could see the tips of my father’snshoes. I was sixteen years oldnand waiting for the next thingnhe would tell me.nThen he thought: What cannyou do? These are clouds abovenus, and below us there is icenand the earth. He said, “I give.”n* * *nDespite all science, I think wenwill never understand thensadness of certain notes.nMy hand finds her fingers andngrips them, bone and tendon,nfragile things.nSentences like the above provoked thencritics: “Startling . . . self-discoverynwith a voice of compassion . . . energyn. . . extraordinarily gifted . . . unexpectednflight . . . glowing . . . guilty ofnbrilliance.”nIs there a new hallucinogenic drugnmoving through the critical world?nI do not want to leave you in thisnslough of despond, so I will recommendnGeek Love by Katherine Dunn. ThenVillage Voice is annoyed because, theynthink, it is unfair to lesbians. It wasnreviewed in The New York Times by anthriller writer who was disappointednthat it was not a thriller.nBe all that as it may. Geek Love isnone of the most exciting and bizarrennovels to be published in a long time.nIts vision is extreme in the way of Swiftnand Celine. It has the bite and fury ofnParts Three and Four of Gulliver’snTravels, and the verbal energy of thenlater Celine novels, Nord and Castle tonCastle. It sings with a sort of classicalnepigrammatic authority. The story,nmostly narrated by an albino hunchbackedndwarf, is of life midst her familynof traveling freaks, Binewski’s Fabulon.nSome of the freaks are natural, othersnare chemically induced. There are Siamesentwin sisters who play the pianonand do a bit of prostitution on the side.nThe central character, Artie, who hasnflippers instead of arms and legs, becomesnthe focus of a cult whose membersnoff^er up their arms, legs, eyes, andnsexual organs in homage to him. Artiencalls himself an industrial accident.nThe cult is described in loving detailnand quickly the reader understandsnthat there are implications. DoctornPhyllis, who performs the surgery de­nmanded by the cult members, arguesnthat lobotomy is the ultimate short cutnto: P.I.P. — Peace, Isolation, and Purity.nCut once. Cut deep.nGeek Love refuses to pander andnrefuses to make things easy for thenreader, though it is extremely readable.nI am glad that many readers will be putnoff by the subject matter. Truly moralnbooks are for the very few. It is thenmost spirited and compelling defensenof human life in all of its forms that Inam aware of Some quotes in partialnsubstantiation of my claim:nIt is, I suppose, the commonngrief of children at having tonprotect their parents fromnreality. It is bitter for the youngnto see what awful innocencenadults grow into, that terriblenvulnerability that must bensheltered from the rodent mirenof childhood.n. . . like many othernsophisticated people, she isnunduly impressed by anythingnconnected with the massnmedia . . .n”I was thirty-eight years old,”nmuses Miss Oly, “before I evernfelt the burn of whiskey on mynlips. But I knew it right away fornwhat it was.”n”The virgin’s arms,” nodsnJimmy. “God’s breath.”nThomas McGonigle is a novelistnliving in New York City.nWaters of Lifenby Odie B. FaulknThe Arkansas: An American Rivernby William MillsnFayetteville and London:nThe University of Arkansas Press;n250 pp., $30.00nThe Arkansas River is bom fromnmelting snow on Mt. Arkansas atn13,795 feet above sea level in the statenof Colorado. Rushing down throughncataracts and gorges, it gathers strengthnfrom a multitude of rivulets and creeksnto burst free from the mountains ladennwith silt. Across the Great Plains ofneastem Colorado and almost the lengthnnnof Kansas it meanders through a landnwhere the wind seems eternal, freezingnin winter and parching in summer, anland subject to storms that in springnbring tornadoes, hail, and rain, wherenthe “northers” of winter bring sleet andnblinding snowstorms, and where in thensummer the winds blow hot from thensouth and, up into the mountains tonmelt the snows and bring yet morenwater rushing down to feed a thirstynland, livestock, and people.nOnce into Oklahoma and Arkansas,nthe channel of this river becomes narrowernand better defined, for the land isnmore resistant to erosion. Movingnthrough the Gross Timbers, a region ofnblackjack and post oak interminglednwith mesquite and smaller shmbbery,nthe Arkansas supports tall cottonwoodsnthat give way to pine, giant live andnwhite oaks, and finally to stately Cyprusnand pecan groves. From snow buttercupsnto delta rice fields, the Arkansas isnhome to myriad plants and animals, butnnone has changed the river like man.nThe Arkansas has long since ceasednto be a wild river. It, like the land alongnits banks, was regarded by the pioneernsettlers as a resource meant by a generousnCreator to help man, something tonbe put to productive use as rapidly asnpossible. So many irrigation ditchesnwere run out from its banks in southeasternnColorado and western Kansasnthat from the air they appeared likenbones running away from the spine of anfish stripped of its flesh.nThen, as the technology of drillingnwas improved by the petroleum industry,nwells were dug into the water sandsnalong the Arkansas to pump millions ofngallons of water to nearby fields. In fact,nso many ditches and wells were dug thatnin years of scant snow and rainfall thenArkansas dried up in Kansas.nAnd as technology progressed, giantndams were built in Oklahoma and Arkansasnto impound the waters of thenArkansas and release them in steadynflow to support barge traffic on thenMcGlellan-Kerr Waterway, a project ofnthe Army Corps of Engineers. Billionsnof federal dollars were spent on thisnproject, which the Corps of Engineersnassured us would be cost effective, returningnmore than dollar for dollarnabove cost in benefits. Unfortunately,nthe Corps of Engineers has never met anfederal project that it did not like. Everynproposal can be guaranteed to be costnAUGUST 1989/35n