Chicago Review of Books sat down with Liz to talk about Curious Toys, as well as researching history, Chicago, and her genre-defying work.
I’m fascinated by artists who work and live outside the mainstream — I’ve written historical novels about the 19th century French poet Arthur Rimbaud and the notorious Victorian painter Richard Dadd, among others. But Darger offered different challenges. He was such a genuinely strange person. He was obsessed with young girls, in particular five-year-old Elsie Paroubek, who was abducted and murdered in Chicago in 1911. Almost certainly he suffered severe abuse and trauma when he was institutionalized, and you can see that in his paintings and drawings — his artwork is often extremely disturbing and violent. And there’s been some speculation that he was a sexual predator and serial killer, and that he might even have been Elsie Paroubek’s murderer.