Published by Abacus Books on March 11th 1989
Lil Binewski, born a Boston aristocrat, was in her time the most stylish of geeks. That is to say she made her living by biting the heads off live chickens in front of a carnival audience. This she gave up for doting motherhood, because she and her fairground-owning husband had a money spinning idea. Throughout each pregnancy Lil gobbles pesticides, experiments with drugs and douses herself with radiation to ensure that she prodcues infants grotesque enough to keep the turnstiles clicking. She does.
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 of stange telekinetic powers. Their story- by turns shocking, tender, touching and cruel- is narrated by their sister Olympia. She is a bald, hunchbacked, albino dwarf.
GEEK LOVE is one of those books that I can’t believe I didn’t read before. I can imagine myself back as an English Lit Major enthralled with the story, the writing, the overall shocking concept that Dunn presents in Geek Love.
A story like no other, GEEK LOVE brings us back to the original definition of the “geek” – a circus freak. The Binewski’s are a family of these so-called “freaks” whose lives are almost incomprehensible to us “norms.” Al and Lil Binewski are desperate to save their circus at a time when interest is waning in the carnival way of life. Al comes up with the idea to chemically create “freaks” by dosing Lil when pregnant with all kinds of drugs and poison delivering children with fins instead of limbs, albino dwarves, Siamese twins and telekinesis. It takes a strong stomach to read the passages detailing the lengths Al and Lil went to, to create their family and Dunn’s imagery is searingly graphic and honest in its portrayal.
The story follows two timelines, both narrated by Olympia, the albino dwarf who tells us the story of her family’s past as they grew up and her own story in the present day. Olympia’s narration is warm and heartfelt and you can’t help but empathise with her story and slowly move to her perspective of what’s normal.
Utterly stunning, audacious and compelling, GEEK LOVE forces the reader out of their comfort zone and redefines the limits of the acceptable. The characters are richly imagined and each one is complex and realistic. Their Machiavellian antics towards each other are at times shocking and sickening yet Dunn somehow manages to make you feel an emotional connection to this strange group of characters.
Baffling, disturbing, at times repugnant yet with an honesty and beauty, GEEK LOVE is truly an original and awe-inspiring reading experience.