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Week of 1/13/19

PUBLISHED: January 18, 2019

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 Machine,” they exclaimed, “feeds us and clothes us and houses us; through it we speak to one another, through it we see one another, in it we have our being. The Machine is the friend of ideas and the enemy of superstition: the Machine is omnipotent, eternal; blessed is the Machine.” And before long this allocution was printed on the first page of the Book, and in subsequent editions the ritual swelled into a complicated system of praise and prayer. The word “religion” was sedulously avoided, and in theory the Machine was still the creation and the implement of man. But in practice all, save a few retrogrades, worshipped it as divine. Nor was it worshipped in unity. One believer would be chiefly impressed by the blue optic plates, through which he saw other believers; another by the mending apparatus, which sinful Kuno had compared to worms; another by the lifts, another by the Book. And each would pray to this or to that, and ask it to intercede for him with the Machine as a whole. Persecution — that also was present. It did not break out, for reasons that will be set forward shortly. But it was latent, and all who did not accept the minimum known as “undenominational Mechanism” lived in danger of Homelessness, which means death, as we know.

Associate Editor Alexander Brock
Excerpt from ”The Machine Stops” first published in The Oxford and Cambridge Review by E.M. Forster, 1909


But I was surprised by the ways other people sought commonality, and at a certain point I realized I was the one projecting difference by assuming others felt it. Believing in what we shared didn’t have to make me blind to what we didn’t. Resonance wasn’t the same as conflation. It didn’t mean pretending we’d all lived the same thing. It just meant listening. People had gotten punched in the face for different reasons, but drinking had made all our bodies vulnerable. We weren’t there to assume or insist on perfect correspondence; we were there to open ourselves to the possibility of company.

I liked how often people at that meeting said: “I just can’t get a fucking break.” How often they got angry at other people, at their own lives. One day a man stood up and shouted at another man across the room: “When are you gonna give me back that twenty bucks?” The guy called back: “Why don’t you go suck someone for twenty bucks?” It was liberating to hear voices break from the sacrosanct script of chanting the steps, from the promises or the preamble: “a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength, and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem.” And also, honestly, so they could get something straight about money that was owed, or how so-and-so was fucking wrong. People were putting their lives back together after many losses and many relapses. Desire and regret still glowed fiercely in that room, still hot to the touch.

Editorial Intern Dan Goff
Excerpt from The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath by Leslie Jamison


Your eyes are closed, she thinks. Just like your eyes were closed every time you got water from the well. Every time you attempted to drive to fetch the amplifiers. Your eyes were closed when Victor’s weren’t. What are you worried about? Haven’t you been in close proximity before? Haven’t you been so close to one that you believed you could smell it?

She has.

You add the details, she thinks. It’s your idea of what they look like, and details are added to a body and a shape that you have no concept of. To a face that might have no face at all.

The creatures of her mind walk horizonless, open fields. They stand outside the windows of former homes and gaze curiously at the glass. They study. They examine. They observe. They do the one thing Malorie isn’t allowed to do.

They look.

Office Manager Laura Plaia
Excerpt from Bird Box by Josh Malerman


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