Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The tale of The Family Fang has a bite that goes right down to the bone

The main subjects of Kevin Wilson's novel The Family Fang are a clan of performance artists headed up by Caleb and Camille Fang,a former teacher and student who feared that forming a family would destroy their creative inspiration.

Their solution to that was to include their children in their work,using them to pull off their staged events such as a mock shoplifting at a mall store and an impromptu concert by the kids that gets heckled by their dad.

The chaos stirred up(and caught on film) by the Fang stunts is the desired result and by adding the children into the mix,the Fangs become the darlings of the performance art world. Known to art lovers as Child A and Child B, Annie and Buster have grown accustomed to the unexpected chaos of their lives and manage to cope with their odd ball existence as best they can:

During the teen years,Caleb and Camille go way too far in manufacturing "authentic" responses from their children,which fast forwards the break between them. Annie leaves home first,becoming an actress whose career and sanity teeter on the edge of collapse.

Buster pursues writing,putting out two novels and a string of increasingly over the top freelance assignments. As their separate lives start going south,Annie and Buster wind up returning home to recover from their various physical and emotional wounds.

Caleb and Camille hope that this reunion will spur a return to their former glory days but after a failed attempt to cause a ruckus at a fast restaurant,that hope seems futile at best.

One day,Annie and Buster awake to find their parents gone and later hear from the police that their car was found abandoned with signs of a violent struggle. Convinced that this is another performance art piece designed to revive their status as avaunt garde superstars,the kids set off in search of them. Unlike Buster who fears that they may actually be dead,Annie is determined to smash apart the twisted little theatrical piece that her parents have set up,with more love than they have ever given to their offspring:

As Annie and Buster undertake their journey,however,things turn out to be more strange than even they could imagine. At some point,the two of them must choose between exposing the truth and finding their own path to personal happiness.

As you can see,this is a rather whimsical story which could get cloying and cutesy in the wrong hands. Kevin Wilson fortunately possess the right set of skills that make the book's pack of off the wall characters engaging as well as pleasingly unpredictable.

He paints a portrait of a dysfunctional family that draws upon your sympathy for it's subjects yet you can't help but admire the sincere devotion that the Fang parents have for each other and their artistic vision. Many folks have already claimed a connection between this book and Wes Anderson's acclaimed quirky film,The Royal Tenenbaums and the comparison is well made:

The Family Fang goes on sale today,where ever books are sold,and I hope you take the time to check it out. This depiction of performance art taken to the edge of what would be the proper limits for some may appear to be more destructive than creative but the fact that it disturbs you in the first place shows it's value. This is a debut novel that deserves to be praised like it should:

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