There is a passage early in Augusten Burroughs's harrowing and highly entertaining memoir, Running with Scissors
, that speaks volumes about the author. While going to the garbage dump with his father, young Augusten spots a chipped, glass-top coffee table that he longs to bring home. "I knew I could hide the chip by fanning a display of magazines on the surface, like in a doctor's office," he writes, "And it certainly wouldn't be dirty after I polished it with Windex for three hours." There were certainly numerous chips in the childhood Burroughs describes: an alcoholic father, an unstable mother who gives him up for adoption to her therapist, and an adolescence spent as part of the therapist's eccentric extended family, gobbling prescription meds and fooling around with both an old electroshock machine and a pedophile who lives in a shed out back. But just as he dreamed of doing with that old table, Burroughs employs a vigorous program of decoration and fervent polishing to a life that many would have simply thrown in a landfill. Despite her abandonment, he never gives up on his increasingly unbalanced mother. And rather than despair about his lot, he glamorizes it: planning a "beauty empire" and performing an a capella version of "You Light Up My Life" at a local mental ward. Burroughs's perspective achieves a crucial balance for a memoir: emotional but not self-involved, observant but not clinical, funny but not deliberately comic. And it's ultimately a feel-good story: as he steers through a challenging childhood, there's always a sense that Burroughs's survivor mentality will guide him through and that the coffee table will be salvaged after all. --John Moe
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
"Nobody ever told me what to do, so why did I always feel so trapped?" questions Burroughs (Sellevision), in this flawless audio adaptation of his alternately riotous and heartbreaking memoir. At age 11, when the mood of his family home changed from one of "mere hatred to potential double homicide," Burroughs found himself abandoned by his unemotional, professor father and chain-smoking, wannabe-poet mother. Dumped at his parents' psychiatrist's roach-infested Victorian home, which contained enough confusion to keep his mind off the fact that his parents didn't want him, the author recalls in a voice as mutable and unique as his unconventional childhood the bizarre details of daily life in a home where bowel movements were seen as messages from God, staged suicides were a means of quitting school and sexual relationships between boys and middle-aged men were deemed acceptable. Infusing each character with personality, Burroughs most brilliantly captures his mother's distinctive Southern inflection with a voice that sounds like its been through a curling iron and the booming, deep voice of the shrink who adopted him. Despite the often heavy content, Burroughs alleviates this gravity with his unwavering sarcasm and humor, further enhanced by his knack for employing kitschy cultural references to the 1970s and '80s.
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