Poetry Madness
 
 

Recently Viewed clear list


Q&A | February 27, 2014

Rene Denfeld: IMG Powell’s Q&A: Rene Denfeld



Describe your latest book. The Enchanted is a story narrated by a man on death row. The novel was inspired by my work as a death penalty... Continue »
  1. $18.19 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

    The Enchanted

    Rene Denfeld 9780062285508

spacer
Qualifying orders ship free.
$15.95
New Trade Paper
Ships in 1 to 3 days
Add to Wishlist
Qty Store Section
5 Burnside Literature- A to Z
7 Local Warehouse Literature- A to Z
15 Remote Warehouse Literature- A to Z

Geek Love

by

Geek Love Cover

 

 

Reading Group Guide

1. Geek Love is preceded by an epigraph from “The Tempest,” in which the magician Prospero says of the monster Caliban: “This thing of darkness I Acknowledge mine” [“The Tempest,” 5.1.275-6]. How is this quote relevant to the novel? In what sense is Geek Love about acknowledging ones own darkness, freakishness, or otherness?

2. Reviewers, even in praising Geek Love, have described it as “bizarre” (Chicago Tribune), “shocking” (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution), and “grisly” (The Philadelphia Inquirer). In what ways does the novel seek to shock readers? What preconceptions does it try to overturn? How does it manage to be both engaging and deeply disturbing?

3. Reading imaginative literature requires, as Samuel Coleridge said, a willing suspension of disbelief. How difficult is it to suspend disbelief and enter into the fictional world of Geek Love? What are the rewards of doing so?

4. The first chapter of Geek Love is titled “The Nuclear Family,” and the father Al is described as a “standard-issue Yankee, set on self-determination and independence” [p. 7]. In what ways are the Binewskis like a typical American family, with its ambitions and rivalries and emotional power struggles? What is Dunn suggesting by pointing out these similarities?

5. Geek Love was written in the early eighties. How does it reflect and satirize American culture at that time?

6. When Chick is born, the family is ashamed and wants to get rid of him because he appears to be normal; Olympia speaks of escaping childhood knowledge into the innocence of adulthood; and eventually people who come to Artys shows pay to have their limbs amputated so they can feel whole again. What is Dunn suggesting through these reversals of values? What does she accomplish by subverting our “normal” ways of perceiving these things?

7. When Oly asks Arty if the ghost stories he reads scare him, he replies, “These are written by norms to scare norms. And do you know what the monsters and demons and rancid spirits are? Us, thats what. You and me. We are the things that come to the norms in nightmares. . . . These books teach me a lot. They dont scare me because theyre about me” [p. 46]. In what sense is Arty right in thinking that he and his siblings are the stuff of normal peoples nightmares? What is frightening about them? Is Dunns book disconcerting because in some important way its more a reflection of ourselves than we care to admit?

8. Katherine Dunn employs many unusual words in Geek Love: skootching, skuttered, rooched, snorking, frowzled, etc. What do such words add to the flavor of the novel? In what ways is such language appropriate to the story Dunn is telling?

9. In his journal, Norval Sanderson writes, “General opinion about Arty varies, from those who see him as a profound humanitarian to those who view him as a ruthless reptile” [p. 273]. Which of these views is more accurate? Is Arty a healer or a huckster?

10. How do the twins, Iphy and Elly, Arty, Chick, and Oly relate to each other? What roles do they play? How does Arty gain control over them?

11. Why does Dunn use the story of Hopalong McGurk, Miranda, and Mary Lick, which occurs in the fictional present, to frame the main narrative of the rise and fall of the Binewski family? What does each story line contribute to the other? In what ways is Mark Lick like Arty?

12. Olympia says that Miss Licks purpose in arranging disfiguring operations is to “liberate women who are liable to be exploited by male hungers. These exploitable women are, in Miss Licks view, the pretty ones.” After they lose their beauty they can “use their talents and intelligence to become powerful” [p. 162]. Is this a valid critique of the constraints of attractiveness for women? What does the novel as a whole say about the relation between appearance and power?

13. In one of Arturos statements to Norval Sanderson, he says, “I get glimpses of the horror of normalcy. Each of these innocents on the street is engulfed by a terror of their own ordinariness. They would do anything to be unique” [p. 223]. Is he right? Do most people fear being ordinary?

14. Why does Oly kill Mary Lick and then herself at the end of the novel? What are her hopes for her daughter?

15. The reviewer for Kirkus wrote that the novel is about “love and hubris in a carnival family.” How does love motivate the main characters in the novel? Who is guilty of hubris? What are the consequences of this overreaching ambition?

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 11 comments:

Coco Nelson, January 12, 2013 (view all comments by Coco Nelson)
You will not read another book like this. A story of an aberrant family that curls in destructively on itself, Dunn's characters make a world that is terrific, horrible. Her prose--the uncanny ability to inhabit a moment in the way no other writer could, or, often, would--will unsettle and jolt.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Lyndsie, January 3, 2013 (view all comments by Lyndsie)
My novel workshop professor recommended this to me and lent me her copy. I loved it so much, I bought my own edition. Dunn does a beautiful job on making the unordinary ordinary, on making an unusual family seem as dysfunctional as any other (in their own astonishing ways). The mindset of these people and how they value physical abnormality was so interesting and terrifying at the same time. After reading this, I sought out Tod Robbins' short story, "Spurs." Geek Love opened my eyes, both as a reader and a writer. I admire Katherine Dunn for taking the leap she did to write this book. It easily became my favorite book read in 2012 and quite possibly one of my favorite books ever. I look forward to reading more of Dunn's work.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
bookduck19, August 5, 2012 (view all comments by bookduck19)
A haunting, intriguing, beautifully written story.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
View all 11 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780375713347
Author:
Dunn, Katherine
Publisher:
Vintage Books
Location:
New York, NY
Subject:
General
Subject:
Family
Subject:
Monsters
Subject:
Domestic fiction
Subject:
Circus performers.
Subject:
Carnival owners
Subject:
Freak shows
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series:
Vintage Contemporaries
Series Volume:
4
Publication Date:
June 2002
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
368
Dimensions:
7.95 x 5.1 x .75 in .6 lb

Other books you might like

  1. Mister Sandman Used Trade Paper $4.95
  2. Giant Obrien Used Trade Paper $5.95
  3. Wonder When You'll Miss Me
    Used Trade Paper $4.50
  4. Stones from the River Used Trade Paper $1.50
  5. Fortune's Bastard
    Used Trade Paper $5.50
  6. Rocket City (Vintage Contemporaries)
    Used Mass Market $5.95

Related Subjects

Featured Titles » Literature
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture
History and Social Science » Pacific Northwest » Literature Folklore and Memoirs

Geek Love New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$15.95 In Stock
Product details 368 pages Vintage Books USA - English 9780375713347 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

The Binewskis are just the typical Portland family: Traveling carnies Al and Lil Binewski breed their own carnival oddities through drug experimentation and radiation. Their children include a boy-fish, conjoined twins, a hunchbacked albino dwarf, and one son without any such talents. Well, the siblings fight, the carnival becomes a cult, and things spiral out of control... then we end up in Portland for an emotional and empowering ending. Okay, maybe it's not all set in the Northwest, but it certainly packs a punch.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Those entering the world of carnival freaks described by narrator Olympia Binewski, a bald, humpbacked albino dwarf, will find no escape from a story at once engrossing and repellent, funny and terrifying, unreal and true to human nature....a novel that everyone will be talking about, a brilliant, suspenseful, heartbreaking tour de force." Publishers Weekly
"Review" by , "Page after page she shocks us....A Fellini movie in ink."
"Review" by , "Wonderfully descriptive...the comic exploration of the peculiar...gives Geek Love its main success: that and Ms. Dunn's tremendous imagination."
"Review" by , "What elevates this work is Dunn's controlled, matter-of-fact narrative, her skillful character development, and her relentless insistence that we address these people and their concerns in human terms. Highly recommended."
"Review" by , "A Fellini movie in ink.... Geek Love throws a punch."
"Review" by , "Wonderfully descriptive....Dunn [has a] tremendous imagination."
"Review" by , "Unrelentingly bizarre.... perverse but riveting....Will keep you turning the pages."
spacer
spacer
  • back to top
Follow us on...




Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.