Magical Thinking: True Stories
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on December 14, 2005
Having adored the off-beat, self-destructive, endangered life Burroughs wrote about in Running with Scissors and Dry, I was eager to pick up his third memoir. While his path of destruction made for scintillating and darkly comic reading in his first two books, here he writes from a balanced and centered place. He lives in the countryside of Massachusetts with a long-time partner. This is the place in his life were he was finally able to reflect on his earlier experiences and write his first two masterpieces.

Some reviewers seem to think the edge is gone, but I couldn't disagree more. Burroughs is able to make even the mundane fascinating--dealing with a rat in his bathtub, having a neurotic dog who has only ever urinated on NY concrete and can't handle the wide open grassiness of the new home in Massachusetts, dealing with a psychotic cleaning lady, talking to telemarketers, and trying to get his boyfriend to switch moisturizers. Burroughs inhabits a fabulous Magical Thinking world (in which the person believes he exerts more influence over events than he actually has), and he sucks the reader right into the rich and larger-than-life world.

Now that he's stable, I'd love to read more of Burroughs commenting on the ordinary, making it magical.
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88 of 102 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2008
Ooookay. I'm glad I checked this one out of the library instead of wasting money on it.

I've previously enjoyed Burroughs' work. (Sellevision, Dry, Running With Scissors.) So I recognized the first chapter, with the admen for Tang coming to Burroughs' school) as something previously published in another book. I feel a little ripped off when I invest money and/or time into consuming the same content in multiple works.

And then came the "Rat/Thing" chapter, in which Burroughs describes torturing a white mouse which was unfortunate enough to find itself in his apartment. As a citydweller, I know unwanted pests spread disease and nibble wiring that causes fires, and I sympathize with the need to exterminate the tiny squatters as necessary. But Burroughs seems to take pleasure in this -- detailing how he sprayed a can of RAID on the mouse, noting how the chemical burns dulled the animal's eyes and made it frantic with pain. He then filled the bathtub it was in with scalding water and, getting creative, started flashing a lightbulb like a strobe light in the mouse's face until it had a seizure and died. Y'know, I didn't think there was a way to make glue traps seem humane, but Augusten Burroughs found one.

This is comedy writing?

I'm disgusted.
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2005
After finishing Dry, which I enjoyed immensely, I eagerly opened up this book. This one was a bit of a disappointment. Actually, I'm reluctant to criticize these stories, because what I really like about Augusten Burroughs is exactly what I didn't like in this particular book. I like his caustic wit. I like his honesty. I like his neurosis. I like that he sees the trees instead of the forest sometimes. However, some of these stories are just really boring. Some of them are funny. Some of them are less funny but have some really hysterical parts. Some of these are just like journal entries. . . and these are the stories I found to be a waste of time.

For instance, when Augusten writes of Dennis, he writes with such love and affection that, had there been an actual story to tell, I would have really enjoyed reading that. But, at least two-- maybe three stories-- were just about the author's intense love and affection for this man. That's okay and all, and I'm happy that the author has found happiness, yet it is a bit boring to read for the reader!

Additionally, there was one story where Burroughs steps on a baby's hand and moves away without explaining to the mother why the baby is crying. The mother thinks the baby wants a toy and scolds her instead of comforting her. Maybe this is funny to Burroughs-- who openly admits he's a bit of a cad and not too paternal-- but it's really cruel. And, although it might be funny if seen on Seinfeld, it's definitely not endearing and definitely doesn't arouse any empathy for the author from the reader. Neither does the cruel way he kills a mouse. Although the comments he makes after talking to a plumber WERE hilarious.

I wouldn't recommend this book, but I do recommend Running with Scissors and Dry. I am awaiting my copy of Selevision, as well. I haven't given up on reading any other books he comes out with.
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61 of 77 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2004
"Magical Thinking", while autobiographical, is not a chronological memoir like "Running With Scissors" & "Dry." Instead, it is a collection of personal anecdotes in a sort of essay format, which makes for easy reading. Unlike his memoirs, which I found extremely difficult to put down, there are definite starts & stops. When a particular chapter is over, it's over. The next one begins anew. And there is the only criticism that I can level at this collection: had I not read his memoirs, I would have had a really, really difficult time figuring out exactly when the incidents occured. Was he drinking at the time? Was he working in advertising? Is this post-"Dry" or pre-"Dry"? They are all post-"Running With Scissors" (he is an adult), but that's the only thing that's clear. (And therein is probably the root of the issue some have with the "rat-thing": it isn't clear without background knowledge that he was in an altered state and would never perform such an act while sober. It was a symptom of the disease of alcoholism, not an indicator of morality or character. And there, I've spent too much time on the "rat-thing.") This collection is such enjoyable reading - I laughed out loud, a lot, and I also teared up as well. Equal parts comedy & drama, a perfect combination.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2005
I will buy anything and everything written by this author. He is absolutely brilliant, and when I read his work I am obsessed with every last word on the page. It's especially enjoyable when he writes autobiographical accounts. He can take an experience like finding a mouse in the bath tub, for example, and make it captivating and charming. I like his style of writing, the way his voice comes through so clearly, the way he writes in incomplete sentences in all the right places and makes it work. There are also a few wonderful love stories about he and Dennis, like the story that begins with Augusten going to Kmart for the iron. The story isn't really about a specific event; it's about his love for Dennis. Augusten has the ability to SHOW his feelings rather than to just SAY how he feels. It is certainly the most touching tribute to a partner that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Although I don't as much enjoy the feel of holding a hardcover book, I couldn't wait until Magical Thinking came out in paperback--I had to get it immediately. And I suggest you do the same.
(Note: 'Augusten, please hurry up and publish your next book; I need my fix.)
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26 of 33 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 21, 2005
If Augusten Burroughs ever makes a movie or gets to host his own reality TV show he might one day work his way into the center square of a future iteration of Hollywood Squares. He has the wit. He's a clever observer of contemporary mores. Add to this an ample supply of contempt for political correctness and a love for pushing the boundaries of taste. In the "true stories" that make up MAGICAL THINKING he manages to get away with virtual murder because half the time the target of his cutting satire is himself. Arranged somewhat chronologically, these stories read like outtakes from his memoirs RUNNING WITH SCISSORS. The collection begins with a story about his effort to achieve stardom at age seven when he was selected to be in a Tang commercial ("Commercial Break") and includes one about his studying to become a Barbizon model in his teens ("Model Behavior"). It includes frank stories about his dysfunctional family of origin, alcoholism, gayness, dating woes, relations with Catholic priests, boredom and frustration as an advertising copywriter, and even his "hygiene issues." "Debby's Requirements," one of my favorites in the collection, is a New York story about Burroughs' battle of wills with a domineering cleaning lady. In "The Rat/Thing" he takes the New York thing to extremes when he reveals what he will do to get rid of a rodent intruder. It's so extreme you can't help thinking he might be using his little domestic tempest in a teapot to describe something much larger--the obsessive Western mind (e.g., Bush v. Saddam). He both revels in and criticizes American obsession with celebrity culture and aspirational advertising. Shallowness (especially in gay men) is both scorned and celebrated. The collection ends on a slightly more reassuring note with several stories about a still-promising sounding relationship with a man named Dennis. I think we'll have to wait for the next collection of "true stories" to see how that one turns out.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2006
This is my first Augusten book. And I have to admit I really liked the first chapter or two. It reminded me of the very talented David Sedaris. However, Burroughs lacks something Sedaris has - - and that is decency. There's a line you cross to become humorous, and Burroughs has leaped way beyond it, in fact rented a Hummer and completely run over and demolished it. I'm not a "prude", I mean I actually was able to enjoy the twisted nature of "The Tetherballs of Bougainville" but this came at a cheap trashy expense - which turned out not quite funnny at all. Sadly I gave up on the book early on when he mentioned the encounter with the undertaker and ... well I wont go any further. I wouldnt recommend this book to anyone.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2005
"Dry" and "Running with Scissors" were fascinating, moving, and frightening memoirs by Augusten Burroughs. Both were worth every minute spent reading them. But "Magical Thinking" is just a random collection of experiences that make Augusten Burroughs seem insensitive and cold. Perhaps that was his goal. Few stories in "Magical Thinking" are fundamentally entertaining. The ones that are, however, almost (but not quite) make it worth reading. I'd take a pass and read something else if I had my time back.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Augusten Burroughs does not come across as what you'd call a "nice person," but he's so very honest, funny, and sometimes self-deprecating that the reader can't help being on his side, as he battles a crazy cleaning lady, kills a mouse in his tub, and moves in and out of quasi-relationships with gorgeous, but unsuitable men. And frankly, he appeals to that deep, dark, mean corner we all have suppressed inside, that place where we want to make a snide comment about someone's fatt butt or stupid hairdo. I adore how he hated sickeningly perfect Raoul on their first date, and his description of his schoolteacher in the opening chapter was a delight.

When Dennis enters the picture, we see Augusten's tender side, his appreciation for another's vulnerability, and we start to think perhaps Augusten has been holding out on us, letting us see only his vanity/insecurity polarity, his delayed-reaction remorse for mouse-killing and child-frightening, keeping this kinder Augusten hidden until the time is right.

While reading this book, I couldn't help thinking that I'd love to have him over for dinner, but I wouldn't let him babysit my child.

Augusten Burroughs is a great writer and enigmatic presence on the literary scene.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2005
I don't think I'd recommend this as an introduction to Augusten Burroughs because that might mean someone missing "Running with Scissors" which would be a tragedy. This does repeat some of the autobiographical material in Running with Scissors" and in "Dry" but that's not a defect. Go back to "Sellevision" if you want something completely different.

If you want ot clarify the Anne Sexton references there are two biographies. "Anne Sexton" is by Diane Wood Middlebrook. ""Searching for Mercy Street" (the one Burroughs draws most on) is by her daughter Linda Gray Sexton.
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