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 made my way across the room and back in time until I got to Mr. Booth. He was still sitting on his battered piano seat, a little older, but to me unchanged, and playing an unseasonable tune: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” And here, that seamless thing happened, which, in its very unreality, makes people hate musicals, or so people tell me when I say I like them: we began making music together, without discussion or rehearsal. He knew the music, I knew the words. I sang about faithful friends. Tracey turned my way, and smiled, a melancholy but affectionate smile. Or maybe it only carried the memory of affection. I saw the seven-, eight-, nine- and ten-year-old in her, the teenager, the little woman. All of these versions of Tracey were reaching across the years of the church hall to ask me a question: What are you going to do? To which we both already knew the answer: Nothing.
Editorial Assistant Heidi Siegrist
Excerpt from Swing Time by Zadie Smith
Before sentencing me, Judge F. Bruce Bach asked if I wanted to address the court. After apologizing to my mother, to my family, to the man I robbed, I told the court that I hadn’t committed the crime because my father had no hand in raising me. I said that it wasn’t my mother’s fault. But, so afraid of what might happen, I could barely articulate my regret. I couldn’t explain how a confluence of bad decisions and opportunity led me to become the caricature of a black boy in America. The mandatory-minimum sentencing law demanded that the judge give me three years for the gun; he could have sent me to serve that time in a juvenile facility. Instead, he sentenced me to nine years in adult prison. My sentencing hearing began at 12:10 p.m.; 28 minutes later, deputies walked me, shackled and cuffed, back to my cell in the county jail.
Executive Editor Allison Wright
Excerpt from “Could an Ex-Convict Become an Attorney? I Intended to Find Out,” New York Times Magazine, by Reginald Dwayne Betts