Katherine Dunn’s “Geek Love” is 25

A rather awesome imagining of the Binewski children by  Jandruff

A rather awesome imagining of the Binewski children by Jandruff

Wired magazine have reliably informed me that it is 25 years since my favourite book was published, Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love.

Contrary to what you might assume from the title, the “geek” in Geek Love is not a reference to over-enthusiastic role-playing nerds, but rather  an early American incarnation of the word, which was used to describe carnival performers who would indulge in disgusting acts, like biting the heads off live chickens (Alice Cooper wasn’t the first you know).

“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.”
― Katherine DunnGeek Love

Geek Love follows the fortunes of the Binewski Sideshow Fabulon, a family sideshow act headed by sweethearts Al and Crystal Lil Binewksi. They wanted to create the ultimate sideshow and dabble in various hardcore drugs while trying to conceive, determined to give birth to the ultimate freak. Eventually they get their way, and the Binewski siblings take to the stage in various guises, but as you can imagine, their world is not a happy one. So,  no, it is not a gentle tale of a computer programmer’s romance. It is stark, shocking and endlessly inventive, and importantly, pure cinema on the page. It didn’t neatly fall into a category, it wasn’t a romance or a fantasy, or sci-fi. It was just a great, imaginative story that went wherever Dunn wanted it to go.

“I get glimpses of the horror of normalcy. Each of these innocents on the street is engulfed by a terror of their own ordinariness. They would do anything to be unique.”
― Katherine DunnGeek Love

I was drawn to Geek Love in a book store in Florida, where my Dad was living at the time (Florida, not the book store, he had a regular apartment) purely on the basis that Courtney Love had recommended it. While my love for Courtney may have waned, my passion for Geek Love has stayed strong and I am waiting patiently to see if Warner Bros ever do anything with those films rights they purchased.





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