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Week of 10/20/19

PUBLISHED: October 26, 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. 

Click here for access to the complete project archive


There are, inevitably, crying babies and overexcited children who have simply had enough four hours into a seven-hour flight. I actually don’t mind the children and feel quite a lot of tenderness toward them on a plane because I, too, want to not be on a plane. I, too, want to cry and be held. What I mind is all the adults who sigh and roll their eyes and mutter under their breath while children act like children and are generally doing the best they can as their parents pray for mercy or death.

One should never wear socks or go barefoot into an airplane bathroom though this happens with alarming frequency. Airplane bathrooms are filthy. The floor is always damp with wetness that is probably not water. And still, (white) people blithely traipse in and out of that filthy bathroom, and up and down the aisles without their shoes on and when they get home, they probably get into their beds, unwashed, contaminating their sheets with airplane pee.

Have you ever been on a flight where only one person has left their window shade open, blinding the rest of the otherwise darkened cabin with piercing sunlight? That’s a real treat. Men talk too loudly in airport lounges, letting everyone within hearing range know they are very important business men talking about very important business that is also very urgent. They sit in their seats, spreading their legs vulgarly because they want everyone to believe they have massive testicles in addition to very important business to attend to. It’s exhausting.

Executive Editor Allison Wright
Excerpt from “The Case for Checking a Bag” in Gay Mag


Here is what I learned once I began studying whooping cranes: only a small part of studying them has anything to do with the birds. Instead we counted berries. Counted crabs. Measured water salinity. Stood in the mud. Measured the speed of the wind.

It turns out, if you want to save a species, you don’t spend your time staring at the bird you want to save. You look at the things it relies on to live instead. You ask if there is enough to eat and drink. You ask if there is a safe place to sleep. Is there enough here to survive?

Wading through the muck of the Aransas Reserve I understood that every chance for food matters. Every pool of drinkable water matters. Every wolfberry dangling from a twig, in Texas, in January, matters. The difference between sustaining life and not having enough was that small.

If there were a kind of rehab for people ashamed to have needs, maybe this was it. You will go to the gulf. You will count every wolfberry. You will measure the depth of each puddle.

Assistant Editor Heidi Siegrist
Excerpt from “The Crane Wife” in the Paris Review


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