Summary and book reviews of The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

The Family Fang

A Novel

By Kevin Wilson

The Family Fang
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  • Hardcover: Aug 2011,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2012,
    336 pages.

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Book Summary

Mr. and Mrs. Fang called it art.

Their children called it mischief.

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.

Filled with Kevin Wilson's endless creativity, vibrant prose, sharp humor, and keen sense of the complex performances that unfold in the relationships of people who love one another, The Family Fang is a masterfully executed tale that is as bizarre as it is touching.

prologue

crime and punishment, 1985
artists: caleb and camille fang


Mr. and Mrs. Fang called it art. Their children called it mischief. "You make a mess and then you walk away from it," their daughter, Annie, told them. "It's a lot more complicated than that, honey," Mrs. Fang said as she handed detailed breakdowns of the event to each member of the family. "But there's a simplicity in what we do as well," Mr. Fang said. "Yes, there is that, too," his wife replied. Annie and her younger brother, Buster, said nothing. They were driving to Huntsville, two hours away, because they did not want to be recognized. Anonymity was a key element of the performances; it allowed them to set up the scenes without interruption from people who would be expecting mayhem.

As he sped down the highway, eager for expression, Mr. Fang stared at his son, six years old, in the rearview mirror. "Son," he said. "You want to go over your duties for today? Make sure we have everything figured out?" ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

The premise of this book is so perfect I can't believe it hasn't been done before. Kevin Wilson takes performance art, which is meant to disrupt the everyday, and applies it to that most hidebound of institutions, the American middle-class family. The possibilities are so deliciously ripe.   (Reviewed by Amy Reading).

Full Review Members Only (1292 words).

Media Reviews
Author Blurb Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto
The Family Fang is a comedy, a tragedy, and a tour-de-force examination of what it means to make art and survive your family…The best single word description would be brilliant.

Author Blurb Hannah Pittard, author of The Fates Will Find Their Way
It’s The Royal Tenenbaums meets Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I’d call The Family Fang a guilty pleasure, but it’s too damn smart….A total blast.

Library Journal

[Wilson] tells his madcap story with straight-faced aplomb, highlighting the tricky intersection of family life and artistic endeavor. All fiction readers will enjoy this comic/tragic look at domesticity.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. The subtlety of the comedy is flawless, channeling the filmmaking of Wes Anderson or Rian Johnson. A fantastic first novel that asks if the kids are alright, finding answers in the most unexpected places.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Though leavened with humor, the closing chapters still face hard truths about family relationships.

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The Controversy Over Children in Theater and Art

In his novel, The Family Fang, Kevin Wilson seems to have hit upon an unexplored corner of the art world. There aren't many contemporary performance art pieces that involve children. One exception, by the Toronto-based artists' workshop Mammalian Diving Reflex, is Haircuts by Children, in which 10- and 11-year-olds are given a few days' training in cutting hair and then fanned out to salons to give free cuts to anyone adventurous enough to let them. The show, which has traveled to ten cities around the world, has gathered positive reviews from critics and salon customers alike.

But throughout the ages, the use of children in art has been controversial, though the sensitive points of why have shifted over time.

From Shakespeare to ...

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