Seven Years of Geek Love

24 Mar

Let the record show that I don't judge books by their covers. Not this one, at least.

There’s this book that I picked up in the Summer of 2003 that I had started reading then and just finished yesterday. I know that I bought it back in 2003 because I found an old receipt for my driver’s license renewal dated for September of that year, nestled in the pages, probably serving as a bookmark. The book is called Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, and it’s not like it was an unusually long or even that it was a difficult read. It was one of those books that I was hugely interested in reading and probably got distracted by something else about 150 pages in. For years and years, it sat on my bookshelf taunting me, making me feel guilty for not finishing it. I HATE buying books and not finishing them. It makes me feel like I’ve failed.

I bought the book off of a display table at Chapters because the summary on the back really intrigued me. It was unlike anything that I’d ever read before. It’s about the Binewskis, who are a family of genetically bred carnival freaks. The parents, Al and Lil, believe that there is no better gift to give your children “than an inherent ability to earn a living just by being themselves,” and so create their own freak show for their carnival by using experimental drugs and chemicals during Lil’s pregnancies so that each child will be born horribly deformed. There’s Arty who was born with flippers in the place of limbs, Oly the albino humpback dwarf who also serves as the novel’s Narrator, Elly and Iphy the beautiful siamese twins, and Chick who while appearing “normal,” actually possesses powerful telekinetic abilities.

It seems to be a horribly sick premise, and it made me wonder what kind of person might want to read a twisted story like this. I had to take it home.

I picked it out of my bookcase again in about November and resolved to finish it. There were a couple of starts and stops again, and I actually read and finished a few other books in the meanwhile. It was only 348 pages, but the pages were so densely packed in its typesetting, that I think that it would’ve actually have been 900 pages had it been typeset like, oh I don’t know, a Stephenie Meyers book. This made the reading feel a lot more tedious than it actually was, and it was a struggle to finish, but because I had challenged myself to get to the last page, I had to keep turning the pages until I got to the end. Also a bit taxing on the brain was that the story was pretty complex, vividly detailed and not surprisingly, quite grotesque. It challenges you on your views on society, normalcy, family, love, and ultimately, what it is to be human.

The novel is obviously very unlike anything that I’ve read before. Would I recommend it to a friend? Probably not. Though I’m sure that this story will stay with me for a long time, and I’m glad that I finished it, even if it took me 7 years to do so. It’ll no longer taunt me from my bookcase and brand me a failure, that judgmental bastard that it was.

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One Response to “Seven Years of Geek Love”

  1. Leesh March 24, 2010 at 10:31 pm #

    The book does sound interesting but it seems like if I actually read it, I would be quite disturbed and bothered by it. I probably wouldn’t be able to sleep and at the rate I am going these days, I would most likely have a nightmare about it.

    Good for you that you finally finished it. I am like you where I must read any book I buy otherwise, it’s considered a waste of money.

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