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Possible Side Effects Hardcover – May 2, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

These often hilarious, sometimes contrived essays put the "me" in "confessional memoir" front and center. Burroughs recounts scenes from the floridly dysfunctional childhood chronicled in his bestselling Running with Scissors, along with vignettes from various bad jobs, including his travails at an ad agency, and his life as a famous writer. His theme is himself: his struggles with alcoholism, a voracious Nicorette habit, compulsive Web surfing, slovenliness, social isolation, unfitness for employment, gross bodily emissions and general embarrassment at being alive. The thin story lines—a visit from the tooth fairy, a trip to the doctor, house-training a puppy—suggest that Burroughs's well-mined vein of life experience may be played out. He fattens up the material—a (Frey-inspired?) disclaimer warns some events have been "expanded and changed"—in ways that sometimes ring false, especially in his childhood reminiscences, which are improbably detailed and infused with an adult sense of camp. Often, though, the only thing animating the writing is the author's perverse imagination. Fortunately, Burroughs has superb comic sensibility, throwing off sparkling riffs on everyday humiliations in a voice that's alternately caustic and warm, bitchy and self-deprecating. His self-involvement can get claustrophobic, but when he steps outside his head no one is funnier or more perceptive. (On sale May 2)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Augusten Burroughs offers a post?James Frey "dishonesty disclaimer" (New York Times) at the beginning of Possible Side Effects, a provocation that has reviewers scouring the essay collection for signs of the improbable. Sure enough, there's plenty of material that fits the bill, but critics don't seem to mind the tall tales as long as they're in on the joke. The loudest complaints are that the new book mostly retreads the best-selling Running with Scissors (***1/2 Nov/Dec 2002) and Dry and that the quality of these "new" tales varies tremendously. Burroughs's knack as a humorist dampens some of the dissatisfaction, but it might be prudent for him to change his shtick for his next book.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (May 2, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312315961
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312315962
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (184 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,132,268 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Augusten Burroughs is the author of the autobiographical works "Running with Scissors," "Dry," "Magical Thinking," "Possible Side Effects" and "A Wolf at the Table," all of which were New York Times bestsellers. "Running with Scissors" remained on the New York Times bestseller list for over two consecutive years and was made into a Golden Globe-nominated film starring Annette Bening. His only novel, "Sellevision," is currently in development as a series for NBC. "Dry," Augusten's memoir of his alcoholism and recovery, is being developed by Showtime. In addition, Burroughs is currently creating an original prime-time series for CBS. Augusten's latest book is called "You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas."

Twice named to Entertainment Weekly's list of the funniest people in America, Augusten has also been the subject of a Vanity Fair cover story and a Jeopardy! answer. His books have made guest appearances in two James Patterson novels, one Linkin Park music video, numerous television shows and a porn movie.

Augusten has been a photographer since childhood and many of his images can be seen on his website, He lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I'm a huge fan of Burroughs. Like most, I first discovered him through his mega-selling "Running with Scissors." I quickly devoured his hysterical novel "Sellevision." I was less impressed with his memoir "Dry," but fell in love all over again when I read his true story collection "Magical Thinking." "Possible Side Effects" is more dry than magical, and shows the author at a crossroads. Though consistently amusing, many pieces in this new collection seem forced and find the author overreaching for a laugh, while still others feel deriviative of those previously published, or rather they seem as though they may have been leftovers - stories that didn't quite make the "Magical" cut.

Still there are many rewards in "Possible Side Effects." My two favorites in this collection were: "The Georgia Thumper," which focuses on the troubled relationship between the young Burroughs and his paternal grandmother; and "The Forecast for Sommer," which is some of the strongest prose writing yet from this author. Deeply felt, though unsentimental, "The Forecast for Sommer" betrays the author's talent for dramatic, melancholy writing and provides a promising glimpse into his future and better things to come.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Melissa N. VINE VOICE on March 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was a little worried when I started reading "Possible Side Effects," because the first couple of chapters are kind of slow going. However, I am a big fan of everything Augusten Burroughs has ever written, and this book is no exception. It didn't take long for the pace to pick up and for me to start laughing my ass off. This book isn't a full-length memoir like "Running with Scissors" or "Dry." It's a collection of humorous stories, very similar to "Magical Thinking." Burroughs shares stories from his disturbing childhood all the way through to his present-day, slightly more normal (but still incredibly quirky) life. The stories aren't arranged in any particular order, and there are some really, really good ones in here. My hands-down favorite chapter is "Moving Violations," which describes the author's experiences driving around with his friend Druggy Debby during his teenage years, startling bad drivers by flashing them with enlarged photos of hard-core porn. (I laughed so hard reading that part, my husband actually stepped away from his computer game to see what the hell what was so funny. That is HUGE.)

If you want to read a book written by America's funniest and cleverest writer, "Possible Side Effects" is for you.
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48 of 58 people found the following review helpful By John J. Avery on May 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
more weirdness from my favorite writer. vignettes ranging from being terrorized by the tooth fairy to a dog named cow. delighted to see an appearance from his bizarre family again. maybe because his family's neurosis resembled mine. slightly twisted, slightly campy, always funny. some might find his humor a little too dark, not me. he's also discovered he's no longer unrecognizable to the public. my favorite chapter is the one on his brother who for years went undiagnosed with asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism. their interaction with each other is often hilarious, and I loved his brother's nickname's for his family, augusten was "varmint", mom was "slave" and dad "stupid". the back flap has augusten's website address. where he previews his next three books. many giggles throughout, and every bit as funny as anything david sedaris has written. seemingly effortless writing, and razor sharp wit. some may say that it's not up to his usual high standards, but I disagree.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Amy on August 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"Possible Side Effects" is a side-splittingly funny, brilliantly self-aware autobiography that reads like a novel. Burroughs' book puts you squarely into his head. And if you're the type of person destined to be a Burroughs' fan, you'll probably be relieved to get out of your own head for a while.

Does David Sedaris make you laugh so hard you cry? Then you'll also love Burroughs -- a wonderful and insightful writer who does all of the heavy lifting for us lucky stiffs in his adoring audience.

Buy this book. Read it. Wait a while. Read the best parts again. Then give it to someone who's been good lately. Better yet, give it to someone who's been bad.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Casey Dangel on May 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I'm a big fan of this guy, bought this as soon as I could get my hands on it, and cruised right though it. I loved it, and if you like Burroughs' frantic, neurotic writing, like I do, you will not be disappointed. Just like I did while reading his other books, I found myself vascilating between squrming and laughing. And for me, this is the true indicator of good writing -- it grabs me emotionally and makes me feel something.

In this latest collection you'll find essays about Burrough's days spent in the world of advertising, and of course trips back to his (almost unbelievably) tragic childhood. He's stopped drinking and doping by now, but seems to have replaced these vices with other addictions -- nicotine gum, junk food, and, as always, wild, out-of-control introspection.

You'll also find more stories about his brother with Asperger's Syndrom and his depressed mother, all written with a level of sincerity and wry wit that should make David Sedaris jealous.

Is it all true? I've never thought all of his stories were true, and I haven't really cared, but this is the first of his books to actually come out and admit it, in an introductory note. The writing is so good it doesn't really matter. As one other famous memoirist said: Pretend it's fiction.
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