I just finished Katherine Dunn’s very dark novel Geek Love. It was my third time through. I read it first in 2000, when it was given to me by the ever-loving as something to read on the plane to and from Wichita, Kansas, where I was courting her. I read it again perhaps five years later. There aren’t many novels I’ve read three times, so it clearly had an affect on me.
It is hard to call Geek Love anything but deeply twisted and darker than dark, chronicling the story of the Binewski clan. Ma and Pa Binewski, proprietors of a failing traveling carnival, set about creating their own brood of extreme human oddities who make the carny famous and prosperous as their living freak show moves through small-town America. The tale takes us across decades as the strange family dynamics play out between the strange siblings and their parents.
The novel is filled with extraordinary characters and bizarre incidents, richly imagined and brilliantly drawn. Murder, sex, and cultish megalomania reign almost unchecked by compassion and tenderness. This is Gothic on steroids.
Ms. Dunn has not written another novel since she published Geek Love in 1989, though another one has been promised for almost 25 years. I’m not sure I could handle another one like this!