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The Family Fang: A Novel Hardcover – August 9, 2011

3.7 out of 5 stars 211 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, August 2011: For outré performance artists, Caleb and Camille Fang, everything in life is secondary to art, including their children. Annie and Buster (popularly known as Child A. and Child B.) are the unwilling stars of their parents’ chaotically subversive work. Art is truly a family affair for the Fangs. Years later, their lives in disarray, Annie and Buster reluctantly return home in search of sanctuary—only to be caught up in one last performance. The Family Fang sparkles with Kevin Wilson’s inventive dialogue and wonderfully rendered set-pieces that capture the surreal charm of the Fang’s most notable work. With this brilliant novel, the family Fang is destined to join the families Tenenbaum and Bluth as paragons of high dysfunction.--Shane Hansanuwat

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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'. (Aug.)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; First Edition edition (August 9, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780061579035
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061579035
  • ASIN: 0061579033
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (211 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #802,949 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kevin Wilson is the author of the collection, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth (Ecco/Harper Perennial, 2009), which received an Alex Award from the American Library Association and the Shirley Jackson Award. His fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, Tin House, One Story, Cincinnati Review, and elsewhere, and has appeared in four volumes of the New Stories from the South: The Year's Best anthology. He has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the KHN Center for the Arts. He lives in Sewanee, Tennessee, with his wife, the poet Leigh Anne Couch, and his sons, Griff and Patch. He is an Assistant Professor at the University of the South.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Author Kevin Wilson explores that question in a unique manner in his new novel, "The Family Fang". And the ultimate answer, I suppose, is that a family is whatever combination it wants to be, or DOESN'T want to be.

The Fang Family, mother Camille, father Caleb, and children A (Annie) and B (Buster), are conceptual performance artists who put on their productions in shopping malls in the South. The parents had conceived of their work and then incorporated their children in the acts since birth. In many cases, the parents put their children in physical danger from an early age, all in the name of "artistic license". Leaving a six year old to wander around a mall alone, for instance, doesn't constitute good parenting in my book. But if the Fangs were physically negligent of their two children, they were even more so psychologically. Annie and Buster grew up in a house where nothing was as it seemed and no relationship seemed based on affection - rather based on the childrens' ability to perform in the art acts.

It seems true to me that children growing up with unstable parents in a slap-dash household, often become more mature than the parents who are supposed to be parenting them. This is the case in the Fang family as the children, "A" and "B" as they're known in the art world, mature into adults. But damaged children often grow into damaged adults, as "mature" as they may seem to others looking in - particularly as compared to the parents. As the two children grew up, Annie to become a respected young actress and Buster a novelist of middling success, they find themselves unable to relate in a "normal" relationship. They have each other as support as their parents slip away into their own twosome world.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Kevin Winslow's The Family Fang is a maddening book to review. It is without fault well-written and there are many laugh-out-loud moments. I found myself turning page after page not knowing what it was about the book that drew me to it. Was I repulsed by the Caleb and Camille Fang's guerilla theatre that sucked in their own children, or was I drawn to their exuberance? Was there a piece of me that wanted to step outside of the norm and create a bit of chaos (in fantasy if not reality)?

The Fangs, in particular Mr. Fang, believe that all true art is in motion and happens absent a sterile environment. His life's work is creating scenes in public places. Think Improv Everywhere, but less legal and more dangerous. The Fangs refer to their children as A (Annie) and B (Buster). The children are mere character actors (or even props) in the Fang family's desire to create art. The desires of the children are assumed and even foisted upon them.

I could have given the book anywhere from three to five stars. Even as I was disliking it, I was loving it. I don't remember the last book that made me feel this way. I will remember it for a long time.

If you are a parent of a child who is talented at anything (and every child is), and especially if you or your child enjoy the performance arts, you don't want to miss this book.
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Format: Hardcover
It is said there are only two stories in literature: the courage of men and the charm of women. Reverse those roles and you pretty much have the milieu of Kevin Wilson's new novel The Family Fang. Annie Fang, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Fang who are about that interesting early on, her pliant paps parading as she marches onto a set design on her way to a topless scene in a B movie, is never more courageous. When brother Buster wins the Little Miss Crimson Clover crown, well, to his mother at least, he's a picture of inveterate graciousness and charm. And later, when the siblings go looking for their missing parents, on page 198 we get: "Annie felt her fingers snap into fists...then she felt Buster's own hand slowly uncurl her fingers until they were straight and steady." Bold courage, quiet charm. Annie also has stout advice for Buster who announces that after getting shot in the face with a potato gun, he's back living with mom and dad. "Get out of there, Buster...you can't stay there...you need to escape," she scolds, and right away we wonder if the kleptomaniac routine Mrs. Fang put on when the book opened doesn't leave room for a more lurid encore later. It does.

And what of family versus art which was all over the pre publicity blurbs? An ethereal issue at best. The story line is stashed away in Annie and Buster's sibling relationship and its fun digging this out because there is enough literary art and gamesmanship to keep English majors (and former English majors) happy. Herman Melville gets prominent play, especially the first line of his white whale tale.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I first read about this book in a magazine review. Usually I don't actually go out and buy the books I hear about from reviews but I knew I had to read The Family Fang as soon as possible. This book is simply amazing. I got so wrapped up in the characters' lives that I didn't want it to end. Annie and Buster are both fully realized characters that make this book extremely enjoyable. There were parts that reminded me a lot of Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger. After finishing the book, I was left asking myself question and analyzing themes. Reading this book was a wonderful experience and I will definitely be recommending it to others.
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