Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Book Review: Running with Scissors
Augusten Burroughs' memoir Running with Scissors can on one page make you laugh out loud, and on the next completely horrify you.
The book, originally published in 2002 (and later adapted into a movie), goes back to the time when Burroughs was a 12-year-old kid with a crazy mom and a withdrawn father. After his parents separate, Burroughs' mother decides to leave him with her eccentric psychiatrist, Dr. Finch, and his houseful of wacky relatives.
Dr. Finch is a character all by himself. He claims to has a "masturbatorium" in his office and, in one hilarious chapter, sees his poops as a sign from God (nope, I'm not making this up). Along with Dr. Finch is his long-suffering wife Agnes, 28-year-old live-in daughter Hope (who does a "Bible dip" to tell her fortune) and 13-year-old wild girl Natalie, a person Burroughs becomes very close to. Other children, both real and adopted, filter in and out of the house, along with other live-in patients. For years, Burroughs goes back and forth between living with the Finches and living with his mother and her girlfriend.
Some parts of Burroughs' book, such as the feces indecent and Burroughs and Natalie's attempt to create a skylight in the kitchen, are amusing. Others, like Hope trying to mercy kill her cat and Burroughs' mother letting a mental patient live with them, are a little crazy. And even beyond that, the stories of Burroughs being encouraged by his mother and Dr. Finch to "fake suicide" so he can spend some time in a psychiatric ward just so he doesn't have to go to school, and his sexual relationship with Dr. Finch's 33-year-old adopted son, are downright horrifying. It's clear that, no matter where he was living, Burroughs had virtually no adult supervision and was allowed to live however he wanted.
Growing up completely different than the vast majority of other teenagers, Burroughs has quite the gripping story to tell. Although he changed the names of those involved, he was later sued by the doctor's family, who claimed his story was exaggerated and embellished. Burroughs stands by what he wrote. His book is one that seems too crazy to have been fabricated -- how do you make stuff like this up?