Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Table of Contents: Geek Love

Author: Katherine Dunn
Publisher/Year: Vintage, 1983
Synopsis: Geek Love tells the story of a family. But this image of family is misshapen and bizarre, a reflection cast back at us from the distorting surface of a circus mirror. In a reversal of the conventional wish to produce perfect children, Crystal Lil and Al Binewski set out to give birth to a family of freaks, taking everything from prescription and illicit drugs to insecticides and radioisotopes to engineer their children’s deformities. They want to ensure their children’s success in the carnival and, as Lil says, “What greater gift could you offer your children than an inherent ability to earn a living just by being themselves?” Arturo is born with flippers instead of hands and feet; Elly and Iphy are Siamese twins; Chick, who is nearly abandoned because he appeared normal at birth, can move things with his mind; and Olympia, who narrates the story, is a bald albino hunchbacked dwarf. Having created such a cast of characters, Dunn explores the strange dynamics both within the family and between the “freaks” who perform in Binewski’s Fabulon and the “norms” who come to watch them. Indeed, in one of the novel’s stunning reversals, the audience and the performers cross the boundaries that appear to separate them as Arturo convinces normal people that the way to true happiness is to “liberate” themselves from the straitjacket of their ordinariness by “shedding” their limbs.

What Others Have To Say:
Pop Matters
"Where Geek Love succeeds most is in forcing the reader to reevaluate their perceptions of normalcy."

The A.V. Club
"Geek Love is often excruciatingly nasty...Is there any redemption to be found in the midst of the muck?"

The New York Times Book Review
“Wonderfully descriptive. . . . Dunn [has a] tremendous imagination.”

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