Sunday, May 11, 2008
Book Review: Geek Love, by Katherine Dunn
I recently read what could be the most demented novel ever written: Geek Love. Geek Love tells the story of the Binewski family, owners and main attractions of a traveling carnival. The patriarchs, Al and Crystal Lil, decide to breed their own carnival freaks and proceed do so with the aid of various drugs, chemicals, and radioisotopes. After various failures whose mutated bodies are preserved in glass jars for display, they have four (or 5, depending on how you count) surviving children: Arturo, who has flippers for limbs, Siamese twins Iphy and Elly, the albino hunchback midget narrator Olympia, and Fortunado, nicknamed Chick, who outwardly resembles a "norm" but wields powerful telekinetic abilities. I almost put the book aside for good after reading the first ten pages. I'm not normally squeamish or particularly easy to offend, but a mother intentionally giving her children birth defects? That's a pretty fucked up premise right there. Additionally, the language can be unsettlingly vulgar at times. Curiosity, perhaps, led me to continue reading. Besides, it couldn't get any more twisted than that, right? WRONG. In the Binewski family, it is Arty who reigns supreme, and his siblings vie for his attention and clamor to fulfill his demands. They are not the only ones under the spell of the vicious, cunning, and manipulative Aqua Boy; he becomes the leader of his own cult, whose followers trail the carnival and undergo voluntary amputations. The story of the Binewskis is horrifying and grotesque, but also quite fascinating. Imagine a collaboration between John Irving and David Lynch, but ten times more twisted, and you've got something close to Geek Love. I can't exactly say that I liked it, but I was certainly mesmerized. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone without a mountain of caveats, and I feel terrible that I gave a copy of it to a friend for her birthday before I had read it. "Happy birthday. Here's the most fucked up book EVAR. Hope you like it!" However, if you can get over the repellent aspects of the novel, Geek Love is definitely an imaginative and creative work of fiction.