Geek Love   Leave a comment

Geek Love

Since I usually write about books on Sunday, I’d thought I’d do a bit of a tribute to a book I absolutely loved, “Geek Love” by Katherine Dunn.

For those of you who had heard, the author of this book died last week at the age of 70, of lung cancer. Katherine Dunn leaves behind a cadre of fans and an unfinished, unpublished book, called “Cut Man.” As a journalist who covered boxing, Ms. Dunn based this book on the sport, and an excerpt appearing in The Paris Review in 2010 was said to bear similarities to “Geek Love.”

I first found out about this quirky book during a stint in advertising when I was little more than half the age I am now. I noticed this book sat on the desk of several of my colleagues, so I asked about it. “Read it,” said a person whose name I remember as Beth. “I can’t explain it to you.”

My sister Gwen happened to purchase a copy of it and after she read it, she loaned it to me. I couldn’t put it down.

It told the tale of a very bizarre family that raised its own freaks for its traveling carnival. The parents managed to give birth to piano-playing conjoined twin girls, a boy with flippers instead of appendages, and an albino hunchbacked dwarf. Throughout the book it tells of other freaks created and met along the way, including women purposely mutilated in order to concentrate on their careers instead of love.

I must have read this book half a dozen times, and with each reading, I grew more horrified at the prospect of parents willfully screwing up their kids so they’d have a future – as carnival freaks.

Still, the book makes you think about what’s acceptable in both nature and the human mind. Having read last week that a group of distinguished Harvard scientists discussed creating a synthetic human genome, perhaps Ms. Dunn wasn’t far off the mark when she wrote this book.

So if you’re in the market for a good read, check out “Geek Love.” You’ll be glad you did.

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