This is the story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of grandeur) gave him away to be raised by her psychiatrist, a dead ringer for Santa Claus and a certifiable lunatic into the bargain. Suddenly at the age of 12, Augusten found himself living in a dilapidated Victorian house in perfect squalor. The doctor’s bizarre family, a few patients and a paedophile living in the garden shed completed the tableau. Here, there were no rules or school. The Christmas tree stayed up until Summer and valium was chomped down like sweets. When things got a bit slow, there was always the ancient electroshock therapy machine under the stairs.
“Bookman gave me attention. We would go for long walks and talk about all sorts of things. Like how awful the nuns were in his Catholic school when he was a kid and how you have to roll your lips over your teeth when you give a blowjob,” writes Burroughs (Sellevision) about his affair, at age 13, with the 33-year-old son of his mother’s psychiatrist. That his mother sent him to live with her shrink (who felt that the affair was good therapy for Burroughs) shows that this is not just another 1980s coming-of-age story. The son of a poet with a “wild mental imbalance” and a professor with a “pitch-black dark side,” Burroughs is sent to live with Dr. Finch when his parents separate and his mother comes out as a lesbian. While life in the Finch household is often overwhelming (the doctor talks about masturbating to photos of Golda Meir while his wife rages about his adulterous behavior), Burroughs learns “your life [is] your own and no adult should be allowed to shape it for you.” There are wonderful moments of paradoxical humor Burroughs, who accepts his homosexuality as a teen, rejects the squeaky-clean pop icon Anita Bryant because she was “tacky and classless” as well as some horrifying moments, as when one of Finch’s daughters has a semi-breakdown and thinks that her cat has come back from the dead. Beautifully written with a finely tuned sense of style and wit the occasional clich‚ (“Life would be fabric-softener, tuna-salad-on-white, PTA-meeting normal”) stands out anomalously this memoir of a nightmarish youth is both compulsively entertaining and tremendously provocative.”
‘This true story is a match for the strangest… Running with Scissors reads like an extremely well crafted and crazed sitcom, a mix of Jerry Springer and Seinfeld… Funny, moving and extraordinary’
Christina Patterson, Independent
‘Bawdy, outrageous, often hilarious… so flippant and so insanely funny’
New York Times
‘A story so strange, it could never be fiction… deftly written, smart and funny’
‘Burroughs will be hard pressed ever to better this, his debut effort… It’s one you’ll never forget’
Alice Fisher, Time Out
‘Dave Pelzer with a whoopee cushion attached… Genuinely memorable’
AUGUSTEN BURROUGHS is the eighteenth grandson of King James the Second of Scotland. Not that this has done him the slightest good. He has no hobbies, interests or skills, other than writing about himself. He lives in New York.
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Specification: Running with Scissors: A Memoir