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Dry: A Memoir Paperback – April 1, 2004
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“Laughter on the road to sobriety. Mr. Burroughs remains adept at mixing comedy and calamity.”--Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“More than a heartbreaking tale; it’s a heroic one. As with its predecessor, we finish the book amazed not only that Burroughs can write so brilliantly, but that he’s even alive.”--People
“[A] wrenching, edifying journey...with the added benefit of being really entertaining.”--The New York Times Book Review
“A deeper book than Scissors, revealing Burroughs to be a more accomplished writer, creating scenes of real power.”--Deirdre Donahue, USA Today
“Beneath the quick-flowing, funny-sad surface of Burroughs’ prose lurks considerable complexity: wherever he goes, whatever he’s doing, you can feel how badly he wants to drink--as well as the sadness from which that desire comes and the courage it takes to make the sadness so funny, all at the same time. If anything, Dry is even more compelling than Burroughs’ first outing.”--Lev Grossman, Time
“A frank, shockingly hilarious memoir of booze, family, loss, and victory. All along the way, this writer’s warmth, honesty and irreverence win our allegiance. It’s a mark of the depth and wholeness of the person who emerges here that we not only laugh with him but wind up caring deeply as well. Dry will make readers glad to have Augusten Burroughs in the world, and eager for more.”--O Magazine
“Augusten Burroughs is a wickedly good writer. Dry is the second part of Burroughs’ chronicle of his--shall we say--unusual life...a brutally honest view of the twisted culture that can thrive in an ad agency...All in all, Dry is a great read. Grade: A.”--Chicago Sun-Times
“Burroughs is a brilliant writer--wickedly funny, painfully honest, and uber-cool. Without cheapening the hard work and commitment recovery requires, he allows the wry hilarity of his experience to shine brighter than the pain and darkness. I haven’t read anything this sharp, hip,
or honest in my life. Count me as a lifelong fan of this courageous writer.”--Elle Magazine
About the Author
Augusten Burroughs is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Running with Scissors, Magical Thinking, and, most recently, Possible Side Effects, which have also been New York Times bestsellers and are published around the world. A film version of Running with Scissors was adapted for the screen by Ryan Murphy. Augusten has been named one of the fifteen funniest people in America by Entertainment Weekly. He lives in New York City and western Massachusetts.
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I can only barely recall certain things about the family in that-darn bad memory. Did not connect this to this writer then. His brother's book, in a way, was a good read. Helpful for my thinking about autism.
Then after finishing this book I read his mother's blog and webpage and the poems are good. I realize I haven't read "Running With Scissors" when everyone else has, but I read the wiki on it tonight, three interviews with him too including VFair. I read his commentary on his mother. A lot of real bitterness.
But I have to say that whatever they did these parents and kids managed to get into the highly published category.
You or I write about difficult childhoods- it remains babble on a blog. So, somehow I wondered about that. Perhaps in one of the slew of memoirs that Burrough's family have out there- they can consider doing one that could be called " On Plugging Ourselves With Knives" -on just exactly how all this got to print and how a family got so embedded in the notion of being heard just for being-they lead the pack for me right now. Yikes. I'd find that interesting as a place to start. You wonder at a certain point how many different ways one family can mine their years together where things "didn't go well."
Basically for me, here's my story. (Let's see if this way of going holds for the audience)
I had a good friend that finally I just could not take any more. After 16 years I realized I was tired. She's a failed psychologist and a public school teacher that feels she's been wronged all her life. She'd like a rich husband, furniture from Pottery Barn, wealth and to be recognized as smart. Anyway, over time, I was sharing with her a complicated story of someone I was writing to on-line and the fact they were then shocking me by writing they were in re-hab. She worked for awhile as a rehab counselor until she had a crack up and went into teaching in public school-slumming it as she says. I was wanting to know more about addiction, re-hab, AA and so on to understand better the experience I had of this person. Because I realized I had missed something very important.
She kept insisting, as she has insisted, I read Burroughs. Read "Dry." Which clearly she loved. I get why she'd love him. Gutting his family, the deep resentments, the tone of his work, his borderline personality...all of that would be perfect ground for her. Here is someone not worried about the other guy- and terrific at justification. Who admits to things like drinking- with the agenda of procuring your money, attention and to gain sympathy, because, after all he found out life is very unfair. She must read him in utter awe. His life is what she'd like to do. Her drama, sense of exaggeration, the need to tell and retell and tell some more to reshape history. It's all up her alley.
So I didn't read it.
I didn't feel like it.
But after I decided to stop this friendship I thought-it's summer-I'll read it. I am now free from the thirty or forty- five to ten hour phone calls if I say I read it-listening to her talk about her-her damage, her feelings, her reliving what no longer even resembles what she lives.
"Dry" is a recounting of a person who did a lot of stupid things, most especially drinking to the point of nearly extinguishing their humanity. And who handled some bad stuff badly and hurt themselves rather critically. I have no idea at all if what's left has hope-I think he's really so broken- to continue to give him so much attention-it seems practical to do it with a warning label. Attention:Memoir written with an agenda.
I don't think it's such an accomplishment not to understand compassion, loyalty, love, another, generosity of spirit, humility, I don't think you can then listen to him fumble around in a self help position as if he's doing this for YOU. J*sus you must be kidding me. I think he's really desperately ill. But that said, Dry is sarcastic, which is called humorous, it reveals his story of a rehab experience, his recounting of ways to sc*ew up, his insensitivity, his excuses, his damage, his trauma, very little of his understanding what he's missing-a dry martini for sure-thrown right into your eyes. It tells about how he functioned when he had to become sober-which we must assume happened-though not from this, somehow later, and his friend who you see no reason would be a friend nor would you want to friend either really-is dying in the book, then too a rather crappy story of his addiction like affection for a gorgeous guy in the right after rehab days- that he takes up with in therapy who is a crack addict-so he can throw in the sex for more degradation.... That relationship doesn't "work out." Surprise?
I don't know. I just read in an interview that Burroughs wants people to look at themselves after reading this-to look at their addictions-you know-to go somehow help yourself. Objectively-let's face it- he wants you to look at him. Augusten wants to be a rock star.
I don't think he gives a rat's *ass if you are struggling, frankly, and I think he tells you that in ways you can look at objectively. He is broken. And he's not willing to jettison how. But I'll give you my two cents on where to look. Can you show me one place in this book where this person makes you feel real connection to something like a celebration of life, to joy, caring, not that he finally took some interest in his dying friend by recounting he cleaned his poop-oh poor noble suffering Augusten-I mean where you feel that he honestly feels someone else is more important than he is?
I just feel like here's an ad man-empty-is selling me this stuff to get wealthy, and to be famous. For the attention.
I don't see him actually sponsoring people, which would be free and take time, or going to work in anonymity for the rest of his life on skid row with addicts-which is actually doing the work, or even talking about it as I know from several friends as it can be to dedicate a life to this...this for me is a lot what I think of when I think of good old Dr. Drew. Because that's what real insight would bring, over accumulation of wealth- I feel him sensationalize the 2000 bottles of whatever as he recounts the old days of addiction for the audience. I suppose I should disclose that I think he's mean, I think he's angry and I think he is really afraid of being an utterly worthless bast*rd-and there's not a lot here to point away from him being more like his parents as he states them than not...
Ok. Did I get a picture of rehab? Not really.
Do I better understand an alcoholic? Are they really "a type" I think about it. I think about reductionism. This book hinges on that.
I don't know. The thing is, I really don't understand from this. I may have missed something, but I don't think for all of this it's getting to what I was looking to read. It would seem to me that a person falls into these things to feel better, to cope-to deal with fears, fear of death so on, to distance from overwhelming pain and grief. Maybe to even escape real self evaluation..
I started with my friend, I'll end there- because I see they have similar issues. And I may see this because I glimpse my own self. In her case she speaks of her great authenticity, her personal insights, her depth of growth but, truthfully? I think she functions in incredibly controlling, dramatic, self-involved, emotionally exhausting, stage-like ways that demand her performance and everyone else is either adoring audience- or don't exist for her. What's the difference here? Burroughs is quoted in interviews, in the text , and in other piece I found today of his memoir-ettes- as so proud of not giving a shit about what anyone thinks (the road to confidence don't you know-such a perversion of Zen I still can't believe he calls this being in the moment), cutting off a relationship with a mother- long a serious stroke survivor -and my gosh he's just cruel in what he says. My former friend-terribly proud for not raising a finger to help her presently dying mom(but loving to use her as an excuse to miss week's of work to go somewhere else to work on her second run at a PHD)-an alcoholic mom-one she let raise her daughter to age nine when her mother wanted custody and she in a fury took back on what was her responsibility in the first place.As she tells everyone how she was a self reliant "single mom"- well, ok, only kinda. What I see in her is no ability to recognize what she received- I saw that echoing in this memoir where there is just so much that needs serious therapy and reduction to what he smirkingly asserts and what is.Can anyone really miss what that stuff on sally Struthers says about him. Mean. I did reflect. I am, and have been, thinking that all the memoir writing in the world is not the same as honest communication and a little bit of forgiveness and honesty.
It's not easy to resist re-writing history, it is about saying "I was," but...there is an awful lot to be said for caring more about who you hurt over who hurt you.
This book is not a memoir. It's a fictional story strung together from some real life inspiration. In his attempt to entertain and keep this story at a nice clip, Burroughs barely dips below the surface of what kind of emotional issues he's dealing with. We all know about his insane childhood from "running with scissors" which he re-caps, and he mentions his loneliness here and there, but that's about it. There's isn't anything revelatory about any of it, how he's coping with his past emotional trauma but through drinking and his stint in rehab.
He's pretty cheeky all the way through the narrative. But it's lacking in the honesty of a memoir, b/c it's so very obvious he's made up a lot of scenarios in the book. So I don't trust him, I'm skeptical of how much he's exaggerated and stretched even seemingly honest moments because I don't trust him and I don't like feeling duped into some story someone is making up under the auspicious of memoir.
It's fiction lite. It's "Leaving Las Vegas" with some self-deprecating humor, i'll give it 3 stars for that.
I kind of felt like Burroughs gave us a weasel, and we fell for it.
I can't put a finger on why I felt this: perhaps the whiz-banginess, or the uncannily-timed happening of events, or vignettes that were a little too precious, but it just felt like BS to me. And partway through I started to see some inconsistencies. For example, when Pighead is dying, Burroughs recalls a trip in Massachusets the previous fall, and Pighead says he would do anything to go back to it. Then, just a chapter or so later he references that drive to Massachusets "All those years ago".
So...I went hunting and there is an enormous disclaimer at the beginning of the book that says, in so many words, that "names have been changed (unsurprising), characters have been combined (a little more surprising) stories have been embellished and in some cases just outright made up (wholly surprising)."
Perhaps I'm just bitter because I worked on an MFA in creative non-fiction but there was an expectation then (20 years ago) that a memoir would be as honest as possible wherever possible, otherwise, it should not be called a memoir. I watched people I went to graduate school with write non fiction material and slave over facts and realities for many years (see Rebecca Skloot). So it just seems like, well, bs that someone cashes in on a memoir with a tiny disclaimer that it is not, in reality, true.
To be fair, the book is a great and engaging read, just take it for what it is. Writers have been taken down for their stories being BS. I'm really surprised Burroughs escaped this.