I like to reserve Thursday for Fashion Book posts, but when it comes to the book I finished yesterday, Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, I just couldn’t do it. If you’ve read it, you’ll understand my hesitation. Geek Love is one of the strangest, most twisted, and most imaginative books I’ve ever read. How could I even begin to conceive of an outfit for a hunchbacked albino midget, siamese twins, an exotic dancer with a tail, or a frozen food heiress with a penchant for disfiguring surgeries? There’s only so far my own imagination can go sometimes.
I found many things about Geek Love repellent, beginning with the idea that two “norm” parents, Lil and Al Binewski, would purposely breed children with specific abnormalities (freaks, if you will) in order to keep their traveling carnival in business. Al puts Lil on a pregnancy regimen of amphetamines, cocaine, arsenic, and other toxins, resulting in a brood of truly extraordinary offspring (including some children who didn’t quite make it). There’s Arty, the boy with fins instead of arms or legs; Iphy and Elly, the siamese twins who share one set of legs and two very different personalities among them; Chick, the sensitive and outwardly “normal” boy with astounding mental abilities; and Oly, our narrator, an albino dwarf with a hump and an amazing voice.
The story of the Binewski family and their traveling “fabulon” is every bit as fantastical and surprising as one would expect from the premise, but Dunn goes even further, pushing the envelope of contemporary fiction, challenging us with every chapter. The characters are dark, even depraved in most cases, and the things that happen are not suitable for young children. I had to put the book down the handful of times I attempted to read it during lunch or breakfast. But ultimately, I couldn’t put it down, and though I was disgusted, I was also fascinated by what was happening in the book. The Binewski family saga quickly spins out of control, and I’m not quite sure where the ending came from, but I know I won’t forget this book. I only wish I had read it for a book club, because there’s so many things to discuss.
Have any of you read it? What did you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts!