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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“We live in a society in which overwork is treated as a badge of honor,” Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, an author and consultant who helps companies try out shorter workweeks, told me. “The idea that you can succeed as a company by working fewer hours sounds like you’re reading druidic runes or something.” But, he said, “we’ve had the productivity gains that make a four-day week possible. It’s just that they’re buried under the rubble of meetings that are too long and Slack threads that go on forever.”
Regardless of any benefits to businesses, stripping away all of work’s extra scaffolding and paying people the same amount for fewer hours—whether they’re salaried or paid hourly—would genuinely nurture human flourishing. It would make caregiving, personal development, and the management of modern life easier for people across the economic spectrum. And it would reignite an essential but long-forgotten moral project: making American life less about work.
Editor Paul Reyes
“Kill the 5-Day Workweek,” by Joe Pinsker, in the Atlantic
We stop in front of an overpass by the bayou. Mitsuko slips on some shades. Mike glances at me, and then he pulls something from his backpack: the urn. He looks at the top for a moment, and I flinch when he kisses it, because it’s the kiss you give something you know you won’t be seeing again, something you’ve been conflicted about for decades, your whole fucking life, and then Mike passes the urn to Mitsuko, and she doesn’t even think about it, she takes the urn and she opens it and the ashes fly right out of there.
We watch them dissolve in the air. They move through the sky, all at once. And bits of them sift, until they melt away so small that the eye can’t see, caught in the bridge’s wooden slats or in the river or into nothingness altogether, until we’re the only ones who’ll take the fact of their ever existing at all on with us, until we end up losing those memories, too, although even then they’ll probably be around somewhere. It isn’t very beautiful.
Mitsuko takes off her shades. I turn to Mike, and he shuts his eyes. His mother grasps the bridge’s railing, standing on her toes, and then she says, with her entire body, FUCK.
Reader Jacqui Shine
Excerpt from Memorial by Bryan Washington