by Katherine Dunn
A "friend" reviewed this novel and as something of a freak myself I couldn't resist reading a novel about freaks. But I found I didn't like this nearly as much as I thought I would.
The best way to think about this story is that it's like a darker version of "The Addams Family." Ma and Pa work for a traveling circus and decide that it's too expensive to recruit freaks, so they'll breed them! Ma takes all sorts of drugs and such in order to create deformed babies. Some of them die, but four (or five) survive. They are Arturo, a boy with flippers instead of limbs; Ely and Iphy the conjoined twins; Chick the boy with strange psychic powers; and Olympia the hunchbacked albino dwarf who is our narrator. As in most family sagas the narrator is the most boring character with the least personality. Arturo the Aqua Boy is the big star of the family. Ely and Iphy are second with their singing and dancing. Even Chick finds a niche when Arturo starts a cult devoted to making people into deformed freaks. Olympia's only real role is to be Arturo's valet and main worshiper.
I guess despite being something of a freak myself I'm not so deluded to think that being a freak makes someone special or better than "normal" people. As the story goes on I really found it increasingly grotesque and disturbing instead of funny or interesting. Adding to this is the portion that takes place in the present where Olympia is dealing with her daughter and a mysterious woman who thinks like Arturo that deformity is the key to enlightenment.
Anyway, other people obviously thought this was better than I did. I was just a victim of overly high expectations the book couldn't deliver upon.
That is all.