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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I wake up, get out of bed, say good morning to my plant, unwrap a protein bar, and drink a liter of bottled water. I’m awake for five full minutes before remembering I might die today. When you get old, you get soft.
In the living room I stretch and do forty knee strikes, forty palm heel strikes, and side mountain climbers until sweat drips onto the concrete floor. I do elbow strikes until my shoulders burn, then I get on the treadmill, put the speed up to seven, and run until my thighs are on fire and my chest rasps, and then I run for five more minutes. I have to punish myself for forgetting exactly what the stakes are, especially today.
Editorial Intern Derby Carlson
excerpt from The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix
In the early days after your arrival, “Where are you from?” is, above all, a reminder of your unpreparedness to speak of the past. You have yet to shape your story—what you saw, why you left, how you left, and what it took to get here. This narrative is your personal Book of Genesis: The American Volume, the one you will sooner or later pen, in the mind if not on the page. You must take your time to do it well and to do it justice. In the midst of a dinner party, holding your wineglass just as your favorite Hollywood starlet holds hers, nodding your amiable nods, flashing the rehearsed smile of one whose lips are well accustomed to the contours of happiness, you cannot respond honestly to “Where are you from?” Amid the soft sound of jazz, the sweet scent wafting from a flickering candle, and the polite bustle of tuxedoed servers circulating bite-size delicacies on silver trays, the mention of your overturned dinghy, or the weeks and months of marching to get away from your violence-ridden hometown, followed by waiting in a reeking, disease-ridden camp, or the sirens signaling aerial bombings that drove you into the shelter is, well, anticlimactic. It is also unwise if you would like to see, perhaps for the first time, what promises a deliciously dim ambience can hold. You must treat your story as a conductor often treats his orchestra, only drawing on a few instruments at a time—one tale here, another there—and in good time and with trust, perhaps you can employ the entire ensemble.
Editor Paul Reyes
excerpt from A Beginner’s Guide to America by Roya Hakakian
To The Chair’s credit, it satirizes without picking a team, and resists the urge to make anyone ridiculous. (It’s also the rare gift that allows people with an English degree to feel fleetingly relevant, although it should come with a trigger warning for anyone who was ever lumbered with The Dream of the Rood.) Elegantly and briskly, Peet and Wyman skewer all the reasons campuses might be igniting in discontent: professors held to different standards depending on their race and gender. Students made very aware by their mounting debt and limited opportunities that things are harder for their generation than they were for any other. Elder statesmen who suddenly realize how little they matter now. “I used to bestride the world like Colossus,” Elliot mournfully tells his wife in one scene, as she brandishes a box of adult diapers at him. “Well, now you’re going to bestride it in Tranquility Briefs,” she replies.
Assistant Editor Heidi Siegrist
“The Chair Is Netflix’s Best Drama In Years,” by Sophie Gilbert, in the Atlantic