by Jim Elledge
Henry Darger was utterly unknown during his lifetime, keeping a quiet, secluded existence as a janitor on Chicago’s North Side. When he died his landlord discovered a treasure trove of more than three hundred canvases and more than 30,000 manuscript pages depicting a rich, shocking fantasy world—many showing hermaphroditic children being eviscerated, crucified, and strangled.
While some art historians tend to dismiss Darger as an unhinged psychopath, in Henry Darger, Throwaway Boy: The Tragic Life of an Outsider Artist, Jim Elledge cuts through the cloud of controversy and rediscovers Darger as a damaged, fearful, gay man, raised in a world unaware of the consequences of child abuse or gay shame. This thoughtful, sympathetic biography tells the true story of a tragically misunderstood artist. Drawn from fascinating histories of the vice-ridden districts of 1900s Chicago, tens of thousands of pages of primary source material, and Elledge’s own work in queer history, the book also features a full-color reproduction of a never-before-seen canvas from a private gallery in New York, as well as a previously undiscovered photograph of Darger with his life-partner, Whillie.
Engaging and arresting, Henry Darger, Throwaway Boy brings alive a complex, brave, and compelling man whose outsider art is both challenging and a triumph over trauma.
North American publisher: Overlook, September 2013
Foreign rights contact: Dan Crissman, Overlook
Film/TV rights contact: Jody Hotchkiss, Hotchkiss & Associates
An extraordinarily compassionate and adventurously researched biography … justice is finally served in Elledge’s gripping, humanizing, and haunting portrait of the artist as a wronged man.” —Booklist
A startling new perspective of a famous outsider artist.” —Kirkus Reviews
Solidly, clearly, and with remarkable prescience, Jim Elledge brings to life Henry Darger, the janitor-saint of outsider art, a devotee of obsessive beauty and, until now, dark shadow lurking at the edge of his visionary work. Especially by detailing Darger’s lifelong romantic friendship with Whillie, Elledge performs an important rescue operation, restoring the pang of human backstory to theartist’s fantastical creations.” —Brad Gooch, author of Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor