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The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
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The Family Fang

by Kevin Wilson

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8765610,122 (3.64)69
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Caleb and Camille Fang are performance artists creating live instances of chaos and confusion with the coerced participation of their children, Annie and Buster, otherwise known as child A and child B. Annie and Buster are now adults whose lives have not gone especially well. Though they live far away from their parents, by choice, events will bring the entire family back together. As the plot works towards this point, the main storyline is interspersed with shorter chapters detailing some of the extreme artistic happenings that the family participated in together when child A and B were young. Once they are all back together it seems inevitable that their parents will attempt yet another event and force Annie and Buster to become participants whether they want to or not.

This novel has a quirky premise and a promising structure that lends itself well to a setup with pace and verve. And it’s funny. That it loses its way in the always challenging middle section is regrettable. I found myself wondering why this happened. Did the author simply lose his nerve? Was he unwilling to go where the premise and setup was taking him? Had he failed to fully think through the real possibilities? Was there an editorial hand at work here looking for something that would be more saleable? The truth is, we’ll never know. And so the entire second half of the novel just meanders until it finally comes to an end through lack of will as much as anything else. Maybe that wouldn’t have been so disappointing if I hadn’t been so enthused by the promise of the first half of the novel.

Even if I won’t be recommending this novel, I do want to keep an eye on the author. There is every likelihood that one of his future productions will fulfil the hopes that some of his writing here encourages. ( )
  RandyMetcalfe | Apr 14, 2016 |
Was quite disappointed with this book - the story got tedious and I really disliked the parents particularly how the story ended. Meh. ( )
  anglophile65 | Mar 8, 2016 |
The Fangs are a family of artists, creating pandemonium in public and filming the confusion. Kind of like a four person flash mob, before there were flash mobs. Annie and Buster participate with their parents as children, but as they grow up, they grow tired of a life of hoaxes. Both children move on, but when they’re down on their luck, they come home. Their parents ask them to participate in one final artwork, but can the kids give up all they’ve worked for towards getting away from this life? Very amusing, deep, and interesting. Wilson is a must-read. ( )
  howifeelaboutbooks | Nov 4, 2015 |
Camille and Caleb Fang are performance artists, specializing in disruptive acts in suburban shopping malls, who have incorporated their children Annie and Buster (know as Child A and Child B) into their art. The couple's surreal view of life, not surprisingly, has taken its toll on the children's psyches. As they grow older, both try to escape, but often find themselves inexorably drawn back into their parent's dramas.

When Camille & Caleb are said to have died in a car accident, Annie and Buster wonder if they really have died, or if they are just realizing the ultimate performance piece. Their search for the truth gives Annie and Buster some surprising insights into themselves and ultimately lets them grow into their own personalities. ( )
  etxgardener | Aug 30, 2015 |
This was definitely disturbing, but yet insanely satisfying. It tells the story of a family of performance artists and explores the relationship between parents and children. Bizarre but highly entertaining. ( )
  Shiraloo | Mar 25, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
Somewhere between those happy families that Tolstoy felt were all alike and the unhappy families he claimed were unhappy in their own ways lie the quirky families we all love....With their eccentric relatives always up to crazy shenanigans, this vast fictional genealogy reflects our conflicted embarrassment and affection for the people who raised us....It’s a delightfully odd story about the adult children of a pair of avant-garde performance artists. Since leaving home, Annie and Buster Fang have done everything they can to avoid their parents’ outlandish behavior, but self-destructive wackiness seems to run in their genes. ..the poignant truth Wilson captures beneath the humor of this peculiar family: Our crazy parents’ offenses sometimes loom so large that we don’t realize just what they did for us until it’s too late. Here, in the pages of this droll novel, is a chance to come home and make up.
 
But Mr. Wilson, though he writes wittily about various outré Fang performance pieces, resists putting too much emphasis on the family gimmick. These events have names (the kids’-singing-angers-heckler bit is loftily called “The Sound and the Fury”) and dates and artistic goals. But they also have consequences. That’s what makes this novel so much more than a joke.

Mr. Wilson explores the damage inflicted on children raised in an atmosphere that is intentionally confusing. ...Although Mr. Wilson sometimes hints too neatly at where his book is headed, he manages to make the final stages genuinely shocking. This last part of “The Family Fang” packs a wallop because the rest of the book has been so quirky and seemingly light. But the stakes in the Fang war of wills get higher as the book proceeds, and they move from the specific to the universal.
 
A Delightful Portrait Of The Screwball 'Family Fang...That's why it's such a minty fresh delight to open up Kevin Wilson's debut novel, The Family Fang, and feel the revitalizing blast of original thought, robust invention, screwball giddiness....a family story that's out-of-the-box, and funny, and, also, genuinely moving. Wilson's inventive genius never stops for a rest break. ..Wilson might as well have been writing a review for his own strange and wonderful novel, for The Family Fang indeed reads as a work of "choreographed spontaneity" that will linger in your mind long after the mall has closed and the mess in the restaurant has been cleaned up.
 
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Epigraph
It is grotesque how they go on
loving us, we go on loving them
The effrontery, barely imaginable,
of having caused us. And of how.
Their lives: surely
we can do better than that.
—WILLIAM MEREDITH, "PARENTS"
"It wasn't real; it was a stage set, a stagy stage set."
—DOROTHY B. HUGHES, IN A LONELY PLACE
Dedication
For Leigh Anne
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Mr. and Mrs. Fang called it art. Their children called it mischief.
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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. The novel displays a keen sense of the complex performances that unfold in the relationships of people who love one another.… (more)

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