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Week of 4/21/19

PUBLISHED: April 26, 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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“I liked your story very much,” he said the day after I’d given him the first twenty pages of an unfinished story about a waitress who makes black market fireworks in her basement.

“It’s not finished,” I told him.

“I know,” he said, “and I’m definitely curious to see how it ends.”

“I think maybe the fireworks will go off accidentally in her basement and it’ll kill her,” I told him, and he said that he’d suspected that might be the eventual outcome. Hearing how easily he’d expected that ending, I then said, “But I might not do that.”

“Well, I hope you’ll let me read it when it is finished. Or maybe I’ll read it when it’s published in the New Yorker.”

“No way,” I said, smiling. 

Later, after I’d brought him his food and refilled his coffee, I went back to his booth and said,

“I’d like to read your spy novel.”

He laughed, the first time I’d ever heard him laugh. It was crackly and weird. “Oh, I threw it away.”

“What?” I asked.

“I deleted it off my computer, and I threw away the only hard copy. I was embarrassed.”

“Even if something is bad, you should keep it,” I said, and it sounded so wise that I felt like a real waitress, like someone in a sitcom.

Editorial Assistant Heidi Siegrist 
Excerpt from “A Slender Wage” in the Oxford American by Kevin Wilson


For Ferris, what makes us monsters are the qualities that set us apart from everyone else. She says she’s been fascinated by monsters since she was a child, when her disabilities kept her from playing during recess. “I understood that there were physical things that made the monster different, as there were with me, and then as I became more aware of my sexuality.” Ferris identifies as bisexual, and says “that was another layer that I realized would qualify me for monsterhood, and I embraced it — because the monster is cool! And has an arc!”

Editorial Intern Sam Nicol 
Excerpt from “Every Full Moon We Can Howl At Is A Victory” on NPR by Emil Ferris


It’s clear as well that emotions play a powerful role in our moral lives–and that sometimes this is a good thing. The necessity of feelings has been defended by Confucius and other Chinese scholars of his period and by the philosophers of the Scottish Enlightenment, and it has been further supported by contemporary work in cognitive science and neuroscience. There are many demonstrations, for instance, that damage to parts of the brain involving the emotions can have a devastating effect on people’s lives. There are also recent studies by my colleague David Rand that find that our instinctive gut decision is often a kind and cooperative one; slow deliberation sometimes makes us act worse. 

But I wrote the book you are holding because I believe our emotional nature has been oversold. We have gut feelings, but we also have the capacity to override them, to think through issues, including moral issues, and to come to conclusions that can surprise us. I think this is where the real action is. It’s what makes us distinctively human, and it gives us the potential to be better to one another, to create a world with less suffering and more flourishing and happiness.

Associate Editor Alexander Brock 
Excerpt from Against Empathy by Paul Bloom


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