Monday, May 28, 2012

The Family Fang

Kevin Wilson
The Family Fang

Picador UK, 2012

The whole life if the Fang family is the continuing art. Caleb and Camille Fang from an early age forced their two children, Annie and Buster, against their wishes to take part in carefully-planned installations. The novel dives back and forth in time: Wilson shows childhood of Annie and Buster, and the main story lays in about our days, when children have grown up and live separately from their parents.

Annie has become quite a popular actress, not a superstar, but a rising star. At the beginning of the novel, she appeares in another film where she has a major role. A few minutes before shooting the next scene Annie finds out that she needed to be shot topless, though in scenario, there was nothing said about it.

Buster became a writer with two published novels, and he’s earning a living freelancing in journalism. The editor of a men magazine offer to Buster to write an article about the soldiers, inventing weapons, shooting with potatoes. Buster has flown to Nebraska, where he’s met the four veterans of the war in Iraq - the inventors of potato weapons. Soon everyone in the life of Annie and Buster goes awry, and they have to return to the parental home.

«The Family Fang» is a novel fragile and funny, but Wilson’s humor is timid, based on half-tones. The beginning of the book is particularly charming, highlighting key points: theparents are freaks, and children, too, turned out to be weirdos. Theme of fathers and children here is politely filed. Parents with their despotism, irrepressible desire to shake the world, to make art out of life have poisoned Annie and Buster’s childhood, deprived them from communication with peers, deprived them of choice, but caused hate to them. But at the same time they helped the children to step into the world of art. Children, of course, went in the opposite direction, choosing "dead" art, but the childhood trauma gave them a good push.

Wilson also affects another topic: Does freakness excuse tyranny and cruelty, even in part? Does the artist has right to evil, if it is evil for the good of art? Caleb and Camille believe that they have that right.

The writer of the book outlines the most colorful characters, and children, of course, are much prettier than their parents. We see Annie and Buster's at the peak of their career, and then when their lives on the contrary, go downhill. The novel is called «The Family Fang», but as a whole family the characters never appear before us. Fangs is a kind of feeling, a state, but not a single unit of four.

Wilson, with the ability to create a haunting atmosphere where parents vanish, leads us to wonder what has happened. But the second half of the book is weaker than the first. In the final, you want something explosive, a Bang! But instead of a bang Wilson gives us a soft clap. The final doesn’t fit to the whole narrative.

Nevertheless, Wilson has written a very moving novel, full of strange humor and memorable characters. Definitely, I will keep an eye on this author in the future.

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