Subscribe to my updates via email by entering your email address below:



Sponsors


more hey lady!


currently reading

  • Succubus Blues (Georgina Kincaid, Book 1)

  • Birds of Paradise: A Novel


We will always miss you:


Love this shirt:


Website development by:

Temptation Designs

Meta



search

recent posts

did you say that outloud?

cringe worthy

categories

Review – Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

geek_love

Geek Love
by Katherine Dunn
348 pages
March 11, 1989
Fiction

It must have been pure coincidence that I won Geek Love by Katherine Dunn from softdrink at Fizzy Thoughts, because of all the books in the world, we ended up picking it for our book club. And if I told you the premise of the book, you’d be all, WTF*? You picked THAT? So just lay that thought aside and hear me out.

Geek Love is about the Binewski family, Aloysius and his wife, Lillian (Lil for short), who decided to create their own “freak show” or circus act by “experimenting with illicit and prescription drugs, insecticides, and eventually radioisotopes” while Lil was pregnant. Their innovations netted them five children: Arturo, whose hands and feet were flippers that grew right out of his body since he had no arms and no legs…it’s no stretch that his nickname was Aqua Boy; then there was the Siamese twins, Electra and Iphigenia, joined at the waist, with separate torsos but sharing one set of hips and legs, who were beautiful and did piano duets; Olympia (Oly), the narrator, is a hunchback albino dwarf who isn’t quite freakish enough for the family she’s born into, so instead of having her own show, she sells tickets to shows her siblings put on; and finally, there’s Forunato, nicknamed Chick, who appeared normal at birth, causing his parents to consider giving him up to a “normal” family, until they found out he was telekinetic.

All that information just gets you going into the story. Right away you find out that Oly has a child that she gave up for adoption but is living in the same house with, both of them renting separate rooms. Oly is remembering her history, all the while trying to help her daughter without revealing that she’s her mother. As Oly reveals more and more of her family’s dynamics, you find out just how dysfunctional her family was as her parents cede more and more control to her egomaniacal brother, Arturo.

When you peel back all the freakish layers the author has piled on, at the heart of the story are very basic themes: sibling rivalry, love (motherly love, love towards your siblings, etc), the desire to fit in coupled with the desire to be unique, etc.

General opinion about Arty varies, from those who see him as a profound humanitarian to those who view him as a ruthless reptile. I myself have held most of the opinions in this spectrum at one time or another. Watching Arty pine for Iphy, however, I come to see him as just a regular Joe – jealous, bitter, possessive, competitive, in a constant frenzy to disguise his lack of self-esteem, drowning in deadly love, and utterly unable to prevent himself from gorging on the coals of hell in his search for revenge.

We had what I thought was a really good discussion over this book at the book club meeting. Unfortunately, even though there were people who didn’t care for the book, they didn’t really have a reason other than being unable to get past all the freakishness. If you can suspend disbelief (because really. Aqua Boy?) and just let the story be, then there’s so much there to think about!

I pointed out how similar Arturo and Kevin from We Need to Talk About Kevin were. Both of them were psychotic and had an uncanny ability to charm those around them. Last year we read Stones From the River, which is about a German dwarf, and Geek Love has Oly, also a dwarf.

What I also found fascinating was how Oly, while proud to be different, proud to be a freak, was at the same time constantly searching for acceptance and a sense of belonging. Being unique does not preclude someone from wanting to fit in.

I thought the author’s writing was excellent. She has the kind of writing that will make you think it’s effortless. The writing isn’t pretentious, but I wouldn’t say its simple, either. Katherine Dunn deftly weaves an intricate family story that keeps the reader engaged and fascinated.

Rating: 92 out of 100

This is a great interview with Katherine Dunn.

GUESS WHO’LL BE AT THE LA TIMES FESTIVAL OF BOOKS??? I’m so stoked because I’m hoping she’ll talk about the novel she’s currently working on, The Cut Man.

Buy Geek Love at Powell’s | Buy Geek Love at Amazon

Other reviews:

Both Eyes Book Blog

Books for Breakfast

Dog Ear Diary

Fizzy Thoughts

*WTF translates, in my head, to what the frack. Or what the fudgesicle. Or what the eff.

| Tags: , , , , , 34 comments »

34 Responses to “Review – Geek Love by Katherine Dunn”

  1. Jennsbookshelf

    Great review, Trish. I’m glad you liked the book..I read it years ago when it was originally released. You summed it up quite well…WTF? But I agree..it was very well written, a very good book overall.

    [Reply]

  2. Beth F

    I haven’t read this but always meant to. Nice review — now I’m extra curious about it.

    [Reply]

  3. Fyrefly

    I read this a few years ago (review here), and was absolutely fascinated by it. I have a hard time saying that I liked it, because by the end I wound up hating just about every character except for Chick, but I couldn’t tear myself away, either. Definitely one of the most unique books I’ve ever read – I think this would be great for a book club!

    [Reply]

  4. jess

    Great review. Never heard of this book, but sounds very interesting.

    [Reply]

  5. Kathy

    Oh my gosh, what a story line! That one definitely sounds like it could be interesting. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    [Reply]

  6. Sadako

    I LOVE this book!!! Thanks for reviewing it. I thought the idea of creating a freak family was so cool. And Artie’s a great, if evil, character. It’s just mesmerizing. Have you seen Tod Browning’s Freaks?

    [Reply]

    trish Reply:

    No, I haven’t! Should I google it?

    [Reply]

  7. zibilee

    I read this book quite a few years ago and absolutely loved it! It is freakish, and weird, and very very interesting. The twist at the end really had me glued to the page. I am so glad you reviewed this book, it’s one of my favorites. Great non-spoilery review as well, btw.

    [Reply]

    trish Reply:

    I’m glad the review didn’t spoil anything. I tried not to! I appreciate your kudos. 🙂

    [Reply]

  8. Stephanie

    This is my brother’s favorite book!! He usually doesn’t steer me wrong, but I still haven’t had a chance to read it. Nice review!

    [Reply]

  9. Raych

    TWIN BRAINS! This has been on my self for the last 3 weeks. Except that I didn’t get around to reading it, but I TOTALLY INTEND TO! It came up due at the library, and I LITERALLY spend all day writing papers now.

    [Reply]

    trish Reply:

    You should check the book out again. I’d totally pass my copy on to you…but I kinda dig the whole book, cover included. So get ye back to the library!

    [Reply]

  10. Lorin

    Interesting review. I’ve almost bought this book half a dozen times in the years since it was published but was never quite sure if I wanted to make the plunge. Maybe I’ll put it on my TBR list after all.

    [Reply]

  11. chartroose

    This is one of my favorite novels of all time, so I’m really glad you liked it Trish!

    [Reply]

    trish Reply:

    I’ll never doubt you again, Book Master.

    [Reply]

  12. Care

    This was one of my top reads from last year! and this was a fabulous review. 🙂

    [Reply]

  13. Jeane

    A very excellent review! I’m glad you liked it better than I. It was just a bit too- freakish- for me. Especially the parents’ behavior.

    [Reply]

  14. nat @ book, line, and sinker

    whaaaaaaaaaat? i can’t even wrap my head around the review. they did WHAT? their kids are WHAT? hysterical! now i have to read it.

    [Reply]

    trish Reply:

    Artie’s definitely the weirdest character. You’d get a kick out of him. The author *obviously* had fun with him. 🙂

    [Reply]

  15. Staci

    O.k. the weirdness of it all may be hard to get past at first but after reading your review, I think I could do that and just read the book for what it is. Thanks for a heads up on this one!

    [Reply]

  16. Jenners

    Now that I’ve read a few posts on your blog, I am just in love with your writing style. This books sounds great to me! What a family if being an albino hunchbacked dwarf isn’t weird enough! And, unlike my husband who is so realistic and analytical, I am totally willing to suspend belief in things that “could never happen” to enjoy a good story. I will be adding this to my wish list! Thank you.

    [Reply]

    trish Reply:

    Someone loves me! *skipping off to love you back*

    [Reply]

  17. Tara

    I had *no* idea what this was about! Great review. I’m thinking about reading this one.

    [Reply]

    trish Reply:

    What more must I say, woman?! Go read this book! 😉

    [Reply]

  18. Heather

    I looved this book, and it’s not a very well-known book either, so it’s cool that you read it and gushed so much. 🙂 I agree with you about those who don’t like it – it’s usually because of the freakishness, but if you can get over that and just think of the real themes running through the book, it’s fantastic.
    Great review!

    [Reply]

    trish Reply:

    I can’t wait to meet the author. She seems like a really neat person.

    [Reply]

  19. S, Krishna

    I’ve heard so much about this book, but I didn’t know what it was about. Thanks for letting me know! Now I’m prepared so I won’t be turned off by the freakishness when I get !around to reading it. (Though really, it takes a lot to turn me off)

    [Reply]

  20. Steph

    I have this one in my TBR pile. I’ve heard it’s dark and disturbing, but oh so good. I’m glad you enjoyed it – in general my book club tends to hate the books that are picked!

    [Reply]

    trish Reply:

    Dark + disturbing = yummy book goodness.

    Seriously, though, knowing what I know about you, you should try this book.

    [Reply]

  21. Kim L

    Holy cow that is a crazy set up for a novel. I am completely hooked on the idea now. Right onto the wishlist!

    [Reply]

  22. Kimberly

    Yup, this is why I read book reviews. Because if I came across this book by accident, I think it might have given me nightmares for months….*shudder*

    Thanks for the review Trish!

    [Reply]

    trish Reply:

    I probably wouldn’t have read it either if I hadn’t won it from Jill. Good thing I’ve got friends with good literary taste!

    [Reply]

  23. Erin

    Geek Love is one of my all time favorite novels. It is just so weird and so disturbingly plausible that I still think of it occasionally, which I don’t normally do. Once I’m done with something I usually forget about it unless it was really, really good. Geek Love is one of those really, really good ones.

    [Reply]

  24. Shaqwanda Yams

    Tell me everything you know about Fortunato, now.

    [Reply]

Leave a Reply



Back to top