“THIS was twisted.”
Hey, hey. This is D.C., finally back from Wondercon and the chaos of life (hint, I work in CSI), but it’s time to throw down on a book that’s not quite fiction, but I think deserves a discussion: My Friend Dahmer.
The heck is this about?!
This book follows the life of Jeffrey Dahmer, one of the most prolific and vile serial killers in history, up to his death. Focused through the perspective of the man who knew him, Derf Backderf, the story details the gradual destruction of Dahmer’s life, the chaos of his family life, and Dahmer’s appearance through the so-called “friends” who knew (of) him.
Simply put…I don’t think I’ve ever read a graphic novel that made me this uncomfortable.
Backderf’s portrayal of Dahmer is multi-faceted. At times, Dahmer is foolish. Other times, he is as awkward and creepy as Backderf’s cartoonish and macabre art make Dahmer out to be. Yet other times, you can’t help but feel sympathetic of Dahmer’s plight. The chaos in his home–particularly from his mother–seems enough to drive anyone insane. Dahmer’s destructive home life, the neglect he endures at school, and the transgressions Backderf and Dahmer’s so-called “friends” commit just for laughs…
It really makes you wonder how someone could endure life in the manner of which he did. Even his ways of coping were destructive. Still, they were very human.
Derf Backderf succeeds at writing not just a very human and very open portrayal of Dahmer, Backderf himself, and all others, but also at weaving an unusually sympathetic tale of the teenager who becomes a serial killer. The title is many things: misleading, sarcastic, and saddening. I honestly felt myself damning Dahmer’s family and “friends” and pitying Dahmer, and wondering just what kind of person he could’ve been if he had a healthier family and truer friends.
When we see Jeffrey Dahmer’s post-high school life, it’s only in snippets, but they’re more than enough to convey just how far gone Dahmer had fallen.
Derk Backderf’s My Friend Dahmer is probably the most heartbreaking, macabre, and honest depiction of a serial killer as you could imagine. It’s a shockingly honest and self-damning look at the author, Dahmer, and everything around Dahmer. It’s difficult to remember that this tormented young man becomes the monster we all come to know from books and documentaries. Dahmer is easily someone we could see in ourselves or people we know who suffered much of the same.
It is a harrowing read that I can’t recommend enough.