Katherine Dunn

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Katherine Dunn
Katherine Karen Dunn

(1945-10-24)October 24, 1945
DiedMay 11, 2016(2016-05-11) (aged 70)
Alma materReed College
Years active1965-2016
Notable work
Geek Love
Spouse(s)Paul Pomerantz

Katherine Karen Dunn (October 24, 1945 – May 11, 2016) was an American best-selling novelist, journalist, voice artist, radio personality, book reviewer, and poet from Portland, Oregon. She is best known for the novel Geek Love (1989). She was also a prolific writer on boxing.

Early life[edit]

Dunn was born in Garden City, Kansas, in 1945.[1] She was the second-youngest of five siblings; her father left before she was two. Her mother, Velma Golly, an artist from North Dakota, married a mechanic[2] or/and fisherman from the Pacific Northwest.[3] The family moved frequently during her childhood.[3] She went to high school in Tigard, Oregon, and later attended Reed College in Portland, initially majoring in philosophy, then psychology.[3]


Dunn began her first novel Attic while studying at Reed, and she left without graduating. At a Christmas break trip to Ashbury Heights in 1967, she met a man she would spend the next 10 years with. They traveled to Mexico, Boston, Newfoundland, and Seville, where she finished Attic, then to Karpathos, where she finished her second novel Truck (1971) and became pregnant.[3] She gave birth to her son in Dublin, Ireland, and after seven years living in various places, they returned to Portland to stay "because there was a good alternative public school", the Metropolitan Learning Center (Portland, Oregon).[3] She settled in the Nob Hill neighborhood, where she lived until her death.[2]

Dunn waited tables in the morning before her son woke up, and tended bars at night, painted houses, and did voice-over work.[3] In the 1970s, she hosted a radio show on Portland's community radio station KBOO, in which she would read short stories. She taught advanced classes in creative writing at Oregon's Lewis & Clark College and a graduate course in creative writing at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon.[4]

In 1981, Dunn started writing about boxing in Willamette Week. She went on to cover the sport for a number of publications, including PDXS,[5] The Oregonian, and The New York Times.[6] She has been described as "one of the better boxing writers in the United States".[7] She started boxing training in her 40s.[2]

She was an editor and contributor for the online boxing magazine cyberboxingzone.com. In the 1990s Dunn wrote a regular column on boxing for PDXS , in which she at one time provided detailed criticism of Evander Holyfield's sportsmanship in his controversial fight with Mike Tyson.[8] She won the Dorothea Lange—Paul Taylor Award in 2004 for her work on School of Hard Knocks: The Struggle for Survival in America's Toughest Boxing Gyms.[9] Her essays on boxing were collected in the 2009 anthology One Ring Circus: Dispatches from the World of Boxing.[10]

In 1989, Dunn's novel Geek Love was a finalist for the National Book Award. She described her memory of when she began writing it in the late 1970s, walking to Portland's Washington Park Rose Garden, contemplating nature versus nurture and the genesis of the book with its publication in 1989.[3]

In 1989, Dunn announced that she was working on a fourth novel, entitled The Cut Man.[11] She was living in Portland and working on the book in 1999.[12] In 2008, it was reported that publisher Alfred A. Knopf had scheduled The Cut Man for release in September.[7] The novel was not published at that time, but an excerpt appeared in the summer 2010 issue of The Paris Review[6] under the title Rhonda Discovers Art.[13] In 2012, Dunn reunited with Paul Pomerantz, her boyfriend from Reed College, and they married.[2]

Dunn died on May 11, 2016. Her son stated her death was due to complications of lung cancer.[14][5]


  • Attic (1970)
  • Truck (1971)
  • 3 day fox : a tattoo. Katherine Dunn. 1979.
  • Geek Love (1989)
  • The Slice: Information with an Attitude (1989)
  • Death Scenes: A Homicide Detective's Scrapbook (1996)
  • "An introduction to Lucius Shepard". F&SF. 100 (3): 4–10. March 2001.
  • One Ring Circus: Dispatches from the World of Boxing (2009)
  • The Resident Poet - published in The New Yorker on May 4th, 2020
  • Toad (Fall 2020)[15]
  • Untitled Short Story Collection (Fall 2022)[15]


  1. ^ "Katherine (Karen) Dunn." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2005. Biography In Context. Web. 5 Oct. 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d SAM ROBERTS (14 May 2016). "Katherine Dunn, Author of 'Geek Love,' Dies at 70". NY Times. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Roper, Caitlin (April 2, 2014). "Geek Loved". Willamette Week.
  4. ^ "Geek Love Begets More Love Through Pacific University's Katherine Dunn Scholarship".
  5. ^ a b "Award-winning Portland writer Katherine Dunn dies at 70". Portland Tribune. May 12, 2016.
  6. ^ a b Cowles, Gregory (June 11, 2010). "The Return of Katherine Dunn". New York Times Paper Cuts Blog.
  7. ^ a b Starr, Karla (February 1, 2006). "But you promised!". Willamette Week. Archived from the original on October 10, 2007.
  8. ^ Dunn, Katherine., Defending Tyson, PDXS via cyberboxingzone.com, 1997-07-09, Retrieved on 2007-04-18.
  9. ^ Announcement of 2004 prize winners Archived 2007-08-12 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Schaffner Press Website Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ The Guardian, April 1989
  12. ^ Buckingham, Matt (10 November 1999). "Whatever Happened To...?". Willamette Week. Archived from the original on 23 December 2010. Retrieved 2013-09-03.
  13. ^ Dunn, Katherine (2010). "Rhonda Discovers Art". The Paris Review. Archived from the original on 2010-07-03.
  14. ^ Jaquiss, Nigel (May 12, 2016). "Katherine Dunn, Author of Geek Love, Dies at 70". Willamette Week.
  15. ^ a b Temple, Emily. "Attention: we are getting TWO new Katherine Dunn books". LitHub. Lithub.com. Retrieved 21 May 2020.

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