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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For seven years I tried not to remember too much because there was too much to remember, and I didn’t want to fall any further behind with the events of my life. I still don’t have a vegetable garden. I still haven’t been to France. I have gone to bed with enough people that they seem like actual people now, but while I was going to bed with them I thought I was catching up. I am sorry. I had lost what seemed like a lot of time.
Editorial Intern Emily Sumlin
Excerpt from The Two Kinds of Decay by Sarah Manguso
This is an argument against nihilism.
It begins with me lying on the floor of my office before class. I’ve brought in an old yoga mat and two one-pound packages of rice, which I’ve wrapped in a canvas Trader Joe’s bag and placed on my chest. I’m taking slow breaths, preparing myself under my makeshift weighted blanket to have yet another overwhelming conversation with students about this unit’s topic, “Information Disorder, or, the Mess We’re In.”
“Mess” is an understatement. We’re barely a month into 2020, and there have already been too many contenders for its most dear-god moment. The White House tweeting a “first snow of the year!” picture on an unseasonably, unnervingly warm winter’s day. Facebook banning misleading manipulated media except in cases of satire, parody, or when a video is edited to omit or change the order of words: a policy best described as a slice of Swiss cheese that’s mostly holes. Donald Trump’s defense lawyers showcasing a bizarre-o world curio cabinet of alternative impeachment facts.
Director of Center for Media and Citizenship Siva Vaidhyanathan
Excerpt from “The Internet is a Toxic Hellscape—But We Can Fix It” in WIRED
Comics are often likened to short stories and novels, or (more improbably) animated films, but in a sense they are also a kind of poetry, an incantation beckoning us to enter their world. The simplicity of their superficial concision can reveal surprising density, layers, and multivalence. In a poem, lines might form and fill a stanza, which literally means “room”; and so it is with comics, where panels could likewise be thought of as stanzas. Rows, columns, and/or stair-steps of panels, in turn, structure a page (or an entire story) of comics and give it its particular cadence. Even the simplest grid tattoos its rhythmic structure onto the page.
The one-page story “Jump Shot” by Lynda Barry (1988), an installment of her comic strip series Ernie Pook’s Comeek, comprises, to put it into the simplest, crudest terms, a large square box subdivided into four smaller square boxes. Inside each box is a view into one room, containing just one character, a young girl, in successive moments. This is as elemental as comics get: one character in one space, in one continuous action, spanning just a few panels, all housed within an evenly sectioned grid.
Associate Editor Alex Brock
Excerpt from “Comics as Poetry” in the Paris Review