Audiobook Review: Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

This is how things in Burroughs' teenage life seem: crazy, fucked up, strange, twisted, bizarre, strange, screwy, abnormal, difficult... (I'm running out of an internal thesaurus on words to replace "just plain weird.").

All of these words and more can be used to describe Burroughs' teenage life, and his accounting of those experiences in his first memoir (which I am totally late to the game in finally reading), Running with Scissors. Seriously, how has it taken me ten years to discover this little gem of an essay collection-cum-memoir?

Running with Scissors
recounts Burroughs' bizarre tale, in which his mother goes off the deep end and gives him to her therapist, where Burroughs then lives out his teenage years in a school-less, rule-less anarchy, befriending the doctor's children, sabotaging the pink Victorian house in which the doctor lives, exploring his sexuality (with the aid of a 30+-year-old), and living an all-out chaotic existence while pondering the future and his path.

Burroughs jumps from one tale to another, reminding me of an essay collection more than a straight memoir. His stories are straight (though he is very openly not) and true (not to mention funny, touching, and at times even thoughtful). He attacks the wildness of his past with a satirical gusto; his tone throughout says, "I know this is crazy, and you're tempted to feel bad for me. But don't. Let's all just have a little laugh about how surreal this all sounds. Because really, who lets a 14-year-old knock a hole in the kitchen ceiling in order to self-construct a skylight?"

And because Burroughs refuses to pity himself in his reflections, the stories in Running with Scissors are not overwrought or dripping with emotional goop. They are straight and witty and funny and telling; but because this is one of the most bizarre teenage experiences I've heard about (seriously, Holden, you got nothing on this kid), the stories also give pause and force the reader (or in my case, listener) to think about friendships, family, and belonging - not to mention mental illness and its impact on both the patient and his or her loved ones.

Bottom line: Running with Scissors is a rip-roaring success; I'm just ten years late in realizing it. The audio version, narrated by Augusten Burroughs himself, is excellent; Burroughs' dry tone shines through, and (not surprisingly, because he's narrating his own writing), is the perfect fit for the stories he recounts.

1 comment

  1. I have fallen madly in love with audiobooks, and looks like I'm going to have to add this one to the list. I'm ten years too late on this one, too! :)


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