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Week 8/2/20

PUBLISHED: August 10, 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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Both armies lie dead. Two great empires broke themselves here, each a reef to the other’s hull. That is what she came to do. From their ashes others will rise, more suited to her Agency’s needs. And yet.

There was another on the field—no groundling like the time-moored corpses mounded by her path, but a real player. Someone from the other side.

Few of Red’s fellow operatives would have sensed the opposing presence. Red knows only because red is patient, solitary, careful. She studied for this engagement. She modeled it backward and forward in her mind. When ships were not where they were supposed to be, when escape pods that should have been fired did not, when certain fusillades came thirty seconds past their cue, she noticed.

Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.

But why? Red has done what she came to do, she thinks. But wars are dense with causes and effects, calculations and strange attractors, and all the more so are wars in time. One spared life might be worth more to the other side than all the blood that stained Red’s hands today. A fugitive becomes a queen or a scientist or, worse, a poet. Or her child does, or a smuggler she trades jackets with in some distant spaceport. And all this blood for nothing.

Reader Jacqui Shine
Excerpt from This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone


The storyline, then, is full of emotional boom and bust, having little more eventfulness than the Dan Hicks song “How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away.” Rooney throws small, surmountable obstacles in the lovers’ path, but they are too young to realize that a little gravel is not a wall. When one of them goes back to Carricklea, the other remains in Dublin. And vice versa. They are constantly leaving each other so the narrative can have them meet up again. Their love is both a sacred space—it can’t be successfully integrated into the rest of the world—and a disposable arrangement. Because of the flimsiest misunderstandings, they back away from each other to embark on something quite inferior, only to return to each other later. Aside from some statements that personal growth has occurred (we’ll take their word for it), that is pretty much it for plot, over a five-year period. There are some tears. Some cutting. Some drunkenness.

But it is heaven to watch.

Executive Editor Allison Wright
Excerpt from “The Balletic Millennial Bedtimes of ‘Normal People’ ” in the New York Review of Books


on days like this—first sunlight, then rain, then sun again—
is what the soul
                                 (the early draft’s choice word) seems closest to.

Impenitent wanderer, lonely itinerant gone from the creature
so long you start
                                 to wonder—first in a whisper, then louder,
then so loud it becomes law and, being law, is truth—if it was
ever there at all…

Art Director Jenn Boggs
Excerpt from “Breaclá” in TriQuarterly


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