The Family Fang
by: Kevin Wilson
(forthcoming, August 2011, HarperCollins/Ecco)
This novel is so lovable, so smart, sharp, and bizarrely funny, that it overcame my long-held prejudices against the brilliantly dysfunctional family saga. The Fang family is odd. In fact, the four characters who make it up--Caleb and Camille (Mr. and Mrs.), Buster and Annie (brother and sister)--are downright weird. Caleb and Camille are performance artists, the kind of people who wreck carefully planned havoc on ordinary life in order to say something, to make the quotidian into an occasion that is probably surreal, embarrassing, and shocking, but, at the very least, unforgettable. They throw their children (child A, child B) into their pieces and, predictably, leave them with scars. Annie becomes a drunken, moderately successful actress. Buster grows up to be a moderately successful journalist who persistently fails to finish his second novel.
But as their story becomes increasingly strange, the family Fang becomes increasingly less so. They grow familiar. They have hearts and warmth to them. They refuse to be limited by quirk, turning into people who you want to spend time with and want to get back to. They put on performances full of flashy, unlikely incident for each other and for themselves, but they are so tenderly written that you feel like you're standing on stage right next to them, watching their faces while they read their lines.
I liked it so much that I'm going to hang onto my ARC, just in case I want to read it again before it comes out. And just look at what a magical cover it has!
How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
by: Charles Yu
This is one of those books that I appreciated, but didn't feel. It's ambitiously and elegantly well-written. I get why it received sheaves of thrilled reviews (NY Times, for example, or WIRED). It's perfect for anyone, especially men (it's built around a son's search for his father, who is lost in time), who has a fondness for both Douglas Adams and Jonathan Safran Foer. It's an extravagant, circuitous time-travelling journey that might have turned into a farce if it weren't so longingly sad.
But, for me, it just didn't hit the right spot.