Decidedly not for the squeamish, boxing journalist Katherine Dunn's National Book Award finalist depicts the Binewskis, a brood of grotesques whose parents aspire to be traveling-circus proprietors and so willfully poison their children in utero
in hopes of birthing for-profit freaks. Several survive, albeit with horrifying deformities: Arturo, the sadistic boy with flippers; Electra and Iphigenia, the conjoined twins; Fortunato, the telekinetic babe. With this pitiable cast of outcasts, Dunn accomplishes an adroit narrative ploy: her characters' gruesome disfigurements mask a humanity that's almost more recognizable for its shocking context. Those of us who love this book, we laughed, we cried, we cringed. Anything but a typical critical favorite, Geek Love
offers memorable rewards in exchange for suspension of disbelief and a strong stomach. --Jason Kirk
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.