Book Review: Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

4 out of 5 stars

13872Early in 2016, I read Katherine Dunn’s novel Geek Love. This book is certainly not for everyone, but I did enjoy my (very strange) reading experience.

In Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love The Binewski family create an alter-reality inside the boundary of their traveling circus. It is a place where abnormalities are praised, even strived for, and ‘normal people’ are outsiders. Olympia Binewski narrates the novel, describing how their ideal life slowly descends into corruption. Dunn’s novel explores many different taboos through her characters, demonstrating the depths to which love and a desire to be loved in return will drive one to go. Although the characters often go to extremes and sometimes make very unethical decisions, there is a message at the heart of the novel about embracing one’s differences and exalting the ‘other’ that exists within the self.

The following quote comes from, in my opinion, one of the most striking passages in the novel in which Olympia discusses the ‘deformities’ that exist within (or without) all of us:

“My worst is all out in the open. It makes it necessary for people to tell you about themselves. They begin out of simple courtesy. Just being visible is my biggest confession, so they try to set me at ease by revealing our equality, by dragging out their own less-apparent deformities. That’s how it starts. But I am a like a stranger on the bus and they get hooked on having a listener. They go too far because I am one listener who is in no position to judge or find fault” (154).

I would recommend this novel to anyone who is intrigued by the bizarre, grotesque, or taboo. For me, this novel was certainly off my beaten-reading-path, but I enjoyed it very much and found myself thinking about it often in the weeks after I read it. The surface story is intriguing for its oddness, but, if you are looking for it, there is more to be extracted from the depths of this novel.

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