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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What has been exposed here are some of the complicated, painful, difficult dynamics that have kept women from the presidency for the country’s entire history. Among those dynamics is the chilling fact that talking in any kind of honest way about marginalization becomes a trap for the marginalized. To acknowledge the realities of running as a woman—the double standards, the higher bars, the demands for likability and relatability in a nation that mostly only relates to and likes dudes; the need to be authoritative but not hectoring; to be smart but not a know-it-all; to be cool but not fake; to be warm but not a mommy; to be maternal but not too soft; to have the contours of your life, from your breasts to your skin-care routines to your maternity leaves, treated as foreign and weird and maybe counterfeit by a political media that’s never had to take this stuff seriously before; to be honest but not actually tell the truth about any of this stuff because you’ll sound like a whiner—is a trap. You will be understood as trying to leverage the bleak unfairness of it all to your benefit: as if you are the one to enter the arena with the advantage of getting to cry “Sexism!” and not with the multiple disadvantages of… sexism.
Art Director Jenn Boggs
Excerpt from “The Third Rail of Calling ‘Sexism’ ” in The Cut
At his best, Hrabal is a devotee of blood and spittle—but, in “All My Cats,” he is at risk of capitulating to the worst kind of domestication. As he drives to visit his cats once more, he feels less like a killer and more like one of the Chagallian cows, “a calf on its way to slaughter.” What hounds Hrabal is not the prospect of death so much as the exhausting claims that life continues to lay on him. He longs to sever his ties with his pets precisely because he dreams of abdicating his final responsibilities.
But the cats retain an appetite for survival that Hrabal cannot quash: no matter how many kittens he kills, new litters spring to life. In a fit of desperation, he contemplates suicide. And yet, he concludes, “I didn’t want to hang myself. I wanted to be in the world. There were still things I wanted to write, even if it were only this indictment about how I betrayed my tomcat.” In the end, Hrabal’s cats keep him alive—and not only because they appeal to his overdeveloped sense of guilt. They also incite him to frenzies of violence. And Hrabal knows better than anyone that our animality is what makes us human.
Social Media Intern Dan Goff
Excerpt from “The Violent Insights of Bohumil Hrabal” in the New Yorker
I wasn’t good at pretending, that was the thing. After what had happened in that burning house, given what went on there, I could see no point in being anything other than truthful with the world. I had, literally, nothing left to lose. But, by careful observation from the sidelines, I’d worked out that social success is often built on pretending just a little. Popular people sometimes have to laugh at things they don’t find very funny, or do things they don’t particularly want to, with people whose company they don’t particularly enjoy. Not me. I had decided, years ago, that if the choice was between that or flying solo, then I’d fly solo. It was safer that way. Grief is the price we pay for love, so they say. The price is far too high.
Editorial Intern Emily Sumlin
Excerpt from Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman