|Cover artist||David Hughes|
|Media type||Print (Hardback and Paperback)|
|Dewey Decimal||813/.54 19|
|LC Classification||PS3554.U47 G4 1989|
Geek Love is a novel by Katherine Dunn, published completely by Alfred A. Knopf (a division of Random House) in 1989. Dunn published parts of the novel in Mississippi Mud Book of Days (1983) and Looking Glass Bookstore Review (1988). It was a finalist for the National Book Award.
The novel is the story of a traveling carnival run by Aloysius "Al" Binewski and his wife "Crystal" Lil. When the business begins to fail, the couple devise an idea to breed their own freak show, using various drugs and radioactive material to alter the genes of their children. The results are Arturo ("Arty"), a boy with flippers for hands and feet; Electra ("Elly") and Iphigenia ("Iphy"), Siamese Twins; Olympia ("Oly"), a hunchbacked albino dwarf; and Fortunato ("Chick"), the normal-looking baby of the family who has telekinetic powers.
Oly tells the story of her family in the form of a novel written for her daughter Miranda.
The novel takes place in two time periods: the first deals with the Binewski children's constant struggle against each other through life. They especially have to deal with the Machiavellian Arty as he develops his own cult: Arturism. In this cult, Arty persuades people to have their limbs amputated so that they can be like Arty, the cult leader, in their search for the principle he calls PIP ("Peace, Isolation, Purity"). Each member moves up in stages, losing increasingly significant chunks of their body, starting with their toes and fingers. As Arty battles his siblings to maintain control over his followers, competition between their respective freak shows slowly begins to take over their lives.
The second story is set in the present and is centered on Oly's daughter, Miranda. Nineteen-year-old Miranda does not know Oly is her mother. She lives on a trust fund created by Oly before she gave up her daughter to be raised by nuns. This had been urged by her brother Arty, who was also Miranda's father (not through sexual intercourse, but by the telekinetic powers of Chick, who carried Arty's sperm directly to Oly's ovum). Oly lives in the same rooming house as Miranda so she can "spy" on her. Miranda has a special defect of her own, a small tail, which she flaunts at a local fetish strip club. There she meets Mary Lick, who tries to convince her to have the tail cut off. Lick is a wealthy woman who pays attractive women to get disfiguring operations, ostensibly so they may live up to their potential instead of becoming sex objects; it is implied, however, that Lick's real motivation is to punish them for being more attractive than she is. Oly plans to stop Lick in order to protect her daughter.
The book's original cover art by Chip Kidd caused a sensation at book conventions when it was introduced in 1989. Its plain, stark orange color and unusual fonts went against conventional design aesthetics. In keeping with the novel's theme of mutation, the lettering of the title employs mutated fonts, and the book's spine sports a five-legged dog, one of the rare instances when Knopf has allowed its dog logo to be altered.
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
In January 2004, theatre company Sensurround Stagings in Atlanta, Georgia produced a well-received stage adaptation of Geek Love. This adaptation was reprised in Atlanta for Summer 2004 and then taken to the New York Fringe Festival later that year.
Popular media references
The Texas band Seed had a song inspired by the book called "Kids...This is Fabulon" on their 1994 album Ling.
Musicians Amanda Palmer (of The Dresden Dolls) and Jason Webley formed the band Evelyn Evelyn in 2007, and together wrote a concept album based on the fictional story of conjoined twins "Evelyn Neville and Evelyn Neville". The story has many parallels with Geek Love, having drawn heavy inspiration from Dunn's book.
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