Thursday, February 28, 2013

Running With Scissors, by Augusten Burroughs

Running With Scissors: A Memoir, by Augusten Burroughs

This is a troubling memoir of a twelve-year-old boy with mild OCD whose mother gave him away to her bizarre psychiatrist to be raised as a member of his own family. Unfortunately, this new family brings a new meaning to the term unorthodox, where children of all ages have no rules to follow, smoke cigarettes and pot, have sex, and live in a filthy and structurally unsound house. "The problem with not having anybody to tell you what to do, I understood, is that there was nobody to tell you what not to do." Some of the doctors patients periodically move in for extended periods of time as well, including a pedophile. Burroughs begins an intense homosexual relationship with this pedophile that is nearly twenty years his senior, but neither his mother nor his adopted family seems to have any issues with it. The book ends with a now 17-year-old Burroughs headed to New York City without any real plan of where to stay or how to make a living, but generally unconcerned about the situation. "Of course I can make it in New York City. ... Unwittingly, I had earned a Ph.D. in survival."

I'm sure parts of this autobiography are sensationalized but enough of it is clearly true to show just how disturbed some people in this world are. In Golding's Lord of the Flies we see a group of children without supervision devolve into madness; what is more unsettling about Running With Scissors is that there are uncomfortable similarities at times but it isn't fiction. I find it shocking that the only lawsuit that resulted from this was against the author for libel and not against any of the supposed authority figures who let this all happen. It is amazing that Burroughs came out of this squalid home and irresponsible upbringing with enough wit and wisdom to write a searingly honest bestseller. This isn't the sort of book anyone truly enjoys, but it is certainly worth reading.

First Sentence:
My mother is standing in front of the bathroom mirror smelling polished and ready; like Jean Naté, Dippity Do and the waxy sweetness of lipstick.

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