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
Giving someone your lighter could mean everything (why else would the art teacher still be telling the story?) or nothing. A lighter can be an heirloom, or an afterthought like pocket change. Giving someone a light can mean more. Paul Henreid puts two cigarettes in his mouth, close together, and uses a single flame from his lighter on both. He gives one of the cigarettes to Bette Davis. It means something. It’s the scene from the movie Now, Voyager that everyone remembers. Henreid lights Davis’s cigarette in two previous scenes, but nobody talks about those. They’re conventional lightings, though the first one gives him the chance to stare into her eyes and wonder what makes her so speciala not uncommon use of cigarette lighters in the movies.
Before re-watching Now, Voyager I had misremembered. I thought that in the key scene he lit her cigarette from the burning tip of his own, a romantic flourish for which authors of the spirited collage The Cigarette Book provide the “semantically obscure slang term” (though I’m not so mystified) a “Dutch fuck.” In Green’s Dictionary of Slang, too, the purpose of the Dutch fuck is cynically boiled down to “saving matches.” But surely by zeroing in on the supposed frugality of the Dutch, both sources are overlooking with perverse obtuseness—the intense intimacy at play. At the moment when the upright psychiatrist played by Lindsay Crouse decides to align herself with “bad man” Joe Mantegna in Mamet’s House of Games, she gives him a Dutch fuck. It has been established that she can lay hands on plenty of matches and has just used a lighter, too. Obviously, something else is going on.
Editor Paul Reyes
Excerpt from Cigarette Lighter by Jack Pendarvis
I found gay boys, by the way, to be notably more willing and able than others to negotiate the terms of a sexual encounter — they had to be, since who was going to do what with whom could not be assumed. They often seemed puzzled by heterosexuals’ reticence. “I don’t know why straight guys see consent as a mood-killer,” one college sophomore said. “I’m like, ‘if we’re talking, that means we’re going to have sex — this is great!’”
Dan Savage, the syndicated sex advice columnist, refers to “the four magic words” gay guys will use during a sexual encounter: What are you into?” That’s a very different perspective than that of straight boys, who usually aim for one-word assent to options they define. I do fear, though, that since girls, as I’d previously found, are so often disconnected from their bodies’ desires and responses, their answer to an authentic conversation-starter might well be, “I have no idea.” What might happen, though, if teenagers learned to start talking to each other that way early on?
Executive Editor Allison Wright
Excerpt from “Will We Ever Figure Out How to Talk to Boys About Sex?” in the New York Times
We too can become disassociated and lose our identity. We can be possessed and altered by moods, or become unreasonable and unable to recall important facts about ourselves or others, so that people ask: “What the devil has got into you?” We talk about being able “to control ourselves,” but self-control is a rare and remarkable virtue. We may think we have ourselves under control; yet a friend can easily tell us things about ourselves of which we have no knowledge.
Audio Intern Sydney Halleman
Excerpt from Man and His Symbols by Carl Jung