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The Family Fang: A Novel

The Family Fang: A Novel

3.9 34
by Kevin Wilson

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Now a major motion picture starring Nicole Kidman, Jason Bateman and Christopher Walken.

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


Now a major motion picture starring Nicole Kidman, Jason Bateman and Christopher Walken.

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.

Filled with Kevin Wilson’s endless creativity, vibrant prose, sharp humor, and keen sense of the complex performances that unfold in the relationships of people who love one another, The Family Fang is a masterfully executed tale that is as bizarre as it is touching.

Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Magazine
“The kids are not all right in this debut novel about a brother and sister poorly navigating the bizarre world of their parents — obsessive performance artists who force their children to participate in their kooky pieces.”
Christian Science Monitor
“The Family Fang [is] at times is reminiscent of Wes Anderson’s quirky, R-rated comedy, The Royal Tenanbaums, without losing its arch originality.”
” [A] revitalizing blast of original thought; robust invention; screwball giddiness.... a family story that’s out-of-the-box, and funny, and, also, genuinely moving. Wilson’s inventive genius never stops for a rest break.... [a] strange and wonderful novel...that will linger in your mind long after.”
“[FAMILY FANG] allows Wilson to dazzle and amuse us with some very inventive and provocatively imagined performance art.”
“Don’t be surprised if this becomes one of the most discussed novels of the year.”
BookBrowse.com review
“The premise of this book is so perfect I can’t believe it hasn’t been done before …a hugely likable book -funny, colorful, and memorable, if not beautiful and strange…I read this book swiftly and compulsively, like sipping thirstily at a fruity cocktail on a hot summer evening.”
Vanity Fair
“Kevin Wilson introduces THE FAMILY FANG, a winningly bizarre clan on the brink.”
Top 10 Books of 2011 People
“[A] delightfully quirky novel…completely relatable.”
Time magazine
“Irresistible…This strange novel deserves to be very successful…. Wilson’s trim and intriguing narrative [captures] the selling out of one’s life and children for the sake of notoriety…. I’d love to be able to see Annie’s movies and read Buster’s books, but I’ll settle for being Wilson’s fan instead.”
10 Best Books of 2011 Esquire
“Wilson writes stylishly...but his real skill is...building up a slow-drip mystery....And [this] isn’t the kind of book you [can] set aside....(I’m looking at you, Swamplandia!) It’s the kind of book in which you need to know what happens...It’s not what you think.”
Booklist Top Ten First Novels of 2011
“First-time novelist Wilson mixes dire humor and melancholy in this satirical portrait of the uniquely dysfunctional Fangs––husband-and-wife performance artists Caleb and Camille and their children, Annie and Buster—and offers a scathing critique of how the baby-boom generation maltreated Gen X.”
Ann Patchett's Favorite Books of 2011 on Salon.com
“This book was my favorite for the sheer force of its creativity… powerful, funny and deeply strange. You won’t read anything else like it.”
Nick Hornby
“My favourite novel so far this year: Kevin Wilson’s THE FAMILY FANG. Funny, smart, ingenious, moving, altogether great. Just buy it.”
Entertainment Weekly
“Wilson writes with the studied quirkiness of George Saunders or filmmaker Wes Anderson, and there’s some genuine warmth beneath all the surface eccentricity.”
O: the Oprah Magazine
“What can you say for a novel about performance artists that begins “Mr. and Mrs. Fang called it art. Their children called it mischief”? ... That it’s totally weird, and pretty wonderful. Most of all, that it manages to be brainy without sacrificing heart.”
Washington Post
“A proud descendant of the Sycamores in Kaufman and Hart’s You Can’t Take It With You....[T]he poignant truth...beneath the humor of this peculiar family: Our crazy parents’ offenses sometimes loom so large that we don’t realize just what they did for us until it’s too late.”
Boston Globe
“Wilson’s writing has a Houdini-like perfection, wherein no matter how grim the variables, each lovely sentence manages to escape with all its parts intact…Wilson keeps his plot moving swiftly enough to keep readers absorbed. And those sentences are really something.”
New York Post
“This is not another novel about an educated upper-middle-class family wracked with dysfunction beneath the surface. Ma and Pa Fang, Camille and Caleb, are oddballs for all to see.”
Wall Street Journal
“Inventive and hilarious. This is complex psychological ground, and the 32-year-old Mr. Wilson navigates it with a calm experience that his tender age shouldn’t allow.”
Los Angeles Times Magazine
“Great art is difficult, Caleb Fang likes to say, but with this wonder of a first novel, Kevin Wilson makes it look easy.”
Janet Maslin
“[Wilson] has created a memorable shorthand for describing parent-child deceptions and for ways in which creative art and destructive behavior intersect. But he never generalizes.... Whenever this book refers to “a Fang thing,” Mr. Wilson is utterly clear about what that means.”
The Must List
“Wilson’s creative and funny novel examines two young lives in the process of getting skewed, all in the pursuit of art with a capital A.”
Fiction Chronicle
“Wilson, who drew comparisons to Shirley Jackson with his 2009 story collection Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, brilliantly and hilariously explores the “art for art’s sake” argument.”
Miami Herald
“[A] wildly original new novel… bizarre, unique, unerringly comic, breathtakingly wonderful.... It’s the sort of book you love so much you want to compose sonnets in its name….If The Family Fang is any indication, [Wilson’s] got a long and productive career ahead, one we will enjoy immensely.”
Financial Times
“Funny and fast-paced, Kevin Wilson’s debut brims with just-so observations about the anxiety of influence, parental and artistic.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“With his debut story collection, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, Kevin Wilson demonstrated that he traffics in weirdness. His stories find space between plausibility and absurdity, and their strange plots have an easy pull. Wilson’s enjoyable first novel, The Family Fang, offers similar pleasures…”
Time Out Chicago
“Wilson’s wheelhouse is whimsy, and as in his story collection, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, his characters’ quirks are both metaphors for and products of various larger maladies.”
Time Out New York
“[Wilson’s] imagination shines as he concocts the book’s many detailed pieces of art—from Camille’s darkly disturbed paintings to Annie’s film project about children who spontaneously combust—and playfully describes them…. The Family Fang is fun, and nothing other than exactly what Wilson wants it to be.”
“…deliciously odd, delightfully unhinged and surprisingly warm-hearted…this year’s book to read.”
Chicago Tribune
“Funny and off-kilter….What could devolve into little more than slapstick becomes, in Wilson’s skilled hands and, let’s face it, somewhat strange imagination, a rich and textured read. He brings us to the brink of absurdity, then turns on a dime and delivers a deeper, darker novel.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Something so calculated, so choreographed, so wickedly comic should feel fake. But oddly enough, as Annie and Buster stagger about in the warped but jaunty confines of The Family Fang... they gradually become so real you want to call them up and give them your therapist’s number.”
Dallas Morning News
“[A] big-hearted and endlessly strange look into a family of artists…. With humor and adoration, Wilson... deftly realiz[es] each character’s emotional capacities and motivations....[A] taut and marvelously entertaining book.”
Houston Chronicle
“The Family Fang is a delicious book by a stunningly nimble writer. It never fails to entertain, but at the same time raises serious questions about art, interpretation, child-rearing, privacy, publicity and leaving home. I can’t wait to read what Kevin Wilson writes next.”
“Wilson’s widely praised novel about performance artists gives a whole new meaning to the term dysfunctional family and may just leave you thinking more fondly of your own relatives in time for those summertime family reunions.”
Rain Taxi
“[B]rilliant…a well-plotted and intriguing story…intricate and funny...Wilson probes art by constructing art.”
“Literary fiction can be so straight-laced and serious that reading The Family Fang feels like sneaking a treat: here is a well-written, intelligent, and involving novel that’s also tremendously fun.”
Three Guys
“If I could marry a book, this would be the one.”
Shelf Awareness
“Beneath the surface of the fun and fast-paced The Family Fang, Wilson explores self-identity and families in the context of life lived as art… [A] well-crafted novel that examines what happens to a family when the line between art and life is erased.”
“The comparisons of Wilson to other writers says less about his work than it does about our desire to understand his imagination. In simple terms, he is very funny, generous to all his characters, and the author of books you feel an immediate urge to reread.”
Ann Patchett
“The Family Fang is a comedy, a tragedy, and a tour-de-force examination of what it means to make art and survive your family. Like everything else Kevin Wilson does, I have never seen anything like it before. The best single word description would be genius.”
Hannah Pittard
“It’s The Royal Tenenbaums meets Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I’d call The Family Fang a guilty pleasure, but it’s too damn smart. Here, finally, is a much needed reminder that astute fiction can still be a total blast.”
Padgett Powell
“Wilson commands the cavalry riding around the vastly important Army of the Loopy... rides slashing from the Implausible to the Plausible, and from there quickly to the Necessary and on to the True. The Family Fang will appear Coenized out of Hollywood but you should catch them here first.”
Josh Weil
“Each page feels like unearthing a discovery. This is the kind of novel you fall in love with: tender-hearted, wonder-filled, a world all its own.... Wilson is such [a] talent, so rare and beautiful and big.”
the Oprah Magazine O
“What can you say for a novel about performance artists that begins “Mr. and Mrs. Fang called it art. Their children called it mischief”? ... That it’s totally weird, and pretty wonderful. Most of all, that it manages to be brainy without sacrificing heart.”
“A wacky, wonderful debut about a performance artist couple and their long suffering kids.”
Art in America
“A highly engaging and imaginative first novel…Wilson has a gift for characterization and dialogue.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Media Tie
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Kevin Wilson is the author of The New York Times bestseller The Family Fang, named a best book of the year by Time, People, Salon, and Esquire. His story collection, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, received an Alex Award from the American Library Association as well as the Shirley Jackson Award. He has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the KHN Center for the Arts. He teaches fiction at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife and two sons.

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Family Fang 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
TboneJim More than 1 year ago
I had to be very careful as the first borrower of our library's freshly-cataloged copy not to read the funny parts while sipping coffee. Like the younger characters in the book, I was constantly wondering what was real and what was art. When the weirdness turned maybe serious, maybe real, I was hooked. I received a Nook for my birthday. This will be the first book I'll load into it, wondering whether the e-version is a real book or some kind of high-tech art. While reading this I knew I was in the presence of a gifted writer, a true artist. I picture him strolling the acreage of the Sewanee domain with his mind cooking up something equally bizarre and rewarding for his next one. Years from now someone will comment on another promising, highly original young writer and call him: An Early Kevin Wilson.
Allimuffin More than 1 year ago
The Family Fang is about a family of performance artists. The novel jumps back and forth between their performance art pieces, done when their two children were young, and the present, visiting the family and their now grown-up children. Both left the family business to pursue other careers, but are still tethered to their wildly dysfunctional parents and past. It is both darkly funny and very sad. The novel has been compared to The Royal Tennenbaums a lot, but I enjoyed this much more.
Xrayjen More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! It's quirky and interesting. The characters are hilarious and sometimes sad. It had me lauging aloud at times and then feeling genuine sorrow at others. I highly recommend this roller coaster read.
Adaptoid More than 1 year ago
I'd like to award this novel a higher rating. Conceptually sophisticated with profane tests to the family structure and absurdist humor, I was immediately drawn to the surreal Fang experience. Unfortunately I would have appreciated a little more character development in the beginning. The antics took first position over a lesser emotionally enthralling son and daughter. I didn't establish much care for the kids until two thirds of the way through the story, which, by the way, was still quite exceptional.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
but that might be why i enjoyed it.
melanie_with_the_eyes More than 1 year ago
This isn't exactly a light and breezy read; it seemed more like a creative writing 101 project and less like a great book to pickup and lose yourself in. Don't get me wrong, it's enjoyable all around, but not necessarily all I hoped it would crack up to be. The timeline jumps around, which typically isn't an issue, but it didn't seem to serve much of a purpose in this case. Not to mention that the ending is about as satisfying as the dreaded it-was-all-just-a-dream (that's NOT the actual ending, by the way). The premise/plot has a lot of potential, and I give the author credit for thinking of such an incredible idea. However the end result seemed simple ok, but not as spectacular as it could have been.
luv2readWI More than 1 year ago
Nothing ordinary about this story and yet the characters seem recognizable in their family dynamic. Everyone survives their childhood somehow, but the Fang's children hang on by their toenails while their parent's film the scene for the drama of it. Interesting, funny, sad and engaging...right up to the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I saw this recommended for fans of Wes Anderson movies, so I picked it up on the strength of that. I can see some of the characteristics of Anderson's characters, but the book falls short in that department and takes a wide turn and leaves Anderson way back on the horizon. I felt the ending was a bit unbelievable, or just lacking in some way, but I did enjoy the ride getting to it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Funny, absurd, heartbreaking. An odd book with an original premise. A playful sense of the absurd with a lot of insight into family dynamics and how we manage to become adults in spite of and because of our parents.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A creative story, but it resolved with a dull thud that was a too contrived and quite disappointing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great book about art, family, and the need for separation of them. When the book comes to a point of two possible endings, I found myself wishing for both. Great characters, great story.
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Reading this book, I couldn't help but think of the children of the rich and famous who all too often live high profile lives without so much as a thought for the effect on their children.....I will be looking for future books from Kevin Wilson
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book...funny and sad at the same time....
Bismark_B More than 1 year ago
Its pretentious outer shell is what grabs browsers at a store or what have you, but the contents inside takes you to a place familiar. With short and memorable tales of the parents' dysfunctional methods of raising their children in the name of art, the story of A and B finding their own identity is one great exhibit worth experiencing.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was drawn to the idea of a story involving a family social experiment operating in the name of art, mainly because I find performance art fasinating and controversial, and to ad one's family into the mix! (I'm sucker for black comedy). But I found the book a little lacking. The children's characters were well developed and I did enjoy the parents characters as well (their quirks), but I found the parents to be a little 2D. Wilson did describe their passion for art, what lengths they will go to in the name of art, but their actions in the end left me unsatsified. The ending in general felt a little untied, hopeful (evening thought the situation seemed too odd, out of the blue), but it seemed wilson didn't try too hard at the end. Maybe that was what he was going for. I did enjoy the book and would recommend it because it's so original, but I did feel a little unsatisfied at the end- I think I was looking for more.
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