Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Augusten Burroughs

As of late, I have really been on an Augusten Burroughs kick. In the past week, I have read three of his five novels and have started a fourth.

When I went to see The Devil Wears Prada, I saw the preview for Running With Scissors. From the first few seconds of the preview I was hooked. I loved the bland dysfunction reminiscent of The Royal Tenenbaums and the incidental background music of "Benny and the Jets" made it purely lackadaisical. I would later learn that the dark water heart-throb, Joseph Fiennes, would be returning to the silver screen from his home with the Royal Shakespeare Company to do this film. The lure of Joseph Fiennes has always been more than enough to convince me to sign off my soul to Lucifer and buy a one-way ticket to Mongolia if the situation called for it.

I spent the entirety of The Devil Wears Prada shaking my foot up and down and scribbling nonsensically in my journal about Running With Scissors and Joseph Fiennes. As soon as the film ended (and it really was a spectacular film. I only wish I had read the novel prior to. I had, after all, purchased it months ago and left it to rot in one of my dozens of towers of books), I shot out the steel cinema door into the dusty sunlight and bought the nearest copy of Running With Scissors.

I soon discovered that this was one book I should not recommend to the feint of heart or my Catholic Republican boyfriend. The novel was splattered with drugs, sex, psychotic outbursts and dysfunction.

I loved it.

I felt like I was carrying around my dirty little secret as I clutched the book in my hand and toted it from place to place. Reading it everywhere I went, I secretly wished that some one would glance over my should and see the word "Valium" or "blow job."

Augusten Burroughs' quick-paced scenes and upside down occurrences had me feeling...well, normal. It was a comfort to know that no matter how dysfunctional my half-hearted family is, I at least had a less scarring childhood than Burroughs.

Although one thing throughout my reading of the two memoirs (Running With Scissors and Dry) repeatedly irked me. The back cover of each had endless quotes from The New York Times and The Washington Post praising the endless comedy of the novel. Hysterics, perhaps. But not laugh-out-loud comedy. I was tickled by the absurdity of the first novel, but found no quips of humor. The sequel, Dry, seemed to be the complete opposite. There was no particular unbelievable circumstances (in comparison to it's predecessor at least), but I did feel that its occasional dry humor balanced out the two books.

It was in about the third chapter of Dry that I finally started believe Augusten Burroughs may have deserved that title of Entertainment Weekly's 25 Funniest People in America. It happened when Augusten was on the phone registering for rehab while drinking some ale:

"It occurred to me that this action was somewhat contrary. Like stopping in Baby Gap
before having an abortion."
Yet, by this time I was cursed. On the back cover of one of the books I had read a critic compare him to the likes of David Sedaris. I thought this was fantastic praise until I read in the acknowledgments that Amy Sedaris had helped him trudge his way through the editing process. Well, after that I couldn't help but picture Amy Sedaris plopping in one-liners every few pages to heighten the affect of the novel. Each time as I wiped tears from beneath my eyes and half-scolded myself for laughing in public, I subconsciously accredited said joke to Amy Sedaris. I'm certain that this isn't true. Amy Sedaris has a different style than what I saw written. Plus, the acknowledgements also thanked a handful of other authors for supplying Burroughs with little quips.
Despite my inability to view Burroughs' works as "funny books", I can say that Burroughs has the most addicting writing I have yet to see. I find the plots to roll one after another in a patchwork of interesting connections. The absurdities are constantly unraveling and I feel satisfied with a hidden, twisted life lesson in each chapter.
Kudos to Augusten Burroughs for being able to type out his life as I one day hope to do. Who knows, maybe I will thank him in the acknowledgements of my first memoir and everyone will think "So that's how she's so funny. She has Augusten Burroughs editing her work!"


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