I finished the book Geek Love
a couple of days ago, and I’ve sort of tried to structure my thoughts. I have a
bookshelf on Goodreads called “Completely fucking weird” and it currently holds
two books; the Wasp Factory by Iain Banks, and Geek Love, not that you can
compare them necessarily.
The story is told by Olympia
Binewski, a hunchbacked albino dwarf, who grew up in a travelling carnival. She
is the third living child, or fourth, depending on how you see it, of Al and
Lilith Binewski. They run a freak show, and at one point Al realizes that
people aren’t showing up anymore, because it’s not freaky enough… So he and his
wife decide to make their own freaks. So Lilith goes on a drug regimen and they
create Arturo, a boy with flippers and webbed feet and hands, Elly and Iphy,
Siamese twins, Oly, the dwarf, and the Chick (real name Fortunato), who is
telekinetic. They also obviously lose a lot of babies, who they keep in mason
jars, on display, because of course. So the story follows the children’s youth,
and their show, and the weird cult around Arturo. And the story is also
interspersed with the present time where Olympia is watching over her
20-year-old daughter, Miranda.
So I don’t know what to think
about this book. There are too many things.
It sort of made me feel sick.
Because it’s a story of parents who willingly and deliberately make children
with disabilities, or things that set them apart. They do this from a place of…
love, I guess, they want to give their children something to live off of, and
they want them to be unique. They also love their children unconditionally, but
what they do ultimately leads to their downfall. They make their kids see what
others would see as disability or a problem, as almost a superpower.
I liked Oly, sort of. I mean
you sort of have to like her, she is to a certain degree the kindest of the
children. Despite being a bald, hunchbacked, albino dwarf she is also the least
extraordinary of the Binewski children. Arturo has his own show, as aqua boy,
the twins are beautiful Siamese twins who play piano, a four hander, and dazzle
the world, the Chick doesn’t have a show, but he is telekinetic. So Oly doesn’t
really have anything, but she is loved. She takes care of her siblings, she
loves them, and she sometimes does the announcing at the shows. She is
misguided in some ways. She knows what Arturo is doing, I’ll get back to it,
but she loves him so much that she is willing to forgive everything he does.
He’s completely fucking psycho, and she forgives him, no matter what. It made
me angry, because their parents don’t see what Arty is doing and they don’t try
to stop it, and Oly sees everything, and she just lets him go on. On the other
hand, what can she do? The answer is; nothing. But she doesn’t even try. And it
made me furious. She’s so enthralled to him, like his followers, and it fucking
annoyed me. I love her, and I love the dynamic, but oh GOD. I love frustrating
characters and relationships.
I thought it was an interesting
look on how we see “freaks” and people with disabilities, or people who are
different. Obviously people come to see Arty and the twins because they’re
different and it’s weird. Because Arturo has this show as aqua boy, where he
swims and does swim-y, stuff. Eventually he starts talking to his audience, and
he is an amazing orator. He talks to them and answers questions about life.
Then it evolves into preaching, and turning his show into a religion, almost,
or a cult at least. People start wanting to be like him, and he feels like he
can free them by chopping their limbs off, which is weird. And that really
freaked me out. It’s such a weird cult, and such a weird thing to want. And
it’s an excellent way to describe a religion. Because these people are
literally sacrificing their bodies, offering up parts of themselves to be taken
into Arty’s good graces. It’s so sick. And they think they’re reaching a higher
level or whatever, and then they’re completely dependent on novices of the
faith. It’s so fucked.
Arty is creepy, and cruel, and
a complete psychopath. Well not complete, he loves Iphy. He will not have
anyone be better and more loved than him, he needs to be the focus, he needs to
be the best. He is horrible. He tries to kill his brother, yeah. He obsessively
counts the ticket stubs and when his sisters sell more tickets he sulks and
rages and it’s sort of scary. He takes over the carnival almost without anyone
noticing, and suddenly he just rules the joint. It’s so creepy. I really hated
him. I shouldn’t hate people, but I hate him. I feel like he doesn’t really
have any redeeming qualities either. He starts being loving towards his
brother, but it’s because he wants to use him.
I also thought the present day
story was incredible. It was also cruel and uncomfortable. Olympia’s daughter
has a tail, and in Olympia’s eyes this is great, her daughter is different, and
weird and interesting. To Miranda this is a problem, because she wants to be
normal. Miranda is approached by a woman, Mary Lick, who wants to pay her to
remove her tail. Olympia doesn’t like this, and befriends Mary Lick, only to
discover that Mrs. Lick takes beautiful women with a lot of intellectual
potential and pays them exorbitant amounts of money to disfigure them so that
they will focus on their intellectual potential, and they won’t be hampered by
their beauty. It’s interesting to see how this woman just decides that these
women are brilliant, and that they have to do what she thinks and she thinks
she knows best. It was disturbing to see how she used her power, a power she
got through money. It was disturbing to see how she thought she was somehow saving
them by disfiguring their faces and destroying their bodies and it made me
It was weird, it was creepy,
it was confusing, and gross, and I loved it. It was so good.