Advocate Bookshelf: Gay Baseball, Perverse Painters, and the Religious Right

Back to school brings a host of offbeat books to the shelves, including the memoir of an influential gay painter, a love story between a gay man and baseball, and the tale of a lesbian teen who wants to go to prom.

BY Diane Anderson-Minshall

September 27 2012 4:00 AM ET

Darger's Resources by Michael Moon (Duke University Press, $22.95)

Outsider artist Henry Darger (1892-1973) was a hospital janitor. When he died in 1973, he left behind a enormous epic, the 15,145-page In the Realms of the Unreal, an extravagantly illustrated saga revolving around children (especially girls) enslaved and savaged by adult overlords. The oddly sexualized girls he created and the passages that depicted girls strangled and eviscerated led many critics to dismiss him as a sadistic pedophile — even if there was no evidence Darger ever acted out violent fantasies. In Darger's Resources, author Michael Moon (who also penned the book Displacing Homophobia) puts Darger’s art in perspective, demonstrating how it was influenced and inspired by other creative works of the times, including comic strips, pulp fiction, and illustrated children's' books (especially Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz books), and freeing us up to appreciate Darger’s work without worrying about our own moral compass. Even better, the author tackles Darger's cross-dressing or transgender kids, boys who are discovered to be girls, and nude girl warriors with male genitalia. Moon says that "the spectacularization of girlish bravado in In the Realms may be reparative in a somewhat displaced way: if little girls can not only show valor on the battlefield but can also outwit and even outmaneuver gangs of male bullies, maybe sissy boys have a chance in the battle of life, too." (DukeUPress.edu)

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