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Geek Love

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  61,794 ratings  ·  5,919 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 March 1989)
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Susan Hall I am currently reading this very dark, disturbing book. Actually I am almost finished. Talk about sick to my stomach, but I can't stop reading. …moreI am currently reading this very dark, disturbing book. Actually I am almost finished. Talk about sick to my stomach, but I can't stop reading. (less)

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Average rating 3.95  · 
Rating details
 ·  61,794 ratings  ·  5,919 reviews

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Jun 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Will Byrnes
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 f
Meredith Holley
Jul 11, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: loonies
Recommended to Meredith 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
Nov 05, 2007 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
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

It's a snow day today and since my tiny humans are to the point where my snow days are numbered since they aren't so tiny any longer I decided to stay home with them in order to read porn make cookies and hot cocoa and scream loving things out the front door like "IT'S 10 DEGRESS OUTSIDE - GET YOUR ASSES BACK IN HERE BEFORE YOU FREEZE TO DEATH!" But then I realized this book would be expiring from my Kindle in like a minute and a half
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
Apr 28, 2009 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
Mar 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is one that has sat on my shelf for several years, and I honestly have no idea why I didn't pick it up for so long. Geek Love is a fantastically interesting novel, with a real focus on character development for the Binewski family, who live in a travelling carnival. The parents have 4 children, and during pregnancy their mother experiments with drugs, alcohol, pesticides, etc. so that her children can be born with various disabilities and deformities that will allow them to bring money ...more
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
Nov 19, 2008 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
Aug 09, 2011 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
Bark  |  Ladies Of Horror Fiction
I’ve read this book numerous times. It’s one of the few books I’ve ever reread, never mind more than once! This time around I read it on unabridged audio which made the story all the more intimate for me. I also buddy read it with a great group of reading friends. We don’t always agree on books (see my Ghost Story review for more on that) but this time we all LOVED it. Whew, I was so relieved because I’ve been pushing this book on everyone for years and sometimes people do not like it. At all. ...more
May 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
4 ½ 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
Aug 19, 2007 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
Jan 25, 2015 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
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
Bark  |  Ladies Of Horror Fiction
Apr 27, 2010 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. ...more
Candace Morris
Aug 02, 2007 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
Jun 13, 2008 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
Feb 27, 2014 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.

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
Dec 07, 2015 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
Richard Derus
Jun 17, 2012 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 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 w
Paul Bryant
Apr 07, 2016 rated it liked 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
Wayne Barrett
Dec 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, 2015, fantasy

“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 hu
This is going to be a relatively unorganized review because there is seriously so much going on in this book. Mixed feelings, complex ideas, great characters (although many hateable ones), and, frankly, it is screwed up.

A book about cult followings with a cult following. To me, a cult following is a group of individuals who are passionately enamored with a work of art and culture, such as a book or show (i.e. The Binewski's Carnival, especially Arturo's philosophies). It is a relatively small b
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
Dec 23, 2007 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
DNF @ 60 pages.

Some books just aren't for me. This is one of them.
No rating, no regrets, but no more time spent on this one either.
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Katherine Dunn was a novelist and boxing journalist who lived and worked in Oregon. She is the author of three novels―Attic; Truck; and Geek Love, which was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Bram Stoker Prize―as well as the essay collection One Ring Circus. She died in 2016.

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