(Posted by Evan)
The first thing that jumps out at me is the structure of this book. The prologue and the end of each chapter consist of… let’s see… flashback’s to Annie and Buster’s childhood? Or selected “scenes” from the Fang’s body of “art”. Performance art. To me, they seem like scenes in a movie or play, semi-self-contained works of art that are also part of a larger whole. What this whole is though, I have no idea. So, what to make of these …works?
Talk about blending work and reality. “It was a testament to their proficiency and talent as atists. They had affected themselves with the authenticity of the moment.” This is something beautiful. The successful proposal gets the plane celebrating as they start of their vacation. They generated a party mood for their flight in. This is too much power. But …it's nice. Then they shut it down on the way home. With the big N-O, the mood is destroyed. It was nice while it lasted kids, but it’s over. Time to go back to your life. That’s really sad. Again, too much power.
At this point I was thinking these are just scenes of ‘making a scene’, giving random people a story to tell that starts with “This crazy thing happened today…” But beginning in chapter 4, these scenes start to illuminate a little bit more about Annie and Buster than their roles as props in their parent’s play.
All of these scenes are attributed to Caleb and Camille Fang in the “plaque” that precedes them, along with title and year. These last two seem to be examples where Buster and Annie deserved credit for the creative concept of the work in addition to doing some good acting. For any artist, I imagine, there is a blurring of the line between work and life, art and reality. For the Fang’s, the line is blurred even more by the nature of their work, where reality itself is the medium. As a result, there are serious identity issues for Child A and Child B in the family Fang, in addition to artist credit disputes. Are the children just being used as props? Is their very sense of reality being distorted!? Why, yes. Yes, it is.
A second, similar structural element is the back and forth between Annie and Buster as they are introduced in the present tense of the story. Annie’s begins with her being asked to show her tits in a film even though it wasn’t in the script. What is striking about this hilarious scene is how everyone is trying to get her to do it – her agent Tommy, her parents, the director Freeman, her costar Ethan, the first assistant director – everyone except Buster who tells her to climb out the window and runaway. As the book alludes to, it is all about control. The character in the movie “wants to control the situation” by answering the door to her apartment to a stranger with her tits out. But Annie doesn’t want to do it and everyone is trying to pressure her into it, to control her. She ultimately does it, and she does it to show herself she can, that she can exert that kind of control over herself.
The control dynamic continues in the interview with Eric the reporter from Esquire at the arcade (the magazine’s idea). Annie’s publicist said they wouldn’t talk about the tits thing, Eric loses the bet that he needed to win to talk about it, and then she tells him anyway, telling herself she wants the chance to tell her side. Control. Then Eric wins the bet that he needed to win for her to talk about the lesbian relationship with a co-star, an occurrence that itself was pursued and framed in the media by said co-star Minda, and she complies and tells him about it, which is also against Annie’s publicists wishes. To wrap it all up she does the one thing that she was explicitly told not to do by her publicist and sleeps with Eric. Then, she almost ends up in a situation entirely in her ex-boyfriend Daniel’s control – in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming, publicized as back in a relationship with him, needing him to write her into scripts to save her acting career. She decides to escape only at the last second, at the airport. She ends up following Buster’s request for her to go back to Tennessee and live with her parents.
Everyone is always trying to control Annie, so much so that it is hard to tell if she is being controlled or possible making her own decisions.
Buster’s story seems to be all about disconnect, between expectations and experiences and between him and people. His work for the men’s magazine is described as a contrast of expectations. Driving dune buggies in the desert seems fun but the technical skill required to enjoy it makes him want to be home living with his parents reading books about people driving dune buggies in the desert. He corrects Kenny’s expectation that reporting on the world’s biggest gang-bang would be the best thing ever and convinces him it is actually the worst thing ever. His expectations of the potato gun demonstration make him want to stay in the hotel in the minibar. He’s also obviously a pretty lonely guy. He struggles to connect with the guys until they he is dressed in identical clothes and buying beer, and only for a moment before he is shot in the face and they avoid him for legal reasons.
The segmented structure of the book is also accentuated by the many examples of story within a story. There are allusions to the Annie’s movies and those she watches, to Buster’s novels and to others as well as the story Joseph tells Buster on the way to the hospital.