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Week of 4/7/19

PUBLISHED: April 15, 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 wondered whether Keith Herman, whose family seemed not to include public figures, would be harder to find. His closest match — a 6.7% DNA overlap, likely closer than a second cousin — was an elderly man in Pebble Beach, California. Fortunately for me, not only was this man’s wife a keen genealogist, but so too were people on Keith’s branch of the family tree.

Using the trees they had already researched and posted online, I quickly discovered that the California man’s great-grandfather lived near the border between Georgia and Alabama and had fought in the Confederate army in the Civil War.

In 1939, a granddaughter of this Confederate soldier married an Irish immigrant called Mathew Honan. And they were the grandparents of BuzzFeed’s San Francisco bureau chief, Mat Honan. Within an hour of identifying the elderly man in California — Honan’s first cousin, once removed — I had cracked the case.

Art Director Jenn Boggs
Excerpt from “We Tried To Find 10 BuzzFeed Employees Just Like Cops Did For The Golden State Killer ” from BuzzFeed by Peter Aldhous


To be a perennial adjunct professor is to hear the constant tone of higher education’s death knell. The story is well known—the long hours, the heavy workload, the insufficient pay—as academia relies on adjunct professors, non-tenured faculty members, who are often paid pennies on the dollar to do the same work required of their tenured colleagues…Nearly 80 percent of faculty members were tenured or tenure-track in 1969. Now roughly three-quarters of faculty are nontenured. The jobs that are available—as an adjunct, or a visiting professor—rest on shaky foundations, as those who occupy them try to balance work and life, often without benefits. And Thea wobbled for years.

She was on the tenure track, and then she wasn’t. She had a promising job lead, and then it wasn’t so promising. She was on her way to publishing, and then that fizzled. Meanwhile, her hopes and setbacks were compounded by an underlying reality that many adjuncts face: a lack of health insurance. She was a black woman in academia, and she was flying against a current. Some professors soar; adjuncts flap and dive and flap again—until they can’t flap anymore.

Associate Editor Alexander Brock
Excerpt from “The Death of an Adjunct” in The Atlantic by Adam Harris


Cincinnatus was awakened by the doomlike din of voices mounting in the corridor.

Even though the day before he had prepared for such an awakening, still he could not cope with the breathing and the beating of his heart. Folding the dressing gown over his heart so that it would not see—be quiet, it is nothing (as one says to a child at the moment of an incredible disaster)—covering himself and raising himself slightly, Cincinnatus listened. There was the shuffling of many feet, at various levels of audibility; there were voices, also at various depths; one surged up, with a question; another, closer, responded. Hastening from afar, someone whizzed by and started to slide over the stone as over ice. In the midst of the hubbub the director’s bass uttered several words, indistinct but definitely imperative. The most frightening thing was that all this pierced by a child’s voice—the director had a small daughter. Cincinnatus distinguished both the whining tenor of his lawyer and the muttering of Rodion… And again somebody on the run asked a booming question, and somebody boomingly answered. A huffing, a crackling, a clattering, as if someone were probing with a stick under a bench. ‘Couldn’t find it?’ the director inquired indistinctly. Footsteps ran past. Footsteps ran past. Ran past and returned. Cincinnatus could not bear it any longer; he lowered his feet to the floor: they had not let him see Marthe after all… Should I begin dressing, or will they come to costume me? Oh, have done with it, come in…

Editorial Intern Dan Goff
Excerpt from Invitation to a Beheading by Vladimir Nabokov


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