m at a little Catholic hospital in suburban Maryland No one other than me has my brain, my heart, and my penis and it is time I started using all three of them to the best of their individual abilities Sorry, ladies I m happily married I ll finish with a great quote from the book There are those whose own vulgar normality is so apparent and stultifying that they strive to escape it They affect flamboyant behavior and claim originality according to the fashionable eccentricities of their time They claim brains or talent or indifference to s in desperate attempts to deny their own mediocrityThen there are those who feel their own strangeness and are terrified by it They struggle toward normalcy They suffer to exactly that degree that they are unable to appear normal to others, or to convince themselves that their aberration does not exist These are true freaks, who appear, almost always, conventional and dull.
Find all of my reviews at s a snow day today and since my tiny humans are to the point where my snow days are numbered since they aren t so tiny any longer I decided to stay home with them in order to read porn make cookies and hot cocoa and scream loving things out the front door like IT S 10 DEGRESS OUTSIDE GET YOUR ASSES BACK IN HERE BEFORE YOU FREEZE TO DEATH But then I realized this book would be expiring from my Kindle in like a minute and a half so I figured I better morph my plan and get a review churned out right quick.
To be honest, I don t really know what to say Geek Love has been on my TBR since 2012 I m fairly certain I even checked it out from the library at one point and returned it without reading When Ron 2.
0 was trying to bait all us creeps with his Last Days updates someone mentioned Geek Love and since I m an asshole I went with that one rather than Ron s choice Enough with the backstory, right You probably want to know about the book Well, it goes a little something like this Tell about the time when Mama was the geekY all know what a geek is, right Well, yeah, but this one isn t about the kind of geek McDreamy was before he got dreamy It s about this kind That was Mama Lil Lil had big dreams of being a trapeze girl, but an unfortunate accident proved that wasn t meant to be Lil became the geek instead, catching the eye of Papa Al With the help of some choice dope, a few insecticides and a handful of radioisotopes the two Binewskis created a very unique family Geek Love is the story of family, of sibling rivalry, of sacrifice, of religion and a need for fame and glory It definitely reminds us all toAnd featured a character that, even though it s the first week of the new year, I will remember forever Oh little Boychick I have never read anything like it and highly doubt I ever will I don t know who to recommend this to because it is most assuredly not a story for everyone But if you have a taste for the unusual and appreciate writing that isn t overdone or purple, but still makes an impactDo you know what the monsters and demons and rancid spirits are Us, that s what You and me We are the things that come to the norms in nightmares The thing that lurks in the bell tower and bites out the throats of the choirboys that s you, Oly And the thing in the closet that makes the babies scream in the dark before it sucks their last breath that s me And the rustling in the brush and the strange piping cries that chill the spine on a deserted road at twilight that s the twins singing practice scales while they look for berriesYou should give it a go and become one of us Geek Love Is The Story Of The Binewskis, A Carny Family Whose Mater And Paterfamilias Set Out With The Help Of Amphetamine, Arsenic, And Radioisotopes To Breed Their Own Exhibit Of Human Oddities There S Arturo The Aquaboy, Who Has Flippers For Limbs And A Megalomaniac Ambition Worthy Of Genghis Khan Iphy And Elly, The Lissome Siamese Twins Albino Hunchback Oly, And The Outwardly Normal Chick, Whose Mysterious Gifts Make Him The Family S Most Precious And Dangerous AssetAs The Binewskis Take Their Act Across The Backwaters Of The US Inspiring Fanatical Devotion And Murderous Revulsion As Its Members Conduct Their Own Machiavellian Version Of Sibling Rivalry, Geek Love Throws Its Sulfurous Light On Our Notions Of The Freakish And The Normal, The Beautiful And The Ugly, The Holy And The Obscene Family Values Will Never Be The Same WTF On the surface, Geek Love has it all jealousy, betrayal, sexual objectification, and murderous revenge It s got a whole shitload of family drama topped off with a generous helping of physical deformities and possibly, possibly, a side of incest That part s not too clear, though The problem is, once you get past the shock value of wanting to fuck your brother who also happens to look like a giant fish, there really isn t much going on here.
Right before starting this book, I read Middlesex The similarities in theme except for the bit about the giant fish are uncanny there s incest, sexual objectification, and also a shitload of family drama The difference is, Middlesex is an engaging novel while Geek Love, on the other hand, falls sadly flat Besides the fact that I m not usually keen on weakling protagonists Oly is a patsy who gets pushed around her entire life by her older brother whom, for some reason, she never stands up to I was actuallydisturbed by the whole Miss Lick situation I believe she s supposed to be like a second coming of Dr Phyllis, disfiguring her clients as a means of helping them achieve enlightenment, yet for some strange reason she wants to remove Miranda s tail I don t get it You d think she d want to make it bigger or help her grow a second one or something The premise of this just doesn t seem very well thought out to me.
Chick is the one thing I did love about this book, though, and Geek Love could have used a lot ofof him But as for the rest of the Binewskis, I could take em or leave em I mean they might be marginally interesting, but not enough for me to care what ends up happening to them So by the time whatever happens to them, um, happens, I had pretty much lost interest The Binewski Family.
If David Lynch wrote a novel, this would be it This novel is repugnant, disgusting, and baffling I loved it Who d have thought that a book narrated by a bald female hunchbacked albino dwarf would be so beautiful The trials and tribulations of the Binewski family are shocking and sickening but yet you feel a strange attraction to this family of freaks This is one of the most original novels I ve ever read, I will never come across anything like this ever again Reading Geek Love is an experience that I highly recommend to everyone, living or dead You ll feel sick with awe.
This book was as good as I heard it would and better I love weird characters and twisted plot lines, but this went so far that it made me very uncomfortable And I love the book for that.
The plot is simple and sick enough Al and Lil Binewski, a young couple madly in love and struggling to save Al s family business, a traveling carnival fabulon, devise a plan to keep themselves from going under Al, with Lil s eager permission, exposes his wife to radiation, presciptions, and whatever else may affect her pregnancies in unforeseen ways The result is a line of children who are so strange that the the traveling carnival now has its main attraction, a bloodline as part of one of the most bizarre freak shows of all time I don t want to say anyabout the book then that, but its really amazing Expect to be disgusted, expect to be appalled, expect one of the most despicable antagonists in literary history, and expect one of the most repulsively loveable protagonists ever envisioned This is a brutal and horrific book that also succeeds to be hysterical and heartbreaking, not to mention incredibly human, and that may be the most uncomfortable part of all How these freaks of nature succeed so well at reflecting the inner side of emotion, which ishuman than one could ever hope their physical appearance can be In short, expect to see yourself in and everyone you know in one character or another There is a little bit of Chick and Arty in all of us This book is incredible.
Book Circle Reads 26Close to the top of any literature lover s life list of lovely books Well, now, uponthan a decade s passing, I can t say I agree with myself here.
25 of fiveThe Book Description Geek Love is the story of the Binewskis, a carny family whose mater and paterfamilias set out with the help of amphetamine, arsenic, and radioisotopes to breed their own exhibit of human oddities There s Arturo the Aquaboy, who has flippers for limbs and a megalomaniac ambition worthy of Genghis KhanIphy and Elly, the lissome Siamese twinsalbino hunchback Oly, and the outwardly normal Chick, whose mysterious gifts make him the family s most precious and dangerous asset As the Binewskis take their act across the backwaters of the U.
, inspiring fanatical devotion and murderous revulsion as its members conduct their own Machiavellian version of sibling rivalry, Geek Love throws its sulfurous light on our notions of the freakish and the normal, the beautiful and the ugly, the holy and the obscene Family values will never be the same.
My Review Little Katie D s report card Idea A Execution C Nutritional Value D While I, unlike some, adored The Night Circus in all its flawed glory, I thought this book was a bag of generic cheez puffs versus Morgenstern s home made real butter cheese straws.
I must be hungry.
But seriously, the reason I ve given it so many stars is the sheer audacity of Katherine Dunn s imagination I was gobsmacked by Oly s impregnation I was stunned by the hubris of the horrible, horrible parents of these deformed and bizarre siblings I saw in this book a spiritual ancestor to Swamplandia , and I felt some of the same things about that book as I do about this one Oooh, so close It s sooo close to being extraordinary in a good, satisfying way Unlike Swamplandia , though, I think this book really does deserve the time and attention of serious fiction readers.
Yes, it does fail on some levels, but it s ambitious enough to make even that really interesting Yes, it lacks some hard to define something, that one thing that makes an unbelievable premise feel right and inevitable, but instead it leaves the reader with a weird, uneasy new set of images imprinted on the brain.
But most of all, despite the ways it s not perfect, one thing it is, is fun A fun to read failure is better for summer than a successful sob fest, no This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 3.
0 Unported License.
Moderato Lightly strummed guitar Two backup singers who constantly refrain Sweet sweet, the freaks that you gave to meYou can t beat the geeks that you gave to meA handsome tuxedo wearing guy sings Take one set of Siamese twinsAdd a boy with only finsNo legs, no arms, he swims, he charmsMemories are made of thisThen add some pesticideJust a sprinkle of infanticideIncest and twin sex for the flavorShould you be hard to pleaseVoluntary amputeesWill give you plenty to savorAdd a dwarfish hunchbacked girlAnd a guy without a faceThere s a telekinetic boyAnd a rich lady who likes to pay pretty girls to undergo operations to make them really uglyMemories are made of thisSweet sweet, the freaks that you gave to meMemories are made of thisYou can t beat the geeks that you gave to meFade The story is narrated by Oly, the hunchbacked albino dwarf She says I realized that the peculiar look on people s faces when they saw me was not envy or hatred, but could be translated into one simple question What the hell happened to you They needed to know so they could prevent it from happening to them My answer was simple, too My father and mother designed me this way They achieved greater originality in some of their other projects So, if you read the blurb you will know that this is the story of a family of freaks who run a freak show in their own carnival, which constantly tours the small towns of the South and Midwest And it s a beloved cult novel, which I had only vaguely heard of until recently It was one of those why haven t I already read this moments And now I have Phew, it felt really long, and at the end, I couldn t wait to be done with it.
It s uneasy reading when you utterly despise the sniveling wretched narrator in whose brain you live throughout And also you find the author likes to describe the simplest things in oblique prose And also the most complicated things in oblique prose And also I felt jerked aroundthan somewhat I will explain.
This novel is has a couple of Real Big Themes Like in Uncle Tom s Cabin, the theme is slavery.
Or in the novels of Martin Amis the theme is Martin Amis fabulous intelligenceHere it s kind of two intertwined ideas.
Arty the Aqua Boy We have this advantage, that the norms expect us to be wise Even a rat s ass dwarf jester got credit for terrible canniness disguised as tomfoolery Freaks are like owls, mythed into blinking, bloodless objectivity The norms figure our contact with their brand of life is shaky They see us as cut off from temptation and pettiness Even our hate is grand by their feeble lights And thedeformed we are, the higher our supposed sanctity So Arty gradually starts a cult The hicks who patronize the freak show begin to see him as a guru He preaches a message of P.
P Peace, Isolation, Purity The idea is for people to be like Arty in order to achieve this The Arturans therefore snip off increasing bits of themselves to denormalise, starting with toes and fingers because the normal world is so overburdened with expectations get a good job, have great sex, go on fabulous holidays, you know you can never find P I P there, so you have to make a radical incremental voluntary rejection of it Snip snip snip Similarly in the great movie City of Lost Children the cult of self blinded people preach that rejecting diurnal sight liberates the mind to spiritual sight The carnival acquires a very conveniently unethical surgeon who travels with them and performs the amputations And it was characters like this doctor who, alas, rang too hollow for me bong bong, the telling sound of a character made up by the author because she had to make that part of the story work, and to hell with any considerations like plausibility.
Plausibility in a story about generically damaged freaks in a freak show which includes a boy with seemingly infinite telekinetic powers Sure We ask for believability in a science fiction story set on the Planet Glurg amongs the alien Glurgians just as much as we do in Jane Austen s Sense and Sensibility So increasingly I couldn t quite buy a lot of the motivations on display here, even given the abnormal psychologies of some of them A great deal of what goes on in this book, and a lot goes on, seemed to be series of contrivances towards another ratchetting up of delicious grotesqueness The Bag Man The maggot factory from human parts Let s have the hunchbacked dwarf do a striptease The freaks are humanized and dehumanized co terminously This author has her cake and eats it.
Anyhow, the cult of Arty, takes up the majority of the story But there s also the other part which involves the millionaire Miss Lick who likes to film pretty girls undergoing disfiguring operations Yes This is another Big Theme This is also about liberation Arty wants to liberate you from normality, and Miss Lick wants to liberate women from male attention This then allows them to become molecular pharmacologists or top UN interpreters These two stories drag the book like a supermarket trolley with wonky wheels towards metaphor and polemic and away from the living breathing world which us readers want from fiction Fiction has to be true In Geek Love too many of the characters Stand for Something, like Mrs Do As You Would Be Done By and Mrs Be Done By As You Did in The Water Babies 1863 I must say that most readers of Geek Love completely disagree with this, they have no problem with these characters and they love the world Katherine Dunn creates But they can go and write their own review, and many have I read that people have been optioning this book for a movie since it came out and I m surprised it hasn t been done Common decency may have prevented it from being filmed before now, I guess, but now we live in a world of The Human Caterpillar and suchlike, so that s no barrier at all And CGI makes the rest of it a stroll in the park I say do it now, and Ellie and Dakota Fanning are shoo ins for the parts of the Siamese twins 2.
5 stars because it s some kind of achievement, I guess They thought to use and shame me but I win out by nature, because a true freak cannot be made A true freak must be born Geek Love is an amazing book, audacious, moving, beautiful, substantive, creepy, upsetting, tragic and dark So you think of yourself as different, an outsider, a freak in one way or another Well, maybe you are, but your differences would likely fade were you to compare yourself to most of the characters in this best selling novel from Katherine Dunn, so best selling in fact that it has never been out of print And, in addition to being a popular success, it was a critical one as well, earning a spot as a finalist for the 1989 National Book Award.
A word of warning several, actually for those who are familiar only with the contemporary meaning of the word geek Before the word had its DNA mutated to mean an expert, particularly of the techie variety, before serious people proclaimed that the geeks will inherit the earth, the word referred specifically to carnival performers who engaged in the very un nerdy practice of biting the heads off live chickens for paying audiences Let s see a show of hands How many of you folks out there, how many nerds in particular, would be interested in returning to etymological roots and getting your McNuggets started the old fashioned way Not many But you, in the back, with your hand up Do me a favor please and read some other review Thanks Of course this was not a problem for Crystal Lil Somehow it did not freak her husband out that she got off on using her teeth to remove small heads from quivering bodies When your mama was the geek, my dreamlets, Papa would say, she made the nipping off of noggins such a crystal mystery that the hens themselves yearned toward her, waltzing around her, hypnotized with longing Binewski s Carnival Fabulon travels the Podunk USA circuit, offering pedestrian locals a peek at the extraordinary The Binewski family will remind no one of Ozzie and Harriet More the Addams family, sans the smirks In fact, they may be the ones who put the nuclear in nuclear family Frustrated by the frequent loss of carnival performers, Aloysius Binewski and his wife, Lilian Hinchcliff Binewski , the Crystal Lil of the geek mention above opt to craft their own, applying measured doses of sundry illegal substances, poisons, and radioisotopes to ensure that their progeny emerge special The efforts that do not make it through to live birth, or who meet an unhappy end soon after their emergence, are displayed publicly in large glass jars The survivors include Siamese twins, Iphigenia Iphy and Elektra Elly , Arturo Arty , the malevolent and megalomaniacal AquaBoy, Fortunato Chick , who manifests telekinetic power, and Olympia Oly , our narrator through this family saga Oly relates the tale of the family to us as an adult She makes a living as radio personality Hopalong McGurk, which is a good venue if you are a bald, albino dwarf with pink eyes, a sweet voice and a hump Reading this book you will forget the boy who lived under the stairs and latch on to the girl who lived under the sink Oly s needs are few, but a connection to family is chief among them She is our insider, observing and reporting the goings on that seem normal to her, but maybe not so much to us What is normal, anyway To you and me, norms for the most part, average height, weight, a typical number of standard issue limbs, no particular magical powers, we stroll the not very broad midway of the straight and narrow But to Olympia Binewski, having a brother with flipper shaped limbs, twins sharing one pair of legs, among sundry other parts, and a brother who can move matter with his mind, and a sense of place defined by the nearest road sign defines normal I was full grown before I even set foot in a house without wheels Of course I had been in stores, offices, fuel stations, barns, and warehouses But I had never walked through the door of a place where people slept and ate and bathed and picked their noses, and, as the saying goes, lived, unless that place was three times longer than it was wide and came equipped with road shocks and tires.
When I first stood in such a house I was struck by its terrible solidity The thing had concrete tentacles sunk into the earth, and a sprawling inefficiency Everything was bigger than it needed to be and there were so many shadowed, dusty corners empty and wasted that I thought I would get lost if I stepped away from the door That building wasn t going anywhere despite an itchy sense that it was not entirely comfortable where it was Sometimes that family connection can be problematic Oly is in love with her brother, Arty AquaBoy is exceptionally bright and tuned in to what works on audiences He expands his performance from a display of his unusual form to an interaction, as he finds success answering audience questions He builds this into a very big deal For a while, he answered only generic questions distilled from the scrawled bewilderments and griefs that piled up on the three by five cards Then he stopped answering at all and just told them what he wanted them to hear Testifying he called it And a cult is born, Arturism, in which the Admitted, seeking to find the peace that Arty has persuaded them he possesses, allow their bodies to be whittled a piece at a time Chick was thought to have been a dreaded norm when he arrived Al and Lily decided that, as he was of no value to the show, the proper course was to leave him at a gas station Turns out he has a special gift which manifests in the nick of time He is absorbed into the family, and put to profitable use as soon as he is able to understand commands We follow the family as the children grow, and as will happen, sexuality swells the narrative mix Complications ensue These are not exactly the nicest people, but Dunn offers nuanced portrayals of most of them We never really find out why Boston Brahmin Lily chooses the low road, but we do see both the dark and the light sides of their children Or in the case of Arty, the bright side illuminating his dark side Oly is a sympathetic character and you will have little trouble appreciating her concerns, particularly when she is an adult Her role, though, is primarily as an observer Chick is like a wounded animal, who, despite his prodigious power, suffers as he feels the pain all around him The twins have the same problems other twins experience, on steroids There are a few outsiders who join the Fabulon, and offer a perspective other than Oly s The narrative follows two time lines The bulk is following the traveling Binewkis over a decade or so The smaller narrative is Oly as an adult, living in a boarding house in which her mother and her daughter, Miranda, a Tempest reference if ever there was one, resonant with the opening epigraph, taken from that play , reside In that stream Mary Malley Lick is a wealthy heiress who professes a desire to liberate young women from the burden of being attractive so they can make their way in the world on their merits Of course, the very large and not very attractive Ms Lick may be using her great wealth to take beauty away from those who have it, in a form of one percenter jealousy Oly takes an interest in her when Lick targets Miranda.
The tales of love, greed, power, envy, powerlessness and rage seem the stuff of Greek or Shakespearean tragedy, particularly those centering around Arty Hubris, abuse of power, fate and comeuppance are most definitely on display There are really two primary preoccupations of mine involved in this book One of course is this concept of the cult, and the how come of that And the other was the long debate of nature vs nurture So those two things linked and seemed to be in an odd way part and parcel of each other, I guess We are asked to look at questions about the definition of normalcy Most of the time in literature the freaks want to be like everyone else Here the norms seem to pine for freakishness Dunn offers a fascinating comparison between the oddness of the Arturists and what society considers appropriate It s interesting that when these individuals choose and it is their choice always to endure voluntary amputation for their own personal benefit, society professes itself shocked and disapproving Yet this same society respects the concept that any individual should risk total annihilation in war, subject to the judgment of any superior officer at all and for purposes ranging from a promotion for the lieutenant to higher profits for the bullet company Hell, they don t just respect that idea, they flat expect it And they ll shoot your ass if you don t go along with it At what point does cultishness, do the needs of the pack, become the norm In addition to the startling tale of the Binewskis, Dunn demonstrates a particularly powerful and poetic command of language Here is a small sample The sky above Molalla was aching blue but I walked from Arty s tent to our van in the same air I d sucked all my life It was a Binewski blend of lube, grease, dust, popcorn, and hot sugar We made that air and we carried it with us The Fabulon s light was the same in Arkansas as in Idaho the patented electric dance step of the Binewskis We made it Like the mucoid nubbin that spins a shell called oyster, we Binewskis wove a midway shelter called carnival There is plentywhere that came from There is also serious structural craft on display, as Dunn, in this modern fable, wields parallelism deftly, particularly as applied to how people are formed and changed, and the diverse motivations, self and external, involved in the formation of who we are and what we are capable of, for good andill There is a particularly poignant look at innocence in childhood vs adulthood Appropriately for a book that concerns freakishness, Geek Love is notable for its packaging Quick, name five books that are renowned for their covers Right Dead air, that s what I thought Ok, Ok, Gatsby, and we all have personal favorites, but how many are really different, and universally regarded as groundbreaking The Knopf wolfhound on the bound edge of the original hard cover printing somehow sports five instead of the usual four limbs And the letters used in the cover title are all mutations It was considered pretty daring cover art for the time One of the inspirations for the story took place in Portland, Oregon The International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park is home to a wide variety of rose variations Dunn wondered how it might play out if people were applying genetic control to making people, not in some sort of Aryan quest for perfection, but in trying to design for different She was also inspired, if the word can be used here, by the awfulness of Jim Jones, and puts some of Jones s words into Arty s mouth Dunn is from Kansas, originally, but her family moved around a fair bit when she was a kid She has lived in several European countries, having her son in Ireland, but lives in Portland now, where she has become a renowned writer on boxing.
As for film plans for Geek Love, rights have been sold and sold again, but now reside permanently with Warner Brothers, who may or may not ever get around to producing it Geek Love has been continuously in print since its 1989 release In fact she earnedmoney from it in the last year than she ever had before The author was given a contract for a second novel, for a sum well into six figures But the book has yet to appear Perhaps it is in a glass jar somewhere.
You don t have to be a teenager or twenty something to appreciate the pull of Geek Love It is one of the most fascinating books I have ever read, and I am well on my way to geezerhood Reading Geek Love may not alter your DNA, give you unusual physical characteristics or make sleeping under the kitchen sink seem appealing But it will definitely alter your view of what is possible in literature, will make you think about some core subjects in ways that might not have occurred before and will make you perk up whenever you spot one orof the many references to it that pop up in our culture from time to time, like a travelling carnival It may be too out there for some readers, but I suggest that if it feels that way to you, take an excursion and go out there to see this amazing show It is one of the best freakin books ever Review posted 12 5 14Publication date 1989 EXTRA STUFFDunn s FB page is maintained by Knopf not by DunnThere are many clips on Youtube to the 1932 movie Freaks When a character in GL is proclaimed One of Us it is a reference to the filmThe A.
V Club interview Dunn quotes are taken from hereLitreactor.
com piece on Dunn, with a bit of interview What The Hell Ever Happened To Katherine Dunn by Joshua ChaplinskyAn excellent piece in Wired.
Com Geek Love at 25 How a Freak Family Inspired Your Pop Culture Heroes A reading group guide from the Book Report Network