Twenty-six surreal miniatures about displacement, mystery, and transformation from an exquisite and original debut voice
In this collection of compact fictions, Nicolette Polek transports us to a gently unsettling realm inhabited by disheveled landlords, a fugitive bride, a seamstress who forgets what people look like, and two rival falconers from neighboring towns. They find themselves in bathhouses, sports bars, grocery stores, and forests in search of exits, pink tennis balls, licorice, and independence. Yet all of her beautifully strange characters are possessed by a familiar and human longing for connection: to their homes, families, God, and themselves.
Nicolette Polek’s Imaginary Museums is a collection of pressure-cooked little diamonds: smart, funny, succinct, and sure to be a classic. People will be reading this book for a long time.
Nicolette Polek’s voice is resigned, hopeful, funny, tender, and melancholy, with an older European sensibility that reminds me of some of my favorite translated works. The ambiguous tales in Imaginary Museums are full of the pleasure, disappointment, possibility, and mystery of life.
There’s the sense that anything can happen in the stories of Imaginary Museums—a book full of surprising turns, fascinating characters, and perfect endings. The timelessness of Nicolette Polek’s voice is a wonder, and it will stay with you long after reading.
What are these? Weird parables? Dark dreams? Warnings about the afterlife, death, marriage? Like the best writers, Polek is willing to go to a disturbing place and stay there. She will not save our hero. She will join the shadowy forces and lead us in.
Nicolette Polek’s stories are little circuses of wonder and surprise. They make me feel wide awake. Plus Imaginary Museums is really pleasingly full of stuff: you’ve got hairpin narrative turns, unexpected drownings, saltshakers, trapdoors, chain saws, vodka. In one of my favorite stories, a bluebird sees the main character, but she never sees the bird. Imaginary Museums is delightfully alive.