My friend and coworker suggested Augusten Burroughs’s Running with Scissors, saying something along the lines of “OMG IT IS LAUGH-OUT-LOUD FUNNY, YOU WILL FALL OUT OF YOUR CHAIR.” I read it and . . . didn’t. This is not at all to say that I did not like it—I did. There was just no chair-falling involved in it for me.
Burroughs’s memoir focuses on his childhood and early teen years in Massachusetts. After his parents’ divorce at age 12, he lives briefly with his mother before being more-or-less (and, later, legally) adopted by his mother’s psychiatrist, Dr. Finch. The Finch household is truly disgusting, overrun with roaches, feces, and children. Dr. Finch believes that children shouldn’t be told what to do (or where to live) after the age of 13, and brings his family up accordingly. The young Augusten loves smooth hair, shiny coins, and pleated pants, and is at first shocked and repulsed by his new surroundings. Soon, though, he becomes solidly ingrained in the Finch lifestyle, as Natalie Finch becomes his constant companion and Augusten’s mother veers toward complete insanity.
As a memoir, RwS was filled with enough shocking events and crazy characters to make for a real page-turner (I started and finished it in the same day). The tone is dry and extremely self-deprecating; I can sort of see why my friend found it hysterical, but I mainly found it tragic.
Princess Diana was almost like a parallel-universe version of Natalie. A version that didn’t give her first blowjob at eleven, wasn’t traded for cash by her father at thirteen, and didn’t long for a job as a counter girl at McDonald’s.
As quickly as I read it, I didn’t recover quite as fast. Partly because of my friend’s comments, I spent most of the book searching for this unbounded hilarity, and coming up dry. My friend aside, though, this is the kind of book that slaps you in the face and forces a reaction out of you. What it doesn’t do is clarify the appropriate reaction, and this kept me guessing and page-turning throughout the entire book.