Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

Ahhhhh Geeks, the latest in-thing to be!

I am sure that when many people hear or see the title Geek Love their thoughts will immediately turn to:

On the plus side if they ignore reading the blurb on the back cover (that blurb is fantastic – do not skip it) it will not be long before their preconceptions are destroyed and they realise that they are caught up in:

geek (noun)
“sideshow freak,” 1916, U.S. carnival and circus slang, perhaps a variant of geck “a fool, dupe, simpleton” (1510s), apparently from Dutch gek or Low German geck, from an imitative verb found in North Sea Germanic and Scandinavian meaning “to croak, cackle,” and also “to mock, cheat” (Dutch gekken, German gecken, Danish gjække, Swedish gäcka). The modern form and the popular use with reference to circus sideshow “wild men” is from 1946, in William Lindsay Gresham’s novel “Nightmare Alley” (made into a film in 1947 starring Tyrone Power).

Arturo the Aqua Boy is a limbless megalomaniac, Electra and Iphigenia are musically gifted Siamese twins with a penchant for prostitution and Fortunato is possessed if strange telekinetic powers. Their story – by turns shocking, tender, touching and cruel – is narrated by their sister, Olympia. She is a bald, hunchbacked, albino dwarf.

Freak Shows have been out of fashion for a long time, there is a part of me that always wanted to go and see a traditional show (I still do). The Jim Rose Circus as brilliant as it was did not count as that was pure showbiz hucksterism.

Geek Love is dark, disturbing and (if you are of a gentle, sheltered disposition) distasteful tale that filled a freak-show shaped hole in my heart. The conjoined stories of Olympia’s quest to anonymously save her daughter from mutilation; and the story of the Binewski family, a story that took me by the hand through the tent flaps into their lives, and life in a travelling carnival as it spirals toward a twisted denouement, will grip you in their mutated flipper-like hands until you have turned the final page.

Geek Love is published by Abacus Books

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