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 heard the sound of barking from far away and stood still. Not coyotes, I thought. Dogs. The sound went on, impossible to estimate the distance, and I remembered what Cory had said about stray dogs killing sheep, and shivered. I was alone in a strange field, and suddenly the noise was on top of me and the twilight was opening up for them.
I didn’t see what I saw then. I know I didn’t. But she was there, her white hair loose and wild, her mouth open, going on wrinkled hands and stiff knees, mud down the front of her floral dress. The dogs ran with her, three of them, circled back to her, barking, until she howled, too, and I saw my grandmother’s familiar face, the face that would be like mine when I grew old, distorting into something that was not like a face.
Before the fur grew out from her mouth and covered her sorrow like a cloak, I wondered how I could not have recognized what dispossession looked like. I knew that there was some question I could have asked, some way to bring myself closer to her, had I only cared to look for it. But I didn’t know it. I still don’t know it.
Senior Editorial Assistant Heidi Siegrist
Excerpt from “Hecuba, Hecuba” The Southern Review, by Celia Bell
“ I get e-mails even from police saying, ‘Can you type in the serial number and tell me who the gun is registered to?’ Every week. They think it’s like a VIN number on a car. Even police. Police from everywhere. ‘Hey, can you guys hurry up and type that number in?’ ”
So here’s a news flash, from Charlie: “We ain’t got a registration system. Ain’t nobody registering no damn guns.”
The National Tracing Center is not allowed to have centralized computer data.
“That’s the big no-no,” says Charlie.
That’s been a federal law, thanks to the NRA, since 1986: No searchable database of America’s gun owners. So people here have to use paper, sort through enormous stacks of forms and record books that gun stores are required to keep and to eventually turn over to the feds when requested. It’s kind of like a library in the old days—but without the card catalog. They can use pictures of paper, like microfilm (they recently got the go-ahead to convert the microfilm to PDFs), as long as the pictures of paper are not searchable. You have to flip through and read. No searching by gun owner. No searching by name.
Art Director Jenn Boggs
Excerpt from “Inside the Federal Bureau Of Way Too Many Guns,” GQ, by Jeanne Marie Laskas
For me, there is no difference between writing and drawing. Both are uncanny miracles that result from the act of taking one thing—an implement, a tool—and touching it to another thing—anything that will serve as a surface—and beholding a third thing born of that contact: a mark. If you don’t believe me, take a pencil and put it on a piece of paper, move it using your hand, exerting a little downward pressure—you might even want to let your hand tremble with emotion at the prospect of being engaged in such a miracle—and see what is created there: a mark.
But when I watch people drawing and people writing I notice a difference: when people draw they constantly look up at the thing they are drawing, and when people write their eyes never leave the page. Why is this, I wonder, and what is going on? At first I thought the drawer was drawing what he sees, externally, while the writer was drawing what he sees internally, that which is in his mind…[A]nd thus all creative activity stems from a violent impulse—the willed impulse to interfere, to interrupt, to mar, to stop. I suppose it is sad, but this kind of violent activity makes me happy. When I make contact with a piece of paper without looking up I am happy. I call this writing a poem. It is a moment of drawing happiness. I am drawing a picture of happiness.
Social Media Intern Sydney Bradley
Excerpt from Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle