5:30 a.m. x 2008-12-05
currently listening to: "for our elegant caste" by of montreal
i've been up all day continuously working on my final paper for chaucer. it has to be at least 2,500 words and it is currently 2,400. only 100 more words. but i need to take a short break and give my brain cells some fresh cerebral juices. so i'm going to tell you about henry darger now.
he lived during the earlier part of the 20th century, dying in the seventies, in chicago, and he worked as a janitor. he was orphaned at a young age and made no legitimate human connections to speak of. by all accounts, he was quite sane and in control of his life. upon his death, which came naturally, it was discovered that he'd spent all those years alone in his apartment, friendless, working on a massive novel called the story of the vivian girls, in what is known as the realms of the unreal, of the glandeco-angelinnian war storm, caused by the child slave rebellion. tons of paintings, collages and doodles went along with the narrative. it's about a team of seven sisters, the vivian girls, who command a christian army against evil child laborers. an inspiration that may or may not have been an impetus (i'm not sure about the exact chronology, but none of it is anything anyone is very "sure" about) was elsie paroubek, a murder victim whose image from a newspaper provided the model for the rebel whose assassination sparks the war.
his work is only sparsely available, but from the bits i've gathered, he makes lewis carroll look precious. he was fully committed to his fantasy world at the cost of understanding reality. a bit that escaped him all those years was female genitalia, and the vivian girls are represented with penises when unclothed. it's striking. he couldn't actually draw, so he traced everything, and the golden age cartoony look of it is so off-putting. my favorite picture i've seen so far is of the vivian girls scrambling out of their beds as a large pair of glowing, disembodied hands descend from the ceiling. it is plainly fucked up and ASTOUNDING that he chronicled and archived his life as he lived it, his own take on his unique experience, as in addition to the mammoth realms (at 15,000 pages single-spaced it is suspected to be the single longest piece of writing) he wrote a hulking autobiography. and he did it all because he wanted to, never indicating that he'd care for it to be seen or not so much as he wanted his message understood that children are not to be fucked with.all the gold in the gold mines
all the silver in the world
nay, all the world
cannot buy these pictures from me
vengeance, thee (terrible) vengeance
on those who steals or destroys them
- henry darger
after discovering the work, his landlords shuffled the illustrations out of narrative order and sold them individually to galleries, and his manuscript has never seen publication. regardless of the fact that the fruits of his labors are not enjoyed the way they ought to be or even the way he intended them to be, i respect him and am so happy he devoted his life so completely to such a creative cause. wow. that he existed overwhelms me.
no one even knows how to say his name, even the people who knew him.
if anybody should ask i'm going to a seminar
pieces of the moon
sensitive heart, you're doomed from the start