The occasion might be a holiday or a wedding, a christening or a funeral, and a family is gathered on the eve to eat, drink, talk, and cast eyes upon each other. Like all relations, the extended family in Fred Chappell’s Family Gathering has its foibles and strengths, oddballs and know-it-alls, hussies and historians, sparring spouses and model marriages. More than anything, this family loves gossip. Chappell portrays its members one and all in a series of sharply limned character sketches. In this crowd of strangers we may find personalities familiar, maybe too familiar. Perhaps we may even find a glimpse or two of ourselves.
With results like those of the Polaroids taken by the family photographer, Chappell “makes us look as scary / As old woodcuts in a bestiary— / But maybe, after all, that’s us.”
Varied, humorous, and, above all, true, Family Gathering is pure mean fun.