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The Family Fang

Wilson, Kevin, 1978-

(Book - 2011)
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
The Family Fang
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Performance artists Caleb and Camille Fang dedicated themselves to making great art. But when an artist's work lies in subverting normality, it can be difficult to raise well-adjusted children. Just ask Buster and Annie Fang. For as long as they can remember, they starred (unwillingly) in their parents' madcap pieces. But now that they are grown up, the chaos of their childhood has made it difficult to cope with life outside the fishbowl of their parents' strange world. When the lives they've built come crashing down, brother and sister have nowhere to go but home, where they discover that Caleb and Camille are planning one last performance-- their magnum opus-- whether the kids agree to participate or not. Soon, ambition breeds conflict, bringing the Fangs to face the difficult decision about what's ultimately more important: their family or their art.
Published: New York : Ecco, c2011.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 0061579033
9780061579035
Branch Call Number: F WIL
Characteristics: 309 p. ;,24 cm.

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Like movies by the Coen brothers or Wes Anderson? This ones for you!

Oct 26, 2012
  • JimLoter rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

When I was little, my mother would play this game with me in public that she called "Go Away, Little Boy." When we were out together at a grocery store or the mall, she'd contrive to get me separated from her - say, by sending me over to the next aisle for something - then, when I'd return, she'd pretend she didn't know me. "Go away, little boy. Go find your mother." She'd try to walk - sometimes run - away from me.

Now, I was in on the joke, of course, and I was infinitely delighted by this. But as I grew to know my mom better, as an adult, I began to realize that this "game" - and other, similar performances - were just as much for the benefit of the audience of other shoppers as they were for her amused little boy. I don't know if she simply enjoyed putting one over on people or if she was driven by a desire to be the center of attention. It was probably both.

The parents Fang take their public performances to levels far beyond the "Go Away, Little Boy" game, and accordingly they set their aspirations higher: preferring to consider the occurrences they stage to be "art." Whatever you call it, though, the twin motivations - duping people and getting attention - are still the same but are ramped up to the extreme. Caleb and Camille Fang are entirely fueled by the emotional reactions of others.

I don't consider myself psychologically traumatized by "Go Away, Little Boy" (who knows, though; it may it explain a lot) but Annie and Buster Fang are clearly and majorly fucked up as a result of their parents activities. As "Child A" and "Child B," respectively, Annie and Buster became characters in their parents' disruptive performances and grew to be emotionally-damaged adults with a limited ability to function in the world.

Kevin Wilson playfully guides us through the absurd nadirs that drive Annie and Buster reluctantly back to live with their loony parents, all the while peppering the story with flashbacks of their family's "happenings" that build and intricately intersect with the main storyline. Wilson's style is contagious and clever, and he mostly avoids taking that cleverness too far. He is able to evoke laughter at Annie's and Buster's predicaments but I always maintained sympathy for them.

At a crucial moment shortly after the family is reunited, the elder Fangs suffer an artistic humiliation and the tone and direction of the novel shifts. While the opening of the book tears Annie and Buster down and hints at the background of parental eccentricity they came from, the rest of the book slowly builds them back up and reveals the truly dark depths that the Fangs' parental eccentricity plumbs.

Ultimately, Annie and Buster must decide to sever their connections to the parents who always controlled them, who always scripted their performances without sharing the script with them. In so doing, they must also learn who they really are, what they really love, and how to feel things without an audience.

Sep 28, 2012
  • HilarySquires rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

great book!
I was a bit discouraged by the negative comments I read here and on goodreads, but I'm so glad I read it anyway. I didn't see those things as "negatives" at all.

Sep 22, 2012
  • unicorncafe rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

LOVED this book. It reminds me of a Wes Anderson film. It was bizarre and hilarious and I was sad when I finished it because I wanted to keep reading. Read this book.

Aug 15, 2012
  • cantilcm2008 rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

This is a great book of short stories. It could easily be made into an indie film. There were times where I felt the book lacked some direction and I wasn't that enthusiastic about the ending. However, it's a decent summer read.

Aug 10, 2012
  • LeslieP9 rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

An odd but engaging book. The family Fang revolves around performance art. The children are eventually forced to choose between family and art.

Jul 22, 2012
  • catpdx rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

Fun odd little book... if you like stories of messed up families you will definitely enjoy this story!

Jul 10, 2012
  • pescarox rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Painful and funny, my favorite kind of book.

Jul 05, 2012
  • librarylynners rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

I loved this odd little well written story. I really enjoyed the daughter's character.

Jun 29, 2012
  • Alexis_F rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I love this book! For anyone without a 'normal' upbringing, this one is for you. The characters are horrible to each other, and it makes for an enthralling read. I love how Kevin Wilson turned such terrible existence into a mirthful, enjoyable, and funny novel.

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Jun 28, 2014
  • SlotFather rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

You are very sweet," she told him after a year of dating, as they shared dessert at a restaurant, "but it's like your family trained you to react to the world in a way that was so specific to their art that you don't know how to interact with people in the real world. You act like every conversation is just a buildup to something awful.

Oct 26, 2012
  • JimLoter rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

He would teach himself to dislike what he actually liked, to approve of what he did not totally understand, in the hopes that he would come out the other side with something that resembled inspiration, something that would make him more famous than Chris Burden or even Hobart Waxman.

Jul 03, 2012
  • Sirimarie rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

It had all been fake, a choreographed event, but they could not escape the dread that rattled inside their chests. It was a testament to their proficiency and talent as artists. They had affected themselves with the authenticity of the moment.

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