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Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done?

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Some of the imagery, especially toward the end of the book, is rather static and repetitive, as if the recitation of facts held Powell back. it’s easy to have this kind of thought: What is there left to say about someone whose status as a horror from the heartland has been so thoroughly hashed over that it seems like there can’t be anything new to say about it? But before Dahmer, in 1957, there was Eddie Gein, one of the most truly macabre people to ever walk the planet (oh, I know he has competition).

It never fails to blow my mind how truly fucked up serial killers are and I think Gein is in a realm of his own. Even if Gein’s recollections aren’t quite what happened (memory is a tricky thing, after all), we know from other, more well documented serial killers that they’re made, not born, and it’s hard not to feel sympathy for Gein as his mother destroys him. This "dramatic" retelling of Gein's life and crimes wants desperately to be the latter, but I have the sinking feeling it is more of the former.

In Chapter 1, Hitchcock tells a journalist that thinking that a killer has been inspired by a work of art does not mean much: it is the evil that already dwells inside that person that matters. Then suddenly the narrative shifts to the day of his arrest and mostly becomes a sea of captions with a few flashbacks to his crimes tucked in between the endless talking heads of neighbors, authorities, and doctors. Perhaps out of reverence for the victims and the immensity of sadness surrounding the subject matter, the art in this book is some of Powell’s most considered and careful work, and the result is a masterpiece.

The detail, and the colouring of greys, white and black perfectly bring this haunting story to life in a way which just wouldn't be possible if it was pure text. I trust as a society, we’re doing a better job of identifying at risk people and giving them the help they need as a child. His depictions of Ed Gein’s dippy eye, Hitchcock’s Droopy jowels, and the incongruous features of the townsfolk of Plainview are charming in the light. And then of course there are books like this that continue to be produced about him, 60+ years after his arrest, because it’s such a unique story. Powell makes Augusta a forbidding, slab of a woman, and we can easily believe she dominates both her husband and her son, and he does a nice job showing Ed as completely deferential to her but still struggling with a hatred for her.D. A resident of New York City, Schechter is professor of American literature and popular culture at Queens College of the City University of New York. Since there are pictures some of the more graphic things Eddie did with the bodies he exhumed are there on the page, not just described.

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