friend cuts a single meatball into three pieces? How did we get from what’s, in theory, a lovely idea – communal eating for the chronically indecisive! – to the reality, a system where every meal is an exercise in diplomatic mediation between the person who doesn’t like sharing, the person who doesn’t like anything, the person who just wants to eat a steak to themselves and the person who ordered the £18 truffled sweetbreads “for the table”?
Editorial Intern Kate Snyder
Excerpt from “Is it time for small plates to die now?” The Pool, Lauren Bravo, April 6, 2018
If these mug shots inadvertently captured the humanity and special qualities of their principled subjects, as Mr. Etheridge observed, their intention was nefarious: to publicly impugn and humiliate people whose only crime was to advocate equality through peaceful protest. No matter their purpose, mug shots inevitably imply aberrance or delinquency, whether or not the people they depict are eventually found to be guilty. With this in mind, the current mayor of Jackson, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, issued an executive order in February prohibiting their release in cases involving people killed by the police.
“Mug shots and sensationalized news narratives create lasting impressions that adversely impact communities and widen the historical divides between police and community,” stated Mr. Lumumba’s directive. “A mug shot is just one snapshot in time, and cannot be presumed to represent the sum total of any individual’s existence.”
By pairing mug shots with contemporary portraits — and providing stories about individual Freedom Riders — Mr. Etheridge undoes some of the psychic and social damage perpetrated by these symbols of police malfeasance. “Breach of Peace” corrects the historical record, representing its subjects not as dehumanized icons of criminality but as exemplary citizens and complex human beings.
Editorial Intern Sydney Bradley
Excerpt from “50 Years After Their Mugshots, Portraits of Mississippi Freedom Riders” The New York Times, Maurice Berger, May 15, 2018
During the next two weeks, the middle-aged Locke, then a philosophy professor at Howard University, snatched the young Hughes from dingy Montmartre and took him on an extravagant march through ballet, opera, gardens, and the Louvre. This was the first time they’d met—but, after more than a year of sighing letters, Locke had come to Paris flushed with amorous feeling. The feeling was mismatched. Each man was trapped in the other’s fantasy: Hughes appeared as the scruffy poet who had fled his studies at Columbia for the pleasures of la vie bohème, while Locke was the “little, brown man” with status and degrees.
Days passed in a state of dreamy ambiguity. “Locke’s here,” Hughes wrote to their mutual friend Countee Cullen. “We are having a glorious time. I like him a great deal.” The words are grinning—and sexless. Hughes had found a use for the gallant Locke: an entrée to the bold movement in black American writing then rumbling to life. Cullen was gaining renown; the novelist Jessie Fauset was the literary editor of The Crisis; and Jean Toomer’s “Cane”—a novel in jagged fragments—had trumpeted the arrival of a new black art, one chained to the fate of a roiling, bullied, “emancipated” people. “I think we have enough talent,” W. E. B. Du Bois had announced in 1920, “to start a renaissance.”
Editorial Intern Aviva Majerczyk
Excerpt from “The Man Who Led the Harlem Renaissance – and His Hidden Hungers” The New Yorker, Tobi Haslett, May 21, 2018