Geek Love by Katherine Dunn: Part 4

I just learned that Preditors and Editors, an invaluable resource for writers, composers, game designers, and artists everywhere, is facing a bit of legal trouble. They aren't divulging a lot of details about the pending litigation, but I think it's safe to guess that one of the businesses they've called out for being a complete con is filing some suit against them. The site is asking for donations for their legal fund, and I hope you would consider donating a few dollars to help their cause. In their own words:

Unfortunately, there are those who do not like P&E or its editor because we give out information that they would prefer remain hidden from writers. Usually, they slink away, but not this time. P&E is being sued and we are asking for donations to mount a legal defense in court. Please click on the link below and give if you can to help protect P&E so it can continue to defend writers as it has for the past eleven years.

I hope everything works out for the best. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn: Part 4 Even after this post, I'm sure I will be unsatisfied with my treatment of the novel. There's so much to discuss, and the absolute last thing I want to do on a blog is get so bogged down in minutia no one ever comes back. This just inspires me to work on a much greater project based in the novel sooner than I anticipated. More so than the unique subject matter or the dark humor, Geek Love is a novel about storytelling. A father tells stories to his children about their development into a family of genetically enhanced freaks; a sideshow attraction tells his fans whatever they want to hear to create a quick growing cult willing to follow his command to free themselves of their useless appendages to be greater people; and the neglected, least appreciated child of the family recounts the entire experience in a series of journals for her daughter so she is not ashamed of her life. The book can be enjoyed without looking into this interesting narrative technique, though I feel studying the storytelling aspect has only enhanced my appreciation of the novel. The earliest element you'll encounter is Al Binewski's family stories. I've already quoted the opening chapter in Tuesday's post. Al seems to live in the past, part of what he considered the heyday of sideshows. He met his wife, Crystal Lil, when she stepped in as the geek, singing opera before biting the heads off of chickens. They developed a relationship based around admiration for the sideshow and agreed to create a family that would continue on the proud tradition. The current physical state of Crystal Lil - old beyond her years, fragile, rapidly deteriorating - is almost entirely ignored by Al in favor of recounting tales of her youthful beauty and excitement at the prospect of one beautifully gifted child after another being born thanks to science. He even repeats elements of the same stories throughout, as if his reality will shatter if his stories go untold. This gift of storytelling and manipulation of history is easily passed on to his son, Arty. Arty's act is based in the water, as his fins let him perform tricks others cannot. His act becomes the biggest pull of the family freakshow, with people following their routes to be closer to Arty. Arty is not foolish. He knows his power and he intends to take full advantage of it. That's why he founds Arturism, a cult for his followers. He weaves elaborate stories of a higher state of being obtained by following his lifestyle. His gift with words and allure is so strong people are willing to undergo a lengthy and painful initiation process to be like him. They trust him so much they will give up everything, their jobs, their families, even their mobility and self reliance, to follow his word. Which is a problem Oly has to deal with. Oly was only born with a hump. She's otherwise perfectly normal. She serves as the narrator to the entire novel and has a problem speaking up. Her stories are delivered as written words, intended for her very own daughter. The problem is she didn't want her daughter raised with the stigma of the Binewski family. She gave up her daughter and never spoke to her. Her journaling of the freakshow and her adult life is intended to convince her daughter to be proud of her unique condition. What Oly seems to lack for in volume, she makes up for with sincerity. Geek Love is a very powerful novel. It's not the kind of book you can read and brush off when you're finished. Perhaps you'll be disgusted by the entire book and have trouble sleeping that night. Perhaps you'll be haunted by the dark humor and wordplay. Or perhaps you'll be struck by the emotional resonance of Oly, and connect with her honesty and bravery in a way that will leave you begging for more. Anyway you read it, you will probably be left with a very strong reaction to Geek Love.

Labels: geek love, katherine dunn