The Outsiders

••• John MacGregor Unlocks Henry Darger's Unreal Realms

Brooke Anderson says the museum is looking for two doctoral candidates, one in art history and one in literature, to become fellows at the center. ("Someone who likes to read!" she says.) The main tasks will involve marrying the images to the text and developing a catalogue raisonné; given the plethora of material, countless other projects await. Lytle Shaw recently published an essay (in Cabinet) on the moral accounting found in Darger's weather journals, and Michael Bonesteel is helping prepare an abridged edition of Darger's novel, a project that he predicts will take years.

John MacGregor has been on every page of Henry Darger's novel. There are 15,145 of them.
photo: John MacGregor
John MacGregor has been on every page of Henry Darger's novel. There are 15,145 of them.

As for MacGregor, he's leaving the field of outsider art entirely, after finishing a book this year on the mechanomorphic art of Frank Travis, a schizophrenic Canadian artist. "I've done what I wanted to do," he says of his sojourn along the border of the mind and what it makes, and through the realms of Henry Darger in particular. "I don't want to repeat myself. I'm walking away from the match, after I've just won Wimbledon." At 61, it's not too late for him to return to his other passion, East Asian art and archaeology; the Han dynasty awaits, as does a trip lecturing on the Orient Express. And so the man who never entered the room at 851 Webster without saying "Hello, Henry" is at last bidding farewell.

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