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Week 12/1/19

PUBLISHED: December 8, 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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I would say the film unfolded before us, but by the time it was over, it felt more accurate to say it had happened to us. We had no defense against its onslaught of fear, pain, hope, love, tragedy. When we left the screening room, we went to separate bathrooms to compose ourselves. I put my sunglasses on because I was bawling, my whole torso heaving. Two weeks earlier, I took a risk on some dicey food from the back of my fridge and rapidly wound up on my knees, racked and convulsing in a way that I hadn’t in years. Now, alone in the cold tile bathroom of a San Francisco office building after a film screening, I found myself in a nearly shot-for-shot remake of that experience. I felt the same way I had while submitting to illness: unable to keep a grip on the arbitrary state of normalcy, of not being in tears all the time. I needed to compose myself. I was, after all, at work. It felt like both an impossible task and an unfair one. How was I supposed to see what I had just seen and then go make professional small talk with the friendly young P.R. people who arranged the screening? They were white, and though they had seen what we just saw, we could not be sure that they had felt what we just felt.

Outside, the two of us wandered in a daze through the financial district until we found a place to sit down and breathe, on a curb in the courtyard of an office building. We could not talk, really. We smoked cigarettes and watched a man in a bright blue logoed polo shirt packing up the small tables people had been sitting at and sweeping up the trash they left behind, a black man laboring in an overwhelmingly white part of a mainly white city. We watched how people ignored him, a thing we may have noticed even more deeply because we felt invisible, too. We were carrying this movie with us. Everything the story meant. Everything it felt like. To be in love and to have that love so close to death. To be hated, hunted and afraid, to need to be fearless in order to survive. To know that loving someone, truly loving someone, means holding them while everything around you is falling—even pieces of you are falling—into an abyss. To know that nothing else can matter besides that kind of love. Surrounded by white people with badges on lanyards, button-up shirts and slacks, eating takeaway salads from plastic clamshells, we felt, together, so utterly alone.

Editor Paul Reyes
Excerpt from “ ‘Queen & Slim’ Could Be One of the Great Love Stories of All Time—if You Let It” in the New York Times Magazine


Three hours out of Red Hook and the closest thing New Jersey has to Sin City glitters on the horizon. The Red Hook seniors shift in their plush seats, ready for the dollar bets and spinning cherries of the slot machines. BarBarBar, Cherry, $, Bell, BarBar.

At the casino, we each get a twenty-five dollar comp card, like all the other visiting groups. Some of the ladies attach the card to a spiral cord hooked to their belts or bags so they won’t lose it. They take turns taking selfies while they wait in line. Carmen, in yellow head to toe, teaches me her casino rituals: Play the comp card till you’re up, cash it out, hide your money, and don’t tell a soul what you win. “They’ll be jealous,” she says.

On the slots there’s a button that calls a waitress. The cheap coffee is endless. We lose track of the time. We grow accustomed to the overwhelming dings and jingles and the chime of fake change falling onto fake metal.

Art Director Jenn Boggs
Excerpt from “Tropicana Day Trip” in the Virginia Quarterly Review


But the biggest challenge came in 1990 with the reunification of East and West Germany. Not just because of a new set of suppliers, taxes and rules, but because a new universe of customers expected a different set of offerings.

Konnopke’s started selling French fries. The currywurst, which used to be served with a bun and a hot mug of broth, is now cut up and served on a paper plate. (A tiny plastic fork is provided.)

Wedding parties can now reserve tables in a roofed-over pavilion, which was opened in 2011, after the last major renovation, and seats 35. ‘I put out tablecloths and little bouquets,’ said Ms. Ziervogel.

And there are now vegan currywursts.

On the outside wall of the gold-colored-metal shop hangs a black-and-white postcard picture featuring a much smaller stand in the 1960s (before two rebuilds, in 1983 and 2010). In the shot, a young boy looks up at the store in front of him as his mother faces away from the camera.

“At least once a week, we have someone telling us: ‘I’m that little boy,’” Ms. Konnopke said.

Editorial Intern Annie Yanofsky
Excerpt from “Beloved Berlin Currywurst Stand Delivers a Bite of History” in the New York Times


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