Literature: Geek Love

Olympia Binewski did not grow up like other girls. For one, her parents were the owners of a traveling carnival. Lil and Al Binewski came up with a scheme to breed their own freak show, experimenting with a cocktail of drugs to create their perfect children. There's Oly herself, an albino hunchback dwarf; her brother Arty, who has flippers instead of human limbs and a sociopathic personality; her sisters Elly and Iphy, who are Conjoined Twins, and the youngest, Chick, who appears outwardly normal but has strange telepathic powers.

Then things start to get downright disturbing. Very disturbing. Suffice it to say, this is not a book for anyone except those with the strongest of stomachs.

Geek Love, written by Katherine Dunn, is a somewhat obscure book probably due to its polarizing effect with critics, who have called it either brilliant or repulsive and disgusting. Tim Burton has expressed a desire to adapt it for the screen, but whether or not that will ever happen is still up in the air.

Has a Character Page

The Novel Contains Examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Oly loves her parents, but their treatment of her is up for debate. They make her feel inadequete for not being "special" enough, because her particular deformities aren't so marketable as those of her siblings. Then there's the whole issue of the parents deliberately taking drugs in order to create freakish, deformed children whom they could exploit.
  • Body Horror
  • Blessed with Suck: Chick, to the extreme.
  • Blind Obedience: Oly towards her parents and Arty.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Oly has Chick impregnate her with Arty's sperm, and gives birth to a daughter, Miranda.
  • Bungled Suicide: The Bag Man
  • Cain and Abel: Iphy and Elly represent the female, conjoined variant.
  • Circus Brat: Oly and her siblings.
  • Conjoined Twin Threesome Fantasy: Iphy and Elly make big bucks with it.
  • Child by Rape: Mumpo.
  • Cult: Arty starts one where the members have to have their own limbs removed in order to make themselves into freaks.
  • The Empath: Chick is so empathic that he feels the pain of everything around him, even things that aren't even alive, to the point where he cannot eat meat and gets physically sick when another living thing is harmed.
  • Fat Slob: Exagerrated with Mumpo.
  • Heel Face Door Slam: After Dr. Phyllis rejects to perform lobotomies for Arturism, Arty has her amputated and lobotomized.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Subverted, as Oly and her siblings take pride in what they are and refer to other people derisively as "norms". Oly wishes she were more special, even.
    • Played straight with Miranda, who wants to have her one freak trait, her tail, removed.
  • I Love Nuclear Power: Lil takes radioactive isotopes while pregnant with Chick, which is used to explain his psychic powers.
  • The Grotesque: Played straight with Oly during the 'Notes for Now' chapters, otherwise averted or inverted.
  • Groupie Brigade: Arty's got one.
  • Kill 'em All
  • Lobotomy: Arty has Elly lobotomized while leaving her conjoined sister unharmed. Afterwards it becomes a standard procedure for Arturans.
  • Mad Scientist: Doctor P.
  • Meaningful Name: Chick's real name is Fortunato, "The Lucky One". It actually turns out to be an ironic name.
  • Mind over Matter: Chick can move almost anything with his mind.
  • Offing the Offspring: Mumpo gets killed by Elly after Chick brings her back from her catatonic state.
  • Out with a Bang: The Bag Man, both literally and figuratively.
  • People Jars: How the Binewskis keep their "failed projects".
  • Protagonist Albino: Oly can't really be called heroic, per se; she mostly just tries to endure the terrible things she has to deal with, and she ends up killing her daughter's would-be benefactor at the end. However, she is the viewpoint character. She also deals with the issues that albinos have to deal with in real life (poor vision and extreme sensitivity to light).
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Chick's abilities, which is occasionally lampshaded.
  • Released to Elsewhere: Strongly implied to be the ultimate fate of Arturan cultists.
  • Sex by Proxy: An expected side effect of being conjoined.
  • Sibling Rivalry: The Binewski children often compete for higher ticket sales. Exagerrated with Arty, who killed several of his infant siblings when he felt that they might overshadow him in the future (and tried the same with Chick). And once he rises to power with his cult, it's Iphy and Elly, his former biggest rivals, who get by far the worst of it.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The name of Oly's daughter, Miranda, is a reference to The Tempest, which the author quotes at the beginning of the book.
    • In the epilogue, Oly says in a letter to her daughter that she is "one of us", a reference to the film Freaks.