As far as inaugural issues are concerned, The Liner’s maiden voyage couldn’t have gone much smoother. The journal includes short fiction, poetry, art, and photography along with an original questionnaire that corresponds to each author bio.
The issue opens with Gina Zupsich’s “Paris Underground: An Olfactive Journey,” a descriptive piece of second-person flash fiction that acts as a tour guide for readers, urging them to venture into “the heart of the city.” While this wasn’t my favorite story in The Liner, I enjoyed its placement; much like the narrator in this piece, the story seems to be mirroring the feeling readers get when they get lost in a good story, the nostalgia they have when they are forced to put it down.
As you finally regain your composure and proceed to your next destination, you find your steps slowing, moving you as if against your will away from that magical spot in the cross-current of chocolate, smoke and bodies. You feel a tinge of premature nostalgia for this most peculiar thing you have just experienced. And when you reach the outdoor air, you will have the briefest flashback to that glorious pain au chocolat.
Sherard Harrington’s “Ghouls and Goblins” is a compilation of nervousness, low self-esteem, absurdity, and uncomfortable silence, right from the beginning as the main character, a girl named Iowa tells us, “A red polo shirt, a beige cap, and dark khaki pants—I even borrowed my ex-boyfriend’s gold club. I was Tiger Woods that night. It was the easiest Halloween costume I had come up with since the third grade.”
The story follows the narrator’s friend Clint, who has big plans for having a great time on Halloween. He needs Iowa’s reassurance throughout the story, and when she “gently fish[es] Shaggy’s car keys out of his front pocket,” reminding her friends that she has to work in the morning, there is a sense of peace, or at least of stillness at the close of this story that indicates she may have succeeded, at least in saving this night for her friend.
Caitlin E. Thomson’s “Firefly: A Fable” and Lisa Wong Macabasco’s “The Next Morning” each embrace the absurd more in their flash fiction pieces, with Thomson’s short story of a relationship between two characters being heavily shrouded in cryptic metaphor, and Macabasco’s tale reading like a cross between Franz Kafka and Donald Barthelme:
I don’t know how to say this. One day, I woke up and I saw a part of myself I had never seen before. You can think of it as a third eye, a third arm, a patch of bright green skin, a furry tail. It was new, it was strange, and it was unknown, unexplored. I thought, I want to tell my good friends about this. Then I noticed they were all gone.
The poetry in The Liner is among my favorite kinds: brief, clear, poignant. My favorite was Kenneth Pobo’s “Sides,” a short poem that blends a sense of mathematical order, hierarchy, and predictability in suburban life (“Our neighbor Benny likes tools / TV, and kids, pretty much in that order”) with the difference in opinion that becomes so much more inflamed among people in close quarters (“Benny loathes / gay people. I’m being polite. He / loathes faggots. Benny scowls at us.”)
The poem is deceptive in its apparent simplicity; it tackles serious issues while remaining clear-headed and light-hearted, culminating in something that could be considered optimism:
Benny and Bjorn, who also dislike each other,
and Stan and I will find some pebble
of conversation that grows into a moon,
a planet, a galaxy, pretty much in
that order—and we can be off,
Fred, Ethel, Lucy, and Ricky
heading for California.
The Thornkin Questionnaire is a fun way to learn a bit more than just a bio line about authors, asking questions such as “What’s the first thing you think of in the morning?” and “What do you write with?” in addition to a normal bio. Overall, it gives the journal a distinct and intimate feel.
Visually, The Liner is absolutely stunning. The sleek cover design works well with the journal’s transatlantic and nautical theme, and the art and photography is some of the best I’ve ever seen in a literary journal.
When The Liner’s next voyage comes around, I’ll definitely be on board.