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Geek Love: A Novel by Katherine Dunn

Geek Love: A Novel (original 1989; edition 2002)

by Katherine Dunn (Author)

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4,6501211,022 (4.02)241
Title:Geek Love: A Novel
Authors:Katherine Dunn (Author)
Info:Vintage (2002), Edition: Reprint, 368 pages
Collections:Your library

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Geek Love by Katherine Dunn (1989)


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Showing 1-5 of 119 (next | show all)
I was much more interested in the framing story than the backstory, and after a good beginning, I did not get much of that framing stories. Nice enough ideads, but I wasn't particulary interested in the main characters and their way of live, which is probably the focus of the book. I didn't learn anything either, about carny work or the world or people. So, okayish, and intriguing, but not for me. ( )
  HerrRau | Jun 4, 2017 |
I picked up this book thinking it was a love story about two geeks (in today's sense of the word, not the term originally used to define "circus freaks", no offense intended). I must say I was a bit disturbed by the characters in this book and not because of their deformities but rather their incestuous and creepy behavior. It was hard for me to get over the fact that the parents wanted to create these deformed children. I've never read materials similar to this so perhaps that influenced my rating of this book, because though it was beautifully written and the story had depth, it was hard for me to finish it because of the content. I will have to revisit this book at a later time - perhaps after watching some Fellini films. ( )
1 vote jthao_02 | May 18, 2017 |
By turns visceral and grotesque, by turns tender and heart-wrenching, who could have expected that love in all its forms, pure, raw, bitter, cruel, can be so expertly distilled from a story about misfits on the fringes of society?

Beyond its immense capacity to shock and repulse its reader - intentionally and almost flauntingly, whatchagonnadoaboutit - with its imaginative twistedness, at its heart, the novel is a vast generational story about a dysfunctional family and their versions of love.

Target reader: this book certainly is not for the faint of heart but in small doses, it could perhaps be endured? It reads like a cross between a way more messed up version of Eugenides' Middlesex and HBO's Carnivàle. Proceed with caution.

Aside: I need a spin-off alternate-universe book on Iphy and Elly and their relationship. ( )
  kitzyl | Apr 25, 2017 |
I wasn't aware of this novel until the author died, which was recently. Neil Gaiman and a few other writers used this as their parting memory--a particularly influential book (Kurt Cobain cited it as an influence). I looked it up and found the summary intriguing -- a married couple engineers their children to be circus freaks for their literal "Family Circus". It sounded horrific and darkly bizarre, like all those dark carnival/clown tropes I love.

The accolades are not dismissible. Whereas a book like "Stranger in a Strangeland" is tainted by anachronisms (like the hippie counter-culture and there being actual life on Mars), this one has no such compunctions. Although it has the sensibilities of the mid-seventies (published in 1980), it's not steeped in that culture, adding to timelessness. It's basically the family story the husband and wife traveling carnival owners and their four circus freak children -- one's a dolphin-boy, one/two are Siamese twin girls, one's an albino hunchback who's our POV character (because she's just a run of the mill abnormality). The main plot thread involves the dolphin-boy who gets hungry for fame. So he grows his mild audience of curiosity into a migratory cult of amputees.

But this is just one--it reads like a rise and fall of an empire as jealousy and ignorance lead to destruction. There's also a strange framing device about the hunchback keeping a stalker eye on the daughter she gave up for adoption, and this starts in the beginning but doesn't come back until the end. I think that's the novel's biggest flaw.

I can honestly say I've never read a book like this. Like "Freaks" crossed with "East of Eden". The characters are well-developed and evolve over the course of the story. Even the infodumps are fun to read, assuming you like reading "top five miscarriages I keep in glass jars in our trailer". Is this book for everyone? Definitely not. It's for the subset of people who like Rob Zombie and Alan Moore. It contains elements we take for granted now that made big booms on the 1980's video shelves, like surgical horror and deformity. For some reason, it seems to resonate with females more than males, maybe because of the "freaky but family" vibe. The shock value has a pay-off.

Now... all that being said, this is the book that made me re-evaluate my criteria for selection and sticking with a book on the "to-read shelf". It's really good, but it's JUST SO LONG. I felt trapped by it at a certain point, like I was in book jail. Reading the same set of characters in the same plot forever on, never coming to an end. Is there such a thing as hate-reading? Like hate-fucking? Where you're enjoying the act on a base level, but your forebrain is motivated by spite or malice to continue? That's what it felt like. Maybe I've got a short attention span, maybe I'm the MTV generation, but this book didn't need to be as long as it was. I am of the mind that editing is a golden gift. As crucial as knowing what to put in is what to take out. ( )
2 vote theWallflower | Mar 20, 2017 |

I... have no idea where to start. Except to give the warning I've been giving to others since I started reading the book. Which is to bear with it. To be explicit, bear with at least the first 25 pages. If you think you can't handle it after that, feel no shame. This book is the definition of something that is not for everyone.

Here, I'll help. This is a book about a family of freaks. Specifically, the parents in this family worked their darnedest to produce children with physical abnormalities. They owned a circus, and needed performers (although I don't think that's the entire reason they wanted a family of freaks). The novel's plot revolves around one of the children, her childhood in the circus, her relationship with her extremely twisted brother, and the life she had many years after the circus.

My problem with the book isn't the plot. That is actually somewhat standard - complex familial relationships, personal growth and understanding, a little bit of a mystery, and some form of closure. It's the strange assumption that what we are reading is normal. Well, not so much normal as "to be expected". That this odd world these people live in is playing out right now in the American heartland, and this book just showcases it. I don't think that's all of it, though, because the ending to the novel does recognize the apparent "wrongness" of it all.

I expect Dunn does this on purpose - hides her own feelings for this world she's created. Except, I am uncertain what kind of take-away she wants me to have at the end. Having read about her life, it feels as if she'd welcome a real-life example of this, and be giggling with glee at the discovery. ( )
1 vote khage | Mar 19, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 119 (next | show all)
Als untalentiertestes von fünf Wunderkindern aufzuwachsen ist nicht leicht. Als kleinwüchsige, bucklige Albina das gewöhnlichste von fünf Kindern zu sein, ist wohl mehr als nur „nicht leicht“. Binewskis. Zerfall einer radioaktiven Familie ist nicht nur die Geschichte einer Familie, die sich spektakulär von innen heraus zersetzt, sondern ein Roman, der ganz unauffällig wichtige Fragen an die moderne Gesellschaft stellt.
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This thing of darkness I Acknowledge mine.
—Prospero, The Tempest 5.1.275–6
For Eli Malachy Dunn Dapolonia
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"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."
It’s interesting that when these individuals choose--and it is their choice always--to endure voluntary amputations 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 the 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. (Arty)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375713344, Paperback)

A wild, often horrifying, novel about freaks, geeks and other aberrancies of the human condition who travel together (a whole family of them) as a circus. It's a solipsistic funhouse world that makes "normal" people seem bland and pitiful. Arturo the Aqua-Boy, who has flippers and an enormous need to be loved. A museum of sacred monsters that didn't make it. An endearing "little beetle" of a heroine. Sort of like Tod Browning's Freaks crossed with David Lynch and John Irving and perhaps George Eliot -- the latter for the power of the emotions evoked.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:16 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Aloysious and Lillian Binewski, proprietors of a traveling carnival, attempt to reduce overhead by breeding their own freak show, with tragic results.

(summary from another edition)

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