Geek Love Summary

Olympia Binewski, a.k.a. Hopalong McGurk, comes from a family of circus freaks. Her parents operate Binewski's Fabulon, a traveling freak show featuring her brother Arturo, the Aqua Boy, and her sisters Iphy and Electra, a pair of Siamese twins.

  • Olympia is a bald, hunchbacked albino with no particular gifts. She's not a draw for the freak show, and her primary role is as Arturo's assistant. Her sisters, on the other hand, are big stars, and they regularly prostitute themselves to the highest bidders.
  • Arturo founds the cult of Arturism, which manipulates "normal" people into cutting off their limbs and becoming freakish. Arturo becomes very powerful, eventually taking over the family show.
  • Olympia asks her brother Chick, a psychic with telekinetic powers, to impregnate her with Arturo's sperm by moving it into her body. She bears a daughter, Miranda, whom she gives away. Olympia later leaves the show to work in radio. She dies trying to protect Miranda from her family.

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Katherine Dunn’s novel, Geek Love is the life story of Olympia Binewski, told from her own perspective. The novel first describes the travels of the Binewski Fabulon, a family freak show featuring Olympia herself, who has dwarfism, her brother Arturo, who has flippers instead of hands and feet, Electra and Iphigenia, a pair of conjoined twins, and Fortunato, or Chick, who is capable of telekinesis. Dunn describes the show’s progress across rural America, describing the responses it stimulates in audiences, responses ranging from murderous hostility to obsessive infatuation. She then goes on to describe how “Arti,” the oldest of the siblings comes to assume a leading role in the Fabulon as the children grow, seeking more and more to assert control over the lives of his siblings, to their great discomfort. He starts a cult called “Arturism,” a movement that encourages its members to amputate their limbs and so free themselves from normality, which is for the Binewski family an undesirable state.

Olympia convinces Chick to impregnate her, using his telekinesis to transport Arturo’s sperm into her womb. But when the baby Miranda is born, Arti convinces Olympia to send her child off to a convent. Chick has, like his siblings long chafed under Arti’s control, and when the twins and their child are killed this triggers an explosion of his anger. The fire storm he creates kills Arti and destroys the Fabulon. Olympia finds a job as a newsreader, and buys a house where she lives with her mother and her daughter Miranda, now recovered from the Convent who was born with a small, curly tail. When her daughter is eighteen, and working part-time in a strip club that specializes in people with “freakish” qualities, she meets a dangerous friend known as Miss Lick, who turns out to be a staunch proponent of her uncle’s cult. Lick’s mission is to find attractive girls, girls who are limited by society’s prejudices toward them as sex objects, and convince them to disfigure themselves so that they might escape these prejudices and become free to reach their full potential. The implication is however that Lick’s motives are not pure, that she merely wants to punish these girls for the crime of being more attractive than she is. Worried by Lick’s efforts to convince her daughter to remove her tail, to “fix herself,” Olympia murders Lick and then kills herself, leaving behind a case of documents for Miranda to find, where the history of the Binewskis and their fabulon is recorded.

Geek Love

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Meet the family Binewski: Al, proprietor and emcee of the carnival, Binewski’s Fabulon; Lil, mother, former geek; Arturo, the Aqua Boy, a torso with flippers; Elly and Iphy, beautiful, piano-playing Siamese twins--two torsos with one waist; Olympia, barker and attendant to Arturo; and Chick, normal but for a quality so “freakish” that there is no act for him. These children, created by Al and Lil with the aid of various illicit substances, have...

(The entire section is 838 words.)