This form can be provocative (think Amy Hempel, Diane Williams), but every single one of the words must glitter. Unfortunately, some of Polek’s fall flat, seemingly selected with the primary goal of arbitrariness ... Luckily, she has a keen eye for the absurd ... If she’s going for the uncanny, then some of her many, brief plots are too flimsy, not grounded enough in the recognizable, to succeed ... Polek’s imagery, though, comes through like flashes in a silent film.
... deliciously unnerving ... an excellent introduction to Polek’s ability to escalate normal-to-weird situations in a matter of paragraphs ... Polek’s collection is a surprising and potent catalogue of small, eerie discoveries.
Although some stories appear to stand alone, what binds all the sections together is the very self-awareness of their collection, the organization of minuscule pieces into something that feels like looking at a display of curios. With its exhibit-like section titles, the stories’ obsessive focus on physical objects and Polek’s literary curation process, reading this book really does feel like walking through a museum ... Polek’s closing lines, like the one above, tend to be perfect — produced, framed, polished ... 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. It’s hard to know what readers will make of Imaginary Museums. Despite, or maybe purposefully emphasized by, Polek’s wonderfully neat curation, the stories of this collection push against categorization ... Polek is a writer of enviable skill, and at the very beginning of her career, I leave you with this statement: get excited.