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Geek Love: A Novel Paperback – June 11, 2002
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A wild, often horrifying, novel about freaks, geeks and other aberrancies of the human condition who travel together (a whole family of them) as a circus. It's a solipsistic funhouse world that makes "normal" people seem bland and pitiful. Arturo the Aqua-Boy, who has flippers and an enormous need to be loved. A museum of sacred monsters that didn't make it. An endearing "little beetle" of a heroine. Sort of like Tod Browning's Freaks crossed with David Lynch and John Irving and perhaps George Eliot -- the latter for the power of the emotions evoked. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
This audacious, mesmerizing novel should carry a warning: "Reader Beware." Those entering the world of carnival freaks described by narrator Olympia Binewski, a bald, humpbacked albino dwarf, will find no escape from a story at once engrossing and repellent, funny and terrifying, unreal and true to human nature. Dunn's vivid, energetic prose, her soaring imagination and assured narrative skill fuse to produce an unforgettable tale. The premise is bizarre. Art and Lily, owners of Binewski's Fabulon, a traveling carnival, decide to breed their own freak show by creating genetically altered children through the use of experimental drugs. "What greater gift could you offer your children than an inherent ability to earn a living just by being themselves?" muses Lily. Eventually their family consists of Arty, aka Arturo the Aqua Boy, born with flippers instead of limbs, who performs swimming inside a tank and soon learns how to manipulate his audience; Electra and Iphigenia, Siamese twins and pianists; the narrator, Oly; and Fortunato, also called the Chick, who seems normal at birth, but whose telekinetic powers become apparent just as his brokenhearted parents are about to abandon him. More than anatomy has been altered. Arty is a monsterpower hungry, evil, malicious, consumed by "dark, bitter meanness and . . . jagged rippling jealousy." Yet he has the capacity to inspire adoration, especially that of Oly, who is his willing slave, and who arranges to bear his child, Miranda, who appears "norm," but has a tiny tail. A spellbinding orator, Arty uses his ability to establish a religious cult, in which he preaches redemption through the sacrifice of body partsdigits and limbs."I want the losers who know they're losers. I want those who have a choice of tortures and pick me." This raw, shocking view of the human condition, a glimpse of the tormented people who live on the fringe, makes readers confront the dark, mad elements in every society. After a hiatus of almost two decades, the author of Attic and Truck has produced a novel that everyone will be talking about, a brilliant, suspenseful, heartbreaking tour de force.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top customer reviews
I don't know what I expected, but it... wasn't this. Geek Love is about a family of "circus freaks" -- the Binewski clan, where each child was borne of love and a new cocktail of drugs: an albino hunchback little person (and our narrator); conjoined twins; a boy with flippers instead of hands or feet; and one normal-looking child who was almost abandoned. The plot jumps between the past and the present; the reader gleans a portrait of a family brought together with fierce love and loyalty and torn apart by jealousy and fear.
Geek Love isn't a perfect book (I was disappointed with the subplot involving Miss Lick; it seemed underdeveloped), and it's not one that I feel like I can recommend lightly, nor to most readers, but it does tell an amazing story that put me through an emotional wringer, leaving my heart thumping or with tears in my eyes, and every emotion in between. It's about the meaning of family, love, and (blind) devotion, and it's unlike any other family saga I've read.
I recommend it to anyone who has read this review and remains intrigued. It's not an easy book, or a light book, or a book of happy endings, but it is amazing, and worth the effort.
Started: May 13, 2016
Finished: May 21, 2016
This book came highly recommended from a co-worker. And you know there's no better source of a good read than from a friend. About 50 pages in I was thinking"What the actual hell??!!"
BUT Geek Love is like the car crash you see on the freeway--you want to look away but you can't! So I continued to turn page after page and read about this horrific and fascinating book. The Binewskis are the most dysfunctional family you will ever have the pleasure and curse of knowing. Art and Lily, owner of the Binewski's Fabulon, a traveling carnival, decide to breed their own freak show by creating genetically altered children through the use of experimental drugs.
The story is told from Olympia point of view. She is one of Art and Lily's children that happens to be a hunch back albino dwarf who "worked" at the carnival growing up.
Her tale of growing up in the Binewskis family and carnival life is bizarre, dark, and sometimes humorous.
After finishing Geek Love I had to do some research on the author--Where in the world did this story come from? Katherine Dunn says the idea came to her after her young son refused to join her on a walk through a famous rose garden in Portland. Inspired by the diverse blooms she wondered, what if she could have bred a more obedient boy? She dismissed the thought and decided that flaws were more fascinating than perfection and it would be more interesting to go in an entirely different direction. She starting thinking about freaks and mutations who were not considered desirable and Geek Love was born. In 1989 Geek Love became a National Book Finalist and went on to sell hundreds of thousands of copies.
I can promise you that if you decide to give Geek Love a chance you will be left with an memorable, incredibly imaginative story that will have you thinking about the Binewski family and it's characters for years to come.
The only reason I dock it one star is the ending (more so of the 'past' portion of the story). Though, like a Greek tragedy, you know where the characters will end up from the start, the ending still feels rushed, and some of the characters' actions are suddenly contrary to the attitudes they have displayed throughout the book. For another author it would be less noticeable but Dunn elsewhere devotes whole paragraphs to comparatively minor events, so it's difficult not to feel short-changed.
More generally, the section set in the present is weaker, and incidentally less immediate.
Note: as other readers have noted, this is really not for everyone. Read a sample first; if you enjoy it then you should be hooked.
A freakishly wretched group indeed the Binewskis' are, not because of how they look but because of how they behave. "Ugly is as ugly does" my Granny always said. They are certainly as human as any of us with all the characteristic emotions that make us so - envy, jealously, love, and hate. It's the Binewski's inability to exercise any emotional restraint that ultimately leads to their implosion. I'm not clear why the text seemed so dense to me. The story was interesting but not necessarily gripping. In fact, I don't think I liked any of the characters in particular although a little insight into the carnival life of yore was informative. By the end of the novel I was more excited that I was done with it than I was by the experience of it. Good Luck!
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it's the same for him.