As my dedicated readers will be aware, I am currently working on my The Day Zero Project list and one of my goals is to read a book a month until December 2014. I would like to keep you updated on my progress and as from time to time SACstyle’s content features subjects other than fashion, from here forward I will do a monthly book review in the hope of giving you all literary inspiration.
The first book I am sharing with you, Running with Scissors, is a childhood memoir written by Augusten Burroughs who was born to a psychotic, poet mother and an alcoholic father with “the loving, affectionate, an outgoing personality of petrified wood”. After a series of hysterical and intense rows his parents divorce. Augusten’s contact with his father is all but severed and his mother’s mental health spirals out of control, leading to her suggestion that her son is adopted by bizarre Psychiatrist, Dr. Finch. The clean cut Augusten finds himself living in a cockroach infested jungle of a Victorian house amongst, to name but a few, pet food eating Agnes, Natalie who one day decides the kitchen is too dark and so forces down the ceiling and Neil Bookman, 20 years his elder, with whom he has a sexual relationship. To say that Augusten’s life is unorthodox would be a ridiculous understatement but he always dreams big and never loses sight of his ambtions. He wants to move to New York City and be the next Vidal Sassoon and obsesses over hairdressing and hair care products but ultimately ends in NYC as a published writer which is hardly settling for second best!
My approach to reviewing Running with Scissors, me not being the expert in literary reviews, was to read others analysis of the book to give me some focus and direction and it immediately became apparent to me that few people get Running with Scissors. It seems to me that some people have viewed the memoir as nothing more than tragic, deranged and absurd recollection of youth. I, on the other hand, find the book grounding, uplifting and humorous. Let us not forget that this book is a memoir, these events such as being advised by his adopted father to stage his own suicide in order to avoid going to school actually happened to Augusten Burroughs yet never is there the slightest hint of a “woe-is-me” attitude. Instead positives are always drawn, such as his ability to flit between his mother’s house and the Finch’s whenever he is antagonized or restless and how can one not find a story uplifting that chronicles a traumatic upbringing and ends with the protagonist heading out to New York to eventually live the life he has always been so determined to obtain?
There are parts of the book which I found to be rather disturbing. Augusten’s relationship with Neil Bookman did not rest easy with me; Augusten was a young teen, Neil was in his late thirties and so the explicit detail of their sexual encounters left me feeling disgusted. However, this is another example of Augusten’s refusal to portray himself as a victim. It seems to be Neil who comes out of the relationship more mentally damaged than the other way around.
In short, this is not an easy to read, put-it-down-and-forget-about-it kind of book. It is a vexing memoir of a boy brought up amongst lunatics. However, that young boy, with little support other than that of the saner two Finch sister’s Hope and Natalie, manages to not turn into a lunatic himself and stays focused on his pursuit for a more favorable life. The story is told with such humor and matter-of-factness that you are not left pitying Augusten but admiring him for his determination and his ability to not lose the plot.
Life is tough, shrug, roll of eyes, deal with it! It gets better!