21 August 2011

Repost: Book review of The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

 One of my favorite book bloggers, BookBelle, asked me to repost this review in August now that the book has been published.  Belle, anything for you, babe!

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 action 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."  
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.

In other news, my husband and my dear friend Melanie went to the *cough* shamelessplug *cough* Odyssey Bookshop this afternoon to hear Kevin Wilson read.  What a treat it was!  He and my husband both hail from Tennessee, and his wife Lee (Leigh?) is an editor at the Sewanee Review and has connections to the Baylor School where my husband matriculated back when it was a military school, so let's just say there was some pretty fine jawbonin' taking place in the bookshop.  Kevin is a little soft spoken, which makes for an interesting juxtaposition reading aloud from a book like The Family Fang, which is a little bit brash, a little bit in your face with absurdity.  It was also fun learning the provenance of some of the novel's details or plot points, like the potato canon, the unorthodox production of Romeo & Juliet, and shooting somebody in the arm in the name of art.  

I really cannot recommend this book enough, and if you're looking for a book that is well-written, outrageous, thought-provoking, and funny, look no further.   

P. S.  Happy Birthday, Mom!


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  2. Good heavens! I'm just seeing this now. Thank you for re-posting Crowe! Maybe someday my life will slow to a pace where I can enjoy things at the same time that everyone else does instead of a week or two after the fact. I'm late to every party! I am reading a book that you read, You Believers by Jane [i forgot her last name]. Your review is on Unbridled Books. I saw that and knew it was a book for me. Love! Belle

  3. I read the excerpt available and it's awesome. I was JUST thinking today how I seem to be experiencing a slow period in terms of book enjoyment, but maybe I've just been reading not-very-good stuff, because I loved what I read of this.

    You've got me excited about both this AND The Night Circus. Thank you very much, madam.


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