Thursday, October 18, 2012
Reading Journal: The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson (2011)
A truly rare novel, one that is as heartbreakingly hilarious as its premise suggests: the adult children of performance artists Caleb and Camille Fang return home from their careers - Annie, an actrees, and Buster, a writer - and confront their parents about the childhood they spent as unwilling participants in their parents' experimental works. The central metaphor is of course a stroke of brilliance - all child-rearing is an experiment, and one that, if flawed, will produce damaged (if well-intentioned) products like the Fang children. The novel's written in a language that's plain and accessible, and the chapters alternate in focus from Annie to Buster and back, separated by flashbacks to the various projects that the children took part in and making of them an elephant in the room that reminds you of the damage done to the children at every step. You'd think from that sentence that it's a heavy read, but it's not, and it's not as flippant as a family chronicle by, say, Douglas Coupland, either. It's laugh-out-loud funny, particularly in its first half, and a book I loved, one of the last year's overlooked gems. Watch for its profile to rise now that Nicole Kidman's attached herself to a film adaptation... and before that, read it. Put it on your can't-miss list.