Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson


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’ madcap pieces. But now that they are grown up, the chaos of their childhood has made it difficult to cope with life outside the fishbowl of their parents’ strange world.

When the lives they’ve built come crashing down, brother and sister have nowhere to go but home, where they discover that Caleb and Camille are planning one last performance -– their magnum opus -– whether the kids agree to participate or not. Soon, ambition breeds conflict, bringing the Fangs to face the difficult decision about what’s ultimately more important: their family or their art.

My take: 3 looks

I am not sure at all how I feel about this book. Well, I should be clear and say the "story" ... the "subject matter" ... the "outcome". The book was well-written. It has to be well-written to elicit this much emotion from the reader.

Caleb and Camille Fang are completely committed to their art, so much so that when they have two children, they are called "A" and "B", for Annie and Buster. Unfortunately for the two children, the art in this case is performance art.

Now, I didn't know much about performance art other than the examples of an artist eating his own feces, and an artist being crucified to the back of a Volkswagen. In the book, the art is best when it is forced on an unsuspecting public, making them a part of the piece, enhancing it with their reactions.

When Annie moves away to begin her own career, and then Buster does the same, the Fangs must make due with an abbreviated team, and it's just not the same.

The main slant of this book is the relationships between family members, expectations of parents for their children, and the long term effects of making children a part of an adult world. In the end, I was hurt and hopeful, sad and angry.

It's a short book, opened my eyes to the intricacies of performance art and its purpose, spurred me to research a few real-life artists, and made me think of the story long after I read the last page. Recommended.

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