Book Review

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

getting sad again in the bleak northern winter

I’ve started doing some face-to-face work for the first time in a couple of months and it’s fine. It’s fine.

I don’t know if this is a general experience when getting older (or failing to mature?) but I constantly find myself feeling that the things that happen ti me have happened before. I feel, again, like I felt a decade ago. I feel that, though I have occasional paid writing work and regular, though not full time, teaching work, though I’ve had a book published and have a little chapbook coming out soon, and though I have a dog, a healthy relationship and a much better sense of self, in some ways I still feel as directionless as I did a decade ago. That’s my own fault, I suppose. What direction should I be trying to find? What even is a direction? Do I want one?

I don’t know.

I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know 

I’ve been crying a lot the last few days. I went to see Niagara Falls and, yes, it’s a big, huge, impressive waterfall, and walking over a thin concrete bridge to cross into the USA felt very… I dunno, felt big.

But… It’s just so cold. I am cold. I feel cold and strange and strange and cold.

I don’t think Geek Love was a good choice for me this week. Although I can’t fault the clarity of its writing, the originality of its plot or its satisfying 1980s-post modern structure, I found this novel about unhappy outsiders failing to find happiness a little too intense, a little too claustrophobic, a little too much. Too much for me, I mean, emotionally and-

It’s late, I’m tired, I’m sad. I’m gonna sleep and add to this tomorrow.

///

It’s another day now.

I’m drinking less, too, and exercising, both of which are things that are meant to help with sadness and whatever, but I’m finding the opposite.

I’m exercising because I’ve put on weight, but because I’m exercising I’m aware of the truth of the fact that I’ve put on weight. Every time I sweat I just feel fucking disgusting and ashamed and horrible. I want to curl up and weep. There may be some endorphins in my system but they’re overshadowed by a gnawing sense of physical shame: I find myself disgusting, but deciding that I find myself disgusting enough to “do something about” has made me unable to ignore how disgusting I find myself. And I’m not drinking because Ontario has the strict liquor laws familiar to all cold, wilderness, countries, which is the opposite of Spain. I’m not not-drinking because I want to be sober, I’m not drinking because getting hold of booze is either scandalously expensive or sickeningly impractical. You cannot buy wine or beer in most supermarkets, you cannot buy a bevvie in a corner shop. You cannot do anything, except sleep and sleep and sleep and dream of warmer places.

I walk my dog beside the frozen lake and sometimes I wade into the sandy shallows that are – slowly – becoming accessible around the ice. I stand in my thick boots in six inches of below zero water and I kick at and smash the floating ice, I walk along the water line using my heel to break the ice that sticks out, by a few centimetres, over the lake. I walk along with my dog and I stop and throw rocks and hunks of ice and bits of flotsam wood at the fucking icy surface that sticks to the water like oil, hoping it will smash and break and that if I can just get rid of some of the ice here then maybe maybe maybe someone else will come and get rid of a little bit more and if this city of millions all destroyed the ice together, maybe the cold would lift with it and I’d be able to go outside without crying, I’d be able to stroll along beside the lake without feeling the moisture in my skin turn into sharp fucking icicles and without spending time writing poems or reading things and feeling like where I really need to fucking be is in some airless room somewhere sweating out all the fucking fat I’ve amassed from fucking binge-eating while fucking sad and unable to access wine, which works a lot fucking better than food at squashing sadness.

I don’t wake up after drinking two bottles of wine feeling disgusted with myself, but I do wake up after eating a pizza and ice cream and want to start hacking at my fucking stomach with a knife.

No, that isn’t true. I’m not self-harming, unless the exercise counts.

///

My chest hair has grown more than it ever has since being in Canada. My body is responding to the cold and getting fatter is probably part of that. I don’t want to be fatter.

I feel disgusting in my body and I feel unable to interact with people, scared of saying the wrong fucking thing all over again and without alcohol to soften myself I’m just grimly and glumly sitting on fucking trams whizzing around a city listening to sad minimalist music on Spotify and waiting waiting waiting for the thaw and I’ve spent enough of my life waiting for the future and I’m doing it again and I don’t like it.

2018 was the best year of my life. I knew it while it was happening and I knew that I’d be fighting against that comparison forever after. So far, this is the coldest year of my life though far far far far far from the worst, but it’s nowhere near as good as 2018 was. I was right to be worried about the risk of having a good year, a good time. It’s easier to be sad when you’ve been happy. It’s why that line about it being better to have loved and lost, etc, is bullshit. You can’t miss something you don’t understand. You can miss the idea of an absence, but it was only when I had a year with enjoyable work, positive creative momentum, yadda yadda yadda, that I realised how possible a content life was to have.

Maybe I can do it again, I don’t know.

But I don’t think I can, right now, while also reading bleak 1980s postmodern novels about unhappy, angry, people being selfish and alone and violent and cruel. I think I need some kind of positivity – or at least chronological distance – in my reading at the moment.

Geek Love does exactly what it sets out to do and does it incredibly well, it’s just a little too bleak for me atm. What’s the opposite of life-affirming? It’s that, I suppose. Escapism for the fucking norms, innit.

I’ll maybe reread.


On November 14th 2018, I launched my first (and so far only) book, Bad Boy Poet, in the basement of Burley Fisher Books, Dalston. Here are some of the songs and poems I performed:

Order Bad Boy Poet from the UK publisher here.

Order Bad Boy Poet with free Worldwide Shipping from The Book Depository here.

Order Bad Boy Poet from Amazon/Waterstones/Hive/Foyles etc if you’d prefer.


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1 comment on “Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

  1. Pingback: Tentacle by Rita Indiana – Triumph Of The Now

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