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Death Scenes Forward by Katherine Dunn

Let me be blunt. This is a horrific book. The pictures...well, they are probably the hardest thing I've ever seen in my life. These are death scene photographs collected by an LA County homicide detective in the 1920s-1950s.

So what could the significance of this book be, if there is one? I think the significance of this book is two fold. First, it gave me a true appreciation for what a police officers sees every day. How can these extraordinary men and women do their job and not go insane. How do they maintain emotional distance? How do they go home and not have complete and total mental breakdowns every day. Some do and I now understand a little better those who turn to the bottle. I'm not so sure I wouldn't.

The second significance is to dispel the rumors that human atrocities are the result of the modern era of "lack of morals." Video games, gangs, brutality...this is nothing new; even in the "innocent day" of the 20s-50s with June Cleaver. It is so commonplace today to see acts of violence on TV (whether fictional or not). Years ago it was hidden. Modern day citizens seem as though they have habituated to the sight of blood and death. If we haven't habituated we have chased death away by sterilizing it. People die in hospitals. At viewings they are nice and neat and look as though they are sleeping. We don't dress the bodies on our own kitchen tables any more. We don't view them in our home. We don't take post-morteum posed pictures like those in the Victorian Era. There is a permanency that exists today that didn't. If a Victorian child wasn't photographed they, quite frankly, never existed. Today we take thousands of pictures over the years. We, in some ways have become the innocents.

We need to be horrified and nauseated when we see things like this. Too many people would view these images with blank emotions. Man is a violent beast. He always has been since the beginning of time and he always will be until the end of time. It doesn't mean all humans are violent but it is inherently in our nature. Stronger men and women can resist this urge and that is the true testament to what being a human being really is. It is the ability to rise above our primal and base emotions.

I re-iterate...this is not a book for everyone; in fact I surmise very few would even want to look at it. My own purchased copy will be hidden away where my children will not chance to see it.

xposted to: bookish


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 2nd, 2009 09:05 pm (UTC)
yeah, I figured you would be. I modified my review incidentally. I made it match the one I wrote on Bookish. Pretty much the same with some more thoughts.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )