Are you up for a side trip to Bat City? The landscape is compelling and the water’s fine. Compiled and produced by the University of Texas at Austin, the Bat City Review demands, as Editor Caleb Klaces states, “to be read closely.” Jam-packed with wonderfully wrought poetry and provocative prose, this issue is the perfect companion to take along on a weekend trip or for curling up by the fire on a chilly evening.
I am a lover of stories, and there is a part of me that has abhorred “literary prose” that, many times, feels lofty and “too smart.” The short stories in Bat City, while literary, are grounded by genuine emotion and characters we can connect with. In “Poduszka” we meet Jenny and Leo, a young couple at the cusp of change. With Jenny as the narrator, writer Aja Gabel explores the adventures in communication—and miscommunication—that take place in intimate relationships, and how that communication is influenced by our experiences, families and mores.
In contrast to this earthy story, “Dearly” by Sara Flood is surreal and psychologically disturbing. Flood cleverly draws the reader into an Orwellian landscape, holding the hands of our protagonists, Wendy and Henry, a sickly, elderly couple caught in a futuristic world without hope of survival. When Wendy rebels, the story takes a turn and we learn that this futuristic world was created and exists only in her husband’s mind, and that he has forced his wife—by way of a drug-induced stupor—along for the ride through his psychosis.
The story “Dearly” seems to fit hand-in-hand with the compelling cover art, Camelot, by oil painter Echo Eggebrecht. The image depicts a barren landscape populated only by jackals and figures that are conquistadors at one moment and alien beings at another. This painting is the perfect gateway for the prose and poetry that lies within Volume 7.
The poetry compiled between the pages of Bat City is visual, visceral and risky. “The Fair Incognito” by Averill Curdy is a longish piece that plays like a beautifully shot 1940’s film:
strips event. Each patron
believes she smiles for him alone,
gulled by the moth-wing deceptions
of her eyes. . . .
The last poetry selection, David Wagoner’s “The Last Dream,” anchors the collection appropriately. It begins:
You aren’t quite asleep.
What you can see right now
and what you can almost hear
is a play behind your eyelids
(which are so heavy
they might as well be light),
and it’s no longer a story
in the same shifting, shifty
the usual quick-change sets. . . .
Finally, the collection of prints by artist Anthony Campuzano sandwiched in the middle of the collection is meaty and thought-provoking. Campuzano uses paint, ink and graphite to transform his love of writing, reading and words into works of art.
As you journey through Bat City Review, you may come upon sights and landscapes that fascinate, frighten, repel or attract. Whatever the case, I think you might want to hunker down and stay for a little while, take in the sights and connect with the natives. Happy reading.