A beguiling and witty assessment of a country’s obsessive urge to curate.




A quirky, personal travel guide to some of the offbeat sites that Iceland has to offer.

Greene, who has worked at several museums, joyfully recounts her experiences in Iceland, a country of 330,000 people, visiting 28 of their 265 museums, most “established in the last twenty years.” In this debut memoir, the author writes that she’s never “known a place where the boundaries between private collection and public museum are so profoundly permeable, so permissive, so easily transgressed and so transparent as if almost not to exist.” Some, in fact, don’t exist—e.g., the title museum. There’s an air of Italo Calvino’s fantastical Invisible Cities wafting its way throughout, as Greene guides us with childlike wonder through such museums as “Sverrir Hermannsson’s Sundry Collection,” the “Herring Era Museum,” “The Museum of Prophecies,” and the “Icelandic Sea Monster Museum.” First up is the Icelandic Phallological Museum, a “kind of mammal-phallus Noah’s Ark,” where visitors can gaze upon penises of duck, ocean perch, polar bears, and other domestic and foreign animals. On one wall there’s a “lovely installation,” Our Silver Boys, which the author describes as “fifteen silver casts representing the Icelandic national handball team, stood upright like thriving mushrooms.” Petra’s Stone Collection, picked by herself and family members near their home, is outside, for all to see. Greene’s story is not just about the museums, but also about the people who create their individualistic collections and their families, who often keep them and a small cafe or gift shop going. Greene tantalizes us with a visit to the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft, formerly a hardware store, curated by Siggi, or the Sorcerer, which displays whips, life-size facsimiles of outlandish Icelandic necropants (pants made from a dead man’s skin) and 11 installations. “Ten,” Greene writes, “if you fail to count the invisible boy.”

A beguiling and witty assessment of a country’s obsessive urge to curate.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-14-313546-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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