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The Family Fang

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  22,088 ratings  ·  3,050 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, 320 pages
Published August 2011 by Ecco (first published 2011)
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switterbug (Betsey)
Sep 14, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: books-i-abhor
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
"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,
Nov 23, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Nov 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
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,
Sep 26, 2011 rated it it was ok
'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
Oct 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 01, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Ashley Daviau
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't really know quite what I was expecting when I picked this up, but I definitely wasn't expecting this book to be so weirdly cool! At first I was even taken aback by how strange it was but once I got used to it, I grew to love it!

The story had such a unique premise, I can honestly say that I've never read anything like it! The Fangs are so incredibly weird and quirky, you can't help but be drawn into the story and wonder what kind of incredible chaos that they're going to cause next!

Aug 24, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Kasa Cotugno
Aug 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Joachim Stoop
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Years I've been waiting and actively searching for a novel with the same humor as Steve Toltz' A fraction of the whole. I finally found one! Maybe it isn't that good as my all time funniest book but it has the same wild, creative, eventfull, witty, absurd (but not Vonnegut-absurd) characters, family relations and situations in it.

Just a tad too tedious, but still a lovely summer read.

I know there is a mobie adaptation with Jason Bateman. We'll see...
Apr 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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, on 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
Aug 17, 2011 rated it liked it
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,
May 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-reads
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
David Jordan
Sep 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jim Loter
Jul 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
When I was little, my mother would play this game with me in public that she called "Go Away, Little Boy." When we were out together at a grocery store or the mall, she'd contrive to get me separated from her - say, by sending me over to the next aisle for something - then, when I'd return, she'd pretend she didn't know me. "Go away, little boy. Go find your mother." She'd try to walk - sometimes run - away from me.

Now, I was in on the joke, of course, and I was infinitely delighted by this. Bu
Nov 02, 2011 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
Aug 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-lit, humour


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Sean Kennedy
Jul 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very Wes Anderson-esque but I loved it.
Jan 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Una splendida sorpresa.
Dec 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Nikki Stafford
Jan 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a really fun read, and as many of the reviews on the back cover say, it reads like a novelized Wes Anderson film. I bought it shortly after it came out in 2011 and it's been sitting on my bookshelf. My best friend recommended it to me, and I noticed it there the other day, and picked it up. Incidentally, if you don't like Wes Anderson films, don't fret: my best friend hates his work, and loved this book, so you're still good. But it has all the elements of The Royal Tenenbaums or even Th ...more
Apr 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
I loved this book. Until the last 40 pages. Then the end just ... ended.
Sep 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
First review ever, bear with me...

Now I read The Family Fang with high expectations, I noticed people on twitter raving about it and I was not disappointed. Kevin Wilson brings humour, and suspense to a truly original book. I am a fast reader and was able to read it in 2 days (ya, I didnt do anything besides read and work) I was up till 3 A.M. the second night in order to finish it to find out what the ending was. In most books you can make an educated guess on what will happen, not so in this b
Tayari Jones
Nov 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
John Hood
Jul 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 26, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
Actual 2.5*
As promised, the Fang's were tremendously quirky.. but sadly not in a way that I found endearing.
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: borrowed, litsy-lmpbc
I'm honestly surprised that I didn't know about this book beforehand because it's so what I love to read. It's a quirky, fascinating, depressing and overall great read into a family dynamic.

I can clearly see why people have mixed feelings and reviews about this as there are certain moments when it makes you wonder as to how selfish can one be in the name of making art but I liken this book to a Wes Anderson film, as it has a quirky family, great dialogue, good background characters, and more tha
Mar 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Quirkier than the East Village on Halloween (weirdo or costume? or costumed weirdo?) but I rather liked it.
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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
“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.” 29 likes
“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.” 26 likes
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