Reading: The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
I can see how someone wouldn’t like this book. It’s hopelessly twee. But in that it was also hilarious, charming, and very well written. All the characters, good or bad, were well drawn and felt real to me, despite their larger than life presences. I found this book on Buzzfeed when they were saying “If you like this movie then read this book!” which was actually super helpful. This was what you should read if you’re a fan of The Royal Tenenbaums, which I am in a very big way. The comparison was definitely apt, but this book was also all its own.
Annie and Buster Fang are having a hard time. Grown now, they spent their childhoods ensconced in their parent’s inflammatory brand of performance art, which basically consisted of causing as much chaos as possible in order to illicit a response. Unsure if they wanted children at all, as Caleb Fang, the patriarch, always insisted that children kill art, the Fangs felt the only way to harmoniously marry their work and their lives was to incorporate their children into their art. Essentially molding them at their greatest work. Now grown, they never intended upon finding themselves back home. But when a broke, freelance writer and failed novelist Buster gets shot in the face with the a potato gun and Annie, now a movie star, gets involved in a scandal and becomes known as “hard to work with” home is exactly where they find themselves. Stagnating in their childhood rooms soon their parents disappear, leaving only their car and a vast amount of blood at a rest stop in North Carolina. It becomes up to the siblings to find their parents, fix their own lives, and finally figure out what is real and what is a show.
I have a bit of a penchant for ruinous families. And there’s no arguing that the Fangs are, essentially, ruined. Having been reared to cause chaos, agreeing to whatever their parents request of them, and being referred to as Child A and Child B (it took me more that three fourths of the way through the book to realize that their actual names coincided with their letters and I don’t think that was an accident on their parents part) clearly took it’s toll. In their adult lives both Fang siblings seem to create chaos wherever they go, without effort, and their parents couldn’t be happier about it.
Caleb and Camille were often maddening. They were very hard to relate to, because normal people don’t act like them. Of course, this is fiction and extreme characters are often welcome there. It is clear, throughout, but really driven home, that these two don’t care about anything as much as their care about their art. Which is problematic, because they have children. We, as a population, are conditioned to see family, particularly children, as the most important thing in the world. That wasn’t the case with the elder Fangs and I can see how readers would have a problem with that. I don’t think that the parents were particularly meant to be likable. I know I hated them, while still finding them interesting as artists.
Which is another thing. I have seen a lot of reviews of this book dismissing the Fangs art. Or “art” as most of the reviews say. I think that’s a bit of bullshit. Art is not always something you understand or like. A lot of good art gives people a gut reaction of repellance. Is their art kind, definitely not. Does it use people and their reactions as tools? Absolutely. Do you like it? Irrelevant. Really. Irrelevant. I argue that the Fangs art is art indeed. The fact that they are successful at it is almost besides the point.
But really, for me, what this book was was the story of siblings helping each other to make their lives better after a life of conditioning to do the opposite. Annie and Buster were both characters I really liked, despite all their problems. They weren’t really bad people, they just made a lot of mistakes, often through passivity and allowing things to crumble around them. I think a lot of people can probably relate to that aspect. I know I can. And I found myself often laughing out loud at the situations they found themselves in.
I loved this book a lot and I would probably recommend it to most everyone I know.
I’m not sure I how I managed to miss this short film/commercial for the perfume Candy by Prada, starring Léa Seydoux and directed by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola. It was made in 2013, but in case you missed it too:
I’ve already posted a St. Vincent song but whatever, it’s my blog. And I love her. I was listening to this CD a lot last summer but recently she released a couple new songs for the Deluxe edition or some such noise so I have been listening to it again. And then this song played on iZombie and I got it stuck in my head, which propelled me into listening to it on a loop because I really started listening to the lyrics and started loving it more. So, here it is.
Watching: The Boy Next Door
Last week I went to visit my friend in Columbus and because we had a free Red Box rental and we both love really terrible movies we decided to go with this decidedly awful looking Jennifer Lopez vehicle that is essentially The Crush, except without the excuse of the nineties.
The movie starts with a flashback (from what? we don’t know yet) of J-Lo arguing with her husband, John Corbett, who has apparently been cheating on her and has since moved out of their house where J-Lo now lives with her son. Soon their neighbor rolls up in his riding wheelchair. Apparently their neighbor is Steve Buscemi playing Stan Lee:
He basically appears simply to introduce his nephew, who’s name escapes me and I’m too lazy to look it up but he was played by the dude who played Jake on Pretty Little Liars so I’m just going to call him Jake. Jake and J-Lo immediately hit it off because they’ve both read The Iliad and think Achilles is the man. The tension is palpable. And then Jake goes and gives J-Lo a present. A first edition copy of The Iliad, pristine and leather bound. Never mind the fact that The Iliad‘s first edition likely came more in the form of a scroll written in ancient Greek. If there was ever a book I was sure there was no first edition of they managed to find it in this crapfest. Who knew those ancients were so advanced they managed to invent the printing press without anyone else in the world ever finding out about it. I laughed so hard and so voraciously about this that I’m fairly sure my friend started to get a bit annoyed about it. So, quietly I googled “first edition of The Iliad” just to see if there is any such thing and all I came up with were scores of pages making so much fun of this movie. To be honest I still laugh whenever I think about it.
Anyway, eventually J-Lo goes over to Jake’s place, to help him cook a whole chicken that he tried to microwave, and ends up having a guilty steamy night with the high school age boy. In the morning she bolts, saying it was a mistake, but Jake just doesn’t want to take no as an answer. Thus begins his reign of terror upon her. He breaks into her house and sends an email to her boss recommending Jake join the Classics class she teaches, he slowly turns her son against his father, he cuts the breaks on J-Lo’s husband’s car, and wall papered her classroom with pictures from the video he took of their night together. Sadly, no bunnies are boiled. But we do get this hilarious shot:
and the ADAM CPR doll they must have used as the dummy for when that eye was stabbed.
I wont spoil any more of this amazing thriller. I recommend it for no one, unless you want three good laughs amidst a sea of eye rolling mediocrity. It was bad, and not as funny as it should have been. Mostly I felt sorry for Kristen Chenowith because she deserves better than being the sidekick in this.