Geek Love – Katherine Dunn

Right from the first few pages Geek Love delivers a ‘what the fuck?!’ story that I needed to finish. Simultaneously horrifying, fascinating and unputdownable.

The story centres on the life of an albino, hunchback dwarf, Olympia Binewski. Her various ‘freak’ siblings, her morally dubious parents, and other psychologically interesting folk. The themes are dark, and I don’t mean dark where you get to see stuff after your eyes have adjusted a bit. I mean properly dark. There are scenes in this book that will stay with me forever. I don’t think it’s spoilering it too much to just say ‘Bagman’s death’. Jesus Christ.

It’s not overly graphic, or gory at all. It’s the use of vivid imagery that truly set things in your mind. Here’s one example:

Miss Lick slides an identical swim cap onto her head, puffing, going red at the edges where her face bulges out of the cap like a ruptured condom.

You can see it can’t you, can’t you? I’ll never forget it.

The basis of the novel is what would happen if, instead of wanting perfection in your child, you wanted them to be as imperfect as possible? We look at the literal interpretation of this with the Binewski mother taking various drugs, pesticides and radioactive isotopes in reckless experiments with her own offspring. All potential fodder for the touring circus they head up. To be ‘normal’ is to have failed.

An interesting, future timeline story that develops, explores the idea of beauty as a distraction to getting on with life. Is uglification the ultimate gift to pretty, frivolous young girls? Well, it’s somewhat more complex than that. But you must go and read it and be sickened, and made to think.

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