Family Fang (Wilson) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
The Family Fang...in less adroit hands might have been a string of twee, deadpan moments and not much more. But Mr. Wilson, though he writes wittily about various outre Fang performance pieces, resists putting too much emphasis on the family gimmick. These events have names...and dates and artistic goals. But they also have consequences. That's what makes this novel so much more than a joke...Mr. Wilson…has created a memorable shorthand for describing parent-child deceptions and for ways in which creative art and destructive behavior intersect.
Janet Maslin - New York Times


a delightfully odd story about the adult children of a pair of avant-garde performance artists…Wilson has an infectious fondness for the ridiculous and a good ear for muffled exasperation.
Ron Charles - Washington Post


Irresistible.... This strange novel deserves to be very successful.... Wilson’s trim and intriguing narrative [captures] the selling out of one’s life and children for the sake of notoriety.... I’d love to be able to see Annie’s movies and read Buster’s books, but I’ll settle for being Wilson’s fan instead.
Time


Kevin Wilson asks big questions with subtle humor and deep tenderness.
National Public Radio


Wilson's bizarre, mirthful debut novel (after his collection, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth) traces the genesis of the Fang family, art world darlings who make "strange and memorable things." That is, they instigate and record public chaos. In one piece, "The Portrait of a Lady, 1988," fragile nine-year-old Buster Fang dons a wig and sequined gown to undermine the Little Miss Crimson Clover beauty pageant, though he secretly desires the crown himself. In "A Modest Proposal, July 1988," Buster and his older sister, Annie, watch their father, Caleb, propose to mother, Camille, over an airliner's intercom and get turned down ("plane crash would have been welcomed to avoid the embarrassment of what had happened"). Over the years, more projects consume Child A and Child B—what art lovers (and their parents) call the children—but it is not until the parents disappear from an interstate rest stop that the lines separating art and life dissolve. Though leavened with humor, the closing chapters still face hard truths about family relationships, which often leave us, like the grown-up Buster and Annie, wondering if we are constructing our own lives, or merely taking part in others.
Publishers Weekly


Caleb and Camille Fang are performance artists who set up unsettling situations in public places. Their two children, Annie and Buster, have been trained from birth to participate in these events. As they mature the children realize that their lives are not exactly normal. Their attempts to break away from their parents are unsuccessful until their parents disappear. Is it a stunt or a tragic accident? Even Annie and Buster can't say for sure. Verdict: Wilson, who won the 2009 Shirley Jackson Award for his story collection, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, 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. Recommended.—Joanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Libs., Kingston
Library Journal


The grown children of a couple infamous for their ostentatious performance art are forced to examine their own creativity and flaws in the shadow of their unusual upbringing.... A fantastic first novel that asks if the kids are alright, finding answers in the most unexpected places.
Kirkus Reviews

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