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Geek Love

3.99  ·  Rating Details  ·  40,879 Ratings  ·  4,533 Reviews
Geek Love is the story of the Binewskis, a carny family whose mater- and paterfamilias set out–with the help of amphetamine, arsenic, and radioisotopes–to breed their own exhibit of human oddities. There’s Arturo the Aquaboy, who has flippers for limbs and a megalomaniac ambition worthy of Genghis Khan . . . Iphy and Elly, the lissome Siamese twins . . . albino hunchback O ...more
Paperback, 348 pages
Published June 11th 2002 by Random House Vintage (first published January 1st 1989)
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Danielle D I found the book captivating almost immediately.
You don't find the story line unique and dark?
If it is not pulling at your heart strings yet, it…more
I found the book captivating almost immediately.
You don't find the story line unique and dark?
If it is not pulling at your heart strings yet, it probably won't (less)
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The Most Disturbing Book Ever Written
63rd out of 1,828 books — 6,608 voters
The Night Circus by Erin MorgensternWater for Elephants by Sara GruenGeek Love by Katherine DunnSomething Wicked This Way Comes by Ray BradburyThe Carnivorous Carnival by Lemony Snicket
Circus/Carnival Books
3rd out of 312 books — 731 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jul 30, 2007 Joey rated it really liked it
Warning: this review contains spoilers. Read or don’t read it accordingly.

I had a schizophrenic reaction to this book. On the one hand, it had a more profound impact on me than books—even some truly great ones—usually do. On the other hand, I thought it was sloppily edited, and Dunn’s prose ran the spectrum from sublime to clunky and ridiculous.

The good:

Geek Love has a handful of the most memorable characters you’ll ever find. Arturo the Aqua Boy is deftly handled, a megalomaniacal little tur
Oct 21, 2012 Sparrow rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: loonies
Recommended to Sparrow by: Lokailani Alabanza and Matt Leisy
"Whenever you read a good book, it's like the author is right there, in the room, talking to you, which is why I don't like to read good books." - Jack Handey

This is one of the only books I plan never to finish. I thought the writing was beautiful, and I don't even know that I would say it was badly edited (a comment I read in another review), but I hated all of the characters. I loathed them by the time I stopped reading. I even hated Chick a little bit. I skipped some and glanced at the end to
Jan 29, 2015 Jason rated it it was ok
Shelves: for-kindle, 2011, reviewed

On the surface, Geek Love has it all: jealousy, betrayal, sexual objectification, and murderous revenge. It’s got a whole shitload of family drama topped off with a generous helping of physical deformities and possibly, possibly, a side of incest. (That part’s not too clear, though.) The problem is, once you get past the shock value of wanting to fuck your brother who also happens to look like a giant fish, there really isn’t much going on here.

Right before starting this book, I read Middle
Will Byrnes
Dec 10, 2014 Will Byrnes rated it it was amazing
They thought to use and shame me but I win out by nature, because a true freak cannot be made. A true freak must be born.
Geek Love is an amazing book, audacious, moving, beautiful, substantive, creepy, upsetting, tragic and dark.

So you think of yourself as different, an outsider, a freak in one way or another? Well, maybe you are, but your differences would likely fade were you to compare yourself to most of the characters in this best-selling novel from Katherine Dunn, so best-selling in fac
Richard Derus
Apr 30, 2013 Richard Derus rated it liked it
Book Circle Reads 26

Close to the top of any literature lover's life list of lovely books.

Well, now, upon more than a decade's passing, I can't say I agree with myself here.

Rating: 3.25* of five

The Book Description: Geek Loveis the story of the Binewskis, a carny family whose mater- and paterfamilias set out–with the help of amphetamine, arsenic, and radioisotopes–to breed their own exhibit of human oddities. There’s Arturo the Aquaboy, who has flippers for limbs and a megalomaniac ambition wort
Nov 22, 2007 James rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Not the weak of heart
This book was as good as I heard it would and better. I love weird characters and twisted plot lines, but this went so far that it made me very uncomfortable. And I love the book for that.

The plot is simple and sick enough: Al and Lil Binewski, a young couple madly in love and struggling to save Al's family business, a traveling carnival fabulon, devise a plan to keep themselves from going under. Al, with Lil's eager permission, exposes his wife to radiation, presciptions, and whatever else may
Apr 11, 2014 Chris rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2009
If the world is a carnival, then we were all born to be its freaks. After all, when each of us arrived on the scene, naked and covered in blood and goo, we were unique specimens. But soon after our births, a member of The Cult of Normalcy gave us a pamphlet and offered us the opportunity to blend in with the rest of society. Most of us accepted the offer. Loneliness is a scary thing, after all. So here we are trying to live our lives like everyone else, constantly checking the mirror to make sur ...more
Barry Pierce
If David Lynch wrote a novel, this would be it. This novel is repugnant, disgusting, and baffling. I loved it. Who'd have thought that a book narrated by a bald female hunchbacked albino dwarf would be so beautiful? The trials and tribulations of the Binewski family are shocking and sickening but yet you feel a strange attraction to this family of freaks. This is one of the most original novels I've ever read, I will never come across anything like this ever again. Reading "Geek Love" is an expe ...more
Jul 08, 2009 Bonnie rated it really liked it
4 stars

Any book that was written in the early ‘80’s and is still worth reading today, is almost by definition, a semi-classic; though cult-horror classic might be closer to the mark for Geek Love. That’s right: this is not your run-of-the-mill beach novel. I will not be placing this book on my list of Best Ten Novels of the 20th Century; but I’m sure there are others who will, and I have no basic argument with them. Geek Love is bizarre, but only on the surface. Fundamentally, this is a solid,
May 25, 2016 Lynx rated it really liked it
Shelves: general-fiction, own
"A true freak cannot be made. A true freak must be born."

When times were looking tough, Al and Lil Binewski used their ingenuity, along with some poisons and chemicals, to come up with a way to keep their traveling Carnival alive, breed their own main attractions. First came Arturo, born with flippers for limbs, better known as Arty the Aqua Boy. Then Iphy and Elly, conjoined at the waist who draw in the crowds with their song and dance numbers. Next was Olympia the albino hunchback dwarf, not s
Paul Bryant
Jul 11, 2016 Paul Bryant added it
Shelves: novels
Moderato. Lightly strummed guitar. Two backup singers who constantly refrain

Sweet sweet, the freaks that you gave to me
You can’t beat the geeks that you gave to me

A handsome tuxedo-wearing guy sings

Take one set of Siamese twins
Add a boy with only fins
No legs, no arms, he swims, he charms
Memories are made of this

Then add some pesticide
Just a sprinkle of infanticide
Incest and twin sex for the flavor
Should you be hard to please
Voluntary amputees
Will give you plenty to savor

Add a dwarfish hunchbacke
I had Geek Love sitting on my shelf for three years. I got it on May 30th of 2010 when the library of the university I've been attending was having a clearance. This book was among the pile I took home with me. It still had its library card attached, and from it I discovered that it was donated to the library on 23/04/1996 and that the last time anyone checked it out was on 25/04/2001. I could understand the library casting it slept on the shelf for nine years, but it wouldn't stop me from givin ...more
Jun 21, 2013 Charity rated it really liked it
This book is complex, creative, and mind-boggling. Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the book is trying to grapple with what it's trying to describe into something you can visualize. It's not that Katherine Dunn doesn't do a fine job describing her's just that the imagery is so complex and vivid that it takes a lot out of the brain to envision for oneself.

This book is about the outsider making the insider feel bad because the insider doesn't fit with the outsiders. This book is
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Sometimes the universe just wants you to read a book. A few months ago, Wired Magazine ran a feature on Geek Love at 25, an anniversary reflection of sorts. I'm not sure if that is why my book-club cohort picked the book or if it was just in the air for another reason, but not long after, it became the official pick for May.

The article points out that this was an important book cover design for Chip Kidd, who went on to become the best known book cover designer of recent times.

I'd seen this bo
Like a collaboration between John Irving and David Lynch, this audaciously conceived, sometimes shocking tale of love and hubris in a carnival family exerts the same mesmeric fascination as the freaks it depicts, despite essential structural flaws. In language as original and fantastic as her story, Dunn (Attic, 1970; Truck, 1971) tells the tale of Binewski's Carnival Fabulon, an unremarkable traveling show until patriarch Aloysius decides to breed his own freaks. Using drugs, insecticides and r ...more
Dec 23, 2007 Nomy rated it did not like it
i hated this book and i try not to be offended that so many people i know liked it. basically it was too insanely triggering to me to get any enjoyment out of it whatsoever. i generally don't really enjoy people using metaphors taken from other people's experiences, and this happens a lot around amputation. since amputation is something i have actually experienced, and has impacted my life in ways i can still only begin to understand or describe, there is nowhere for me to go with a book like th ...more
Mme. Bookling ~
Aug 22, 2007 Mme. Bookling ~ rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Palanuik fans
What is with Portland? Oregon brews these freakish, fantastical authors - fascinated with the off color beauty of the grotesque. Not to say that both Palahniuk and Dunn are not genius's, but it's weird man. Weirdly coincidental.

So anyway, Geek Love is about this family of carnies (carnival workers - to the less colloquially gifted) that decides to chemically engineer their children. The wife takes arsenic and radioisotopes while pregnant, and the result is a family of freaks. One has fins, one i
Apr 26, 2015 Zoeytron rated it really liked it
This is a horrifying look between the tent flaps of a traveling carnival known as Binewski's Fabulon. Al and Crystal Lil Binewski have a grotesque way of growing your own. Freaks, that is.

A horrific premise and disturbing ideas make for a very different read. Be forewarned, this one is way dark.
Bark's Book Nonsense
Jun 22, 2010 Bark's Book Nonsense rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: horror fans
Shelves: horror, favorites
I just realized I never added my favorite book of all time to my GR shelf. Don't expect a review though because my memory for details is shit. Only major plot spoilers stick in my head. I've read it twice and will read it again and review it then. You should read it. That's all I'm saying.
Feb 25, 2016 Frankie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own, 2016
Really enjoyed this.
Strange circumstances, weird characters & time skips.
Took me a while to read. Some parts hard to follow.
Sh3lly ✨ Bring on the Weird ✨
This is a VERY early pre-review, but we are buddy reading this at the MacHalo group during our 2016 February Taboo/Disturbing Themed Month.

We are also reading Lolita, Flowers in the Attic, and The End of Alice. So let me know if you want to get in on the action. Geek Love starts February 10, 2016.

(Yes, we plan that far ahead. Sometimes.)


A fucked up, incestuous, surreal carnival story filled with horrible characters who have little to no redeeming qualities. I spent most of my time cringing and shuddering in revulsion whilst reading Geek Love, but in a can't-look-away-car-crash-what's-going-to-happen-next-these-characters-make-me-sick-but-every-disturbing-thing-they-do-is-oh-so-engrossing kind of way. It was utterly absorbing in its WTFery and uniqueness.

Hmm, not really sure where to start with the story so I'll just ta
Mar 28, 2016 Jim rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
This book has been sitting on my shelf for 20 years. It was purchased at the Bay Ridge branch of the Brooklyn Public Library by my Aunt Peg. The book bears a curious inscription on the upper right-hand corner of one of the blank end pages: 33,000,000 1/27/95. I don't know what that means but she died of cancer not long afterwards so it and the book have acquired a kind of totemic power over my imagination.

I understood that Geek Love would be dark because all books about the circus are dark, but
Wayne Barrett
Jan 13, 2016 Wayne Barrett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, fantasy, 2015

“They thought to use and shame me but I win out by nature, because a true freak cannot be made. A true freak must be born.” ~Katherine Dunn

I loved this book.

For some reason this was one of those that I kept putting off because it didn't sound interesting,but now I know I was missing out on a great story.

This was such a unique view of a family of freaks who are born, live and die as part of the carnival circuit. Mother and father with their living children, the Siamese twins, Oly, the albino hun
Jul 07, 2008 Jennifer rated it really liked it
This book tugged at every emotion I have. Laughter and tears were in the lead during most of the book, but in the end frustration won. I was so frustrated with how amazing this book could have been. It was on the verge of greatness and fell short. While frustration did win in the long run, I must admit immediately after reading the last page, I curled up in a ball and sobbed, wondering how I could go on in life after what happened to these people that don't exist. It took me a couple of days to ...more
Aug 05, 2015 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
I have copied the lyrics of the following: My review is after them for a reason.

*****Emerson, Lake and Palmer
*****Karn Evil 9 Lyrics
*****from Brain Salad Surgery
*****"Karn Evil 9" is track #5 on the album Brain Salad Surgery.

Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends
We're so glad you could attend
Come inside! Come inside!
There behind a glass is a real blade of grass
be careful as you pass.
Move along! Move along!

Come inside, the show's about to start
guaranteed to blow your head apart
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 08, 2008 eseki rated it it was amazing
This book isn't about the blossoming romance between two hapless nerds. "Geek" refers to a circus person who rips into live chickens with their bare teeth, killing them by snapping the chickens' necks. It's a good book.
Mar 07, 2016 Justin rated it liked it
What a crazy ride! Review on the way.
Nov 23, 2007 Chad rated it it was amazing
A mother and father whom intentionally poison their fetuses so the children can have starring roles in their traveling circus when they're born. An Aqua Boy with a Nietszchean philosophical cant who nominates himself the Jones-esque leader of a cult based on bodily mutilation. Siamese twins who sing and play the piano. An almost wordless yet astoundingly kind younger brother whose mind can manipulate the physical world.

These are the Binewskis, and though Geek Love may not be my favorite book (t
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Around the Year i...: Geek Love, by Katherine Dunn 1 14 Apr 09, 2016 05:08PM  
Mostly Lesfic: Geek Love 18 56 Jul 28, 2015 06:44PM  
Why did she want to cut off her tail? (spoilers) 3 38 May 26, 2015 02:00PM  
2015 Reading Chal...: Geek Love by Katherine Dunn 1 13 Apr 23, 2015 12:11PM  
  • Cruddy
  • The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon
  • The Circus of the Earth and the Air
  • Half Life
  • The Pilo Family Circus
  • The Circus: 1870s–1950s
  • The Final Confession of Mabel Stark
  • We So Seldom Look on Love
  • The Boy Detective Fails
  • Witkin
  • The Children's Hospital
  • The Bizarro Starter Kit (Orange)
  • Dermaphoria
  • Angel Dust Apocalypse
  • The Demon
  • A Million Versions of Right
  • The Intuitionist
  • An Invisible Sign of My Own
Katherine Dunn is best known for her beloved novel "Geek Love," which was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1989. She is also the author of the novels "Attic" (1970) and "Truck" (1971). A fourth novel, entitled "The Cut Man," has been in-progress for decades and was purportedly scheduled for a September 2008 release.

Dunn is also known as a prolific sports journalist in the field of boxing,
More about Katherine Dunn...

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“The truth is always an insult or a joke, lies are generally tastier. We love them. The nature of lies is to please. Truth has no concern for anyone's comfort” 323 likes
“Can you be happy with the movies, and the ads, and the clothes in the stores, and the doctors, and the eyes as you walk down the street all telling you there is something wrong with you? No. You cannot be happy. Because, you poor darling baby, you believe them.” 126 likes
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