My dissertation

Serial killers. For the last few weeks I’ve been consuming any and all media related to serial killers. First I read this book about Charles Manson:

Then I watched this documentary about Aileen Wuornos:

And, finally, I read this book about Ted Bundy:

Of the three, The Stranger Beside Me was my absolute favorite. Ann Rule was an aspiring crime writer in Seattle when she befriended her coworker, Ted Bundy. He was caring and intelligent, and Ann quickly grew to think of him as a younger brother. When news of the murders broke, Ann never suspected Ted. After he was accused, she stood by him, thinking that he was incapable of violence. The book details their friendship during the years that Ted murdered two dozen women, was imprisoned in Aspen, Colorado, escaped to Florida, and was eventually sentenced to death there. It is incredible. What are the odds that an aspiring true crime writer would meet one of the most prolific serial killers, let alone know him closely over many years? The detailed insight that Ann has into Ted’s life, crimes, and motivations is so darkly fascinating I can’t stand it. I am already proclaiming this my favorite book of 2014.

Aileen was super depressing. Even though the murders she committed were awful, by the end of it you feel sorry for her. Her whole life was a series of impossible hardships. It was definitely good and worth watching, but I walked away feeling majorly bummed out.

I’m now going to say something blasphemous to my fellow true crime aficionados: I didn’t really like Helter Skelter. I didn’t know anything about Charles Manson or the Manson Family before reading, and it was interesting to learn about this murderous cult that represented some kind of twisted culmination of the 60’s. However, I really hated the overblown, self-important way that it was written. I don’t know if I should blame Vincent Bugliosi, the prosecuting attorney, or Curt Gentry, his co-writer (ghost writer?) for that, but one of them seems to have an enormous ego that reverberates through every line of the book. I found it hard to read.

I told Tony that I’m going to write a dissertation about serial killers, but it turns out that lots of other people have already done that. Maybe my dissertation could be about why Ann Rule is a better writer than Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry? One way or another, I’m writing a dissertation.

On Sunday, Tony and I went cross-country skiing. It was really fun and really, really exhausting. We skied over 6 miles! After it was over, we went to our favorite restaurant and ate more B.L.T.s and mozzarella sticks than two humans ever should. It was a great day.

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It was also very pretty!

In addition to skiing, last week I discovered an amazing cleaning product: Barkeepers Friend. This stuff has been around since 1882–this ain’t no here today, gone tomorrow cleaning flash in the pan (speaking of which, did anyone else have a grandma with one of the broom-sized versions of these in the early ’90’s? I kind of wish I had one.) Our kitchen sink is old, and the porcelain is stained. I’ve scrubbed and scrubbed and gotten far less impressive results than when I wiped it with Barkeerpers Friend. It’s wonderful stuff.

I didn’t take before and after pictures of the kitchen sink transformation, so I tried to recreate it in the bathroom. The porcelain was fine in the bathroom, but the faucet was not. Again, the result was pretty amazing:

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Please ignore the fact that the porcelain looks like two different colors. I blame my terrible cell phone camera. Focus on the shiny, shiny faucet on the right!

With an endless  amount of Barkeepers Friend cleaning in front of me, 2014 is shaping up to be a pretty incredible year.


About Emma

It sure is hard to type with these hooves!
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5 Responses to My dissertation

  1. Grace says:

    The Stranger Beside Me! I agree, so good.

    My true crime recommendation is “Fatal Vision” by Joe McGinnis. It’s not about a serial killer, but it’s a crazy story nonetheless. It’s similar to Stranger Beside me in that the writer comes to believe the accused is guilty, but where Ann Rule comes across as smart and empathetic, Joe McGinnis comes across as nuts.

    Here’s the story: Jeffrey MacDonald was accused of killing his wife and family. Since he was active military his case went before a military tribunal, which ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to move forward. Legally, he was a free and innocent man. A few years later, the civilian legal system reopened the case. He argued this was double jeopardy, and he couldn’t be tried twice for the same crime. His claim went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled he had to stand trial. He maintained his innocence and hired Joe McGinnis to join his legal team and write a tell-all book about the injustices of the legal system and to prove MacDonald was innocent.

    So McGinnis hangs out with MacDonald for years and gets all kinds of exclusive access to legal documents, evidence, etc., and sercretly comes to the conclusion that MacDonald really is guilty, and not only that, he’s a psychopath! MacDonald loses his trial, goes to prison, and continues to correspond with/confide in McGinnis, the man he hired to publish the book that will finally clear his name. McGinnis uses these heartfelt (or are they just manipulative?) letters as further evidence of MacDonald’s insanity. There is so much weird betrayal going on! McGinnis tries as hard as he can to portray MacDonald as a creepy psychopath, but the more you read, the more it seems like maybe McGinnis is the crazy one. Actually, MacDonald seems pretty creepy, too. They all seem horrible.

    It is a crazy story, and I haven’t even touched on the incredibly gruesome and bizarre crime at the center of it all. I can’t decide if MacDonald is guilty or not. His story about what really happened the night of the murders is pretty implausible, but…I don’t know. Everybody read it and let’s discuss!

  2. Will says:

    This post is exactly why I love Fawn Log. Reviews about serial killer books, to skiing, to cleaning products, with nary a segue in sight! Love it!

    I read the Rolling Stone interview with Charles Manson that came out a few weeks ago, and I liked it. But it didn’t make me want to read Helter Skelter. It sounded like Bugliosi (Charles calls him “Bug”) was kind of a narcissist and that his theory was a little crazy and designed to attracted attention. But I only know what I gathered from reading that interview.

  3. Beth Bentley says:

    This warms my heart to see my children discussing serial killers. Finally my DNA starts to show.
    I agree with your reviews.I love the Manson murders but “The Bug” is obnoxious. Ann Rule is awesome!
    None of her other books are quite as good as The Stranger Beside Me but killer books are usually interesting.
    I suggest reading a book about Ed Gein or HH Holmes. I have a coffee table book about serial killers that I must give you. I accidentally left it behind in a hotel room one time and apparently the entire hotel staff ended up reading it.

    I also am very excited about Bar Keeper’s Friend! I must find that product. Fingers crossed.

  4. Pat R says:

    The cross country skiing looks like a lot of hard work but a lot of fun!!!! Brother Chris spent his summer vacation to Galveston (the first real vacation we had that wasn’t camping in Branson or on Moe’s floor in Kansas City) reading Helter Skelter. I am sure you too could have a lot to discuss… I spent that same vacation listening to Helter Skelter – by the Beatles (it was really the Montley Crew version but the Beatles is more Gene & Kathy friendly).

    Thank you for mentioning BarKeepers – we (meaning Gina) used it at our old house and have just forgot about it. We will have to put it back under our sink.

    Hope you too are enjoying your winter wornder land. Take care!!!

    • Emma Emma says:

      Tony told me about Chris reading Helter Skelter in Galveston! I hope he remembers it because I am probably going to quiz him on his impressions the next time I see him.

      I am equal parts happy and embarrassed that you and Gene and Kathy have read Fawn Log. I swear I am less weird in real life than I appear on this blog (<–lying). In any case, thanks for reading and commenting! Hope to see you, Gina, and Joe soon.

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