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Running with Scissors

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Running with Scissors is the true story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of Anne Sexton) gave him away to be raised by her unorthodox psychiatrist who bore a striking resemblance to Santa Claus. So at the age of twelve, Burroughs found himself amidst Victorian squalor living with the doctor’s bizarre family, and befriending a pedophile who resided in the backyard shed. The story of an outlaw childhood where rules were unheard of, and the Christmas tree stayed up all year round, where Valium was consumed like candy, and if things got dull an electroshock- therapy machine could provide entertainment. The funny, harrowing and bestselling account of an ordinary boy’s survival under the most extraordinary circumstances.

336 pages, Paperback

First published July 10, 2002

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About the author

Augusten Burroughs

34 books8,586 followers
Augusten Burroughs born Christopher Robison, son of poet and writer Margaret Robison and younger brother of John Elder Robison.

Burroughs has no formal education beyond elementary school. A very successful advertising copywriter for over seventeen years, he was also an alcoholic who nearly drank himself to death in 1999. But spurned by a compulsion he did not understand, Burroughs began to write a novel. Never outlining or consciously structuring the book, Burroughs wrote, "as fast as I could type, to keep up." Seven days later, Augusten Burroughs had written his first book. He had also stopped drinking. The book was published one year later. Burroughs remains sober to this day. And Sellevision stands as Burroughs's only published novel. It is currently in development as a feature film.

Augusten's second book was a memoir. It was also a publishing phenomenon that helped to ignite a kind of memoir fever in America and abroad. Running with Scissors was released in 2001 to virtually unanimous critical acclaim. The memoir would ultimately remain on the New York Times bestseller list for over four consecutive years, eight months of which were spent in the #1 position. The film, starring Annette Benning, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jill Clayburgh and Alec Baldwin was released in 2005.

He has since published four additional autobiographical volumes (Dry, Possible Side Effects, Magical Thinking and A Wolf at the Table), all of them bestsellers. Currently published in over thirty countries, Augusten's book readings have become massively popular events on numerous continents. He has also headlined for the most prestigious literary festivals in the world, most recently the 2008 Melbourne writer's Festival, where he and Germaine Greer delivered the keynote addresses on opening night. In addition, Burroughs speaks regularly at colleges and universities on topics ranging from alcoholism and sexual abuse to the art of authoring one's own life and humor as serious medicine.

Twice honored by Entertainment Weekly as one of 25 funniest people in America, Burroughs shocked fans and the media alike with the release of A Wolf at the Table in early 2008. The brutal, terrifying and decidedly unfunny book instantly generated a storm of publicity and controversy. Critics were deeply divided, and the book received some of the worst -and best- reviews of the author's career. The book tour for A Wolf at the Table, spanned some six months and four countries, as Augusten performed for the largest crowds of his career. A Wolf at the Table is Augusten's bestselling hardcover to date.

While critics continue to challenge the veracity of Burroughs's books, questioning everything from his alcoholism and advertising career to his earliest childhood memories, the author remains nonplussed, even philosophical. "To be a journalist with a major American newspaper or magazine, you have to have an A-list college education. And to get into that A-list college, you had to do very well in the right high school. So the chances are, you were not being fucked up the ass at age twelve by a pedophile. The facts of my life are generally questioned by extremely privileged and well-educated people who, more likely than not, learned most of what they know about life's dangerous, shocking and sometimes unbelievable underbelly from books, television and the occasional Quentin Tarrantino film. The reason my books continue to sell, despite frequently being dismissed as "unbelievable," is because the people who read my books recognize the truth that is in them. They know the scent. They have smelled it. The very details the media view with such suspicion are the same details that prove to my reader, this guy was there. I remember that, too."


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110,884 (28%)
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93,691 (24%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 13,576 reviews
Profile Image for Oriana.
Author 3 books3,373 followers
January 19, 2020
I talk about this all the time, so here, definitively, is my explanation of the four categories of memoir.

1) People who have had seriously interesting / crazy lives, and who also happen to be terrific writers, able to render their stories in a compelling, original way (like David Small's brilliant Stitches, or what I consider the gold-standard memoir, Nick Flynn's breathtaking Another Bullshit Night in Suck City).

2) People whose lives are interesting / crazy enough that it really doesn't matter how well they write, because theirs will necessarily be a compelling, original book just based on subject matter (like the bonkers I Am Not Myself These Days, about the accountant-by-day, drag-queen-by-night, who wears fishbowls for boobs and lives with a crack-addicted boyfriend; or, yes, Running With Scissors).

3) Really brilliant writers who can turn a "normal" life into an utterly fascinating read (like Sloane Crosley or Alison Bechdel or Lynn Barber or — fuck off, haters — Dave Eggers).

4) Idiot people who don't write particularly well and who have more or less "regular" lives, but whose inflated sense of self leads them to write memoirs anyway.

Right? Any memoir you read goes into one of those categories.

Anyway, about this book: I totally liked it, but I feel kind of lied to, having seen the movie first. In the movie, everything was just reelingly insane, but so over-the-top that it was funny, and also it was light, somehow, and sort of fun. In the book, though, it's all so much darker, and it made me feel kind of awful for having found the movie to be so clever and cool.
Profile Image for Martin.
38 reviews19 followers
December 31, 2007
I found this book profoundly disturbing and torturous to read. I understand that it is cleansing and theraputic for those that have been traumitized to write/talk aobut their problems to help with the healing process. There are very few things that my ironclad stomach can't suffer and my brain is developed enough to handle even the most shocking of situations. This book tested my patience from begining to end and in the end I was very dissapointed.

First off, from reviews and the book cover I was given the impression that regardless of the contents within that this was a humurous look at this parcitular authors teenage years. What I found instead were rampant displays of sloth, decay and enough illegal activities to jail every one of the characters for 5-15 years in a PMIA prison. Debauchery doesn't disurb me in the slightest and I have a pension for books that provide plenty of shock and awe regardless of the legality.

Secondly, the fact that such a gathering of mentally fucked people was not only allowed but encouraged disurbs me greatly...mostly because I find that this is an unfortunate circumstance that can be found in any city any where in the world. The truth of the book is what made me hate it. Rather than having hope for the characters I found that I wanted to euthanize them all just to end their misery. But hey three chapters of development and then putting them all down like rabbid dogs would have made for an even worse book.

On a final note **SPOILER ALERT** if I was expecting a book detailing the disgusting side of middle America, horrendous images of mental illness, gay molestation and multiple lives ruined from neglect and substandard care I might have enjoyed it and found nothing humurous or uplifting on how the author presented.

This might be a rare case where I don't bother to even give an author a second chance because of how bad this book was.
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,310 reviews120k followers
July 27, 2023
Burroughs offers a book that is supposedly a memoir. If so, then truth is definitely stranger than fiction. Let’s say I am skeptical. If you thought you had a tough adolescence a look at Burroughs’ tale will put your experience into a little perspective.

He grew up in western Massachusetts to a mother who was probably bi-polar, in what seems like ground zero for inappropriate behavior. She was seeing a peculiar psychiatrist who had a fondness for having patients come to live at his home, a chaotic household that was a combination of You Can’t Take it With You and the Addams Family. Augusten’s mother, unable to cope, essentially gives her son to the shrink. That Augusten was gay adds even more color to this. That he engages in an affair, as a thirteen-year-old, with one of the shrink’s adopted children, a man in his thirties, makes that a dark color indeed.

Augusten Burroughs - from his site

While one may feel some sympathy for the author, who had difficulties in school, who was very much a free spirit, who had a pretty awful family, and had to cope with the ostracism and hostility engendered by his sexual inclination, he does not seem like a person I would want to know. Maybe as an adult he grew out of some of the more destructive behavior depicted here.

One does not have to like the author, or his character in a book, to appreciate the work itself. It is an engaging, fast read and I was drawn in for the duration. While Running With Scissors may be tough to swallow as pure, fact-based memoir, I found that treating it as if it were labeled “a novel” made it all go down a lot easier.

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pages
Profile Image for Scott.
74 reviews7 followers
June 20, 2008
She wasn't "Let's paint the kitchen red" crazy. She was full on head in the oven, toothpaste sandwich, I am God crazy..

paraphrased, but you get it..
Profile Image for Fabian.
956 reviews1,623 followers
August 16, 2020
I read this book in about four hours. & perhaps that's as good an encapsulation for the experience as I can give.

I like the eccentric, non-plot-driven memoir that sounds too strange to be true... and because it exists, because it ACTUALLY happened (unlike you, James Frey!!), it merits thoughts about American families in addition to the ironies of self-obsessed psychologies.

Written in cute concise prose, even if some jokes do not actually make you laugh but sicken you to the point of feeling truly bad for the preteen hero, the entire account is enormously entertaining, as is evident by the fast consumption of it.

The movie is actually... bad; despite Anette Bening, the creator of "Nip/Tuck" & the film's director does not go to where this descriptively homosexual, deeply self-reliant misfit of a person goes.
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,155 followers
March 20, 2018
After digesting for over a month now, I still feel this autobiography-memoir beyond bizarre and belief....Can all of it really be true?

Can I believe the doctor depict herein holds a medical degree from one of the most prestigious universities in America, i.e.....Yale? Hmmmmm....pretty hard to believe, and disheartening too.

Anyway, it's the 1970's and all hell breaks loose when 12 year old Augusten's disturbed poetry writing mother and alcoholic father divorce and mother dear ultimately sends him off to live in the "sagging pink house" of her psychiatrist, Dr. Finch.

His filthy wreck of a house is filled with his children (adopted included) and is open to virtually anyone else who wants to stay for a spell. Most residents are a bit strange, to say the least, including a 33 year old gay pedophile who likes to eat dog food.

With zero parental guidance, role models from hell and a continual..disgusting..dysfunctional..environment, of course Augusten's life was in turmoil; and if even half of what I read here is true, it is a wonder AB made it out in one piece....physically and mentally.

As for the good doctor....Good Lord! An office visit includes a tour and description of his Masturbatorium that patients are invited to use....the crazy Doctor also believes in evaluating his own sh*t to foretell the future (although, of course, he doesn't scoop it himself)........and well, the list goes on and on including the bizarre family "bible dip" predictions, but you get the picture. The smartest family member was actually the old family dog who decided it best to stay on at the original residence with strangers. Wish poor Freud the starved cat COULD have followed his lead.

RUNNING WITH SCISSORS is #13 on the Goodread's Best Autobiography and Non-fiction life stories list. Read it and see what you think. Didn't have a problem with EDUCATED (read back-to-back with RWS) but sure found this one hard to swallow. Yikes!

Profile Image for Timothy.
Author 21 books77 followers
August 30, 2007
Family settles with "Running with Scissors" author, publisher
By Rodrique Ngowi, Associated Press Writer | August 29, 2007

BOSTON --A family that claimed author Augusten Burroughs defamed them in his best-selling book "Running with Scissors" has settled a lawsuit against the author and his publisher, their attorney said Wednesday.

Burroughs and his publisher, St. Martin's Press, agree to call the work a "book" instead of "memoirs," in the author's note and to change the acknowledgments page in future editions to say that the Turcotte family's memories of events he describes "are different than my own," and expressing regret for "any unintentional harm" to them, according to Howard Cooper, an attorney for the family. He said financial terms of the settlement are confidential.

The family's lawsuit had sought $2 million in damages for defamation, invasion of privacy, and emotional distress. It alleged the book is largely fictional and written in a sensational way to increase its market appeal, and demanded a public retraction and an acknowledgment that "Running With Scissors" is a work of fiction.

An attorney for Burroughs declined comment, and St. Martin's Press did not immediately return a call for comment Wednesday.

Burroughs has said the book is only loosely based on his life.

According to a statement from the family's attorneys, Burroughs' new acknowledgments note will say that the Turcottes "are each fine, decent, and hardworking people," and that the book was not intended to hurt them.

The deal comes 10 months after the family said it had "mutually resolved" issues with Sony Pictures Entertainment to avoid a lawsuit over a movie based on the book.

"With this settlement, together with our settlement with Sony last year, we have achieved everything we set out to accomplish when we filed suit two years ago," the family said in the statement. "We have always maintained that the book is fictionalized and defamatory. This settlement is the most powerful vindication of those sentiments that we can imagine."

Burroughs, formerly Christopher Robison, lived with the Turcottes in Northampton as a teenager. According to the lawsuit, Burroughs' entire family was in therapy with Dr. Rodolph Turcotte, a psychiatrist. In 1980, Burroughs' mother asked Turcotte to become his legal guardian so he could attend Northampton schools. His mother still cared for him, but he had a room at the Turcottes' home.

Though the family in Burroughs' book is named "the Finches," the lawsuit claims they are easily identified as the Turcottes, and that Burroughs identified them in interviews.

Events in the book which the suit claimed were false include the Turcottes' condoning sexual affairs between children and adults, Turcotte's wife eating dog food and the family using an electroshock machine it stored under the stairs. The lawsuit claims the book also falsely portrays a home in unbelievable squalor, with a young child running around naked and defecating, and old turkey being stored in the showers.

Profile Image for Michael.
655 reviews964 followers
February 8, 2019
Frenetic and sensational, Running with Scissors explores what it means to endure a dysfunctional childhood. Over the course of dozens of fast-paced vignettes, Augusten Burroughs recounts his unconventional upbringing: his parents divorced, his mother granted legal custody of her gay son to her eccentric psychiatrist, a 33-year-old pedophile living nearby soon started to prey on him. Burroughs recollects traumatic event after traumatic event, but a perverse kind of humor pervades the narrative, which is sometimes funny but more often disturbing and incredible. The book fictionalizes the author’s biography, making it closer to autofiction than memoir, and much of it feels embellished. While the individual vignettes are engaging, the book lacks direction and structure, and it becomes repetitive and tiresome if read uninterrupted.
Profile Image for Jason Pettus.
Author 24 books1,324 followers
August 12, 2008
(Today's review is much longer than Goodreads' word-count limitations. Find the entire essay at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

I've mentioned here regularly the entire idea of there being an "underground-arts canon;" that is, that just like the academic community, what we call the modern cutting-edge arts has now been around long enough (arguably since the early 1900s) that we can now say, "If you want to consider yourself well-versed on the subject, you need to make sure to read this person and this person and this person." This is a hugely important subject among intellectuals, after all, because that's what intellectualism is mostly based on in the first place; of that entire group of deep thinkers coming together and collectively deciding what is most important to their group, of what most directly and profoundly helps any intelligent person understand what that group is all about. And thus in the last year and a half have I been desperately trying to fill in the holes of such a canon in my own life; for those who don't know, see, I spent the 15 years before opening CCLaP not as an academe but as an actual working artist, so mostly spent those years actually photographing and writing instead of reading and studying. It's important that I fill in these intellectual gaps now, precisely because I am trying to be a full-time arts critic these days, because it matters with artistic criticism just how much you know about the subject; and thus it is that I'm constantly having to admit these days to a woeful lack of exposure to this artist or that, as I finally make my way through the first of their projects and talk about them here at the site.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, brings us to gay Generation X memoirist Augusten Burroughs; because Burroughs is precisely one of these shining lights of the so-called "contemporary canon," according to his fans, one of those "must-read" authors you absolutely need to be familiar with, in order to understand the contemporary underground arts in any kind of sophisticated way whatsoever. His work has previously always simply eluded my attention, for whatever reason; before last week, not only had I never read any of his books, I hadn't even seen the slick high-budget 2006 Hollywood adaptation that was made of his first bestseller, the horrifically comedic / comedically horrific coming-of-age tale Running with Scissors, much less the four other freaking personal memoirs written since or the absurdist novel written before. And whether you like him or hate him, the simple fact is that my non-knowledge of his work is a weakness for me as a critic and book reviewer; there are simply so many people familiar with his books by now, so many references made in other literary reviews to his manuscripts, that any decent reporter of the underground needs to make sure they're familiar with him, for no other reason than so they're on the same page as other lovers of the underground.

And it's all this, of course, that made it even such a bigger shock than normal when I actually sat down and read two of Burroughs' memoirs, his oldest (the aforementioned Scissors from 2002) and newest (A Wolf at the Table, from 2008), and realized the following: "Oh my God, Augusten Burroughs' memoirs f-cking suck." How can this be?, any intelligent person will ask at that moment -- how can it be that these books have had so much praise heaped on them over the years, when they turn out to be such weak excuses for compelling literature? Has there been...what, a massive hypnotic spell placed over all the people who gush and gush about the stirring prose and fascinating storylines found within? Has the collective lack of education and anti-intellectual stirrings of Neocon America over the last thirty years finally hit its tipping point, with the American populace simply no longer able to distinguish good books from bad ones? Is that what happened? Or is it that Burroughs got in during the last gasp of an artistic movement that we now consider trite and passe, exactly the "Generation X" house-of-cards I mentioned earlier, and thus suffers the dated wrath of a veteran like Douglas Coupland but at a fraction of the time?

Because let's make no mistake -- when the snotty pop-culture historians of the future think back to these days, and specifically the whole New Age middle-class suburban Oprah Hillary "It Takes A Village" politically-correct pink-ribbon crowd, they will think of Augusten Burroughs. Because that's basically what both of these books are, through and through, from the first page to ostensibly the last; they are whiny, victim-oriented, badly-written, semi-made-up so-called "true stories" about just how bad poor little Augusten has had it his whole whimsically funny life, of how every terrible thing that's ever happened to him is everyone else's fault but his own, and how by the way all those bad things just happened to be poetically poignant and contained the exact kind of dialogue that makes middle-aged suburban Oprah-worshipping pink-ribbon-wearing New Age soccer moms swoon. Nice coincidence, that!

And in fact, that brings up one of the first and ultimately biggest problems I encountered with Burroughs' work, when I tried to make my way through it for the first time last week; that it simply comes off as untrue, as made-up, not exactly a lie under the legal definition of the term, but definitely "cutsied up" so bad that it might as well be a fictional story. Because, see, for those who don't know, both of the books under review today supposedly cover Burroughs' early childhood among dysfunctional hippies in the "let it all hang out" 1970s, a series of vignettes that he actually writes from the mindset and viewpoint of that particular age; so in other words, if he's recalling an event from when he was five years old, he actually writes it as a five-year-old would supposedly see it. And in that manner, Burroughs essentially gets to have his cake and eat it too; he gets to say outrageously offensive things about all the real people around him at that time in his life, absurdly unprovable things that rely as much on magical realism as...you know, realism, while still having the convenient James-Frey Oprahesque New-Age excuse of, "I'm a writer, and I'm paid to write about how something felt. And this is how these events felt to me. And it doesn't matter if what I say is exactly true or not, not from a factual standpoint, because they are factual accounts of how I felt at that moment, or perhaps how I felt thirty years later when looking back on it through the filter of a mainstream publishing contract and looming deadline."

I think it's very telling, for example, that his own parents freaking sued him for defamation when Scissors came out*, but that this hasn't stopped any of these publishing companies from continuing to put out, put out, put out yet another semi-crap childhood memoir and yet another semi-crap childhood memoir by him. Because simply, we live in an age where a huge majority of the American public can no longer distinguish fact from fiction -- an age where over 50 percent of all Americans believe that The DaVinci Code is a true story, an age where over 50 percent of all Americans believe that The Secret is a true story. And that's because our country's educational system has been steadily crumbling since the end of World War Two, since the moment the US first started embracing the military-industrial complex, and first started diverting more and more of our national budget away from everything else and towards the military. No one gets a decent education in the United States anymore, critics claim, not unless they seek one out as an adult as the theory goes; and therefore most Americans are no longer even educated enough to understand the difference between true and made-up, the difference between science and "Intelligent Design" (i.e. "Creationism" with a new name), the difference between "memoir" and "sh-t I pulled out of my ass that sounds all tragic and crap, and that no one can exactly either prove or disprove."

And that's why earlier, I said that I was only guessing at what was the "ostensible" endings of these books; because to admit the absolute truth, I only made it about halfway through Running With Scissors before finally giving up, and couldn't even get thirty pages into A Wolf at the Table without doing the same. And seriously, Mr. Burroughs, if you just happen to ever come across this review -- I understand that writers with unique voices are easy to parody, precisely because they have unique voices, but do you really have to make it so damn tempting as well?

"Me. Pre-natal. What are these fleshy jail-cell walls that hold me in so tightly? Probably the result of my mother, of course, the cocktail-swilling fool. I wish to yell at her, wish to express my disgust at her smothering yet cold presence. But then I realize -- Oh yes, that's right, I'm a fetus. I'm not yet capable of advanced thought or human speech. So why is it that I'm already so eerily attracted to the Six Million Dollar Man?"

UGH. It's writers like Augusten Burroughs that makes me want to turn my entire back on Generation X in general, despite me actually being a member of Generation X; it's books like these that makes me understand why kids currently in their twenties hate me and my friends so much, of why they feel the desire to angrily vomit whenever the subjects of tribal-tattoos or Pearl Jam are...
Profile Image for Will Van.
22 reviews8 followers
July 7, 2008

It has been said that Truman Capote's last book, "Answered Prayers," cost him the friendship of almost everyone he knew at that time in his life, and it has even been speculated that this contributed to his demise. He had mined the personal secrets and character flaws of those around him for literary gold, and most probably embellished as brilliant authors often do. The characters were apparently easily correlated to their real-life counterparts.

And so, things haven't changed all that much. Augusten Burroughs has recently settled a lawsuit with the Turcotte family, referred to as "the Finches," in "Running with Scissors," for defamation, invasion of privacy, and emotional distress. This is due to events in the book claiming that the Turcottes advocated sex between children and adults, Turcotte's wife eating dog food, and the family using an electroshock machine that it stored under the stairs for recreation.

I can honestly say that, If I were a member of the Turcotte household and knew that the events depicted in the book were undeniably false, I would most likely be outraged and choose the same course of action.

That being said.

This is simply one of the most engaging, darkly humorous, and skillfully written books I have read in years. The delusional mother, the unorthodox psychiatrist; every single character jumps off of the page in bizarre, warped technicolor. Hilarious. Horrifying. Difficult to describe.

Skip the movie adaptation, which seems to lack the sense of absurdity in many key places.

Does it have to be true to be brilliant writing?

Profile Image for John.
Author 16 books851 followers
May 19, 2008
My brother's account of our childhood and life with the Finches
Profile Image for eliza.
32 reviews
April 25, 2007
When I read this book, I was really appalled that people would classify it as a comedy, and that the makers of the film would treat it as such. I thought it was one of the most tragic things I have ever read in my life. The fact that this kid had to deal with not only his crazy parents, but an entirely crazy family is heartbreaking. And it's not just that they're quirky, like everyone seems to make them out to be, but they really are insane. And in the worst possible way. And then he gets totally sexually abused by a thiry year old when he's thirteen, and yet all the reviews I read call it a "relationship." It makes me sick. And he not only had to deal with some really disgusting sexual stuff with that guy, but he walked in on and was a part of some really gross and freaky stuff that everyone else in his life is doing. By the end of it I was hoping all of these people would go to jail or metal institutions, and that all the kids involved in this madness would get some serious psychiatric help and stop listening to their nutso dad. The whole thing just really broke my heart, and it speaks loads about our society that people treat this like a comedy. But I do have to say that it was really well written, and I would classify it as an important book to read to get a view of some of the psycho things going on in this country.
Profile Image for Annalisa.
547 reviews1,379 followers
February 12, 2008
This book is supposed to be funny?! I kept waiting for the amusement as I waded through increasingly appalling characters that were not likable, interesting, or remotely relatable. Crazy and abusive is not quirky and lovable. Well I suppose there is a way to write it that way, but this is written with a tinge of bitterness. What is so amusing about royally screwing up a child's life?

Between books I'd try to get back into this story that was ok but not good enough to grab my attention. But it's a best seller and raved about how hilarious the book is so I kept trying to stick through it. I'm all for sad memoirs, but such flagrant abuse of every kind, the kind that require years of therapy, presented without love or reconciliation is not my kind of humor. Then to discover these crimes are mostly fabricated events about true people and I am supposed to take that kind of defamation with a laugh?

The story progressed from disturbing to all shades of disgusting until the filth was too much for me. I browsed a few of the later chapters, read the end, but nope there was no redemption, no coming to terms, nothing but a sick disaster. I'm not sure what all the craze is about unless it's solely popular amidst sociopaths who like to beat up little kids on Halloween and take their candy.
Profile Image for Steven  Godin.
2,492 reviews2,372 followers
September 21, 2023

If it wasn't bad enough living with an insane mother, that's nothing compared to when moving in with the Finch clan. With occurrences like having to take a shower with a thawing turkey at one's feet, the 'masturbatorium' in Dr Finch's office, number twos that were acting as messengers from heaven - don't ask!, a crazy old lady living in a locked room upstairs, staged suicide attempts, foaming at the mouth vaginas, tearing down ceilings to make a homemade skylight, and the family cat seeing out his last days hidden in a laundry basket before talking out from beyond the grave, this is one of the most dysfunctional and fucked-up households I've ever come across in a book. Whether only some, or all of it actually happened, it sure was funny. I like to think that it's so unbelievable that it has to be true. Burroughs takes so much anguish and lunacy from his troubled childhood - basically having psychotic people all around him all of the time, that instead of writing something that is bleak and not very enjoyable to read, his answer is to write a sort of comedic sitcom narrative that is there to laugh along to. I guess this could be judged as a sort of defence mechanism. Because I kid you not, there was seriously disturbing shit going on in this boy's life; heightened even further when you take into account the pedo. Some scenes were no doubt tough to get through, including explicit oral and penetration scenes of a young Augusten at the mercy of his supposed older boyfriend Neil. A seriously creepy guy, and the adopted son of Dr Finch. Most of the funnier stuff involves him hanging out with Finch's oldest daughter Hope, while the more tender moments are with the younger daughter Natalie, who is only a year older than Burroughs. I've never read a memoir quite like it. Despite its overall humour, there might be readers that find it just too uncomfortable and off-putting to get through. For me, I'm glad I read it. A solid 4/5
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,882 reviews16.6k followers
August 18, 2019
Funny and very well written.

The graphic homosexual sex scenes will be too much for some readers but were contextually relevant. I have tried since reading this to understand Burroughs' quirky, angst obsessive postmodernist world view, and perhaps he cannot put a definite label on it either, but then on the other hand, Burroughs' may be one of those special writers whose opinions and style rightly fit into the "other" category of literary genres and upon which a label does not easily apply.

For this reason, I like his writing very much, and it was a great visit with the 1970s. Non-conformists of the world unite.

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Profile Image for Alex Templeton.
640 reviews32 followers
January 13, 2008
I was interested in reading this after getting hints of the story in Burroughs' brother's memoir "Look Me in the Eye". My honest reaction? This book made me deeply uncomfortable. Oh, I kept reading it, the same way I and everyone else would keep eyeballing a car accident, as the old cliché goes. But there was a part of me that honestly couldn't believe that all of this stuff was real. And if it was, how could Burroughs write about it almost as if it was a years-long romp? (I know I go against all my empathetic instincts when I say such things.) I've lived through family weirdness; I've read plenty of other memoirs and novels dealing with it. This one disturbed me. I can't say why. (Perhaps the fact that it was made into a ha-ha-look-at-the-crazy-family movie?) Interesting also to consider is the reaction of the family the story is based on. They say--rightly, based on what Burroughs himself writes--that Burroughs was always searching for fame. Did he milk his own story, overexaggerating it? Either way, the impetus to write it, the way it was written, suggests psychological disturbance to me that is really unsettling. And let's not forget the wild critical reaction to it! I don't think it was spectacularly written. It had a lot of shock value. There was something gleeful in how much people enjoyed reading of this fucked-up family's existence. I guess my conclusion is, the whole thing just creeped me out.
Profile Image for Felicia.
Author 47 books128k followers
February 26, 2008
I love this book. The abysmal movie that was made of it was a travesty, because this book...I relate to the crazy family part, that's all I'm saying about it :)
Profile Image for K..
Author 4 books24 followers
September 26, 2007
I know the family, I know the ego-crazed and self-indulgent overgrown baby who wrote this book, and I find it not only sloppily written but vicious and hate-filled. It's a mother-bashing, lesbian-bashing, lying heap of crap. You can see I am worked up about it. I wouldn't mind if it were called a novel (which it is). I only object to its being called a "memoir." Read instead Jackie Leyden's beautiful hymn to the mixed blessings of growing up with a mother who had bipolar disorder, DAUGHTER OF THE QUEEN OF SHEBA. There is absolutely no comparison between "Burroughs" as he calls himself and David Sedaris. Sedaris writes from joy. "Burroughs" writes from hatred.
Profile Image for Maria.
89 reviews29 followers
January 24, 2023
Narrated by: Augusten Burroughs

I'm so sorry that some children forced to live through such conditions of constant neglect and abuse! Adults ought to love and protect children, and not torment them instead!
Profile Image for Tara.
244 reviews31 followers
November 30, 2008
This book was hilarious and horrifying, at once raucous and deeply disturbing. Burroughs writes like a man who has not entirely made peace with his madhouse childhood but has found a certain kind of solace in his off-center coping mechanisms. His anecdotes are hysterical but mingled with catharses that are simply stated and give the impression of a friendly confidence. This was Burroughs' biggest claim-to-fame book, quite possibly because of the sheer shock value compared with his other novels [which I think should all be best-sellers with giant stamps on them that say "LOL"]. This memoir of the author's young life gives a lot of context to what I had already read about his alcoholism and adulthood. This book is told in the same sort of slice-of-life way - everything is told chronologically and it all links together to tell the bigger story, but each chapter stands alone, too, and has a segmentary title that contributes to that feeling of many individual moments that coalesce into one's whole life.
This memoir was just as hilarious as the other Burroughs that I read, and I found myself both gasping and o_O-ing at the horrid circumstance of his childhood and laughing out loud at his dark humor and plainclothes perception of the madness he grew up mired in. The quote on the first page of the book - Look for the ridiculous in everything and you will find it. - Jules Renard - is absolutely the mission statement of this triumphant novel. Mission accomplished.
Profile Image for Meike.
1,589 reviews2,810 followers
May 21, 2023
I'm surprised that this is considered a classic of transgressive literature, because while it certainly works with rather disturbing subject matters, it's written highly conventionally and does not aim to aesthetically mirror extreme feelings and scenes - it does inform, but not offend the reader (which, in transgressive lit, is a bad thing, if you ask me). Burroughs tells the story of his dysfunctional family, with an alcoholic and abusive father and a mentally ill mother with delusions of grandeur who, when she is finally unable to take care of young Augusten, lets him live with her psychiatrist. In the filthy, cockraoch-infested mansion, he is left to his own devices with the psychiatrist's biological and adopted children, participating in drug abuse, delinquency, and, worst of all, entering a sexual "relationship" with the 33-year-old adoptive son (a.k.a. he is raped with the knowledge of everyone around him, because he is a 13-year-old minor who can't consent).

Still largely marketed as a memoir, the book resulted in a law suit by people allegedly portrayed in the text, which mainly highlighted the names of the actual people behind the characters - very, very smart (NOT). On the other hand, if it was true that Burroughs' book is largely made up and he threw all those people under the bus for fame (as Vanity Fair reports), that's pathetic and immoral - and frankly, many, many passages read as if they were cutsied up and polished to hit sensibilities between the whimsical and the shocking. But who knows.

Be it as it may, from a literary standpoint, the book is a missed chance, because it deals with neglect, mental illness, drugs, and sexual abuse and clearly wants to be extreme literature, but the storytelling remains wordy and rambling, conservative and tame. Although the plot is full-on crazy and can be told in fast pace (whch predisposed it to be turned into a Hollywood movie), the written text does not manage to keep the reader's attention in the long run.

So all in all, a mixed bag, and certainly no transgressive literature.
Profile Image for J.G. Keely.
546 reviews10.2k followers
June 3, 2007
Boring Prose sprinkled with the kind of sensationalism that can only come from a man with the hubris to change his name from Chris Robinson to Augusten Xon Burroughs.

I wanted this to be a one-sentence review, because that's all it deserves, but I just can't: XON!!!??? FUCKING XON!!!???? WHERE IS MY GODDAMN INTERROBANG!!!!????? JUST CALL YOURSELF XENU FOR SHIT'S SAKE. CHRISTING FUCKBELLY TURDSQUABBLE.
Profile Image for Mindy.
198 reviews2 followers
June 11, 2008
I read this when it first came out in 2003 and was instantly smitten with Augusten Burroughs. He cracks me up! You won't believe that the things he writes about really happened, but allegedly, they did. I read something recently about the shrink's family and their denial about several things in the book. If you were them, wouldn't you try to deny it too, though? Anyway, great read, will have you laughing out loud. This is not your mother's kind of book, you've got to be young and hip and open-minded to appreciate it. Burroughs is so witty, you can't help but think he's cool even though he's got his share of problems.
Profile Image for Carmen.
2,065 reviews1,904 followers
April 29, 2015
Burroughs is a good author, but this book made me sick to my stomach.

This book is about Burroughs childhood. He lives with his crazy mother and alcoholic father until he's ten. Then his mom moves him in with her crazy psychologist. They live in squalor.

I can't even describe to you all the horrible things that go on in this book. A lot of pedophilia. When Burroughs is 13 his 33-year-old stepbrother starts having sex with him. His step-sister, Natalie, gives her first blowjob at age 11 and is sold for cash by her father at age 13 to a 41-year-old man who has legal custody of her as his "daughter" but is really having sex with her and also beating her.

Many other bizarre and horrifying things happen in this book. Besides the rampant pedophilia, there's a lot of severe mental illness and some animal cruelty.

It's 10x worse since it is non-fiction.

My low star rating has nothing to do with Burroughs's writing, but instead with how this book made me feel. Depressed, hopeless, and disgusted with what can happen in this world.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews599 followers
August 15, 2012
Read this when it first came out ---GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The movie: They trashed the book!
Profile Image for Luís.
1,944 reviews609 followers
April 25, 2022
In his diary, the young Augusten, a little gay and very stuck, tells his arrival in Finch's mental institution, that of his mother's psychologist and just as crazy!
Burroughs is certainly good at writing American series scripts with humour and imagination. It's subtle, but I regret that this factory with massive gags erases all the sensitivity of the first part.
(You will see everything you can imagine worse in a psychiatric hospital, annoying kids on the carpet, scraping dandruff. And he outbid with blowjobs, vaginal mycosis, sodomy, father reading his future in his turds and exposing them on the picnic table.)
Profile Image for Angie.
36 reviews4 followers
March 31, 2008
I began this book Monday night, 3/24. I almost decided to put it down, thinking, "Oh, here we go. Another memoir with witty inclusions of past pop culture, preying on my nostalgia." But then, I couldn't get over Burroughs' memory of the details from the past, such as the ticking of a cooling hair dryer or how he felt when dressed just so. And then I thought, "This guy can't be for real. He's making up details to fill the space." But I decided to keep going after his description of the dump run with his father. Burroughs' desire for the abandoned coffee table, his description of how he would make it look nice and shiny (Windex! magazines!), and his childish wish to be flung from the car just made me keep going.

So far, so good.

This book has gone from weird to disturbing. I don't know what is more disturbing: the stories or Burroughs' resiliency. The idea that his mother inadvertently protected Burroughs' older brother by NOT seeking medical advice certainly seems true to me. No telling what would have happened to the brother had he been evaluated by a doctor as . . . different as Dr. Finch.

I like that we are introduced to an adult flaw in the pre-teen Augusten: his treatment of Bookman. It's disturbing, and his failure to see the danger in his behavior is alarming. His exposure to his parents' fighting and Dr. F's encouragement of expressions of anger to the extreme, seem to have desensitized Augusten to the power of anger and the effect words can have on people.

I wonder where this Bookman thing is going. I'll be glad when he's out of the story.

Burroughs' unapologetic, naked memoir confounds my own sense of privacy. I don't understand how someone can be so open about his history. He's writing from outside, as if he is his own character. He's become his own patient.

I do envy Burroughs' need to write. I think really great writers feel as if they cannot or are not living unless they are writing. I've never felt that way.

I like the book, overall. I can't read Dry right now, however. I need a break. Imagine how Burroughs feels.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Don.
303 reviews3 followers
August 21, 2017
I began this memoir only knowing that it was controversial -- some of the people depicted in these pages claim that Burroughs greatly embellished past events, while Burroughs himself maintains the book's veracity. After doing some online research, I still can't determine who's telling the truth here, and so I can only judge the book's literary merit.

And in that regard I have to say that Running with Scissors lives up to its hype. Burroughs' prose is crisp, his descriptions memorable -- e.g., "My mother is from Cairo, Georgia. This makes everything she says sound like it went through a curling iron.” At times I felt unsettled by his decision to discuss incredibly dark subjects -- namely, child abuse and molestation -- in such a comedic, nonchalant manner. But looking back now, I think this was the right decision, as this juxtaposition heightened my feelings of discomfort; I don't think this same effect would have been achieved had he gone with a more somber approach.

All in all, I found this to be an extraordinarily powerful reading experience. I finished the book several hours ago and still feel upset, disturbed, a little depressed. Again, it's not clear to me if this is more memoir than novel, but I don't think there can be any doubt that Augusten Burroughs knows how to write.
Profile Image for Diane in Australia.
668 reviews791 followers
February 10, 2019
I didn't like this book. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for victims of child abuse speaking out against their abusers. I was abused. I know many others who were abused, too. But ... the foster family, the Turcottes, sued Burroughs, and his publisher, St. Martin’s, for the way the book portrayed them. The case was settled out of court, with both sides claiming 'victory', of a sorts. So, who really knows?
"Running With Scissors" lawsuit is settled

Let me just say, I threw this book in the trash. I don't throw away books. I love books. But this one ... nah.

1 Star = Yuck. I'm sorry I wasted my time reading it.
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