Order a print copy.
Curiosity is as central to life as breathing. And like breath itself, when it ceases, the vibrancy of life fades and disappears. Curiosity leads to discoveries both beneficent and, at times, destructive. It often occasions wonderment, but also terror. It prompts the precise scientist, but also the nosy gadfly. A double-edged sword, curiosity has forever held a crucial role in myth, literature, science, philosophy, history—nearly every field of human endeavor. While most of us know the old saying about curiosity killing the cat, we must also remember that “satisfaction brought it back.” Curiosity incites and compels, taketh away and giveth.
In this issue, curiosity impels a personal assistant to learn hidden truths about her deceased employer—a famed playwright—and his relationship with the woman who directs an Italian arts foundation to which he donated his priceless library of first editions. A novelist, inspired by a different kind of curiosity, studies the traditional teachings of his Cherokee forebears after reading the notebook his beloved grandfather possessed when he died. Elsewhere, a young boy removes his clothes and, driven by dangerous curiosity, crawls into the gaping darkness of a sewer pipe, where he mysteriously vanishes, altering the lives of everyone who knew him. While most of the stories, poems, and memoirs here investigate the places where curiosity transports us—from forgotten burial grounds to natural history museums, from alluring lakes to postapocalyptic seaside shanties—A Cabinet of Curiosity also features a singular visit to an archetypal curiosity cabinet in Amsterdam with its treasury of specimens, of oddities in jars and on shelves, of things pinned and things afloat.
Curiosity in all its guises is the wellspring of revelation. It is a prime mover behind our deeds, good or evil, simple or complicated. While the thirty-one writers gathered here individually explore many of the ways in which curiosity drives and defines us, together they propose that the realms of curiosity are, finally, inexhaustible.
To see announcements of new issue themes or to keep up with our issues as they develop, follow us on Facebook and Twitter and join our newsletter.
January 15, 2019
Outside the stars were fading and the sky was slowly rosying at the edges when we found the skeleton. At first it was visible only as a clutch of white daggers, thickly clotted with spiderwebs, compressed between the plaster wall and the heavy wooden timbers. I don’t know what I expected it to be.
January 8, 2019
On the bus, we were told to remember everything, to testify, testify, testify. We’d heard this many times before. Remember and testify, they would say, in order that this or that bad thing does not happen again. I harbored no such faith in remembering. Nor in testimony. I fail to believe in them still.
January 1, 2019
Someone shouted at me to grab a blanket or a coat or something for crissakes, the narrator of The Bystander says, and wrap your old man up, because after assaulting the woman the narrator’s father liked best, and after running out with nothing on but the soap from the bath he’d been taking with her, the narrator’s father is standing on the street, shouting imprecations at her,