In the spring of 2000, I was sitting in the admissions office at Hampshire College, waiting to be interviewed. With some time to kill, I browsed a bookshelf featuring the works of Hampshire professors. One of these books was Wisconsin Death Trip. It caught my attention thanks to the Static-X album of the same name (of which I was a big fan at the time...no longer, though), so I pulled it from the shelf to find that haunting cover photo staring at me with its dark, blurry eyes. It drew me in, in a way that was far from comfortable. It left me no choice. I had to see what was inside.
As it turned out, I had a long wait for my interview, and I made it through most of the book. If it had been anything other than a sunny spring afternoon, I doubt the interview would have gone well at all. Suicide and murder, madness and despair, babies in coffins and grim stone-faced Lutherans. The images were haunting, and those conjured up by the simple matter-of-fact accounts even more so. This book haunted me.
Fast forward a year and a half, and I'm a first-year student at Hampshire. I walk into the bookstore and what do I see but Wisconsin Death Trip. I'm short on cash, but I buy it. I haven't really got a choice. Just about everyone who comes into my room gets to look at it. Fortunately, this is Hampshire College, so that probably helps my social life a bit.
Four years later, the Death Trip still holds a prominent place on my shelf. Every so often I take it out and open it, and inevitably I end up reading it cover to cover. This book is powerful, haunting, and above all else important. Uncomfortable as it may be, this is American history. This is a tale of the price we pay for progress. These are the souls who were caught in the gears of the machine.
In my time at Hampshire I had Mr. Lesy as a teacher. Towards the end of the semester, I asked him why he felt compelled to write this book. He told me that after looking through the images and articles used herein, that he realized that he was looking at "an American Holocaust." And that, he felt, was something that people needed to know about. I wholeheartedly agree.
Pick up this book and you will not put it down.