2015 by Anomalous Press, 39 pages
2016-018 - The Stone Collector by A. Kendra Greene
2016 by Anomalous Press, 27 pages
I'm pretty sure it was an email from Small Press Distribution that caught my eye--one of the books in question was by A. Kendra Greene (@akendragreene on twitter) from Anomalous Press--a chapbook entitled The Stone Collector. The description they had, from the publisher, was:
A lyric essay from Iceland's east fjords, The Stone Collector examines, over decades and by degrees, how one woman's daily walk sparked a private collection and public attraction. Most every day of her life, Petra took a walk; and most every walk, Petra found a stone. Petra's jaw-dropping collection of jasper and onyx and agate and amethyst and scolecite and calcite and chalcedony and spar spilled filled the house and spilled out into the garden. Her neighbors fretted over the strangely feminist act of spending so much time in the mountains. Her children grew up with strangers in the garden, strangers who saw the collection from the road and drew close. Tour guides brought busses and Geologists wrote letters and Petra served coffee in her kitchen, as the public pressed her collection into becoming a museum. This is the second installment in A. Kendra Greene's series on Icelandic museums.
I thought it sounded interesting--a woman walking daily and it turning into a museum. Then I wondered about the "feminist" act? And wondered how the public might have created this museum. And wondered what the first installment of Greene's series on Icelandic museums (Seriously? Icelandic museums?) was about. Turns out that one was about The Icelandic Phallological Museum--which is about just what you'd think it would be about with Phall as the first five letters of the word.
As the titles weren't cost prohibitive, I ordered both of them (unfortunately too late in the process to be one of the 100 receiving special letterpressed covers) and while I had ordered some other short story collections, and had a few ARCs promised to be coming my way, every package I received that didn't say Anomalous Press in the return address space bummed me out a bit--I really wanted to see how these were. They arrived yesterday and I think the reason I woke up at 3:45 a.m. today is that my mind was pushing me to awaken so I could read these two chapbooks.
I decided to read them in order, even though my initial interest in Greene's writing came through the second chapbook. So I began with Anatomy of a Museum: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About The Icelandic Phallological Museum but Were Afraid to Ask. It's a fascinating 39 pages about the creation of this museum. How it actually began as somewhat of a joke as the curator had received a gift once that was a pizzle, a dried bull's penis used as a whip. He kept this in an office and colleagues found it funny and began leaving other types of animal penises, frequently portions of different types of whales, on his desk, in his chair, in his office. Post-work visits to local pubs led to post-drinks discussions of his "collection," of a possible museum. And then it actually happened. And it grew, and was publicized, and moved to a larger building, and so on.
Greene does a great job of dropping in facts she's learned specifically about the museum, while also dropping in other facts (in 1941, those born in Iceland were still considered citizens of Denmark, for instance), as well as her own thoughts about collecting, and about museums in general. I was very happy I had purchased both books after reading this one and jumped right into the second chapbook without much time at all.
The Stone Collector might be even more specific than Greene's first chapbook in the series (per her bio, this is a series that is ongoing--chapbooks on Icelandic museums). The style is similar though as she writes of the history of the particular museum, and the person behind it and the people behind its growth. She also continues to drop in bits of information she's learned along the way, be it about the area, or something about the contents of the museum in question, as well as her own thoughts on museums in general.
In general, I like Green's writing itself, content notwithstanding. There's a bit of wit behind it, and the thoughts about museums in general are really interesting. A quick sentence example:
Most of the Eastern towns are attached to harbors, and are the kind of towns where there is probably a restaurant to feed you should you stop in, but probably not two to pick between.
I find it a more interesting way of saying it's a small town, and found that her writing frequently took the more interesting path to get points across. In regard to the museum thoughts and questions:
The outside influence used to trouble me. The scattershot randomness of it all drove me to distraction....At best, one of those collections will achieve any prominence, the rest of the collecting eclipsed. Yes, collectors collect. But it's something else that makes museums.
It's an interesting question, and one I hope that drives Greene for a long time to come as I believe it's what is behind this series. Both of the two museums she's written about seem very random--one starting almost as a joke, the other in a woman's home because much of what she displayed was outdoors and visible to strangers. One does not need to be interested in the phalluses of all the mammals in Iceland, or about geology, to find something worthwhile within the pages of these two chapbooks. They are excellent and in neither case am I propelled to suddenly read more on either subject--but I'm greatly looking forward to A. Kendra Greene's third chapbook in this series, no matter what museum she writes about.
Anatomy of a Museum - 4 stars
The Stone Collector - 4.5 stars