26 February 2011

Book Review in Brief: The Family Fang

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
Meet Caleb & Camille Fang and their children Annie and Buster, known at home and at large as Child A and Child B.  They’re a family dedicated to making art, but not in a way that anybody would expect.  The term performance art doesn’t quite do justice to what they do—it’s more like guerilla warfare aimed at a complacent public, and it’s not “good” in their eyes unless somebody ends up bleeding, broken, arrested, or worse.  This book is laugh-out-loud on the surface, but the absurdity really only masks a darker level where children are valued only as much as the next prop and where the parents’ final performance is both devastating and liberating.  This book is a marvelous find.  

My Harper rep, the amazing Anne DeCourcey, handed me an ARC of this book that will be published by Ecco in August and told me that I should read it.  She was right.  Again.  Here are some of the passages that resonated with me--either because of the writing, the humor, or my own self-identification. 

On why there should be a third film in The Powers That Be franchise, in which Annie starred: "Yes, well, I think we can all agree that everyone loves watching Nazis getting hit with lightning bolts."  Later on that page, Wilson describes a sip of gin: "So clean and medicinal it felt not unlike surgery under light anesthetic."  My husband, a gin drinker of the highest order, couldn't agree more.  

On how simultaneously funny and pathetic Buster is, upon the prospect of sex: "He could count on one hand the number of times he'd had sex and still have enough fingers left over to make complicated shadow puppets."

Buster again, after his sister has left home and he's alone with his parents, not knowing how to be around them without her: "His mother and father were laughing with such vigor, so genuinely moved, that Buster tried it out, to see what it felt like.  He laughed and laughed and, though he did not yet know what the joke was, he hoped it would be worth the effort he'd already put into enjoying it."

These people are profoundly fucked up.  And profoundly funny.  And profoundly disturbing.  Just read it.


  1. If you remember, will you re-post this in August when it's available? It sounds quite good. I promise I will buy it from my local bookstore


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