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The Family Fang

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  23,289 ratings  ·  3,167 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’
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published August 2011 by Ecco
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Maryam No, I don't think they translated it in that language. :(…moreNo, I don't think they translated it in that language. :( (less)

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Average rating 3.60  · 
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 ·  23,289 ratings  ·  3,167 reviews

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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 ...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 ...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,
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

“They fucked us up, Buster.” “They didn’t mean to,” he replied. “But they did,” she said.

Annie and Buster – SIDENOTE (I know, I know, you’re probably like dammmmmn bitch - ALREADY?!?!?!?!) because BUSTER . . . .

I’m surprised more than anyone that I’m not giving this 5 Stars automatically.

Anywho , Annie and Buster were raised by performance artists. Back before anyone could be famous via the interwebs, Caleb and Camille Fang made
Nov 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Family Fang is a page turner about a complicated family of artists. Buster and Annie are quirky, creative siblings struggling to come to grips with the legacy of parents who overshadowed them their entire lives, always putting art first. Although dark and sad at times, the novel is written with hope and heart. (It was also cool to see the seeds of Nothing to See Here in Annie's film.)
Anna Luce
3 stars

“I understand that art is a necessary component of a civilized society, but you cannot just go around shooting people. That's going to be a problem.”

Having recently read and loved Nothing to See Here I wanted to check out Kevin Wilson’s earlier work. While The Family Fang has the same whimsical tone as his latest novel, its story has a broader scope and feels slightly more impersonal (perhaps this is due to the third person point of view).
Nevertheless the opening chapters of this
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 ...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
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 ...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!

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
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 ...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, ...more
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
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...
Oct 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
The kind of book that sits with you overtime only to realize how truly astounding it is. This took me by surprise, and I’m glad it did. I can’t wait to read more of Wilson’s books.

You could blurb this as a spin on parents embarrassing their children in public. Or traumatizing. Maybe both. For art?

Check out just how well the author draws you in through this excerpt:

This review and more can be found on my blog.
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 ...more
Celeste Ng
I honestly don't know how a book that's so deeply sad can also be so hysterically funny. Not a lot of books make me laugh out loud, but this one did--I couldn't stop reading bits of it to my husband. The Fangs are both absurd and completely believable, which is why this tragicomic novel works: despite all the humor there are also real people here, wrestling with universal issues--what it means to be part of a family, what makes art, and how (and how much) you love others.
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.
Larry H
Aug 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
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 ...more
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 ...more
Aug 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-lit, humour


For technical reasons I am required to add:

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Dec 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
After falling in love with Nothing to See Here, I’m excitedly working through Wilson’s backlist. Performance artist parents, Caleb and Camille Fang, finally take a “piece” too far. The progression of their bizarre antics is documented nonlinearly, and ultimately, their children are left wondering wtf is real? Absolutely cringeworthy family dysfunction. Nothing makes me happier than quirk and satire.
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 ...more
Apr 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
I loved this book. Until the last 40 pages. Then the end just ... ended.
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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 ...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.” 32 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.” 28 likes
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