Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Geek Love

By Katherine Dunn

Geek Love is the story of a carnival family by the name of Binewski. The mother, Crystal Lil, and the father, Al, decided that the best gift to bestow upon their children is the ability to make money simply by being themselves. Therefore Lil takes all manner of drugs, poisons and even radioisotopes during her pregnancies to produce freaks. Whether the children are born alive or dead, they still become part of the show. The living ones perform various acts depending on their deformities, the dead ones floating in jars. That’s not the story, it’s just the framework.
The story is told from the perspective of Olympia “Oly”, an albino, hunchbacked dwarf and third child to be born alive. The family also includes Arturo “Arty”, born with flippers and an evil disposition, Iphigenia and Electra “Iphy and Elly”, Siamese twins with two separate upper bodies but sharing one set of legs starting at the hips, and Fortunato “Chick”, who was born with remarkable gifts rather than deformities. The story is as unusual its characters. It includes massive sibling rivalry, cults, self amputation, mutilation and just a dash of incest.
Geek Love was a National Book Award finalist and, in my opinion, definitely deserved it. The story is as intriguing as it is bizarre. The Binewski children view normal people as freaks and themselves as normal. I was so drawn into their world that a few times when I stopped reading, I was startled to find myself a normal person living a relatively normal life. This is not a tale for the squeamish, but I highly recommend it. It is a truly unique book with fascinating characters.