“Geek Love”

February 27, 2009 at 4:17 pm | Posted in Fiction | 9 Comments

Last night my book group met to discuss Geek Love, by Katherine Dunn.  It was a record turnout – we’ve picked up two new members.  Opinions ranged from “loved it” to “quit halfway through because it gave me nightmares.”  So you should know that this isn’t necessarily a book for everyone.  I was on the “loved it” end of the spectrum.

What’s amazing about this book is that it was published in 1983, yet it’s still fresh.  Often experimental or groundbreaking books fade somewhat over time.  Our group didn’t realize that this wasn’t a new book.

Geek Love is about a couple who decide to breed mutant children for their traveling carnival.  It’s dark and icky and challenges every social taboo – and I do mean every – and glitteringly beautiful and original.  I read it in amazement that at no point was I able to predict what was coming next.

We agreed that the first chapter was compelling, but the story fell off for a few chapters, and it was around the first hundred pages that the plot starts to sweep you away.  The characters tend to have multiple nicknames, which can make it hard for the reader to keep track of who’s who.

Probably the most startling thing for us was that we were able to draw comparisons between Geek Love, We Need to Talk about Kevin, and Stones from the River, all previous choices.  We somehow managed to stumble across two books in the same year with a narrator who was a female dwarf.

We could only be thankful for Octo-Mom, whose exploits overlapped so neatly with our choice of a book about parents who use science to have children according to their own desires, without concern for the future health and quality of life of those children.  Strange convergences all around.

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