Book choice for June

Running with Scissors: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs [suggested by Ben Monk]

front cover

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 medicines and fooling around with both an old electroshock machine and a paedophile 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 glamorises it: planning a "beauty empire" and performing an a cappella version of "You Light Up My Life" at a local mental ward.

Burroughs' 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' survivor mentality will guide him through and that the coffee table will be salvaged after all. [this review from]

Augusten Burroughs was born in 1965 and raised in Western Massachusetts.  He is the author of the memoirs Running with Scissors (2002) and Dry (2003), and the essay collections, Magical Thinking: True Stories (2004) and Possible Side Effects (2006), all of which were instant bestsellers both in hardcover and paperback.  The #1 New York Times bestseller, Running with Scissors, has remained on the New York Times bestseller list for over two-and-a-half consecutive years.  He is also the author of the novel, Sellevision (2000), which is currently in development for film.  His books are published in over 25 countries.  The film of Running with Scissors, written and directed by Ryan Murphy (creator of Nip/Tuck) and executive produced by Brad Pitt, will be released on October 10th, 2006.  Critics have raved about the film in private press screenings and Oscar buzz is building in the national media.  The picture stars Annette Bening, Alec Baldwin, Brian Cox, Jill Clayburgh, Joeseph Fiennes, Gwenyth Paltrow, Evan Rachel Wood, with newcomer Joe Cross portraying Augusten.  Augusten himself is featured in the film at the very end.  The film version of Sellevision is in pre-production, to be adapted for the screen and directed by Mark Bozek.

The above rather out of date bio is taken from the Augusten Burroughs website.  As usual he also a Wikipedia page.


Shortlisted for this month

For three months from May 2007 Chorlton Chapters is experimenting with a new way of choosing our monthly read.  Offering a choice of three books each month to a vote tended to result in very similar books being chosen.  In an effort to introduce more variety in the reading material we are allowing a single person, chosen by ballot during the meeting, to propose the book for the following month.  There are therefore no "shortlisted" books for this month.


Previous Months' Book Choices

May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006