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Week 1/18/21

PUBLISHED: January 23, 2021

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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After 35 years of sharing everything from a love for jazz music to tubes of lip gloss, twins Kimberly and Kelly Standard assumed that when they became sick with Covid-19 their experiences would be as identical as their DNA.

The virus had different plans.

Early last spring, the sisters from Rochester, Michigan, checked themselves into the hospital with fevers and shortness of breath. While Kelly was discharged after less than a week, her sister ended up in intensive care.

Kimberly spent almost a month in critical condition, breathing through tubes and dipping in and out of shock. Weeks after Kelly had returned to their shared home, Kimberly was still relearning how to speak, walk and chew and swallow solid food she could barely taste.

Nearly a year later, the sisters are bedeviled by the bizarrely divergent paths their illnesses took.

“I want to know,” Kelly said, “why did she have Covid worse than me?”

Since the new coronavirus first shuddered into view, questions like the one posed by Ms. Standard have spurred scientific projects around the globe. Among the 94 million infections documented since the start of the outbreak, no two have truly been alike, even for people who share a genetic code.

Identical twins offer researchers a ready-made experiment to untangle the contributions of nature and nurture in driving disease. With the help of twin registries in the United States, Australia, Europe and elsewhere, researchers are confirming that genetics can affect which symptoms Covid-19 patients’ experience. These studies have also underscored the importance of the environment and pure chance: Even between identical twins, immune systems can look vastly different — and continue to grow apart over the course of a lifetime.

Business Manager Diane John
Excerpt from “Twins with Covid Help Scientists Untangle the Disease’s Genetic Roots” , by Katherine J. Wu, in the New York Times


Drift loves lists. Drift is tide, gravity, storm, waves, wind, gyre & coastal aspect, among other things. Drift also acknowledges its debts to the plastics & fishing industries, & to the global capital flows that determine prevailing trade currents. Drift looks drastically disorganized to the untrained eye but is in fact a micro-manager of obsessive-compulsive tidiness. Drift’s favourite holiday destination is two tiny cove-beaches on the English south coast, one of which gathers right-handed gloves in its jetsam & the other of which gathers left-handed gloves in its jetsam.

Drift is consistently underestimated by those who encounter it. Drift is frequently seen as lacking any clear direction in life. Drift’s school reports repeatedly drew attention to its lack of commitment, its inability to settle on a single course of action. Weary careers advisers submitted Drift to the usual psychometric aptitude tests, which remarkably did not recommend that Drift become either a prison warden or a zookeeper, but nevertheless failed to conclude that Drift had a single clear path in life. Afloat on the job market, however, Drift began quietly to impress in its various workplaces with its skills of improvisational spontaneity, untiring gathering, its devotion to habitat creation & its ecumenical readiness to admit all-comers to its care.

Drift is highly discriminatory but wholly without prejudice.

Drift relishes equally the company of sea-coal, Lego Star Wars figures, barnacles & gull feathers. Drift is fully reconciled to the unattached life. Drift has been known to unite shoes with long-lost partners & more generally to matchmake wholly unlikely relationships, but also to be the cause of unnumbered break-ups. Drift speaks an unpretentious tongue, a mongrel patois pate of this-&-that, bodged into anyoldcreole.

When you’re with Drift, time does really strange things. Drift is one of those friends who make sequence shiver, lay out odd things side by side, fully disassemble the normal for a while. Today with Drift is pre-Cambrian, today with Drift is Anthropocene.

Editor Paul Reyes
Excerpt from Ghostways: Two Journeys in Unquiet Places by Robert MacFarlane, Stanley Donwood, and Dan Richards


Rather than remember him as he was, we have transformed Dr. King into a kind of innocuous Black Santa Claus, genial and vacant, a benign vessel that can be filled with generic good wishes. These misrepresentations remain convenient for those who are long on words and short on deeds, or who cannot grasp that there is not one correct ideology to address all our dilemmas. The radicalism of Dr. King’s thought, the confrontational nature of his methods, and the public rebukes that he offered to American capitalism and militarism have given way to a sugar-coated caricature that never existed. The real Martin Luther King Jr. remains complex, to say the least, a challenge to his critics in the movement and his enemies in the neo-liberal national security state, and immensely inconvenient to all.

Reader Rob Shapiro
Excerpt from “Our inconvenient American icon: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jan. 15, 1929-April 4, 1968”, by Tim Tyson, in Chatham News + Record


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