Geek Love

I recently finished re-reading “Geek Love” by Katherine Dunn.  This is one amazing novel.  It is about a family of circus freaks, intentionally “created” by their geek Mom and circus barker/owner Dad, who decided the best “gift” they could give their children was the ability to make a living by just being themselves.

By turning the ways we think about beauty and familial (particularly parental) approval on it’s head, this book lays bare family dynamics, and how they can hurt or heal (or destroy or create) a family.  The impact on the rest of the world is in there too..

Remarkable book.  This is my fourth time reading it (in about 15 years).  It’s a different books for me as I grow older.  I strongly recommend it – but if you like to eat meals and read, as I sometimes enjoy doing, you might want to just sit with coffee (or your beverage of choice) on the first go.

2 thoughts on “Geek Love

  1. Deborah

    I read this book years ago, and found it profoundly disturbing — not only for the ethical implications of deliberately trying to create “freaks” in utero, but also for the religious cult of amputation that is created by the one son. I thought it was very powerful and gripping, but I also thought the ending was weak (although now I can’t remember why I thought so). I haven’t gone back to re-read it in quite a while. I did, however, read a couple of books about the sideshow tradition in the U.S., and the experience of sideshow performers (some of whom are freaks). There is a sort of modern sideshow performance once a month in DC, and we have a friend who is a regular performer (Sally the Cinch) — indeed, she is something of an actual “freak” in the traditional sense. I’m fascinated by why these types of performances are so compelling.

    1. momsomniac

      Hi Deb! Thank you for your comment!

      I didn’t know there were still sideshows of any kind. It is fascinating that people are interested in such shows. Not sure I could sit through such a thing. But I find myself very curious about your friend as well.

      The book was disturbing to me on the first read, but it stayed with me, and now it’s one of those that is worth re-reading every few years. The ethical implications of what the parents did (and maybe what the father did to the mother as well) were profound for me this go. The fun-house mirror view of familial love struck home as well.

      The religiou cult is horrifying (and I felt actual HORROR when I know that was coming up). But the metaphors within that part of the book, about the desire to be special and self-loathing, were complex. I spent a great deal of time thinking about that and discussing that aspect of the book with my friend Tracy, who has formed a sort of email book-club with me (this is wonderful as we can “book-club” on our own time!).

      I can see how the ending would seem weak from a certain viewpoint. There is something in it I’d call a mommy-factor, and if that didn’t speak to a particular reader, then it might not work for that reader.

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