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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In sleep it came to me. The name of the song, I mean: ‘Who Is It.’ Michael Jackson. My mother used to play it in the car when I was a kid. She loved to drive. She drove down long, unfurling Utah freeways on aimless, drifting afternoons, while my father was at work and I was still too young to be left alone. We would go to other towns to buy just one carton of eggs, one pint of half-and-half that she mistook for milk. I was six, and had only been in the U.S. for a few months, newly transplanted from Fuzhou. I was still dazed at the variety and surplus of the supermarkets, miles of boxes and bottles lit with fluorescent lighting. Supermarkets were my favorite American thing. Driving was my mother’s favorite American thing, and she drove in a very American way: fast, down empty freeways before rush hour, skimming through cathedral canyons and red rock, her long black hair billowing everywhere, like in the movies. Why move to America if you can’t drive? she’d say, never breaking her speed as we veered toward exit ramps, stop signs, traffic lights.
Editorial Intern Dan Goff
Excerpt from Severance by Ling Ma
Geologists, by contrast, go into their fields with a tacit commitment to the study of change but across vast time scales and involving such indisputably inanimate materials that it amounts to the study of no change in the context of no life and, therefore, of no death.
“There’s this sense among geologists that you build on the work of others,” Stock says, “and others will build on your work, and that goes off into infinity.”
Nothing in Stock’s professional life has prepared him to be the man who presides over the last days of a glacier, much less the end of an entire geological epoch in which glaciers have come and gone.
Art Director Jenn Boggs
Excerpt from “What Remains” in The California Sunday Magazine by Daniel Duane
Larry’s core program of personal transformation happened on nights they stayed in. After a late dinner, everyone would gather in the living room for a marathon discussion in which the group interrogated one person about anything and everything. Usually, the person being questioned had landed in the hot seat because he or she had done something Larry didn’t like. Trivial mistakes, such as scratching a pan or breaking a plate, were considered intentional manifestations of childhood trauma. The group session’s purpose, Larry explained, was to reveal deep personal truths.
The meetings would often end in “breakthroughs” that followed a disturbing dream logic. On one occasion, Larry convinced Daniel that the reason he played the ukulele was because of trauma inflicted on him by his father. Larry told Daniel to smash the instrument in front of the group as an act of catharsis. When he did, the group applauded Daniel for achieving “closure.” Daniel felt immense pressure to find explanations for his actions. Once, after spending hours in the hot seat with no end in sight, Daniel told a story that finally got Larry’s attention: “I said when I was a kid I found a baby bird in my driveway and it was injured, and I held it in my hand and crushed it. I claimed this was a traumatic thing that formed me.” The story was entirely made up, but it ended the session.
Executive Editor Allison Wright
Excerpt from “The Stolen Kids of Sarah Lawrence” in New York Mag by Ezra Marcus and James D. Walsh