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Week 1/26/20

PUBLISHED: February 2, 2020

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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“Who gives a $#%& about an Oxford comma?”

So goes one of my favorite lyrics by Vampire Weekend, and the answer to date has largely been: grammar nerds, Strunk & White and those who follow the infamous Chicago vs. AP style debate.

Now, we can add dairy driver to the list.

That’s because an appellate court recently ruled in favor of Maine dairy drivers in a labor dispute that hinged on the oft-debated piece of punctuation.

For anyone who’s ever wondered what all the fuss is about over Oxford commas, the circuit judge’s opinion says it all: “For want of a comma, we have this case.”

What is the Oxford comma?

For those in need of a grammar rules refresh, here’s why an extra comma matters.

The Oxford comma (or serial comma) is a comma placed between the last two items in a series of three or more.

Proponents of the Oxford comma say it’s necessary to avoid potential ambiguity.

Does AP style use the Oxford comma?

No. AP style (that’s the Associated Press stylebook, which many journalists live by) does NOT use an Oxford comma.

However, Chicago style (or the Chicago Manual of Style, which is commonly used by book publishers, academics and trade publications) DOES require an Oxford comma.

Business Manager Diane John
Excerpt from “Take That, AP Style! Court of Law Rules the Oxford Comma Necessary” in The Write Life


We live in the dregs of Queens, New York, where airplanes fly so low that we are certain they will crush us. On our block a lonely tree grows. Its branches tangle in power lines. Its roots upend sidewalks where we ride our bikes before they are stolen. Roots that render the concrete slabs uneven, like a row of crooked teeth. In our front yards, grandmothers string laundry lines, hang bedsheets, our brothers’ shorts, and our sneakers scrubbed to look brand new. Take those down! our mothers hiss. This isn’t back home. In front yards, not to be confused with actual lawns, grow tomatoes that have fought their way through the hard earth.

Our grandmothers refuse canes. Our brothers dress in wifebeaters. We all sit on stoops made of brick. The Italian boys with their shaved heads zoom by on bikes, staring, their laughter harsh as their shiny, gold chains. Our grandparents weed their gardens and our brothers smoke their cigarettes and, in time, stronger substances we cannot recognize. Whose scent makes our heads pulse. Our brothers, who ride on bikes, lifting their front wheels high into the air.

Assistant Editor Heidi Siegrist
Excerpt from “Brown Girls” in the Kenyon Review


They appeared over the summer, three identical wheatpaste posters of anthropomorphic hot dogs in buns, wearing sneakers and pedaling unicycles as they exclaimed in speech bubbles, “Hot dog!”

One, pasted to the side of the raised parking lot between Market and South Streets, was gone after about a week, but the others—on Cherry Avenue and West Main Street, stuck around. And then more started to pop up.

“A hard rain’s gonna fall,” warns a hot dog holding an umbrella on the Dewberry hotel skeleton. “Lockheed Martin stock increased 3.6% today,” its twin hollers from the side of another downtown building. “Rise up,” insists one standing atop a pair of stilts. “Shred the gnar,” “no war but class war,” say two others on skateboards.

A few weeks ago, the images appeared on Instagram under the handle @stilts_walker, and this reporter saw it as an opportunity to catch up with the artist, Charlottesville’s hot dog Banksy, if you will.

I slid into @stilts_walker’s DMs, expecting the wurst (“no way, you weenie”). But the artist agreed to an interview on three conditions: One, that we link up in the old Chili’s parking lot. Two, that I mention the location of our meeting in this story. And three, that their identity remain anonymous.

Social Media Intern Dan Goff
Excerpt from “Dog tales: Mysterious public art series uses frankfurters to make a point” in C-VILLE Weekly


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