Thursday, 3 March 2011

World Book Day...Geek Love

I couldn't let today go uncelebrated on my blog.  So here is an adult book recommendation which ties in terrifyingly well to my entry to Tuesday's Movie Meme .

My favourite book that I have read in recent years has to be Katherine Dunn's Geek Love.  Set in a travelling carnival, Al and his wife Crystal devise an idea to breed their own sideshow oddities using various drugs, poisons and radioactivity to alter the genes of their offspring during Crystal's pregnancies.  The results are Arty the Flipper Boy, Siamese Twins Elly and Iphy, Oly a hunchbacked albino dwarf and Chick born with telekenetic powers.  The children who do not survive are preserved in jars for the public to view.

Oly tells the story of her family and her own life. She recounts her childhood struggles in the circus, where her own deformity wasn't great enough for her to be a star which meant she was forced into menial labour, and her dealing with the Machiavellian Arty who set up his own cult, Arturism, where followers were urged to amputate limbs in an attempt to discover Peace, Isolation and Purity through self-mutilation.  His battle for control over his siblings and his followers was brutal.  He would stop at nothing.

The story of Oly's current life tells of her relationship with Miranda, her daughter (a beautiful striper with a tail that she flaunts at a fetish club) who is unaware of who her parents are.  (Oly's brother Arty is the father, conceived via the telekenetic transportation of his sperm to her egg!)  Oly spies on her daughter and will do anything to protect her.  Her protectiveness reaches a head when Miranda meets Mary Lick, a rich woman who pays attractive women to have disfiguring operations in order for them to achieve their full potential rather than be considered sex objects.  Lick's real motivation is not so honourable and Oly must stop her!

This book is gross, revolting, tragic, shocking and bizarre.  However it is also extraordinarily moving.  Oly's desire for normalcy in her abnormal world is heartbreaking.  It opens our eyes to the struggles and desires present in all of us.  Human experiences transcend physicality.  Oly yearns for love, family, acceptance and protection in an unaccepting world and with an unappreciative family that focuses its attention on her manipulative brother.

This book is emotionally draining but also riveting in its ability to make us care deeply for the central character.  The back story is dark but compelling.  The central theme is the traditional familial desires of Oly in a totally untraditional family.  We can relate to her desires and identify with her struggles although her turmoil is magnified.  We are moved by her.  This is an amazing book and well worth checking out.


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