I love a good theme. And what better theme is there for the current state of affairs than "lean times"?
In the middle of Red Line Blues 7, a lovely little saddle-stapled journal, with a linen-esque cover and hand-pulled screen print, there are three color reproductions of Charles Farrell's collage-like art: objects that don't belong together collide on the page and form something unexpected and harmonious, despite their disparities. I feel like Farrell's art is a good metaphor for what many in the US are doing right now, and what others around the world have been doing for ages—making something out of nothing.
Red Line Blues gathers together much good work between its covers. It features both poetry and prose, though more of the latter. Unlike other journals that distinguish between fiction and nonfiction, Red Line Blues does not, leaving the reader to conjecture over what is true within its pages, and what is not. Ultimately, it doesn't matter; the stories are well written and drew me right in.
My favorite piece was Blake Kimzey's story, "Torch," which relates the misadventures of Frank, a down-on-his-luck anti-hero, who, in order to support a drug addiction, is trying to arrange the sale of his mother’s home, currently occupied by his aging aunt who has Alzheimer's. His mother seems unable to fully stand up to Frank, and he has struck up an unorthodox relationship with the realtor. "Torch" propels itself along, using just the right amount of description and well-tuned dialogue, and at times is downright comical.
Jasmine Hunter's "How to Make an Easy Buck" follows a call girl through one night. Told in a clipped tone, it is completely unsentimental; like the narrator, this piece is unapologetic. But it is also a look into the sad, hidden lives of men and their desires, what they do in order to feel fulfilled. In the final scene, when danger looms large, the narrator's well-honed survival skills get her out unscathed. Despite some intimate revelations into what makes the narrator tick, the final sentence shows that she has no plans to change her lifestyle, as long as it serves her purposes.
Albert Podell's "Milk Money: Two Cows and the World Financial Crisis" is quite obviously fiction (though it is based on a true story). It is a hilarious satire on the global economy's recent meltdown. In the spirit of Orwell's Animal Farm, the main players here are two cows, named Elsie and Maybelle. Subprime mortgages, outsourcing, pipeline building, and water-boarding all make an appearance, and I was laughing out loud by the time I got to the end. It feels wonderful to have someone make me laugh about the dire state of the world.
Red Line Blues 7 ends with a prose poem from Laura Cronk, "Having Been Bitten," that perfectly captures the perpetual desire to purchase and own new things. Many of the lines begin "Wanting...", creating a rhythmic momentum. There is a beauty to this desire, despite its never-ending cycle. This is a beauty that is completely unlike the hodge-podge beauty I mentioned above, but they are not, as this journal shows us, unrelated.