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Running with Scissors
Release Date: October, 2002
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
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
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I guess I really am normal
Posted by Anonymous on 8/12/2002
You know, everyone complains about how strange their families are, and I'm no exception. My family has stories, but after reading this, I guess I really am normal. ... Although the subject matter is fairly disturbing, I think the book is ultimately uplifting and humorous. Burroughs uses dark humor to make his subject matter easier to handle, but he really does show how horrible and stifling his childhood was. The characters are very developed, and the author is extremely insightful and reflective. However, if you don't like dealing with graphic sexuality, I would recommend not reading this. If, on the other hand, that doesn't really bother you, you'll read this in about 2 or 3 days.
Posted by Anonymous on 6/22/2002
...and oh so funny.
This is one of those memoirs that compels you to read "just one more chapter" until you find you've finished the entire book while the work you meant to do piles up, suddenly unimportant. I have not laughed this hard since I read Naked by David Sedaris. The details alone catapult one back into the sordid seventies and eighties, while the characters leap off the page in all their gruesomely hilarious glory. I don't think I've ever read anything like this - Burroughs is a true original, and deftly avoids sentimentality or the urge to make his characters sympathetic. It's a wonderful book. I cannot wait to see what this young genius thinks of next. Highly recommended, and hugely entertaining.
What do you want to be, when YOU grow up
Posted by Michael Allison on 9/14/2003
I read this book in two sittings. When I read the notes, I wanted it to be a biography, not fiction, well I must not have read close enough. Because it is as real as it is troubling and hilarious. Augusten Burrough's boyhood unraveled for all to see. I was impressed by not only the story, which is a classic, but Burroughs style and pacing. For all the heavy topics, he seems to be able to write it as he experienced it -- a troubled maybe, but seemingly optimistic, boy. From the beginning you identify with Burroughs. He brings out those generic memories long forgotten, like waiting for dad to get home and hearing the gravel pop under the wheels of the tires. But within that you start to sense a pattern of disturbance. And even if you can't identify with his fixation for shiny objects and desire to market hair products, or play a doctor on TV. You can identify with the fear and uncertainty of a young boy growing up without the normal anchors and boundaries. Uncertain about himself, his future and his family. This is a heroic work. It is sad and painful at times but up beat and uplfiting in the end. It is not without uncertainty and sorrow, but peppered also with humor and insight. In short it is a damn good slice of a boy's life.
Wickedly funny, but EXTREMELY disturbing!
Posted by Melissa Niksic on 8/5/2006
"Running with Scissors" is one of the most entertaining books I've read in a long time. The fact that this book is a memoir is absolutely horrifying to me...I cannot believe all this stuff actually HAPPENED! Then again, the characters and events depicted in the book are so outlandish that even the best of writers would have a hard time making them up.
Basically, this memoir tells the true story of how author Augusten Burroughs spent the latter part of his childhood. Augusten's father abandons him and leaves him all alone with his psychotic mother, Deirdre, who seeks counsel from Dr. Finch, a quirky psychiatrist who bears a striking resemblance to Santa Claus. To say that Dr. Finch's methods are unconventional would be an understatement. The man is OUT OF HIS MIND! He embraces and encourages his patient's hostile psychotic episodes, allows his most unstable patients to move in with him, and even convinces Augusten to stage a suicide attempt to avoid going to school. Then there's the rest of the Finch family, and they're all as crazy as their patriarch. At first Augusten is completely turned off by the Finch clan, but he eventually warms up to them because they seem to be a better alternative than his crazy mother (which isn't saying much). Deirdre shocks Augusten turning over her legal parental guardianship to Dr. Finch, and Augusten moves into a house where rules don't exist and adolescents are encouraged to enter into homosexual sexual relationships with 30-year-old adults...SERIOUSLY!
As horrifying as this whole experience is, Burroughs presents the whole story with a very dry sense of humor that kept me laughing with each turn of the page. This is an amazing story that will keep you engaged from the very beginning, and it also happens to be incredibly well-written. "Running with Scissors" is a must-read for everyone!