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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Jones had struck me, over the months I was in conversation with him, as if he was searching for the next summit and feeling stymied. I found this surprising—it was almost impossible for me to think of a better life at 20—but listening to him and Henry talk, it started to make sense. Skateboarding prefigured an influencer economy that has come to overtake everything. Now anyone can aspire to work without really working, document it and then have some brand pay them to do it. And if they succeed, they can probably make way more money than someone as gifted as Tyshawn Jones can, hemmed in as he is by the size of the industry and the subcultural norms that have shaped it—and him. These norms have both benefited him and circumscribed his potential; they prevented skateboarding from becoming something as boring as a sport, but as a result, Jones may never be recognized as the world-class athlete he arguably is.
It was the week of the N.B.A. Finals, and the two began to discuss the truly galling amount of money basketball players make. ‘‘Throwing a ball in a hoop!’’ Jones said, dismissively. ‘‘Curry got $237 million for five years.’’ It hadn’t occurred to me just how rote the work of an athlete might look to a pro skater, who must do so much more than just perform. He has to find spots, think of tricks, overcome not just his fears but also the police, Good Samaritans, cracks in the pavement, rain. And only once that chaos has been mitigated can he try to perform, to write one little line in the canon of an insular subculture. Henry joked that her son had gotten into the wrong sport entirely.
‘‘Throwing a ball in a hoop,’’ he said again. ‘‘That [expletive] is crazy!’’
Editor Paul Reyes
Excerpt from “King of Pop” in the New York Times
Even if they make it to dorms on leafy-green campuses, disadvantaged students still live in poverty’s long shadow. They worry about those back home just as much as those back home worry about them. At Amherst, I would get messages, in the few moments I had between lunch and lab, announcing that someone needed something: $75 for diabetes medicine or $100 to turn the lights back on. One day a call announced that a $675 mortgage payment needed to be paid. It wasn’t the first time. I was annoyed. I was mad that I was annoyed. Was I not the future they had invested in all these years? Did I have enough to spare? Were they expecting the whole thing? How much time did I have? This was before apps like Venmo that allow you to send money to anyone instantly, so it would take almost three hours, start to finish, to get to the nearest Walmart, on Route 9, to send a bit of spare cash home by MoneyGram. That ride on the B43 bus was as lonely as it was long.
Art Director Jenn Boggs
Excerpt from “I Was a Low-Income College Student. Classes Weren’t the Hard Part.” in the New York Times Magazine
I kept myself alive.
Social Media Intern Dan Goff
“Widow’s First Year,” by Joyce Carol Oates