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Amelia Brown on Nicolette Polek

Reviewing Nicolette Polek’s short story collection Imaginary Museums, Amelia Brown sees the book as a museum in miniature — with all the fulfillment and boredom that a visit to a museum entails:

Polek’s closing lines… tend to be perfect — produced, framed, polished. My favorite comes at the end of ‘Field Notes,’ a story which takes form as an anxious, hyper-detailed third-person examination of a woman’s failure to find the peace she seeks in nature. And then, at the end, Polek devastates with a sudden, simple line of understated irony: “By the end of the walk, a bluebird has seen Erica thirty times, but Erica never saw it.” Her characters, too, feel smooth, perhaps in the way of mannequins in a history exhibit: frozen in a very specific moment, in a way that says little about an individual as singular or whole, but plenty about a particular experience. Interiority is rare with Polek’s characters. Although when Polek’s precise arrangements of her objects and humans-turned-objects work, they work the way a spectacular diorama might; like a snapshot of quotidian life that is so perfectly framed that it becomes surreal and elevated. Nevertheless, there are times in which these narrow frames feel disappointing.