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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The second man she had loved more, the most. He was the one she had been engaged to, but had not married. His name was Henry. He had drowned in the Mississippi the day before they were to be wed. They never even found the body. He had a marker in the cemetery, but it was a sham. All her life, Karen had heard those stories about fiancés dying the day before the wedding, and then it had happened to her.
Henry and some of his friends, including his best friend, Sydney Bean, had been sitting up on the railroad trestle that ran so far and across that river, above the wide muddiness. Louisiana and trees on one side; Mississippi and trees, and some farms, on the other side. There had been a full moon and no wind, and they were sitting above the water, maybe a hundred feet above it, laughing, and drinking Psychos from the Daiquiri World over in Delta, Louisiana. The Psychos were rum and Coca-Cola and various fruit juices and blue food coloring. They came in Styrofoam cups the size of small trash cans, so large they had to be held with both hands. Sydney had two of them; Henry, three.
Henry had stood up, beaten his chest like Tarzan, shouted, and then dived in. It had taken him forever to hit the water. The light from the moon was good, and they had been able to watch him all the way down.
Reader Suzie Eckl
Excerpt from “Wild Horses” by Rick Bass
What stood out the most was the show’s protagonist: a young woman who stereotypically would have been a monster movie victim, with the script flipped: instead of screaming and swooning, she staked the vampires. This was deliberate, the core conceit of the concept, as Whedon said in many, many interviews. The helpless horror movie girl killed in the dark alley instead walks out victorious. He told Time in 1997 that the concept was born from the thought, “I would love to see a movie in which a blond wanders into a dark alley, takes care of herself and deploys her powers.” In Whedon’s framing, it was particularly important that it was a woman who walked out of that alley. He told another publication in 2002 that “the very first mission statement of the show” was “the joy of female power: having it, using it, sharing it.”
In 2021, when seemingly every new streaming property with a woman as its central character makes some half-baked claim to feminism, it’s easy to forget just how much Buffy stood out among its against its contemporaries. Action movies—with exceptions like Alien’s Ripley and Terminator 2’s Sarah Conner—were ruled by hulking tough guys with macho swagger. When women appeared on screen opposite vampires, their primary job was to expose long, lovely, vulnerable necks. Stories and characters that bucked these larger currents inspired intense devotion, from Angela Chase of My So-Called Life to Dana Scully of The X-Files.
Assistant Editor Heidi Siegrist
Excerpt from “The Rise and Fall of Joss Whedon, and the Myth of the Hollywood Feminist Hero”, by Kelly Faircloth, in Jezebel
I found the deadspot, or it found me, just as I poled up to the huge, broken molars of the seawall’s northern end. Three hundred yards behind me, the bald mangroves lifted onto their tiptoes, as if they, too, were surprised to find this barrier still standing. I could hear its secret skeleton, the weep holes and the reinforcement rods. I heard, as well, the gargling cracks where the wall had failed at the waterline. Pointy barnacles covered the eroded stone, dissipating my song; it seemed possible that in another hundred years they might fuse together into a single speckled shell. I was poling through a pocket of dense red algae that had collected around the wall’s concave edge when something astonishing happened to me. The echoes ceased entirely. My sisters’ singing fell away, and I was alone. The suddenness of this silence shocked me more than any detonation could have done. The deep sonority of our chorus vanished, and all I could hear was a single, flattened cry. This, I realized, was my voice—separated from the others. Fear spun me around: What had happened to my sisters? Somehow, it seemed, I had poled out of range; I was floating in a kind of deadspot.
Editorial Intern Melissa Zhu
Excerpt from “The Gondoliers” by Karen Russell