Fans of Augusten Burroughs's darkly funny memoir Running with Scissors
were left wondering at the end of that book what would become of young Augusten after his squalid and fascinating childhood ended. In Dry
, we find that although adult Augusten is doing well professionally, earning a handsome living as an ad writer for a top New York agency, Burroughs's personal life is a disaster. His apartment is a sea of empty Dewar's bottles, he stays out all night boozing, and he dabs cologne on his tongue in an unsuccessful attempt to mask the stench of alcohol on his breath at work. When his employer insists he seek help, Burroughs ships out to Minnesota for detoxification, counseling, and amusingly told anecdotes about the use of stuffed animals in group therapy. But after a month of such treatment, he's back in Manhattan and tenuously sober. And while its one thing to lay off the sauce in rehab, Burroughs learns that it's quite another to resume your former life while avoiding the alcohol that your former life was based around. This quest to remain sober is made dramatically more difficult, and the tale more harrowing, when Burroughs begins an ill-advised romance with a crack addict. Certainly the "recovered alcoholic fighting to stay sober" tale is not new territory for a memoirist. But Burroughs's account transcends clichés: it doesn't adhere to the traditional "temptation narrowly resisted" storyline and it features, in Burroughs himself, a central character that is sympathetic even when he's neither likable nor admirable. But what ultimately makes this memoir such a terrific read is a brilliant and candid sense of humor that manages to stay dry even when recalling events where the author was anything but. --John Moe
From Publishers Weekly
None of the many readers of Burroughs's mordant memoir debut, Running with Scissors, would doubt that its entertainingly twisted author could manage, by page 41 of his new installment, to check himself into America's frumpiest alcohol rehab facility for gays. Burroughs has a knack for ending up in depraved situations and a vibrant talent for writing about them. Asked to sign reams of legal forms before entering rehab, he notes, "the real Augusten would never stand for this. The real Augusten would say, `Could I get a Bloody Mary, extra Tabasco... and the check?' " Alas, Burroughs's co-workers are tired of him embarrassing clients by spraying Donna Karan for Men not only around his neck but also on his tongue to mask the tangy miasma of alcohol, and they insist he seek help. Initially repulsed by his recovery program's maudlin language and mind-numbing platitudes, Burroughs eventually makes a steadfast, equally incredulous friend in rehab, finds his own salvation and confidently re-enters society. But when he falls for a wealthy crack addict and his best friend begins to succumb to AIDS, the support he'd enjoyed in rehab begins to crumble. One of the many pleasures of Burroughs's first book was the happy revelation that despite the author's surreal, crueler-than-Dickensian upbringing, he managed to land among a tribe of fellow eccentrics. Burroughs strains here to replicate that zany tone and occasionally indulges in navel-gazing, but readers accustomed to his heady cocktail of fizzy humor and epiphanic poignancy won't be disappointed.
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