Wednesday, 23 May 2012

A Year in Books 2012 - The Family Fang

Imagine a Wes Anderson film in book form and you wont be far away form the Family Fang debut novel by Kevin Wilson.
The novel focuses on brother and sister Annie and Buster Fang. Annie is a B list actress trapped in a super hero film franchise with an self centred scriptwriting boyfriend and a female co star who is turning in to a bit of a stalker. Buster has had one cult and one failed novel , now writes culture pieces for magazines. They are also child A and child B the children of notorious conceptual artists Caleb and Camille Fang
The Fangs' specialism was creating art in real time via a series of events where they would arrive , cause chaos , film it and then leave. After a childhood of being bought up as living works of art and props / accomplices in a play where they haven't seen the script both children have escaped. However , when life reaches it lowest, with Annie dumping her boyfriend at the airport ,  getting her breasts all over the internet and sleeping with both her female co star as well as a journalist sent to intervew her and Buster nearly dies with a hospital bill he cant pay after a William Tell re-enactment using a potato gun , the only haven is home.
When they do come home they are reminded of the damage that life in the Fang Family has caused, as they are sucked back in with Caleb and Camille planning one last great event.
At the heart this is a story of the impact that parents have on their children and how children struggle to cope with the consequences, struggling to find their own way free of the generation before. What Kevin Wilson does is to take this theme to extremes by putting it in a world of quirkiness. As the story progresses we get to learn about a number of the Fang's events which gives the book its main sense of humour, managing to both horrify but also create a bit of a secret wish to be involved, which is the legacy that Annie and Buster are left with.
In making the scenario deliberately extreme there is a risk that the characters descend into caricature and although there are times when he sails close to the wind it all works out in a kind of Royal Tenenbaum way
My only criticism comes at the very end, which feels a bit tagged on with a film within the book scenario that I just didn't get and felt a bit like an unnecessary "where are they now" ending to a film. Ending it about 20 pages earlier for me would have been perfect.
It is an obvious link but if you like your comedy quirky , you have a sense of the absurd and you are a fan of Wes Anderson's films then this is for you 
You can buy The Family Fang here

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