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Week of 6/30/19

PUBLISHED: July 5, 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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“When my daughter Nicole was an infant, I read an essay suggesting that it might no longer be necessary to teach children how to read or write, because speech recognition and synthesis would soon render those abilities superfluous. My wife and I were horrified by the idea, and we resolved that, no matter how sophisticated technology became, our daughter’s skills would always rest on the bedrock of traditional literacy.

It turned out that we and the essayist were both half correct: now that she’s an adult, Nicole can read as well as I can. But there is a sense in which she has lost the ability to write. She doesn’t dictate her messages and ask a virtual secretary to read back to her what she last said, the way that essayist predicted; Nicole subvocalizes, her retinal projector displays the words in her field of vision, and she makes revisions using a combination of gestures and eye movements. For all practical purposes, she can write. But take away the assistive software and give her nothing but a keyboard like the one I remain faithful to, and she’d have difficulty spelling out many of the words in this very sentence. Under […]”

Associate Editor Alex Brock
Excerpt from “The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling”, from Exhalation, by Ted Chiang


“Opal is on her route. Same old same old one. But she’s paying attention to where she steps. Opal doesn’t step on cracks when she walks. She walks carefully because she’s always had the sense that there are holes everywhere, cracks you can slip between—the world, after all, is porous. She lives by a superstitious she would never admit to. It’s a secret she holds so tight to her chest she never notices it. She lives by it, by breathing.”

Art Director Jenn Boggs
Excerpt from There There, by Tommy Orange


“Dad didn’t visit; he’d already said all he had to say. I’d been hurt, I’d get over it, or I’d get used to it. And the sooner I realized it wasn’t meant for me, this suffering, the sooner the suffering would end. It wasn’t personal; none of it, no suffering was, really.

A bullet didn’t really have your name on it, a bee hasn’t been informed of your allergy to its sting, ponies have problems of their own to worry about. A mosquito doesn’t ask anyone if they feel up to a dose of malaria.

I happened to me, and I took the consequences.

The band struck up and it was correct to turn and face the music. Whatever else you did, you didn’t turn the music off. Au contraire. ‘Music, maestro, music!’ I learned from Mum and Dad: You danced through the worst days of your life; and you sat modestly admiring your very good legs on the rare occasions you triumphed. You suffered magnificently.

My parents suffered magnificently.

They’d loved this quality in each other.

Over and over they’d planted a flag on the summit of the highest peaks of their suffering, then they’d slid freely to whatever valley lay below and they made a life there. They faced unthinkable pain not with composure so much, but rather with defiance. A dozen times or more they’d done this, and I come back to this central point again and again; how did they survive it all?

I don’t know how they did it, I still don’t. In my experience there are certain kinds of pain that go through everything you can do about them. ‘Love conquers all,’ people say. But love doesn’t conquer all; or sure, perhaps love conquers all in the end, but not immediately. In the short term, a pain so terrible there are no words for it conquers all.”

Executive Editor Allison Wright
Excerpt from Travel Light, Move Fast, by Alexandra Fuller


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