Discover more from Myth Is Medicine
Thoughts on Curatorship & Creativity
Plus, Owen King & the Mythology of His Novel, The Curator
Once upon a time, I worked in a library.
It was a stunning gothic revival building with stone staircases worn by generations of scholars. I was invited to climb the great looming tower to take in the view of the Hudson one time, but all I remember was the trace of pigeon corpses imprinted into more than a century of grime.
When I mention the job I held in my twenties, folks get a wistful sort look in their eyes. They conjure a romantic notion of what it must mean to dwell in the world of books.
In reality, the work had nothing to do with reading all day. Though I could always rely on colleagues for the best recommendations to add to my endless after-work TBR pile, I rarely got to talk about the content of the collection at all. Instead, I fussed over students’ work study schedules, crafted emails to the faculty committee, and worried about the mold we’d found in the area of the basement where they shelved the sociology volumes.
A curator is defined as “someone who is a keeper or custodian of a museum or other collection.” That word wasn’t actually in my job description, but everyone at the library, from the director to the guy who worked the circulation desk at midnight on Fridays, essentially did the work of a curator.
It was good work. It was tedious work. It was always more about HR and facilities management and making lunch plans than it was about the power of words.
Because I was young enough to believe “what I will be when I grow up” would be a single, elegant idea, I spent a great deal of time worrying that I’d be forever tasked with the care of books and would never have a chance to write one.
With all the drama of a gothic heroine in Banana Republic trousers, I lamented that I’d always be a curator and never a creator.
Now, depending on my mood, I want to reach back to my past self and either give her a reassuring hug, or I want to force her to sit down and contemplate the toxic combination of impatience and ego.
It would take years for me understand (and make peace with) something I know is true: life and art are always about both curatorship and creativity.
KnotWork Storytelling is the embodiment of both creativity and creation, of course. I knew from the outset that I had stories to tell, but I had finally grown wise enough to realize that my next big project wasn’t about my voice alone.
It was Dee Mulrooney, who tells her story Driftwood Man in S3 Ep 7 and whose art is featured in Laura Murphy’s Brigid: Rebirth of the Mother, S3 Ep 1, who celebrated my role as KnotWork’s curator. Coming from a prolific visual and performance artist like Dee, that means the world, and it helps me see my own contribution in a new light.
I am so deeply grateful for this opportunity to hold space for the 40+ creative collaborators who have joined me on KnotWork Storytelling since February 2022. And thank you for being part of the journey. Our audience is an utterly vital part of the creator/curator equation.
Will you help fund the next season KnotWork Storytelling? Your support here on Substack helps me pay my team who will be producing episodes throughout the summer for Season 4, which launches in August/September of 2023.
This Week on KnotWork Storytelling
It just so happens that this week’s guest spent a lot of time at that gem of a library I mentioned above, but he’d graduated a few years before I took a job there. We didn’t meet at the college; we were introduced on a hayride when our kids were in kindergarten, but that’s a story for another day.
I’m thrilled to welcome Owen King to the podcast for an episode that differs a bit from our usual format. Owen gives us a glimpse into the folklore, mythology, and social landscape of the not-quite-this world he created for his latest novel The Curator.
We spend, in my opinion, the perfect amount of time discussing magical cats (or, at least, cats that are worshiped for what the folk believe to be magical qualities). We also get into what makes a heroine, the process of world building, and the power of the right audiobook reader.
And, if you’re like me and see the King name and need to ask “but is it going to be too scary?” let me assure you that I agree with the New York Times, which calls The Curator “a horror-tinged historical fantasy.”
It’s gritty and takes you into some dark places. Some horrible things do happen in the course of the story, but I promise I was not cursing Owen’s name for keeping me up with nightmares. (Though, I do warn you that you’ll want to read the last third of the book all in one sitting, so start early in the evening so you’re not blaming the author for stealing your sleep!)
Owen King is the author of The Curator, Double Feature, and We’re All in This Together: A Novella and Stories. He is the coauthor of Sleeping Beauties and Intro to Alien Invasion and the coeditor of Who Can Save Us Now? Brand-New Superheroes and Their Amazing (Short) Stories. He lives in upstate New York with his family.
In the story, cats are considered as holy creatures by many people in the society, particularly in the lower classes. Owen consciously chose not to sentimentalize or anthropomorphize them and let them do “cat stuff” that hints at magic or higher knowledge.
The act of world-building and creating a mythology “from scratch” as a novelist, including the creation of the “oral tradition.”
Stories as a way to make meaning in life.
The Curator is a heroine’s tale, to some extent, not just because it has a female protagonist, but because Dora’s ability to move about is limited by her gender in this Victorian-like society. How her character transforms through the course of the story.
The various old women and crones in this story - the lady who reflects the truth, the evil twins outside society, and the otherworldly “fate” like being
Audiobooks and the power of a narrator, particularly the “wildly gifted storyteller” Marin Ireland