Imaginary Men

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164 pages

“The first time I ever heard Enid Shomer's poetry, I was profoundly impressed with her honesty, the clarity of her vision, her eye for detail, and the deceptive simplicity with which she crafts her work. With Imaginary Men she expands her range, using the same clear voice, the same attention to the particular to express the whole. These short stories are like an emotional barometer measuring subtle changes in the world's interior weather.”—Sue Grafton

“Enid Shomer's Imaginary Men, winner of the 1992 John Simmons Short Fiction Award, is a collection of considerable thematic complexity and emotional scope. Alternating strands of past and present weave through many of the narratives, seeming barely related at first, yet at the end the separate strands have fused into a resonant whole. Often a startling insight drops the story open like a trapdoor into another level that feels both surprising and inevitable, revealing unexpected emotional fallout from events as trivial-seeming as a kindly meant remark.”—Studies in Short Fiction

“Eleven elegant stories proving (among other things) that American families are more varied—and more brightly fertile and warmly eccentric—than most liberal or conservative definitions dream of…Good-natured is something all of these stores are—as well as remarkably versatile, seamlessly constructed, and revealing of our common life.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Each story in Imaginary Men is a distinct pleasure. But when planted side by side, these well-told tales yield an even richer harvest.”—New York Times Book Review

Even the tamest characters in Imaginary Men test the rules to see where they can be broken and where they hold true. In Enid Shomer's world, endless misunderstandings sprout from goodwill, women and men burn with a desire that forces them to create themselves as they evolve, people grasp their relatedness to others only fleetingly, goodness is as great a mystery as evil.

For the unappreciated Harry Goldring, tormented by his unshakable label of family mensch, wildness is expressed first in panic attacks, then in daydreams. At the other end of Shomer's highly colored spectrum is killer Elvis Thornberry, a “man you wouldn't notice unless he held a gun to your head or saved your life.” Balancing these more troubled characters are Shomer's many improbable lovers and friends: Lavell, who sees something of herself in the untrainable hunting dog owned by her younger lover; Diane, who takes back her unfaithful husband only after inventing a lie that puts her on an equal footing; Leila Pinkerton and Fontane Walker, who were "as close to friendship as they could get, given that Leila was white, Fontane was black, and they lived in a world full of people who claimed to know what that meant."

In all of Shomer's powerful stories, family is the mold we break out of as well as the lap we seek comfort in; family myths create mysterious emblems of freedom. Listening to her resonant voice, we witness the wild, raw moments when people lose control, when the wildness—submerged or not—that they both avoid and rush toward bleeds through.