Book Review: Dear Ted by Kim Vodicka
Joseph Edwin Haeger reviews Dear Ted by Kim Vodicka. (Really Serious Literature)
I had to sit on Dear Ted for a couple days after finishing it. It’s a raw, abrasive, and brutal collection of poems, all centering around a woman giving herself to the infamous serial killer, Ted Bundy. It’s a frank look at sexualization and the violence that men tend to bring to it. The 200-page book is unrelenting and that’s probably why I needed to take a minute to process it—it didn’t seem like I had a chance to take a breath until I turned the last page.
On the Really Serious Literature website, Vodicka writes about her intentions behind Dear Ted. She wanted to write a “long ‘letter’ to Bundy, or someone like him, or others like them, but it’s not about them. It’s about de-centering, disarming, and dismantling them.”
Vodicka’s taking the narrative back and reorienting where our focus should be when we think about these shockingly horrific men. At this point, the power doesn’t belong with a man like Bundy; it belongs to the women he terrorized. Vodicka wants to shift the story to its rightful place, and she’s not asking politely. She’s showing us the horror of our fascinations and, in doing so, returns the power to where it should be.
Vodicka wants to shift the story to its rightful place, and she’s not asking politely. She’s showing us the horror of our fascinations and, in doing so, returns the power to where it should be.
There are poems in here that can stand on their own, but, in the end, I think they’re all needed to make up this comprehensive story of love and murder. I read each poem more as a chapter rather than a standalone work, and I think that’s the way Vodicka intended us to read them.
I did my best to finish Dear Ted in a single sitting (but unfortunately had to break it into two) and that constant onslaught of sex and violence felt overwhelming at times. It slowly unfolds with aptly named segments, “Circle of Mania,” “Circle of Shit,” and “Circle of Blood.” She leads us by the hand into unsettling scenes and we’re meant to watch them fully with no filter.
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It’s difficult because reading the book is like looking at the grotesque and mutilated photos of the victims from the inside. What I mean by that is Vodicka injects a much-needed sense of person and emotion into these scenes. We’re not able to read a sterilized and objective account of what happened—no, we’re expected to witness the insanity of someone like Ted Bundy staring back at us. Here, Vodicka grabs our face and forces us to look at the damage done; the realities of this history and others like it. What it does to the psyches and expectations of women who must continue living in a world where evil like this exists.
It’s the horror that we’re confronted with in Dear Ted that caused me pause after I finished reading it. It’s a lot to grapple with and, even then, I know I need to go back and soak it up some more. Every visit back lets this book burrow in a little deeper, and that’s the magic of it—and the absolute talent Kim Vodicka embodies. Once it has its barbs in, I don’t think there’s much we can do.