Comfort Zone: Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

These last few weeks have not been tops for me.  I have been battling horrendous anxiety, stomach issues galore, and of course the obligatory family drama has led me to want to build a pillow fort from which there is no escape.

Since I can only watch the new episodes of True Blood about one hundred times, I have been attempting to re-read some of my favorite books.  When Jennifer from Grits and Moxie started asking me to offer up my favorite summer reads, I was reminded of my passion for a single book: Geek Love by Katherine Dunn.
Imagine my shock to find Jennifer was also a fan of this fabulous novel!  I am so enamored with the storyline, the imagery and the subject matter, I want to get a half-sleeve dedicated to the characters alone.

The novel is the story of a traveling carnival run by Aloysius "Al" Binewski and his wife "Crystal" Lil. When the business begins to fail, the couple devise an idea to breed their own freak show, using various drugs and radioactive material to alter the genes of their children. The results are Arturo ("Arty"), a boy with flippers for hands and feet; Electra ("Elly") and Iphigenia ("Iphy"), Siamese Twins; Olympia ("Oly"), a hunchbacked albino dwarf; and Fortunato ("Chick"), the normal-looking baby of the family who has telekinetic powers.
 The novel takes place in two time periods: the first deals with the Binewski children's constant struggle against each other through life. They especially have to deal with the Machiavellian Arty as he develops his own cult: Arturism. In this cult, Arty persuades people to have their limbs amputated so that they can be like Arty, the cult leader, in their search for the principle he calls PIP ("Peace, Isolation, Purity"). Each member moves up in stages, losing increasingly significant chunks of their body, starting with their toes and fingers. As Arty battles his siblings to maintain control over his followers, competition between their respective freak shows slowly begins to take over their lives.

The second story is set in the present and is centered on Oly's (Arty's sister) daughter, Miranda. Nineteen-year-old Miranda does not know Oly is her mother. She lives on a trust fund created by Oly before she gave up her daughter to be raised by nuns. This had been urged by her brother Arty, who was also Miranda's father (not through sexual intercourse, but by the telekinetic powers of Chick, another sibling, who carried Arty's sperm directly to Oly's ovum). Oly lives in the same rooming house as Miranda so she can "spy" on her. Miranda has a special defect of her own, a small tail, which she flaunts at a local fetish strip club. There she meets Mary Lick, who tries to convince her to have the tail cut off. Lick is a wealthy woman who pays attractive women to get disfiguring operations, ostensibly so they may live up to their potential instead of becoming sex objects, but Lick's real motivation is to punish them for being more attractive than she is.

Whenever I am having a hard time, it is this and Catcher in the Rye that are my only comforts.  Well those and maybe a six-pack of tangerine wheat from Lost Coast.

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Thanks for reading! I love comments from anyone who isn't a CUNT.