Geek Love

Source:  Geek Love    Tag:  albino midget
by Katherine Dunn 

Al Binewski inherited his family’s circus during troubled economic times. Not many people could splurge on a show for their family even after the Great Depression. The old familiar acts of the Binewski Fabulon were not enough to draw the crowds anymore. 

Al’s new wife, Lily the geek, was eager to help recast the circus as a must-see exhibition. Together, they devised a plan to grow their attractions using their love for one another. They tinkered with pharmaceuticals and mild poisons during Lil’s various pregnancies in order to produce mutated offspring that were guaranteed to bring in revenue. 

Four of their experiments survive and grow up as the beloved Binewski children. The albino hunchbacked midget, Olympia, is the narrator of the story. Her twin sisters, Elly and Iphy, are Siamese twins connected at the hip. Her brother Arturo was born without arms or legs, only hands and feet like flippers. And last, boy Chick, has a specialty all his own. In the shelter of a circus, these children grow up accepted, even respected by the other workers and performers. And their parents teach them that their shapes make them highly prized. 

Not surprisingly, this acceptance is at odds with what the Binewski children experience beyond the circus grounds. Laughter, sometimes horrified expressions, people staring without consideration. But the children have a core acceptance from their parents and loved ones, so they believe the outsiders or “norms” are the real freaks. 

The story develops those beliefs during the revitalization of the Binewski Fabulon. Over a period of years, each Binewski sibling discovers his or her humanity in how they react to the outside world. They learn to relate to the “norms” in their own way, causing conflict with the rest of the family. One Binewski discovers how to twist the reactions of his crowds to profit, and becomes a manipulative and abusive public figure. He attracts a cult following who mutate themselves using surgery. 

Katherine Dunn’s narrative abilities are superlative, so even if you’re not the circus freak type, it’s worth a read. I consider Geek Love one of my all-time favorite books. Check it out.