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 took Keats to see the pediatrician every day. He needed his blood drawn to check his bilirubin levels. The results of each test showed he was only a hair away from needing to be hospitalized. When I pleaded with the doctor to give my boy light therapy, the doctor told me to place him in the sun beneath a window at home.
In the summer’s first heat wave our air conditioning was broken. It was too hot to put Keats in the sun. I lay naked in bed with my son atop my chest, him in nothing but a diaper, our sweat running together. Unclothed, I walked him over to the window and put us both in the light, moving in and out, so the heat wouldn’t touch him. I didn’t even think about the neighbors. I held my baby son and it felt like I was a skydiver pulling the ripcord. We were falling together and I couldn’t hold him hard enough. He was going down on my watch, just like Cara did.
Keats’s little head tipped back and over my arm during those hard days. The fact of him almost made me believe that Cara had come back to me. If I believed, there was a reason for all of that pain. And at the bottom of my life, that fantasy held me like I held Keats. I prayed to the past and hoped it would spare him.
Executive Editor Allison Wright
Excerpt from “Life and Death in West Virginia” in Guernica by Christa Parravani
My sentences arise out of images and feelings that haunt me—not always painfully; sometimes quite pleasantly. These images and feelings haunt me until I find the sentences to bring them into this world.
Note that I didn’t say ‘to bring them to life’. The person who reads my sentences may think that he or she is looking at something newly alive. But the images and feelings behind my words have been alive for a long time beforehand.
This has been a very simple account of something that begins to make me dizzy if I think about it for too long. The only detail I can add is to say that as I write, the images and feelings haunting me become linked in ways that surprise and amaze me. Often if I write one sentence to put into a form of words a certain image or feeling, I find as soon as I’ve written the sentence that a new throng of images and feelings have gathered to form a pattern where I had not known a pattern existed.
Writing never explains anything for me—it only shows me how stupendously complicated everything is.
But why do I write what I write?
Why do I write sentences? Why does anyone write sentences? What are sentences? What are subjects and predicates, verbs and nouns? What are words themselves?
I ask myself these questions often. I think about these matters every day in one way or another. For me these questions are as profound as the questions why do we get ourselves born, why do we fall in love, why do we die?
If I pretended I could answer any of these questions, I’d be a fool.
Social Media Manager Sydney Bradley
Excerpt from “Why I Write What I Write” by Gerald Murnane
Schizophrenia terrifies. It is the archetypal disorder of lunacy. Craziness scares us because we are creatures who long or structure and sense; we divide the interminable days into years, months, and weeks. We hope for ways to corral and control bad fortune, illness, unhappiness, discomfort, and death–all inevitable outcomes that we pretend are anything but. And still, the fight against entropy seems wildly futile in the face of schizophrenia, which shirks reality in favor of its own internal logic…I have been psychically lost in a pitch-dark room. There is the ground, which may be immediately below my own numbed feet. Those foot-shaped anchors are the only trustworthy landmarks. If I make a wrong move, I’ll have to face the gruesome consequence. In this black abyss the key is to not be afraid, because fear, though inevitable, only compounds the awful feeling of being lost.
Editorial Intern Bel Banta
Excerpt from The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang