Saturday, November 26, 2011

You'll Be Disappointed If You Were Expecting Vampires

In Kevin Wilson’s debut novel, we are introduced to a peculiar family of performance artists, the Fangs.  Caleb and Camille Fang, artistic directors and (to a lesser extent) parents, create pieces - or maybe happenings? - aimed at stirring frenzied responses from unwitting bystanders in public places.  Think Punk’d as funded by a MacArthur Genius Grant.  Their accomplices are Child A and Child B (Annie and Buster), the Fang children, who have grown up only knowing this bizarre and insular environment and struggle with their familial obligation to wreak havoc in the name of art.

When you pick up The Family Fang, the first thing you might notice is that the cover image seems allusive to a Wes Anderson movie, and while I’m no marketing guru, my guess is that the nod was intentional (also the blurb on the back likening it to a Wes Anderson movie was a tip-off).  The book is rife with Andersonian touches:  quirky melancholics, off-kilter academics, vain depressives, and unmanageable artists begetting world weary children – the whole shebang, really.   I don’t want my mentioning the similarities to come off as a slight, because it’s a fantastic book, but it should just be noted that the Fangs’ family tree shares a common root system with the Tenenbaums. 
Each chapter alternates between the past and present (a favored device of authors these days), jumping between scenes of the early Fangs, an inseparable band of ne’er-do-wells, and then twenty years later when Child A and B have grown up and moved out, having purposefully distanced themselves from their parents and the Fang Family brand of art.  Annie went on to become an Oscar-nominated actress and Buster a noted novelist.  Unfortunately, neither Fang child stayed ascendant for long, both buckling under personal drama (such as Buster being shot in the face), and they each return home for a chance to recuperate.   Soon after the homecoming, though, A and B find themselves again enmeshed in Caleb and Camille’s art-at-all-costs hijinks.

The Family Fang is a funny read - not in the fits of laughter sense, but more along the lines of dryly conceding aloud “that’s funny.”   Still, humorous fiction can be hard to come by, and Mr. Wilson’s efforts are much appreciated.

Ransom - Reference

Monday, November 21, 2011

For a Better Black Friday - DIY

The winter holidays are nearly upon us.  At the library, we realize a lot of our patrons are trying to save a little cash this year.  And because we are tuned-in to those needs like aliens to the mothership, we’ve got our eye on DIY gifting titles to recommend for your crafting pleasure.  If you're really quick about it, you might even snag a spot in the final workshop of our free "Thrifty Gifter" series on December 22

My family has also been trying to work more thrifty DIY projects into our holiday routine.  Going out on a limb last year, we typed into our Google browser: “what to give everyone for Christmas,” and the Internet gave us this brilliant gift: a pattern for MarthaStewart felted pigs. Amazing!!  (If we'd been really smart about it, we could have skipped Google altogether and used the library's fabulous Hobbies and Crafts Reference Center. And so my husband and I joined the throng at the fabric store on Black Friday, picking out our assortment of colorful patterned fleeces:  Hot-pink!  Giraffe-print!  Horse-heads!  Camo!  Plaid!  We had never sewed anything before in our lives.  But over the next four weeks, interspersed with work and highway travel, we brought 16 little piggies into fruition.  We also drank a few adult beverages and watched sooo many episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  It was a perfect storm.

And they were pretty adorable!  You can see the entire photo gallery on Flickr , or you can just take my word for it.  We wrapped them up in pretty little boxes with one bar of Mo’s Bacon Chocolate each.  So save a little cash this year and get a little closer to the ones you love.  Make some felted pigs together.  Or stroll on over to the library and get inspired to create something else.  I already know what I'm going to be making…

Suggested Crafting: