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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Photographs of children and parents drowning while trying to cross international borders force those of us living without the day-to-day reality of war, or the kind of violence that drives mass migration, to come to terms with a harsh truth: after more than a hundred years, we still don’t know what to do with photographs of war—or when to do it. LeDuc’s image of Óscar and Valeria Ramirez takes its place in a history of photographs that have bared the human consequences of a government’s violence and negligence. Such photographs incite a familiar cycle of shock, public outcry, distraction, and forgetting, leaving them to become an all-too-routine part of our modern visual world.
Director of Center for Media and Citizenship Siva Vaidhyahathan
Excerpt from “How Virginia Woolf and Susan Sontag Looked at Photos of Violence” in Lithub
I’m still in a fog. It seems for now that I’ll have to wait for the masters, present and future, to metabolize the shared experience. I look forward to that day. A song, a poem, a movie or a novel will finally point me in the general direction of where my thoughts and feelings about this whole thing are buried. When I get there, I’m sure I’ll still have to do some of the digging myself.
In the meantime, the planet keeps turning and life is still mysterious, powerful and astonishing. Or as you used to say with fewer adjectives and more poetry, nobody teaches life anything.
Editorial Intern Emily Sumlin
Excerpt from “A Letter to My Father, Gabriel García Márquez” in the New York Times
Marsh is not swamp. Marsh is a space of light, where grass grows in water, and water flows into the sky. Slow-moving creeks wander, carrying the orb of the sun with them to the sea, and long-legged birds lift with unexpected grace—as though not built to fly—against the roar of a thousand snow geese.
Then within the marsh, here and there, true swamp crawls into low-lying bogs, hidden in clammy forests. Swamp water is still and dark, having swallowed the light in its muddy throat. Even night crawlers are diurnal in this lair. There are sounds, of course, but compared to the marsh, the swamp is quiet because decomposition is cellular work. Life decays and reeks and returns to the rotted duff; a poignant wallow of death begetting life.
On the morning of October 30, 1969, the body of Chase Andrews lay in the swamp, which would have absorbed it silently, routinely. Hiding it for good. A swamp knows all about death, and doesn’t necessarily define it as tragedy, certainly not a sin. But this morning two boys from the village rode their bikes out to the old fire tower and, from the third switchback, spotted his denim jacket.
Business Manager Diane John
Excerpt from Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens