The Family Fang: A Novel

The Family Fang: A Novel

by Kevin Wilson


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

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….The best single word description would be brilliant.”
—Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto

“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….A total blast.”
—Hannah Pittard, author of The Fates Will Find Their Way

Owen King (We’re All in This Together) calls author Kevin Wilson, “the unholy child of George Saunders and Carson McCullers.” With his novel, The Family Fang, the Shirley Jackson Award-winning author of Tunneling to the Center of the Earth comes through in a BIG way, with a funny, poignant, laugh-and-cry-out-loud (sometimes at the same time) novel about the art of surviving a masterpiece of dysfunction. Meet The Family Fang, an unforgettable collection of demanding, brilliant, and absolutely endearing oddballs whose lives are risky and mischievous performance art. If the writing of Gary Shteyngart, Miranda July, Scarlett Thomas, and Charles Yu excites you, you’ll certainly want to invite this Family into your home.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061579059
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/17/2012
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 97,045
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Kevin Wilson is the author of the novels The Family Fang, a New York Times bestseller and a best book of the year in Time, People, Salon, and Esquire; and Perfect Little World. 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 teaches fiction at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife and two sons.

What People are Saying About This

Nick Hornby

“My favourite novel so far this year: Kevin Wilson’s THE FAMILY FANG. Funny, smart, ingenious, moving, altogether great. Just buy it.”

Ann Patchett

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.

Customer Reviews

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Family Fang 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 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
alexrichman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A whimsical and (sometimes) affecting family drama with plenty of funny moments, most of which involve the Fangs' so-called 'events' - artistic flashmob-style stunts that are too good to give away here. The first half builds and builds brilliantly, but sadly the story ends rather flatly. Nevertheless, it's eminently recommendable as a more light-hearted companion to the likes of Freedom.
asuico on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The concept was interesting; but the book itself wasn't knock-you-out amazing. At times it felt like the author was trying a little too hard to be funny, and it seemed like he could have made the book a bit meatier by expanding on Annie's and Buster's past lives, rather than condensing them into neat expository packages that he would bring up when it was convenient.
Gnorma on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I didn't find this one clever, intelligent, or whimsical. I was thinking, while reading it, that when my kids were young, they would write outrageous stories filled with ridiculous exploits. It was funny when the kids did it, but not when an adult does. The 'performance art' stunts by the family just sound stupid and obnoxious. They are there for shock value rather than to make people think. These are interspersed with experiences of the grown Fang children, all of which I find offensive. I gave up on this book after about 5 chapters, so maybe I am not giving it a fair shot, but really, I just can't waste any more time on it. Leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
rkepulis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the story of a very unusual family, to say the least. Well, okay, bizarre. Sad, hilarious, exciting, disturbing, and a thousand other adjectives must be used to explain what the reader will experience should he/she decide to partake in this book. And, in my opinion, everyone should read it. I mean everyone. One's perception of what the world is and what the world is not will be turned upside down, shaken, torn apart, and, in some extreme cases, firmly confirmed due to the utter rejection of chaos and other unpredictable and unpalatable experiences. Although the ending left me a little baffled, I blame it solely on my own expectations, which is oddly enough somehow related to the story's theme. If this review confuses you or excites you or leaves you wondering about my own sanity, read this book, and then get back to me about how you feel upon finishing The Family Fang.
wrighton-time on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Article first published as Book Review: The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson on Blogcritics.Can a family survive their own peculiarities, those that can affect the outcome of their lives forever? In The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson, we follow the lives of a family trough a strange and bizarre set of circumstances. The Fangs are known for their art, a strange and natural form, where anything and everything can be pulled in to develop an art form of their own choosing. Having met and fallen in love, Caleb and Camille dedicate their lives to finding their art in every action and response, catching the very act of reaction and playing it into the representation itself. When Camille finds herself pregnant, at first they are concerned, can true art exist with a child present. Caleb and Camille set out to prove that it can, and once their second child comes along they have incorporated both children into the fold somehow convincing others that what they do is the real thing. Annie and Buster are raised to be involved in this strangely mischievous form of discipline. The more reaction the better, as each strange and unlikely occurrence is photographed or taped for posterity. Many of the stunts are wild but would attract crowds like locust. They are often arrested for the disturbances they cause. As Annie and Buster grew they found themselves ready to break away. This is exactly what they did. Buster began with writing, and Annie became an actress. Yet their lives are not easy. Annie has done well but is not sure of her abilities. Buster has moved on, and done some news stories, and when he is chosen to do a story on a group in Idaho that has developed a potato gun, he is interested. He finds himself with an interesting group, willing to pull out the stops to show off their hardware. After several practice sessions on each other, they finally convince Buster to hold the target on his head. Finally agreeing he is amazed at how he feels when the stunt works. Making himself available for one last time, the blast is the last thing he remembers before waking up in the hospital.It is this accident that brings both he and Annie back into the family fold. Things are still the same, but now the actions and art seem a bit lamer. Their parents do not seem to have the same panache. When Camille and Caleb disappear without warning, both Annie and Buster believe they are up to their old tricks, just another form of art. They will show up with the pictures to post in their gallery. But when the police contact Annie and let her know they have found their vehicle surrounded by blood, Annie and Buster begin to wonder. Can they truly be dead? Or is this one more of their crazy stunts, their unique and odd form of art? How will Annie know the truth of this odd twist of fortune?Wilson has put together an interesting form of comedic tragedy. He has structured the life of his characters around art, with all parts of their lives a form of the canvas itself. The interplay was interesting and how the children developed based off the early years seemed to be a bit of tragedy. I understand the book to be a bit of comedy and yet I could not see the comedy, only the sadness of the situation.I found the book a bit of a struggle to get through although it was written quite well. I found the premise a bit over the top and a little unbelievable, but I felt a certain pain for the children. It seemed as though they were never really children at all but parts of a chess set, made to move and destroy at will, and I found certain sadness in that.If you find a bit of comedy and tragedy intertwined to create an intricate piece of art, you might enjoy this work. It was entertaining to a degree, but I found it to be strongly in a place of its own. The characters were certainly well written, and I found myself admiring those bits of themselves they were able to salvage from their childhood.A book club would enjoy such a work, the intricacies of the tale would give them discussion and
zenhead on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
i found the family fang to be a riveting, eventually deeply insightful probing of the dynamics of the family. to paraphrase (i can't put my finger on the actual passage), people have children, and orchestrate various threatening situations to set them loose in, expecting them to figure out what is going on, how to react to it, and how to extricate themselves from it. camille and caleb fang, who use their children (usually refered to as "A and B", are self-styled conceptual artists who create these situations and thrust their children into them as "art," filming the chaos that results from the "pieces" they construct. as the children grow up, they begin to rebel at their parentally imposed role as extras, and we watch as the children and the parents are forced to redefine their lives as separate from each other. there is heartrending tragedy in how camille and caleb have damaged their children, and a sense of heroics in buster and annie's struggle to find out who they are, and how to proceed with life without their parent's orchestration of their lives. the book left me considering, as a parent, in what ways have i manipulated and maybe even used my own children to further my ambition. and i look back at my childhood wondering the same thing of my parents. i was moved and troubled by wilson's take on parenting. this is a dark take, though with enough of a surrealist touch to allow the reader to keep it at arms length, and a few bits of spot-on humor to take the edge off. i will be thinking about the family fang for a long time.
knitwit2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Performace artisits Caleb and camille value thier art more than thier kids. They eventualy disappear leaving two people ill-equiped for adulthood to cope with the afatermath. Supposedly very funny - didn't see that.
FredB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A book about the crazy childhood and transformation to adulthood of two people, Annie and Buster. Their parents are "performance artists" who spend their lives doing weird stunts and filming them. Somehow, the children end up sane and relatively normal even after being part of so many stupid and dangerous activities.
ijustgetbored on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Annie (Child A) and Buster (Child B) have learned that you can go home again, after their lives fall apart in fairly spectacular ways (hints: the paparazzi can be vicious, and potato guns and alcohol don't mix), but don't expect your parents to be "normal" about it, if your parents are famed performance artists Claude and Camille Fang. Throughout Annie and Buster's childhood, the Fang parents made them into integral parts of their performance art pieces (we see a number of these pieces in amusing flashbacks interspersed between chapters). As adults, much to their parents' disappointment, Annie and Buster have opted for more conventional forms of artistic expression, as an actress and writer, respectively, but the writing on the wall is not looking good as far as these pursuits are concerned. And it just may be that the parents Fang have their biggest performance yet in store when their children return home.This novel is not "arty." It does ask questions about what art is and what the nature of the artist is, but it doesn't drag its feet around in metaphysical contemplation of aesthetic questions. The musings about art are instead integrated into a framework of questions about what it is to be a family and to develop meaningful relationships with other people. The answers to these questions can be laugh-out-loud funny, and they can be deeply moving: Wilson alternates the tones in which he examines these issues, keeping the reader on his or her feet and never knowing what to expect on the next page, hilarity or heartbreak. The mysterious Fang parents and the enigmatic puzzle they have created for their children keeps an element of suspense in what would otherwise be classified as a work of literary fiction.Annie's and Buster's struggles to become more than just Child A and Child B are humerous to watch in the flashbacks to childhood and first desperate, then hopeful in adulthood. If this novel is a piece of art, the picture that emerges is one of hope.
amusingmother on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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, besides that and the above paragraph, I liked it. I decided it was the character development of the Fangs. The chapters are written to leapfrog between years ago (not in order, just to establish character) and until recently (which is order). Recently, Buster had an unfortunate accident which was hilarious and bizarre. He is out of money, down on his luck and has no life. He goes home.Also recently, Annie, now a B list actress, has made a couple of mildly poor decisions that prove to be catastrophic in light of paparazzi spin and finds her opportunities limited. Again, the development of her current state is hilarious, inappropriate, and the reader is sympathetic. She goes home.Caleb and Camille, the parents, welcome both adult children home then mysteriously disappear.The background is that Caleb and Camille are artists. Not visual artists or even performing artists as one defines it. They create chaos and document it. They use a number of different props, their best props being Child A (Annie) and Child B (Buster). They are completely and utterly bizarre. Annie and Buster grow up and want out. Are they really prepared to be adults in the normal world after having a childhood where they are used in the name of art? Are they prepared to embark on a journey to find their missing parents alive or dead or should they just leave them alone and have a life?Although I haven't done them justice, Caleb and Camille has wonderful character development as well. Not as well as Annie and Buster but the four Fangs, especially Annie and Buster really do grow on the reader.It's a mixed review. I will share it with certain friends but with a caveat that the content, language, and concept is disturbing...yet entertaining.
Florinda on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There are oddball, dysfunctional families, and then there are the Fangs. Their oddness is a conscious choice on the part of parents Caleb and Camille, and on those grounds, they¿d probably dispute the ¿dysfunctional¿ label. The Fangs are artists, and their life is their art; and on those terms, they¿re pretty pleased with how it functions. Their children, Annie and Buster--participants in their parents¿ artworks as ¿Child A¿ and ¿Child B,¿ but now no longer either participants or children--might beg to differ.The Fangs¿ art involves orchestrating unexpected behaviors on an unsuspecting public--literally, creating scenes (or, put less charitably, pulling stunts)--and surreptitiously capturing the response on film. The artwork isn¿t necessarily the event itself, but the reaction it creates; it¿s a variant of performance art in which the artist isn¿t the performer, but the director, and some of the performers are unaware that they even have roles. Annie and Buster, however, usually knew they were playing the part of the catalysts to the reaction...until they got old enough to refuse and left home. Perhaps not surprisingly, Annie becomes an actress, while Buster goes into writing; also not surprisingly, neither is terribly well-equipped for adulthood, and eventually they both end up returning to their parents¿ home to recover from setbacks. It also may not be too surprising that their parents aren¿t entirely prepared for that development.While I¿ve just said that certain elements in the storyline of The Family Fang are ¿not surprising (perhaps),¿ I don¿t mean it in the sense that they¿re predictable. Perhaps they are from an ¿understanding-human-nature¿ viewpoint, but overall, ¿predictable¿ is NOT an adjective I¿d use to describe this novel. ¿Oddball¿--an adjective I applied earlier to the Fangs themselves--fits pretty well, though. The Fangs¿ art is based on reaction, and my reaction to The Family Fang is mixed. Considering its Southern setting and art-world trappings, it has a lot of potential for quirk and wackiness, but it doesn¿t take those factors nearly as far as it could; I appreciate that, to be honest, and think it makes for a stronger novel. Some of that strength comes from the themes it explores and the questions it raises about art and living authentically and what families owe one another; there¿s some great book-club discussion fodder here. On the other hand, the premise of the novel has some off-putting elements, and the characters aren¿t all that easy to like; those factors might make the book less appealing to groups. I¿m really not sure what I expected from The Family Fang--charming eccentricity, maybe? I don¿t think it delivered that, really. Having said that, it did have an emotional depth I really didn¿t expect, along with some skewed humor and uncommon perspective. It¿s an oddball, and I didn¿t love it, but I have a feeling I¿ll remember it.
alexann on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Annie and Buster Fang never had a chance. Their parents, Camille and Caleb, called themselves performance artists, and they always had parts for Annie and Buster to play. Their performances involved situations such as disrupting a candy store by feigning shoplifting and then scattering jellybeans all over the store. They each had a scripted role--Mom to be the shoplifter, Annie to "tattle" to the store clerk, Buster to create a diversion, and Dad to film the whole thing. What kind of young adult do you think you would be, having been raised like this? Well, Annie and Buster are trying their best, but it's not easy. Annie is a struggling actress, and Buster has written one well-received book and is now suffering writer's block big-time.And then when their Mom and Dad go missing, they are flailing big time! Because of course, with their parents, nothing is ever as it seems. Eaten by bears? Killed by a sniper? Annie and Buster are left with no answers, only questions, as they try to put together the pieces of their lives.A delightfully dark and quirky book, recommended to all adventurous readers!
porch_reader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For Caleb and Camille Fang, art is not paintings nor sculptures nor theater. Instead, the Fang's art is deeply disturbing to those who see it, drawing the audience in to be a part of the scene. The Fang's children, Annie and Buster (known to the world as Child A and Child B), grow up as a part of these escapades. For example, Annie and Buster pretend to be untalented child musicians who are heckled by strangers (actually, their parents) to see how the crowd will react. In fact, that is one of the milder of the Fang's performances. Descriptions of these performances are interspersed with the actual story, which takes place after Annie and Buster have grown up and are leading (unsurprisingly) somewhat dysfunctional adult lives. But it is when Annie, an actress, and Buster, a writer, decide to go home to deals with their problems that the real problems begin. I loved this book. It's quirky plot paired with very real emotions worked for me. Wilson takes time to create multi-layered characters before introducing the turning point of the plot. As a result, Annie and Buster's reactions to a somewhat unlikely event felt very real. My one complaint was that the ending felt a bit abrupt, but despite that, I still found this to be a highly satisfying read.
lukespapa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If I could write a book it would be this one. Smart, funny, modern, creative, engaging, suspensful, and entertaining, Wilson has written what may prove to be this year's finest novel. Anytime a main character is accidentally maimed with a potato launcher the reader's experience shifts into "I can't put this down" mode. Parental units Caleb and Camille Fang are renowned performance artists and flashbacks to their happenings from the 1980's show how their two children, Annie and Buster, were central to their mission of creating havoc. Long empty nesters, the parents have set about to create their final and most outrageous act while the adult children finally try to find autonomy from a dysfunctional life they never wanted. No doubt this should be made into a movie (think Royal Tenenbaums or Little Miss Sunshine) but remember the book is always better.
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.