"Panning for Gold as Reading and the Creativity of Outsiders"
Joanne McNeill (The Tomorrow Museum), on the strange disparity in audience reception of “outsider” literature and other outsider art forms, such as art and music:
There was a fascinating panel at Readcon a few weeks back about “outsider writers.” The central question: why is Henry Darger’s art found in mainstream museums and the subject of a documentary, but his 7 million word novel never been published in any form?
At one point Elizabeth Hand, the moderator, compared Darger with J.R.R. Tolkien as someone singularly obsessed with the world he created. Apparently Tolkein was a terrible speller and his grammar and syntax were always a mess…You have to wonder, what if Tolkien’s work was received by the most type-a editors imaginable — the sort who mistake such errors with limited intellectual capacity? How, as critics, do we determine what is Middle-Earth and what is the world of the Vivian Girls?