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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sunday Afternoon Death Trip

Posted by on September 24 at 18:56 PM

I stopped by Grant Cogswell’s highly-hyped sale this afternoon and bought the book Wisconsin Death Trip, based, of course, purely on the title. Apparently this book is relatively well known (Josh Feit called it “a rare oddity”) but it’s new to me and I’m completely entranced. The book is actually the University of Wisconisin master’s thesis of a guy named Michael Lesy, who combed through archived copies of the Badger State Banner — the newspaper of a small town in Wisconisin —and combined late 20th century photographs with some excerpts from the paper, whose town/county/state sections reveal the shockingly morbid life in of small town Wisconsin in the 1890s.

As he says in the introduction, “What was strange was that in the seventy years from then to now… in that short time, in one lifetime, all of Charly’s pictures and Cooper’s newspapers were changed from the most ordinary of records of the most ordinary events into arcane remnants, obscure relics, antique mementos.”

Philosophically they’re interesting, for sure, but they’re also hilarious. Here’s some of my favorite:

Milo L. Nichols, sent to the insane hospital a year or two ago after committing arson on Mrs. Nichols’ farm is now at large… and was seen near the old place last week… He has proven himself a vengeful firebug. [8/31, County]
Tramps are overrunning Grant County, raiding sheep and stealing horses. The farmers [are] organizing a vigilance committee. [5/7, state]
Henry Johnson, an old bachelor of Grand Dyke, cut off the heads of all his hens recently, made a bonfire of his best clothes, and killed himself with arsenic. [4/3, State]

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Um great. Since the stranger staff who would usually run around like gibbons who stumbled on lost meth stash upon seeing this seem to still be recovering from last nights rabbit farm orgy, everyone needs to go to RIGHT NOW and watch Bill Clinton tear that smug Chris Wallace a new one. (For you hippies in Seattle, that means he kicked his ass!!!)

Sarah Mirk,

I've never even heard of this book.
Isn't Wisconsin Death Trip a Violent Femmes song?

hey strangerdanger..
where was you on friday about on or about... i dunno about 10:42 pm when our beloved bradley reported on it and slogged as well..
or didn't you bother to peruse the slog first and figured you'd just slag 'the seattle hippies' with your bad faith and info..

Geez, I guess. That was nasty, Riz. I watched the interview and read the text and I thank mssr fnarf for the heads up on the New Yorker article. Could we all just get along?

didn't mean to be nasty.. but he started it. that was the second post 'strangerdanger' made for the slog in an completely unrelated topic. it was here , he didn't see it twice. i read 'gibbons who stumbled on a lost meth stash' and thought he called us monkeys and then 'hippies'. that was what irritated me. it's sunday night and i need some cake and cognac.. sorry

I understand but this is way off topic. Let's talk about Wisconsin Death Trip.

It rules. And Sarah, those posters are still there and I'll give them to you for a song. Thanks for coming by.

Josh, your post on about the sale read
"Rare oddities: ‘Wisconsin Death Trip’; Pulp edition of John Rechy’s ‘City of Night’, weird old Seattle guidebooks, DeKerchove’s 1948 Maritime Dictionary." But I guess you were quoting Grant -- I'll show you the book tomorrow and then you can declare it a rare oddity, indeed.

The BOOK is great, but stay away from the FILM of the same name. It's a stinker. Too bad a better director didn't get to it first....

Sarah: That book is teh cool. Good score

Wisconsin Death Trip came out like ten years ago. It's cool you're reading it.

Wisconsin Death Trip is a great read. I first found in our elementary school library in the mid '80's (perhaps it was required in all Wisconsin school libraries?), and was intrigued right away. Thanks for the reminder: my copy didn't make the move out here with me, so I need to get my parents to send it to me soon.

There's also a documentary based on the book:

Yes, the Violent Femmes do have a song based on this very story, and Static-X have an album of the same title, as well. Maybe it really *was* required in all our school libraries...

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