Thursday, March 15, 2012

Having fun with The Family Fang's dysfunction

I occasionally joke that my parenting style is to keep my children out of trouble by embarrassing them just enough that they'll never have to look for things to talk about in therapy someday. For the record, of course any existential angst or unresolved conflicts that I actually have created in them was purely unintentional. Caleb and Camille Fang, the parents of Kevin Wilson's The Family Fang couldn't necessarily say the same thing about their parenting choices for Annie and Buster. Caleb and Camille are performance artists dedicated to the idea that art is not about passive viewing or action itself but emotion and reaction brought about through action. They involve the unwitting audience in their shock and awe performances and, determined to prove that children are not the death of art, they involve their children as actors. As children, their lives revolve around a series of artistic endeavors that range from awkward to humiliating and, at times, painful. 

The repercussions for Annie and Buster, known to their parents as Child A and Child B, are profound. As adults, they are both adrift. Annie has become an Oscar-nominated actress as an escape from the anonymity required to participate in her parents' performances. However, her career is suffering from some publicity misfires. Buster is an unsuccessful novelist who is seriously injured in a spud gun incident. Their misfortunes cause them to go to the one place neither wants to be -- their parents' home. It's a bad time for all the Fangs; Caleb and Camille are facing irrelevance and ineffectiveness. 

The amazing thing about this is that Wilson imbues this tragic, messed-up story with a truly touching approach to the Fangs. They are never the caricatures they make themselves out to be in their performance pieces. It's wacky and witty, but it's also warm and human. We'll be discussing The Family Fang at Monday's Uncorked meeting.  Join us at Rumbleseat Wine at 7 p.m., Monday March 19 to talk about this unique book.

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