Jack Bandit unearths a copy of “My Friend Dahmer”

Title: My Friend Dahmer Author: Derf Backderf Published by: Abrams Reviewed by: Jack Bandit

Derf Backderf, (which I’m convinced HAS to be a pseudonym) creates a haunting, and, at times hilarious story with “My Friend Dahmer”

Thankfully, this is not a book that only focuses on the gruesome, grisly murders that launched the name Dahmer in to infamy, but this book focuses in on the lesser known aspects of Dahmer’s life; his childhood. This book could have functioned as an entry in the “It Gets Better” series that Dan Savage created… if it actually got better, but as we all know, for poor little Jeffery, it didn’t.

Derf is at most an acquaintance of Dahmer, who barely even registers on the radar of the regular high school population in the 1970’s in Bath, Ohio. In middle school, Derf recalls a quirky kid in middle school that was Dahmer, but then explores how he became such an outcast in high school. The bulk of this book is Dahmer alone, and Derf’s narration of what his home life was really like. This included parents so wrapped up in their own problems that they neglected to consider the RIDICULOUS amount of evidence that should have been considered as a red flag to any other sane parents. (Specifically, i’m talking about the shed in the backyard with jars of embalmed animals… not exactly a normal hobby.)

In one of the blurb’s by David Small (who wrote Stitches) states that, “Backderf’s odd stylization, with figures that look like organic robots, is a perfect vehicle for this conception.” The operative word here being robots… Derf has specifically stylized Dahmer to appear robotic.. He does so by specifically pointing out his odd walk, and the way he depicts Dahmer’s eyes, is bone chilling. At any of the emotional moments Derf shields Dahmer’s eyes with glasses, and at any other time it is merely a cold emotionless stare.

Two other aspects of the book that jump off the pages I noticed that Derf uses are the fine dichotomy between horror and hilarity, and some introspection regarding the “innocent” high school mockery that takes course in the hallway.

***Spoiler Alert for the Coen brother’s masterpiece Fargo ahead… If you haven’t seen it STOP everything and go watch it!!

The duration of the book feels like the amazing scene in Fargo with Jean Lundegaard where she is about to die..

(If I could find the video I’d show you, but I can’t… here’s my description).

Jean is running around with a burlap sack tied around her head, and she keeps tripping. The viewer’s are on the edge of their seat knowing she will get killed soon. But when I first watched that, I couldn’t stop laughing. In this book you are always teetering at the edge of that fine line.

Also, the cruelty that we all take part of in high school is portrayed as being not so innocent after all.

I found it very compelling that Dahmer was always a victim, and I believe that there was a direct correlation with all of his future victims.

Derf has a great book here, one that has shown some light on a very dark childhood. And a book that makes you think twice about “innocently poking fun”.

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1 Comment to “Jack Bandit unearths a copy of “My Friend Dahmer””

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  1. jaydee says:

    well said, Jack!

    I read this yeeearrrs ago, it had a very limited print run I think..pretty cool that it’s found new life again now.

    I remember really enjoying this for all the reasons you mentioned!
    I may have to go back and check it out again :)

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