The To Be Read Pile’s Final Review: Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

Did you participate in a book challenge this year?  There are so many fun ones it’s hard to choose, but I completed my first year with the To Be Read Pile Challenge.  It’s a contest to complete 12 books that have been sitting on your shelf for over a year.  The prize for all those who complete their 12 books is a chance for a $50 gift card to Amazon or Book Depository.  Pretty awesome, right?

To learn more about the To Be Read Pile Challenge click the 2013 link above and sign up for next year’s contest!

Part of the qualifier for the contest is to write up a review of each of the 12 books you read.  It can be as elaborate or simple as you like.  Check out my 2012 book list and past reviews at any of these links:

My TBR Pile Challenge Books: 

  1. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  2. Little Bee by Chris Cleave
  3. Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
  4. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
  5. Blessings by Anna Quindlen
  6. The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  7. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
  8. The Lace Reader by Bromonia Barry
  9. The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee
  10. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
  11. The Preacher’s Bride by Jody Hedlund
  12. Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Ben H. Winters, Jane Austen

I have yet to do my final review of the last book, so I present…

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn


Geek Love is the story of the Binewski family, a bunch of circus freaks taking their act on the road.

That, and they actually create their act.  Al and Lil Binewski willingly subject themselves to various mixtures of drugs in hopes of birthing the most wonderful freaks and geeks for their family show!  There’s Arturo, the aqua boy.  Iphy and Elly the siamese twins.  Oly, the dwarf hunchback.  And their newest member, Chick, who’s the most special of all.

The story actually jumps around a bit between the family’s early years on the road and where they ended up down the line.

The shining glory of the story is in its bizarre, twisted writing.  It’s strange phrasing of words reminds me of my first encounter with A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.

Sample the Writing:

Here’s a sample, one of my favorite descriptive paragraphs wherein the father is telling the children about his wife’s glory days in the ring as…the woman who bites heads off of chickens!

She fluttered around like a dainty bird, and when she caught those ugly squawking hens you couldn’t believe she’d actually do anything.  When she went right ahead and geeked ’em that whole larruping crowd went bonzo wild.  There never was such a snap and twist of the wrist, such a vampire flick of the jaws over a neck or such a champagne approach to the blood.  She’d shake her star-white hair and the bitten-off chicken head would skew off into the corner while she dug her rosy little fingernails in and lifted the flopping, jittering carcass like a golden goblet, and sipped!  Absolutely sipped at the wriggling guts!  She was magnificent, a princess, a Cleopatra, an elfin queen!  That was your mama in the geek pit.

It’s quite entrancing really.  I loved the writing.  But, the story did wane a bit for me.  I would’ve been perfectly content reading more stories about them on the road together as youngsters.  As the story unfolded to their later years, and the subsequent demise of the Binewski circle I began to hate many of these characters.

I do think this book would make for a fascinating movie.  And if I were a make up artist/creature creator I’d so want in on the production! Visually, I love the book.

I am a big Goodreads fan and check out other reader reviews on there often.  It seemed most readers were really divided.  Cumulatively, Geek Love holds a solid 4.0 rating out of 5 stars, which is pretty dang high.  But reader response was quite split between full on love and then other 2.0 ratings like myself where it was a lot of I really liked it, but… statements.

Don’t take my word for it, read it yourself!  It’s certainly an interesting premise!  

And 2013 is almost here!  Sign up for the To Be Read Pile Challenge at Roof Beam Reader.  See you there! 

14 responses

  1. I love how the author turns a phrase. Very unique! I do have a pile of books to read, but I also got a Kindle for Christmas (yay) so it may end up being a virtual pile in 2013.

    1. I have one of those too. They collect much less dust but don’t smell the same.

      Did you see I made you into my 2013 list?! Guess that means you’ll HAVE to be guest here! Muahahaha…

      1. I do see that! Thanks, my friend. 🙂

  2. Your reviews all year have been really wonderful recommendations. This is an informative review but, the book sounds a little too odd for me to get into. Good for you for trying so many different styles and genres of books. Since I have to write A LOT this year, I’m going to pass on the challenge and just read as time allows. Happy reading in 2013!

    1. And happy writing to you! Hope I get more of that in this year too!

  3. I have thoroughly enjoyed your reviews all year, Jess! Keep up the great work and informative reviews. Happy New Year!!

    1. Well thank you for so many book recommendations! Candy finished and liked Blessings! Have you read A Reliable Wife? I have that on my 2013 list and Candy told me you lent her the book. What did you think of it?

  4. Another good review, Jess. Happy New Year!

    1. The same to you Patricia! Any fun festivities in Toronto you’re taking part in?

  5. I read this some years ago and was fascinated. It was such a wonderful mix of sad, passionate and weird. I loved it.

    1. Those are actually perfect adjectives to describe it. It is a mix of that. I loved the writing. Very unique.

  6. Great 2012 list, Jess! I haven’t read Geek Love yet, which I sort of can’t believe since I hear about it all the time.

    1. It’s such an obscure book I would think. I found out about it at the Madison Writers Conference. Speaking of conferences, do you know what ones you’ll be attending this year? I may be going to the Madison one again this year and DFW for sure. Any worthwhile ones in Minneapolis?

      1. I’m always looking for something local as now with FOUR kids it’s not so easy for me to get away. I don’t know of one that suites me coming up, but if there is one I will let you know. Would be so fun to meet!

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