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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“But, at least, I can carry your stool and sketch-book.”
She did not deny me this favor; but I was rather offended at her evident desire to be rid of me, and was beginning to repent of my pertinacity, when she somewhat appeased me by consulting my taste and judgement about some doubtful matter in her drawing. My opinion, happily, met her approbation, and the improvement I suggested was adopted without hesitation.
“I have often wished in vain,” said she, “for another’s judgement to appeal to when I could scarcely trust the direction of my own eye and head, they having been so long occupied with the contemplation of a single object as to become almost incapable of forming a proper idea respecting it.”
“That,” replied I, “is only one of many evils to which a solitary exposes us.”
“True,” said she; and again we relapsed into silence.
Editorial Intern Marinda Boechat
Excerpt from The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Bronte
“Outside birds were speaking. Lauchlin was aware that he could no longer move his legs, that his spirit and his body were coming unglued from the feet up, like a pair of black-paper silhouettes separating. But it’s all right, he thought. The people moving around him would glue his two parts back together; no harm would come to him because what mattered was not his legs or the lack of feeling in them but all he knew and thought and felt. …When he was a boy, before his mother’s death, he had understood the beauty of daily life. Somehow this had slipped his mind, and if he died now—but of course he would not die now, he was very sick but it was all right, he was young and strong, and outside the sun shone on the meadows and gulls plunged into the river, emerging with fish in their beaks—if he died now it would be ridiculous, because all these years he had not been living but readying himself to live, stuffing himself with knowledge that would help him live later. All this time he’d been learning to live, and now he was ready to start his life.”
Conference Assistant Suzie Eckl
Excerpt from Ship Fever, by Andrea Barrett
There is something surreal and triggering about returning to this place, Vuong and I agree as we pass by his mother’s old nail salon. We have a muscle memory for the town’s handful of strip malls—the buildings adorned with a neat white trim—and the seemingly idyllic housing developments that sprawl along the winding roads. Like Vuong, I spent much of my time as a teenager counting the days until I could leave, and like Vuong, I’ve spent much of my adult life avoiding returning here.
“Oh my God,” he says after we pass a shopping center where he used to work at a natural-food market. “I would bike these whole roads.”
When I first read On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, I understood Vuong’s regional references immediately: Mozzicato’s, Town Line Diner, Franklin Ave., the enormous tobacco fields and orchards, the McMansions with living rooms the size of houses, the endless evenings. On Earth’s descriptions of Connecticut felt familiar, and yet like I was seeing it in a fresh light, with new vocabulary to describe the peculiar experience of my time there—simultaneous flashes of loneliness and hope for the future.
Editorial Intern Mary Clare Edwards
Excerpt from “Going Home With Ocean Vuong” in The Atlantic