Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Stranger than Fiction

I just finished Augusten Burroughs’ Running with Scissors last night and all I can think is I will never complain about my childhood AGAIN. This is the witty and eccentric biography of Burroughs childhood after his histrionic mother and alcoholic father divorce, leaving young Augusten to be raised simultaneously by his mother and his mother’s psychiatrist, Dr. Finch. I use the term "raised" loosely as his bringing up was more akin to being shot out of a canon. Augusten’s pre-teen and teen years were spent mostly in the Finch home filled with drugs, statutory rape, absolute filth, a staged suicide attempt and……a Christmas tree that stayed up past May! Gasp!

It is almost unfathomable to me that this was actually his true story. Running with Scissors reads more like a horror novel to responsible parents everywhere than a work of non-fiction! My childhood was a stay-at-home PTA mom who baked cookies and made 4 dozen gingerbread houses into the wee hours of the night for her kid’s class. It was school dances, family vacations, and spending summers at the neighborhood pool. My childhood was what I assumed every kid’s childhood was. Very different from Augusten Burroughs.

Half of the time I was reading this book, my mouth was fixated in a look of horror and disgust, and the other half of the time I was laughing in a fit of hysterics at the sheer ridiculousness of these situations. Burroughs writes in a David Sedaris-esque way, but unlike Sedaris, Burroughs’ childhood is more one of sheer lunacy than quirkiness. But he writes about his childhood with just enough charm so that the reader doesn’t feel sorry for him. He acknowledges his unusual past and owns it in a way that’s almost victorious.

We’re discussing this book tomorrow night at our Non-Fiction Book Discussion at KPL and I can’t wait to hear what the others thought of it. Most likely the folks at book club will describe this book with a mixture of bewilderment and awe that the author survived it all. People say truth is stranger than fiction and in this case it’s true – I can’t think of anything stranger than Running with Scissors.

Allison Beasley
Head of Adult Services


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