An unconventional upbringing
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