Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Running with Scissors by Augustine Burroughs

A quote by Burroughs' editor Jennifer Ecklin: "Here is a book you are either going to love, or totally not love, but you will never forget what's in it.... People have very strong reactions to it, one way or the other, but they can't get certain images out of their heads. Even as you're going along, reading it, there are parts where you can't believe you're laughing." ~Washington Post, July 30, 2002.

My first instinct as a librarian who deals with reader's advisory is to tell you NOT to read this book. I have read "A Child Called 'It'" and "The Glass Castle," so I am familiar with some disturbing childhood memoirs but this one was the most disgusting, and to me, unbelievable of them all, one I could not with good conscience recommend to anyone.

However, some readers enjoy the fantastic and horrific which is why stories like this one become so popular: they are controversial and unforgettable.

Augustine Burroughs spent his teen years living with his mother's psychiatrist after she signed over legal guardianship. The cast of his childhood is very colorful, which includes his 30-something year old male lover Neal who he meets while living with his mother's shrink, his mother the lesbian poet whose psychostic ravings include smashing all of her dishes on her front lawn, the Santa Claus look-a-like psychiatrist Dr. Finch who sees messages from God in his bowel movements and spends an inordinant amount of time in his "masturbatoriam", his mother's girlfriend Dorothy who thinks it is hysterical to watch his mother bathe in a bathtub with bubblebath and broken glass, and the doctor's daughter Hope who kills their housecat by suffocating it in a laundry basket in an effort to cure it from an invisible disease and asks God questions by doing "Bible dips".

I admit, there were certain moments in the book where I couldn't help but laugh at the absurdity of it all. However, for the most part, I felt horrified and had my eyebrows permanently raised in suspicion that the author wasn't just pulling my leg. I kept waiting for the next line to be, "Gottcha!" Reading this story was like reading a terrible article in a newspaper, like mentally ill children locked in cages, and wishing you had never picked it up in the first place.


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