The Sunday Review: Running With Scissors

Sunday 17 September (2006)

running with scissors - a memoir

I’m not sure why I bought this book. I was in a discount bookstore waiting for Sally to finish a job interview I had accompanied her on, when I came across an offer for three books for a tenner. I already wanted to read Cloud Atlas, and I found an Iain Banks novel that looked good, but what for a third? Then I remembered a movie trailer I had seen which had caught my attention, and Running With Scissors was the obvious third choice I guess. Whatever my reasoning at the time, I’m pleased I acquired this memoir because it’s a very funny read.

This guy Augusten Burroughs has had quite a life. After his parents broke up, his mentally disturbed mother (a wannabe poet) began to rule her life based on the advice of her bizarre psychiatrist, Dr. Finch. The Finch family lived in a dilapidated house unbefitting of an MD, where the kids were allowed free reign and the adults ate dog kibble. It was completely abhorrent to Augusten who, at twelve, was the fastidious and cleanly stereotypical homosexual. Things got worse for him when Dr. Finch convinced his mother to give him legal custody of the boy, and he went to live in the Finch house. The story follows Augusten as he learns to survive this highly unconventional childhood, with the usual ‘finding yourself’ undercurrent.

It’s debatable whether this is an entirely accurate representation of the facts, but read as fiction the story works well. The actions of Dr. Finch and his paternal and adopted children will both amuse and disturb you – in one chapter the doctor becomes convinced that God is speaking to him through his bowel movements, and his (thirty year old) daughter Hope is tasked with retrieving his shit from the toilet and leaving it out to dry in the garden. In another, Augusten describes giving a blowjob to a mentally disturbed former patient of the doctor – a man in his thirties.

So as you can imagine his is a life much different from yours or mine. But this is what makes it compelling – this is a window into the kind of life that is a world away from your own. At times embarassing, it’s a no-holds-barred account of the trials and tribulations of puberty, told from a place so surreal that it would confuse you even if you weren’t watching your body develop. It’s an enjoyable and worthwhile read, and I’m looking forward to the movie, but I don’t think this is a book I’ll be reading again anytime soon. Recommended for those who appreciate the more twisted things in life, I think.

One Response to “The Sunday Review: Running With Scissors”

  1. Sally Says:

    That’s you, then😉


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