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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This kind of back-and-forth relationship with body hair is new. When Harriet Lyons and Rebecca Rosenblatt published their 1972 manifesto “Body Hair: The Last Frontier” in the inaugural stand-alone issue of Ms. magazine, they introduced an anti-shaving stance that brooked no compromise. Either you were a shaggy feminist or you were a pawn of the patriarchy, goaded by the pink plastic shaving-industrial complex into spending your money and your time maintaining a key feminine ideal—an ideal of relatively recent vintage. Shaving one’s legs just wasn’t a thing when women wore skirts that swept the floor. It required the broad commercialization of the easy-to-use safety razor, circa World War I—followed by the introduction of King Camp Gillette’s Milady Décolleté razor, a gold-tone tool that came packaged in an imitation ivory box with colored velvet and satin lining—to begin to make it so. According to Rebecca Herzig, the gender and sexuality studies chair at Bates College, in Maine, hairlessness wasn’t firmly established as a beauty standard until after World War II, in that Leave It to Beaver era when American society found it useful to re-entrench gender distinction as soldiers returned home to start families, and to take back the jobs women had held in their stead. “By 1964,” Herzig writes in Plucked: A History of Hair Removal, “surveys indicated that 98 percent of all American women aged fifteen to forty-four were routinely shaving their legs.”
Executive Editor Allison Wright
Excerpt from “To Shave, or Not to Shave? How a New Generation of Women Are Embracing Body Hair,” Vogue, by Maya Singer
The effect, on Alice, was dazzling and demoralizing all at once: reverberating in her sternum, the music made her more desperate than ever to do, invent, create– to channel all her own energies into the making of something beautiful and unique to herself– but it also made her want to love. To submit to the loving of someone so deeply and well that there could be no question as to whether she were squandering her life, for what could be nobler than dedicating it to the happiness and fulfillment of another? At a certain point the pianist was leaning back slightly, hands working opposite ends of the keyboard as though one had to be kept from popping up while the other was held down, and here Alice turned to look at Ezra, who was watching with his mouth open; beyond him the fermata girls sat frozen in their own poses of wonder and humility: whatever they could do, it wasn’t this, would never be this, or would only become this once a great many more hours had been sacrificed to the ambition. Meanwhile, their hourglasses were running down. Everyone’s hourglass was running down. Everyone’s but Beethoven’s. As soon as you are born the sand starts falling and only by demanding to be remembered do you stand a chance of it being upturned again and again.
Editorial Intern Bel Banta
Excerpt from Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday
Young poets find it difficult to free themselves from the initiating subject. The poet puts down the title: “Autumn Rain.” He finds two or three good lines about Autumn Rain. Then things start to break down. He cannot find anything more to say about Autumn Rain so he starts making up things, he strains, he goes abstract, he starts telling us the meaning of what he has already said. The mistake he is making, of course, is that he feels obligated to go on talking about Autumn Rain, because that, he feels, is the subject. Well, it isn’t the subject. You don’t know what the subject is, and the moment you run out of things to say about Autumn Rain start talking about something else. In fact, it’s a good idea to talk about something else before you run out of things to say about Autumn Rain.
Editorial Intern Sam Nicol
Excerpt from The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing by Richard Hugo