Bitter Water Opera

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Product Details
$16.00  $14.88
Graywolf Press
Publish Date
4.88 X 7.4 X 0.47 inches | 0.4 pounds
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About the Author
Nicolette Polek is the author of Imaginary Museums. Her work has appeared in the Paris Review Daily, BOMB, New York Tyrant, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Writers' Award and recently completed an MAR at Yale Divinity School.

**A New Yorker Best Book of 2024**

"Polek elegantly fashions an ode to small and privately felt moments of beauty, and to art's capacity to reach through time." --The New Yorker

"One of the most beautiful books I've ever read. Almost every sentence an epiphany. Entrancing prose communicates new depths of anguish and joy. . . . Bitter Water Opera will be passed down from generation to generation, eternally resonant and astonishing."--Danielle Chelosky, Hobart

"This is not fan mail to the dead so much as a summons to come back to life. . . . [Polek's] vignettes, fine as grains of sand, come together to create an emotional landscape as vast and moving as the Mojave." --Kassia Oset, The Rumpus

"Bitter Water Opera is a sensuous banquet that ravishes while leaving you hungry for more. From the smell of ambergris and the taste of French peach pie, to the site of a dilapidated opera house in the process of being resurrected in the barren plains of the Death Valley desert, its glow makes the reader wish it lasted longer, just as it slips through your fingers." --Stephen G. Adubato, Interview

"Everyone is touched by loneliness, while alone and in company. To bear it, we must find something from beyond to sustain us. This is what Nicolette Polek's Bitter Water Opera seeks. . . . Polek's debut novel . . . shows us the mechanics of a mind negotiating a rupture." --Hayley J. Clark, The Paris Review

"The novel's prose is sharp and precise, its metaphoric wisdom restrained and careful, its power deep and arresting. One of the great yardsticks for a work of art may be how long it lingers after it's finished, and Opera simply will not leave; it sparks a lasting perceptual shift. . . . This novel is a lovely, delicate feat, and a must-read." --Dashiel Carrera, Los Angeles Review of Books

"[Bitter Water Opera] asks exciting, original, and urgently relevant questions about the value and role of art. . . . Most unusually for contemporary literary fiction, this novel will take religion seriously." --Valerie Stivers, Compact

"An addicting debut novella with sentences that come to life and dance on the page like the main women in this book, Bitter Water Opera is a dreamlike journey that delves into art, faith, loneliness, and the creative spirit all in one neat bow-adorned package." --G Sullivan, Fountain Bookstore, Electric Literature's "Best Books of Spring 2024, According to Indie Booksellers"

"An enthralling, almost spiritual account, Bitter Water Opera speaks to the desire for self-creation through destruction. Nicolette Polek invites us to crack open a window that exits to the impossible . . . [and] to grapple with the fleetingness and eternity of existence."--Rosemary Ho, Columbia Journal of Literary Criticism

"Breathtaking sensitivity. . . . A delightfully peculiar meditation on imagination--as maladaptive crutch, creative tool, and steppingstone to peace."--Kirkus Reviews

"Polek's achievement is to create a character in a real spiritual crisis, and then guide her out. Opera brings its reader into a nervous and sad mind that has temporarily lost access to the jolts of imagination and impulse that guide art into being. Through Gia's recovery, Polek suggests a refreshingly simple remedy: the spiritual medicine of looking after your neighbors, tending a garden, spending time with family, and cleaning your house. The answers to the big questions are small. Cook a nice meal, take a walk, watch an old film. Inhabit your life instead of observing it." --Kirsten Vega, The Adroit Journal

"How can one escape domestic dread and manic commercialism? Bitter Water Opera by Nicolette Polek attempts an answer. . . Gia learns to discard the anxious 'hyperawareness' of modern living in favor of instinct and acceptance." --Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

"Exuberant and improbable, Bitter Water Opera is a wonder work of noticing. At times a field guide, a compass, a low-key pilgrimage. Built with each precise line, a chimera of meaning comes into startling focus by its end. The effect of the haunted observer at the center of this limerent, faith-shaped novel is measureless. I wanted to travel with her indefinitely."--Marie-Helene Bertino, author of Beautyland

"I found Bitter Water Opera mesmerizing. It reminded me of a book I loved when I was young, written by Alain-Fournier, called The Wanderer. A book dense and delicious with God-made language and violent emotion. This is an original for the twenty-first century." --Fanny Howe, author of Love and I

"A lush and dreamy 'storybook-like' novel, reminiscent of Leonora Carrington and Sylvia Townsend Warner, Bitter Water Opera asks if we can change our lives--or make choices at all--if we can dwell in possibility 'as if permanently, ' if we can allow enchantment into 'the realm of the real.' This is a work of subtle, spiritual intelligence."--Elisa Gabbert, author of The Unreality of Memory

"Nicolette Polek's Bitter Water Opera is my favorite type of book, a book that only its author could write. In these short, propulsive chapters, Polek writes about the biggest questions and creates a new allegory concerning faith and identity. It's a real garden of a book, full of mysteries and mustard seeds. She shows us a door and asks us to open it, to see what others cannot see. I was astonished."--Scott McClanahan, author of The Sarah Book

"Read Bitter Water Opera for the beautiful theologically brilliant prose and also for Gia, its heroine, whose wonder and longing pull a mentor-spirit out of the netherworld. 'The world seemed more broken than usual, ' writes Nicolette Polek, a feeling, in our current moment, impossible not to identify with. But the grace and limerence in these pages helped me and I believe they will help you."--Darcey Steinke, author of Flash Count Diary