Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Review: Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

Reviewed by Ingrid

Published: 2002

It's about: Augusten loves shiny things, polishing things to make them shiny, doctor's offices and imagining that he is a movie star. He is also gay. His mother writes confessional poetry and is psychotic. Every day she visits with her extremely eccentric psychologist, Dr. Finch. One afternoon Augusten's mother takes him to the Finches to stay "for awhile" while she works on herself. After a few weeks she announces to Augusten that she has decided to let the Dr. Finch adopt him.

The Finch's never clean up their horrifically messy house and frequently engage in such activities such as "Bible dipping" - a way to find answers to life questions by opening the Bible to a random page and pointing to a random word. Augusten becomes close friends with Dr. Finch's daughter Natalie and develops a sexual relationship with Dr. Finch's other adopted son Neil. As he grows closer to the Finch family, Augusten grows and changes in ways he never expected.

(My dad always warned me to stay away from the unrated "coming-of-age" dramas at the Sundance Film Festival. Now I know why.)

I thought:

First, thanks Adam from Roof Beam Reader who sent me this book as part of the LGBT prize package that I won a few months ago for the Literary Giveaway Hop.

Though many aspects of this book were dark and quite disturbing, I loved it for these reasons: First,  Augusten's personality was very endearing to me. He reminds me so much of my little brother who is also gay. Like Augusten, when my brother was young he loved glitzy, dramatic things. Augusten writes a lot about how he wanted to become a hairdresser not because he loved doing hair but because he wanted to eventually start his own hair product line so he could utilize some of his great packaging ideas. This is totally something my brother would want, haha. I just love it.

The eccentricity of the Finch family also reminds me of the family of one of my best friends growing up. She had 6 siblings that were always out of control and their house was always a complete mess. I couldn't help but associate her with Natalie Finch.

Second, I admired how Augusten was able "find himself" as a writer by embracing all of his unique eccentricities that most people would write off as immature.  Even though he doesn't have any formal education beyond grade school, he developed a talent for writing and a delightfully unique voice by constantly writing in a journal. There is something very authentic and genuine about Augusten that I am very much drawn too. Also, he is HILARIOUS.

However, I feel I must warn you that this is NOT a book for everyone. In fact, I happen to know that Christina, whose taste in books I respect immensely, only gave it 2 stars on Goodreads. I completely understand why she didn't like it, and I don't think I would recommend it to most people.

Verdict: This one is going on my shelf, but if you are easily disturbed by graphic sex and language, you might not want it on yours. Therefore, my ultimate verdict is both On the Shelf and In-Between. Since I'm the moderator of this blog I just decided that that is allowed. :)

Reading Recommendations: Know what you're getting into when you start this book. In other words, DO NOT read this book if you don't know what you are getting into.

Warnings: Multiple graphic sex scenes, multiple disturbing scenes involving fecal matter, heavy use of very vulgar language including the c-word.

Favorite excerpts:
    The one activity that my father and I did do together was take the garbage to the dump. "Augusten," he called from downstairs in the basement. "If you load the car up, I'll take you for a ride to the dump." ... At the dump, my father and I opened the rear hatch of the station wagon and all the doors. Perched on the ledge overlooking the pit where we threw the bags, the car looked poised for flight. Its doors were like wings and the grille in front seemed to be smiling. Here, I was free to pull out a bag, drag it across the ground and then hurl it out.
    Afterward, we drove past the gray cinder block recycling building where people left the remains of their broken baby strollers, rusty stoves and unwanted dollhouses.
    "Please, can I take it home?" I whined upon seeing a chrome coffee table with a chipped, smoked-glass top.
     "No, we're not taking any of that stuff home. You don't know where any of this garbage has been."
     "But it's still good." I knew I could hide the chip by fanning a display of magazines on the surface, like in a doctor's office. And it wouldn't be dirty after I polished it with Windex for three hours.
     "No, son. Now stop touching that filthy thing and get back in the far. And don't touch your face now that you've got those coffee table germs all over your fingers."

What I'm reading next: New Crossroads by Suhail Ali