Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

December 9, 2013 Family 26

Good Day, Bookworms!

I hope you all had a fantastic weekend! We had our first snow of the season here, and I did some Christmas shopping. It was all very festive, minus the slick roads. Nobody likes a slick road.

geekloveIn addition to traversing treacherous terrain (say that five times fast) I managed to finish reading Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. The Binewskis are a family of carnival folk. Desperate to create their own brood of travelling human oddities, Al and Lil Binewski employed the help of amphetamines, arsenic, and radioisotopes during each of Lil’s pregnancies. Prenatal vitamins were way too normal for their tastes. Their resulting children were certainly unique. Olympia, our narrator, is an albino hunchback dwarf. Her sisters, Elly and Iphy, are conjoined twins and piano impresarios. The eldest of the children is Arturo. He’s got flippers for limbs and an ego beyond comprehension. Chick, the baby of the clan, while outwardly normal, possesses a strange and wonderful gift that makes him a valuable and dangerous asset.

I went into this book expecting a quirky, fun read. I got quirky in spades, but fun was in shorter supply. Geek Love is a novel unafraid of delving into the darker side of human relationships. Every time I thought things couldn’t get any more bizarre, they did. Just when I thought I was getting a grasp on the message Dunn was trying to get across, it slipped right through my hands. This book kept me guessing, that’s for sure. What it also did was make me uncomfortable.

The physical abnormalities didn’t phase me. The embracing of their deformities as assets made me rather fond of the Binewskis. The fact that Al and Lil resorted to dangerous measures to provide themselves with a meal ticket skeeved me out, though. It’s hard to know how much the children’s personalities were influenced by chemicals ingested in utero and how much was a result of their unusual upbringing, but mental health is not the Binewski family’s strong suit. Because Arty. Whoa.

I can’t say that I LOVED this book, but it certainly made me think. I would highly recommend Geek Love to anyone who enjoys a darkly quirky read. If unusual confrontational situations appeal to you, and you’ve got a soft spot for carnivals, give Geek Love a try!

In the spirit of embracing our own oddities, let’s talk. What’s something unusual about YOU that you’ve chosen to embrace? Talk to me, Bookworms! Let’s be weirdos together!

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26 Responses to “Geek Love by Katherine Dunn”

  1. Ciska @ Ciska's Book Chestq

    Totally added this to my shelves. It looks like an interesting read.
    As a child i had surgery and it took me a while to accept the scars left. After seeing various scars on other people growing up though I realized that the ones I have are actually pretty nice looking.

    • Words For Worms

      Ah scars. They can be a pain, but they offer a good story, no? Like “hey check out where my appendix was removed!” Or “hey, look at my wrist and you can see the scar from when I crashed a moped in Mexico when I was 13!” (That last one might be specific to me. Might.)

    • Rory

      I have a particularly nasty scar on my wrist. It wraps the entire way around. If someone actually has the audacity to ask me how it happened (this being a stranger, of course), I tell them that my hand was accidentally severed from my arm and that’s where it was reattached. It’s a good bar story, drunk people have no sense.

    • Words For Worms

      I’m going to be interested to hear what you think- I think it’s a polarizing book- very love it or hate it. Unless you’re me, in which case you can’t quite figure it out.

  2. Megan M.

    I’ve avoided this one because it didn’t seem like my cup of tea, and now I’m glad I have because I don’t think I could get past the idea that they intentionally harmed their babies in utero. Nope.

    My ears don’t match! One earlobe is attached and one earlobe is unattached. People don’t notice unless I point it out and then they go “Whoa.” Also I have a freckle cluster on my left thigh that looks like a paw print, but I choose to believe that’s adorable.

    • Words For Worms

      Yeah, if the idea of the parents messing with their kids via chemicals bugs you, just don’t bother picking it up. It gets so much more intense. I think your mismatched earlobes sound just as adorable as that paw print freckle cluster. People pay good money for the kind of skin art nature gave you for free!

  3. Jennifer St. James

    Have you ever heard of The Resurrectionist, by Jack O’Connell? I am still haunted by this book. It was crazy and so very imaginative, and the characters just a little too real. I think you’d dig it. There are circus freaks in it too, if you were wondering what the connection was.

    As for oddities, I’m not sure. I can wiggle my ears…does that count?

  4. Jenny @ Reading the End

    I was always rather fond of a large birthmark I have on my left arm. But as I’ve gotten older, it’s faded and faded, and now you can barely see it even if you’re looking straight at it. Alas, alas. I sort of want it back!

    • Words For Worms

      That’s like my belly button! I had an outie until I was about 10 and it was the cutest dang belly button in all the land. Then it caved in. I understand your plight!

  5. Jennine G.

    Wow, what a weird premise for a book! Not too much weird about me. I can wiggle my ears…but in a normal way, if that makes sense. Lol

      • Lisa G

        My 10 year old twins can both wiggle their ears. I’ve always thought this was COMPLETELY weird, but adorable. Glad to know they are not alone!

  6. Kelly from

    I have something called spastic diplegia – muscle tightness primarily in my legs. So my gait’s a little off. But it hasn’t stopped me in the least, thank G-d!

    This book doesn’t sound like it’s for me but I like how you bring in the whole nature vs. nurture debate.

  7. Sarah Says Read

    Flippers for limbs??? WTF, mate?

    I DO love dark and quirky… but I don’t know. Katie, what do you think, would I like this one? Cause I can see myself being really bothered by the kind of parents willing to ingest poison to have purposely deformed kids…

  8. Rory

    I love dark and quirky, of course, so I suspect I will check this one out. I’ve seen it on a few top ten weird lists.

    Aside from my wrist scar, which makes me feel like a badass, I’m generally a tiny person (very short, tiny hands, tiny feet, etc). It’s not unusual, but I have embraced it for the most part. I do get tired of people telling me I’m just so “cute” though (it’s a compliment, but not, you know?). I’m thirty, at least let’s progress to adorable, shall we?

Talk to me, Bookworms!

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