An un­con­ven­tional up­bring­ing

The Herald - Arts - - BOOKS - ALAS­TAIR MABBOTT

Kevin Wilson Pi­cador, £12.99

An­nie and Buster Fang hardly had t he most con­ven­tional up­bring­ing, be­ing raised by mar­ried per­for­mance artists Caleb and Camille, whose big­gest pas­sion in life is to stage unan­nounced guer­rilla art hap­pen­ings in pub­lic places. An­nie and Buster have been an es­sen­tial com­po­nent of Fang “ events” since they rst drew breath.

Well, that was then. As they reached adult­hood, An­nie and Buster be­gan to re­sent be­ing re­ferred to as Child A and Child B, and how the con­stant pri­ori­tis­ing of art above all else made a nor­mal fam­ily life im­pos­si­ble.

Buster be­came a writer and An­nie an ac­tor, bit­terly dis­ap­point­ing their fa­ther by align­ing them­selves with such “in­fe­rior” art forms. When An­nie got her rst movie role, Caleb and Camille’s ini­tial in­stinct wasn’t to be happy for her, but to plot ways to sub­vert her lucky break to make an artis­tic state­ment.

Un­for­tu­nately, the sib­lings have both en­coun­tered set­backs in their pro­fes­sional lives which prompt them to move back to their par­ents’ home, where they nd that, although the old cou­ple are start­ing to lose their sure touch, they do have one more trick up their sleeves. Or do they? Is there some­thing far more grue­some afoot than an ex­pertly staged stunt?

The Fam­ily Fang has the ap­peal of a good in­die movie – some have men­tioned The Royal Te­nen­baums, but I’d throw Lit­tle Miss Sun­shine in there too. It’s a funny story, tinged with sad­ness. It’s also in­ter­est­ing to note that the world out­side this bizarre fam­ily is de­picted as be­ing ev­ery bit as ma­nip­u­la­tive: when An­nie is se­duced by a fe­male co-star, the ac­tor tells her pub­li­cist to make it known they’re an item, and when an ex-boyfriend asks her to ac­com­pany him to Wy­oming to work on a script, he si­mul­ta­ne­ously leaks the news to “ sev­eral key en­ter­tain­ment jour­nal­ists”.

Although the sit­u­a­tion in which An­nie and Buster nd them­selves is ex­tra­or­di­nary, their emo­tional re­ac­tions are easy to em­pathise with. And, if the end­ing is not hard to pre­dict, that scarcely seems to mat­ter as it doesn’t de­tract from the themes of con­trol and re­spon­si­bil­ity that con­tin­u­ously bub­ble to the sur­face.

Author Kevin Wilson has writ­ten a witty yet sad tale with themes of con­trol and re­sp­n­si­bil­ity

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