The writing in Split Lip pulls the reader in, immediately. All the pieces seem to have that attention-grabbing first line(s). Take these for example: “Jude discharges liquid through her mouth all morning. She suffers from the opposite of motion sickness—she can’t handle the stillness” (Genevieve Hudson’s “Even Wild Horses”). “It happens in a Hong Kong hooker hotel, / off Nathan Road. A round bed under mirrors, / girlie pinups gazing from candy-pink walls” (Lauren Tivey’s “The Breakdown Atlas). And: “You wake up on the toilet staring at your dick” (Sean Davis’s “Sudsy Penguins”). But, of course, first lines are the only part of the story. After each of these lines come excellent fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.
Davis’s nonfiction piece “Sudsy Penguins” is written in the second person and is a reality check that “you” need to get off the whiskey bottle and get back on track with life when you wake up with no memory of why you are in a foreign bathroom, one which is cleaner than yours and filled with “girl-shit like conditioner and colored bar soap and clean towels hanging neatly.” Humorously written, this small piece will speak to anyone who has woken up confused after a night of booze and (attempted) sex. Diane Payne’s “Damaged Goods” is also honest, admitting that no matter how far she gets in a relationship and how hard she works past an incident from the past, she will always be seen with baggage, and “No mother wants this for her son.”
Sean Lovelace contributes “May 11,” in which the narrator hates teaching so much that he starts “drowning in beer, rioting naked in beer—that won’t do!” Filled with excellent comparisons and imagery, this piece does not give the character a hopeful resolution: “Finally I go to Jaycee Park, where I find several bizarre steel baskets (I later learn they were constructed for a sport that involves Frisbees) and a large, pink, plastic sculpture in the shape of a hollow tree, much to my relief. I climb inside and read a little book (wet and wrinkled) of haiku and drink my seventh beer and sleep.”
In Kate Scarpetta’s “Four Eyes, One Rock,” the younger brother, who is narrating, is always into mischief—first electrocuting a cardinal, then, in an attempt to see what a lot of “real blood” looks like, dropping a sharp rock from the roof onto one of his classmate’s head: “It was even more beautiful than I had imagined. . . . He looked odd. Not because he had a hole in his head, but because he wasn’t wearing his glasses.”
I love when I see young magazines succeed so quickly. Split Lip has a handful of excellent authors and well written and engaging pieces of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. My only complaint is that when I went back to test my theory about the excellent first-lines in their archives, I couldn’t tell which pieces were from which issues—dating and labeling them would be more helpful.