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Week of 9/29/19

PUBLISHED: October 4, 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


“Well, how are things with you?” Levin said, recollecting how wrong it was to be thinking only of himself.

Oblonsky’s eyes twinkled merrily.

“After all, you don’t admit that it might be possible to like rolls when you’ve got your full ration of bread—you think that’s a crime, but I don’t believe you can live without love,” he said, understanding Levin’s question in his own way. “There’s no help for it, that’s how I’m made. And really, it does so little harm to anyone and gives oneself so much pleasure—”

“What’s that, or is it something new again?”

“There is, my boy! You know Ossian’s type of woman, don’t you, the kind of woman you see in dreams? Well, there are women like that—and such women are terrible! Woman, you see, is the sort of subject matter that no matter how much you study it is always completely different.”

“Then it would be better not to study it at all.”

“No—some mathematician once said the pleasure was not in the discovery of the truth but in the search for it.”

Levin listened in silence; in spite of all his exertions he was quite unable to find his way into his friend’s soul and understand his feeling, or the charms of studying women of that kind.”

Podcast Producer Robert Armengol
Excerpt from Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy


It used to be that Ron Brown would work the storefronts of downtown San Antonio, trying to persuade homeless people to leave the city streets for a shelter.

Now the outreach worker’s daily missions take him more often to freeway overpasses and wooded areas outside town because the downtown homeless count has plummeted, from nearly 800 in 2010 to just over 100 last year.

The change reflects an unusual effort to deal with the homeless population in the city famous for the Alamo and the River Walk.

Guided by a retired oil and gas executive who has put millions of dollars into a personal vision, San Antonio has departed from the prevailing thinking of today’s homeless services establishment.

While federal policymakers and providers across the country espouse the “housing first” philosophy that strives to move people through shelters into permanent housing quickly, San Antonio has embraced a traditional model of extended shelter while encouraging personal transformation.

The vision is that of William E. Greehey, former chief executive of San Antonio-based refining giant Valero. In retirement, Greehey yearned for a cause.

He and his wife “could not figure out what I wanted to do that would make a difference,” Greehey said. “We prayed about it.”

His prayer was answered by a local television report on homelessness.

Business Manager Diane John
Excerpt from “Here’s how a Texas oilman’s vision spawned a homeless shelter extraordinaire” in the L.A. Times


‘So I see,’ he said. ‘There’s nothing there but that name.’

He raised the lantern and looked into my face.

‘I’ve written it deeper,’ I explained.

‘Is that right?’ he replied. ‘If you want to continue, I’ll give you a hoe.’

‘Give it to me,’ I said.

The guard gave me the hoe, then went off again, and with the hoe I dug and wrote the name deep into the ground. In truth I would have inscribed it as far down as seams of coal or iron are found, down to the most secret metals, which bear ancient names. But the guard came back again and said: ‘You have to leave now. It’s closing time.’

I climbed out of the name ditch.

‘All right,’ I replied.

I put down the hoe, wiped my brow and looked at the city around me, through the dark trees.

‘All right,’ I said. ‘All right.’

The guard grinned.

‘She hasn’t come, right?’

‘She hasn’t come,’ I said.

But immediately afterwards I asked: ‘Who hasn’t come?’

‘Damn it!’ the guard said. ‘The person with the name.’

He shook his lantern, rattled his keeps, and added: ‘If you’d like to wait a little longer, don’t mind me.’

‘That isn’t what matters,’ I said. ‘But thanks.’

Editorial Intern Isabella Ciambotti
Excerpt from Names and Tears by Elio Vittorini


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