Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

Like with most of the books that I read, I heard about this on NPR. This novel was Wilson's first and was wonderful.

Camille and Caleb are the heads of the Fang family and are known the world over as conceptual artists, with their roots in Slavic Eastern Europe. They have won many, many awards and receive many grants that would enable them to perform their art and not have to worry about earning the money to support their children: Annie and Buster (known to most of their fans as Child A and Child B). In order to memorialize their art, which often makes use of their children, they use video recordings. An example of their art is this: one day, the Fang family go to the mall.  Annie,Buster and Camille go into a candy store separately and un-attached, so there is nothing to attach them to each other. Camille begins to put candy under her dress and Buster tells one of the clerks about it.  The ensuing chaos is recorded for posterity by Caleb. As the children get older and enter into adolescence and young adult-hood, they begin to resist being used by their parents in performances and eventually outright refuse.

In the present time of the novel, Annie and Buster are living independently from each other and from their parents: Buster as a novel writer (who has published two novels) and Annie as an actress (who was nominated for an Oscar but who has begun to appear somewhat regularly in the tabloids). The Fang parents have also not presented any new art since Buster and Annie became independent.

This is both an entertaining and disturbing look at a dysfunctional family, a la "United States of Tara" and is very witty.  It is entertaining and not predictable - scenes that comprise the Fang "art" are loony and off the wall and completely unrealistic but are nonetheless funny and smart and fresh.

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