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. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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