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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Elizabeth Alexander, whose memoir was a finalist in 2016 for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award and who wrote and recited an original poem at Barack Obama’s 2009 inaugural, will be the next president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the country’s largest humanities philanthropy.
Allison Wright, Executive Editor
The New York Times, February 7, 2018
(This isn’t 200 words, but it is the best thing I’ve read all week.)
In the United States, slavery is imagined as a singular event even as it changed over time and even as its duration expands into supposed emancipation and beyond. But slavery was not singular; it was, rather, a singularity—a weather event or phenomenon likely to occur around a particular time, or date, or set of circumstances. Emancipation did not make free Black life free; it continues to hold us in that singularity. The brutality was not singular; it was the singularity of anti-blackness.
Singularity: a point or region of infinite mass density at which space and time are infinitely distorted by gravitational forces and which is held to be the final state of matter falling into a black hole. (Merriam-Webster Online)
In what I am calling the weather, anti-blackness is pervasive as climate. The weather necessitates changeability and improvisation; it is the atmospheric condition of time and place; it produces new ecologies.
Ecology: the branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings; the political movement that seeks to protect the environment, especially from pollution.
Heidi Siegrist, Editorial Assistant
Excerpt from “The New Inquiry” by Christina Sharpe
‘You do think I could do some good at it, if I were to try?’ said Fred, more eagerly.
‘That depends,’ said Caleb, turning his head on one side and lowering his voice, with the air of a man who felt himself to be saying something deeply religious. ‘You must be sure of two things: you must love your work, and not be always looking over the edge of it, wanting your play to begin. And the other is, you must not be ashamed of your work, and think it would be more honourable to you to be doing something else. You must have a pride in your own work and learning to do it well, and not always be saying, There’s this and there’s that - if I had this or that to do, I might make something of it. No matter what a man is - I wouldn’t give twopence for him’ - here, Caleb’s mouth looked bitter, and he snapped his fingers - ‘whether he was the prime minister or the rick-thatcher, if he didn’t do well what he undertook to do.’
Kate Snyder, Editorial Intern
Excerpt from Middlemarch by George Eliot