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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In Māori legend, a woman’s tears, shed over a lover’s death, once froze into a giant glacier. You can, if so inclined, hike it today. They say the Weeping Rock at the peak of Turkey’s Mount Sipylus was once a woman named Niobe, who bragged about her virile husband and her many children in front of the wrong infertile goddess, and woke to find them all murdered, her legendary pride quashed under the weight of their bloody bodies. That’ll teach her not to be so full of herself, the townswomen said. She cried for so long that the gods took pity on her and turned her into an unfeeling stone. But soon, even the cold stone began to leak, and it sits to this day atop the mountain, crying rainwater over its dead men for all eternity. There is of course Daphne, who may or may not have been crying but was certainly on the verge of being grabbed and raped and perhaps murdered along the way, these things happen (What was she wearing? they’ll all want to know), when she was transformed into a tree, and so ask yourself. Or ask the Egyptians why the Nile overflows each year. (Or ask me: it’s because Isis cried so hard over Osiris that her tears made the great river rise.) They call it the Night of the Drop.
Reader Rob Shapiro
Excerpt from The Lightness by Emily Temple
I was under the impression that I had taken detailed notes throughout the experience, but when I opened the file called ‘quarantine’ I found it to be 158 words long and full of cryptic particles: ‘Masque of the Red Death. Statue of Pericles. Tigers.’ Fine, whatever: I’ll reconstruct the timeline using my photoroll, I thought, but that was even worse—instead of the screenshots of headlines and news stories I usually save, I found photosets of obscene ceramics featuring Kermit going down on Miss Piggy, and a bootleg T-shirt where Garfield was lounging in a hot tub and uttering the statement, i see some ladies tonight who should be havin’ my baby. These still wore a faint aura of hallucination, which was all that I could remember about them. Texts, too, were useless. To one friend I had sent a screenshot of Sinead O’Connor’s statement ‘I had been a Muslim all my life and I didn’t realise it’ with no further comment. The tesserae failed to form a picture, merely sat in the sun and winked. It seemed to mirror the fracture of information that had led us here in the first place—hence the people who appear actually to believe that the virus is being spread by 5G. I understand it. It would make so much sense if the internet was the thing that gave me this.
Editor Paul Reyes
Excerpt from “Insane after coronavirus?” in the London Review of Books
The Osage had been assured by the U.S. government that their Kansas territory would remain their land forever, but before long they were under siege from settlers. Among them was the family of Laura Ingalls Wilder, who later wrote Little House on the Prairie based on her experiences. “Why don’t you like Indians, Ma?” Laura asks her mother in one scene.
“I just don’t like them; and don’t lick your fingers, Laura.”
“This is Indian country, isn’t it?” Laura said. “What did we come to their country for, if you don’t like them?”
One evening, Laura’s father explains to her that the government will soon make the Osage move away: “That’s why we’re here, Laura. White people are going to settle all this country, and we get the best land because we get here first and take our pick.”
Though, in the book, the Ingallses leave the reservation under threat of being removed by soldiers, many squatters began to take the land by force. In 1870, the Osage—expelled from their lodges, their graves plundered—agreed to sell their Kansas lands to settlers for $1.25 an acre. Nevertheless, impatient settlers massacred several of the Osage, mutilating their bodies and scalping them. An Indian Affairs agent said, “The question will suggest itself, which of these people are the savages?”
Editorial Assistant Dan Goff
Excerpt from Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann