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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I’ve been back to the U.S. frequently since I moved away three years ago, but these past two months have been by far the longest stretch. It has made me realize how much reading the newspapers from abroad is a poor means of knowing what it’s like at home right now—the American media…provide a hyper-concentrated shot of the highlights of public life, without any of the background texture for dilution. Some of the voices that I’d found clarifying from abroad…irritated me once I was home; relentlessly obvious and repetitive, they had maintained the same level of stupor for three years running…Extreme polarization, portrayed from afar as America’s sad new reality, was in fact an addiction….
I had doctor friends in New York who told me that they were using hydroxychloroquine in a limited way to treat certain COVID-19 patients…yet the moment that a small, partial, unrepresentative study came out suggesting that the drug might also cause serious side effects in other patients, the media shouted its head off about how wrong Trump had been. He was indeed wrong…[b]ut who did they think they were convincing? There is an unspoken moral imperative that Trump should never be right about anything, and that I understand; but are we doomed, then, to exist at the level of intransigence that he himself sets?
Associate Editor Alex Brock
Excerpt from “Make Yourself at Home” in the Point
With no clear directive from any authority—public schools were still open—I spent those 10 days sorting through the conflicting chatter, trying to decide what to do. And now I understood abruptly: I would lay everybody off, even my wife. Prune, my Manhattan restaurant, would close at 11:59 p.m. on March 15. I had only one piece of unemotional data to work with: the checking-account balance. If I triaged the collected sales tax that was sitting in its own dedicated savings account and left unpaid the stack of vendor invoices, I could fully cover this one last week of payroll.
By the time of the all-staff meeting after brunch that day, I knew I was right. After a couple of weeks of watching the daily sales dwindle—a $12,141 Saturday to a $4,188 Monday to a $2,093 Thursday—it was a relief to decide to pull the parachute cord. I didn’t want to have waited too long, didn’t want to crash into the trees. Our sous chef FaceTimed in, as did our lead line cook, while nearly everyone else gathered in the dining room. I looked everybody in the eye and said, “I’ve decided not to wait to see what will happen; I encourage you to call first thing in the morning for unemployment, and you have a week’s paycheck from me coming.”
Art Director Jenn Boggs
Excerpt from “My Restaurant Was My Life for 20 Years. Does the World Need It Anymore?” in the New York Times Magazine
I, like many parents, project my own neuroses onto my children and latch onto evidence that they’ve relinquished traits I dislike in myself. …It’s cathartic to see my son stand up for himself…
The second thing I admire is how he runs.
This one is simpler. My wife and I took him to a beach in South Georgia last summer, his first time to the ocean when the water was warm enough for swimming. The sand sloped downward to the sea, and the moment I set him on his feet he took off running, gaining momentum as he barreled toward the crashing water some 50 yards away. As I followed, I heard him begin to shout. Not in bursts, but a sustained howl, like what I imagine the thrill of parachuting from a skyborne airplane might provoke. He wore the biggest smile; I’ve rarely seen him so elated, before or since. That he could greet such a simple act with such exuberance suggested, to me, a capacity for generating his own happiness that I cherish and pray he never loses, that I hope running outdoors and filling his lungs with balmy ocean air will always hold for him.
Ahmaud Arbery loved to run, too.
Assistant Editor Heidi Siegrist
Excerpt from “Never Stop Running” in New York Magazine