D-Tales: July (The Family Fang)
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson is about a couple who are completely devoted to their work… Their very unusual work. Caleb and Camille Fang are performance artists. They would go to public places, cause chaos, and videotape the unsuspecting audience’s response. They even shot their mentor with a rifle on a college campus just to elicit a response and gain notoriety in the art world. Then, in the middle of staging a series of fake weddings, Camille got pregnant, much to Caleb’s dismay.
Until that point, they had lived by the motto “kids kill art,” but when Child A, (as Annie was known,) threw a temper tantrum on mall Santa’s lap, the Fang’s realized that they could make their art a family affair. And so, Caleb, Camille, Annie, and Buster spent the next two decades or so traveling through mid-west USA happily “making art.” Eventually the children grew up and grew resentful that their parents were forcing them to do these crazy and often embarrassing acts. They moved away to lead their own crazy lives, until dysfunction drove them to move back home where their parents were planning one final performance piece.
This novel taught me that I am really not a fan of performance art. I find it awkward for all parties involved, so I found myself cringing as all of the Fangs’ acts were described in detail. That’s probably why I liked Annie’s character the most. She was determined not to take part in the madness any longer, even if that meant escaping into alcoholism. It is pretty ironic, however, that she spends most of her adulthood trying to gain control of her life, but she only finds happiness when she is ready to let go of the control and embrace whatever happens.
I enjoyed the weirdness of this story though. Rarely do you find a book nowadays in which everyone in the main family is so unconventional. Usually there is a voice of reason somewhere in there, but not in the Fang family. Basically this book is a must-read for lovers of eccentricity and art that isn’t really art. It leaves you asking, do kids kill art, or is it the other way around?