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The Family Fang

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  16,890 ratings  ·  2,503 reviews
Mr. and Mrs. Fang called it art.

Their children called it mischief.

Performance artists Caleb and Camille Fang dedicated themselves to making great art. But when an artist’s work lies in subverting normality, it can be difficult to raise well-adjusted children. Just ask Buster and Annie Fang. For as long as they can remember, they starred (unwillingly) in their parents’ madc
Hardcover, 309 pages
Published August 2011 by Ecco
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Kirkus Best Books of 2011
7th out of 88 books — 174 voters
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Best Books of 2011
353rd out of 2,241 books — 7,059 voters

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Community Reviews

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switterbug (Betsey)
The more time that passes, the more I dislike the book, and am flummoxed that this insensate drivel was the darling of the publishing industry when it was released. The prose was nothing more than serviceable, and the characters of Caleb and Camille were caricatures. What stands out, and kept me reading (and hoping) till the end, was the bond between Buster and Annie. I kept waiting to be moved or fastened. Instead, I experienced a penetrating boredom, and when the ludicrous, melodramatic denoue ...more
Jun 12, 2012 Amanda rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: blog
Annie and Buster Fang, like so many twenty-somethings, blame their parents for the lack of fulfillment and success they find in their careers and in their personal lives. However, unlike many twenty-somethings, Annie and Buster may have a valid claim for blaming their parents for their seeming lack of autonomy and self-actualization. That's because the Fang children's parents were artists--as in Artists (that's right with a capital A and italics). And not just any kind of artists, but performanc ...more
'The Family Fang', by Kevin Wilson, was a troubling read for me. It is the story of the Fang Family, two parents and two children. Mr and Mrs Fang are performance artists, staging 'shocking' spectacles in public places in the name of 'art'. Their children are both pawns of their art and sometimes willing, often unwilling, participants. The book shifts perspective between the 'growing up' years of Annie and Buster (the kids), and the present of their adulthood. This book seems to be asking the qu ...more
Aside from the fact this book reads like a Wes Anderson movie (Royal Tennenbaums, Rushmore), you would be wrong to dismiss it as just a living diarama of a dysfunctional and dramatic family. The writing is personal and bald, embarassing and heartening as any honest family history can be. But the Family Fang isn't an ordinary family. Caleb and Camille stage experiemental art from the uncomfortable chaos they impose on unsuspecting audiences. Their children, Child A and Child B, are raised and tra ...more
I heard a review about this book - it was a comedy, a fascinating look at family dynamics, a riotous romp about crazy parents and the impact they have on children. Honestly, I just found it really depressing. Two narcissistic adults who care for no one but each other, including their own kids who are just pawns and characters in their "art" pieces. I pushed through to the end because I kept hoping for some type of redemption. I guess I got it in that the siblings pull together and form their own ...more
Becky Weaver
This was a hard review to write. I'm not sure what to think of this book. It was laugh-out-loud, read-parts-to-my-husband funny and kept me up late, so I gave it four stars. It is, as other reviewers have noted, exactly like watching a Wes Anderson movie. It has the same feeling of colorful, bemused detachment.

In fact, I would say that the book is like the Fangs' art - it's creative and interesting, but it's too sly, self-absorbed, and intellectualized to be genuinely moving. It isn't shallow,
I'm torn about this book — there's one part of me that loved the quirks and oddities of the Fang family (parents Caleb and Camille, son, Buster, and daughter, Annie, who are performance artists of the "Let's stage a scene in public and call it art" variety). But there's another part of me that wanted to love them more than I did. Love them in a way I could identify with them somehow (say, the way I did with Jonathan Tropper's Foxman family from his "This Is Where I Leave You"). In the end, the o ...more
Don't be misled. This book is touted as a comedy, with the title and cover art echoing that impression, but I just didn't see much humor in it. The main characters, Annie and Buster, are scarred and broken by their childhood, by their parents' manipulation and, well, abuse. I felt like the Fang's "performance art" was a metaphor for other ways parents damage their children.

The "performance art," as other reviewers have commented, is hard to swallow. They create chaos -- most of the flashback se
Where do I even begin with this? The book is bizarre, the premise is disturbing, the humor is off-kilter and dark, the morals are completely missing. Paragraph structure is chaotic and confusing with multiple characters quotes in the same paragraph. Language is offensive, dialogue is weird, family dynamics is disturbing, sexual envelope is pushed and yet...

With all the criticisms I might have, I really did enjoy the weirdness of it. I was a little disappointed with the anti-climactic ending but,
Performance Art. Until now, everything I knew about it was from the movie Legal Eagles and the David Sedaris hilarious account of his own days as a performance artist. Thanks to this book, I now consider myself an expert.
Not happy with "dead art" that simply hangs in museums, walls, or just sits there, Camille and Caleb Fang spend their life "forcing their art onto unsuspecting people; he made them part of the piece, and they didn't even know it . . .But if they didn't know what was going on, h
Nov 02, 2011 Rayme added it
I finished this book quickly. Partially because I skipped several chapters (the flashbacks to the Fang family artworks didn't hold my interest and/or were too painful to read) and partially because I really enjoyed, and therefore inhaled everything else. About 2/3 of the way through I decided this book is about more than one dysfunctional art-driven family. Wilson is talking about the entire ouvre of work on selfish parents and stunted children (Let's call it Dysfunctional Family Literature or D ...more
I am overjoyed when a book not only meets my expectations, but exceeds them. After reading this author's short story collection, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth: Stories, I watched and waited for a full novel. He did not let me down.
Darkly comic (and sometimes just dark), the Fangs live at the border between life and art.
"Art, if you love it, was worth any amount of unhappiness and pain. If you had to hurt someone to achieve those ends, so be it. If the outcome was beautiful enough, strange


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David Jordan
Sep 11, 2011 David Jordan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to David by: revierws
This intriguing novel tells the story of the daughter and son of a married couple who warped their kids’ personalities by using them as props/henchmen in a career of “performance art” happenings, staging and filming bizarre, uncomfortable public events (pathetic preteens perform a cacophonous musical concert to raise money for their sick dog’s surgery, while incognito parents incite passersby to boo and heckle, etc.). Setbacks propel the children, now thirty-ish and struggling to survive as an a ...more
Kristopher Kelly
My favorite book of all time might well be Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, so when The Family Fang opened with a strange family doing odd performances, I knew this book was likely to be up my alley. Kevin Wilson's debut novel is a quick and easy read and one I really didn't want to end.

The plot concerns a family of artists, where the mother and father use their two children as props for their real-world artistic stunts, staging elaborate hijinks in the real world to elicit reactions from the unsus
I have just finished The Family Fang. What a poser...don't know whether to recommend it, but it is funny, particularly if you enjoy dysfunctional family humor! The Fang parents, Caleb and Camille are performance artists who strive to create chaotic situations amongst the unsuspecting and then tape record the reactions. When the Fangs have children, they are incorporated into the acting troupe as infants. The plot details the sorry messed up lives of the children, whom the parents refer to as Chi ...more
Tayari Jones
I just finished reading THE FAMILY FANG by Kevin Wilson. I scored a free copy at ALA this summer but I was too busy moving and touring to settle down to read it. About a month ago, I heard Kevin give a delightful reading at Harvard Bookstore so I scooted it up my to-read list. I am so glad I did.

If you are a person who enjoyed The Royal Tannenbaums, this is a book for you. It has all the idiosyncrasy of that film, but the richness that makes a novel really satisfying.

I started off reading it jus
Teresa Lukey
This is a tough one to review. This novel is most definitely quirky, but also disturbing, semi-boring and often times irritating. But, I do have to give credit for the unique story-line.

The Family Fang is a story about the Fang's. Caleb and Camille Fang are the mother and father of Annie and Buster, also known as A and B. Caleb and Camille are obsessed with a particular type of performance are, where they basically just do completely goofball stuff in public. You know I just realized....I must b
Kasa Cotugno
The act of creation called art includes collaboration and collusion between artist and observer. It may also consists of relationaships between jparticipants who call themselves artists. In this thrilling, original book, the creators are Caleb and Camille, gonzo artists who specialize in scorched earth performance pieces that come to include and feature their children, who we are told had arrived without preamble or fanfare. Everything that happens to this family is done with agenda in hand, unt ...more
I loved so much of this book, that I could almost say five stars.
Four stars, though, for two reasons:

1. Sometimes, it seemed that Wilson was ending his chapters with cryptic yet emotionally charged one line zingers, a tactic that I once found exciting, but more and more am seeing as a meaningless trick. It's too easy, maybe.

2. The ending lacked the redemption or completion that I was looking for. In this I was the most disappointed. When I grabbed this book, it was with that warm excitement of
John Hood
As Kevin Wilson so ably describes, imbalance will never be a problem for The Family Fang. Why? Because they were never balanced in the first place.The saga of a happening-mad couple and their delightfully mad son and daughter, Wilson tilts reality until the grown kids can go home again, despite — or because of — one of literature’s most infamous conceits. It’s when Annie and Buster return to the fold though that things get really unreal. Or do they? After decades of chicanery, the Fangs have los ...more
"The act is not the art. The reaction is the art"
Caleb Fang

Caleb and Camille Fang are performance artists. Their work consists of basically "pranking" the public, causing disturbances and recording the reactions. For years and years, they've had their children, Annie and Buster (Child A and Child B), to assist in their "creations". But now the two older Fangs are empty nesters. Something is off in the creative process and they are adrift. Their children are also sort of drifting through life, an
N W James
Jan 01, 2013 N W James rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Emily Buckler
I don't think it's a book for everyone, but the themes of this book aligned for me personally and I really enjoyed it. The effects of creativity on people's lives; both pretty and ugly. Bad parenting skills. The meaning of home. Recognizing avoidance in one's every day life. Heavy stuff.

There's a lot of quirk out there and I'm a fan of most of it (see review of Geek Love, for Pete's sake.) Quirk, though, can get annoying pretty fast (Zoe Deschanel). The quirk in this book feels justified, mostly
I was a little apprehensive because: performance art! And also, I do enjoy a good dysfunctional family story, but ones in which members of the family don't seem to care about each other at all.. not interested. Anyway, this book turned out to be quite a page turner. By using a family that is clearly non-normative, the author is able to explore the family unit, and expectations, and frankly, the fact that in some ways, all families are, to a certain extent, performative. Since it's almost tournam ...more
The Fangs gave me some goofy and some sobering food for thought as I question my potential fitness ever to be a parent. In some ways it's a relief to read about parental failure instead of the triumph of parental love. The book is also cleanly written and not as self-consciously quirky as the cover would suggest. Caleb and Camille's antics are increasingly two-dimensional, but Annie and Buster's PTSD-tinged loyalty to each other rings true and helped me suspend my disbelief.

This was also a fun r
Uau. Por essa eu não esperava. Li o release do livro, vi a capa com antecedência, mas não achei grande coisa. Ao vê-lo ao vivo, no entanto, gostei demais do toque da capa (é um troço simples, verniz, mas funciona) e do que li na quarta capa. Decidi que leria, eventualmente, um dia. Comecei a ler, como quem não quer nada. Pouco depois, já devorava. Na metade do livro, começou o fenômeno em que nunca tinha reparado até ouvir falar dele no fotolog de um amigo e finalmente ler o livro utilizado como ...more
Questo romanzo non mi ha comunicato assolutamente nulla, né nel bene, né nel male. L’ho letto dall’inizio alla fine restandone “staccata” e non partecipando a quel che succedeva. Questa coppia di coniugi, nonché genitori, che tutto sacrifica e tutto compie in nome dell’arte (o meglio, di ciò che essi ritengono sia arte) l’ho trovata caricaturale e forzata. Il tono umoristico con il quale vengono narrati eventi che, fondamentalmente, sono tragici, mi ha annoiata e lasciata molto insoddisfatta, an ...more
I liked this quite a lot. For the first half of the novel, I was laughing more frequently, and harder, than I have since ... well, I don't know when. The novel gets progressively darker, and the final section is alternately sad, infuriating, and hopeful. Wilson's style has been compared by many reviewers to Wes Anderson and John Irving, and there is plenty of quirky here. I found myself (perhaps oddly) feeling echoes of "Catch-22" -- where the absurd is used to illuminate the problematic. In thi ...more
At first I really liked The Family Fang. I thought it was a new and quirky idea. I'm a fan of a point. After a time, I became annoyed at what I first found interesting about the book. The parents Fang and their concept of "art" became stupid and cruel. I'm guessing Wilson was making a statement about how anything can be art--eggs thrown at a canvas with their yolks dripping down, the Twin Towers made of dominoes, a beautiful woman lying in a pile of Starburst wrappers. Or a family of ...more
Larry Hoffer
This is a brilliant, quirky, fantastic book.

Caleb and Camille Fang are performance artists. To them, there is nothing greater than the process of creating something that provokes reaction in others, no matter what that reaction is. They have raised their children, Annie and Buster (whom they refer to as Child A and Child B), to be part of their performances, either willingly or unwillingly. When Annie and Buster grow into adulthood, both flee as far from their parents as possible; Annie becomes
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Kevin Wilson was born, raised, and still lives in Tennessee. His writing has appeared in Ploughshares, One Story, Greensboro Review, The Oxford American, Carolina Quarterly and elsewhere. His work has twice been included in the New Stories from the South: The Year’s Best anthology (2005, 2006). He has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the KHN Center for the Arts. A graduat ...more
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“Even awful people can be polite for a few minutes,” their father told them. “Any longer than that and they revert to the bastards they really are.” 22 likes
“What you'll find, I think, is that the things you most want to avoid are the things that make you feel the greatest when you actually do them.” 20 likes
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