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Running with Scissors: A Memoir

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

13 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

Crazy and Inspirational at the same time

By the age of twelve, Augusten's parents had disintegrated in a mess of alcoholism and delusional psychosis, leaving him with a sense of isolation he is unable to shake. Already school-phobic, he wraps himself in a cocoon of comforting television images and Hollywood fa...
By the age of twelve, Augusten's parents had disintegrated in a mess of alcoholism and delusional psychosis, leaving him with a sense of isolation he is unable to shake. Already school-phobic, he wraps himself in a cocoon of comforting television images and Hollywood fantasies from the late 1970's. When in the course of his mother's treatment Augusten finds himself living with her psychiatrist and his large disorganized family, his struggle for perspective begins. Both disturbing and hilarious at the same time, Burroughs describes the consolation and distress of living in a world where squalor and chaos is so pervasive that it eventually becomes normal. The crux of Augusten's plight is assimilation: to remain in the family and fully integrate their dysfunction into his own life, or to leave and regain control over his future. This is a coming out story of a different kind; while his sexuality is a secondary issue, Augusten still must "come out" and back into functional society.

Burroughs does a fantastic job describing characters in detail rich enough that the reader immediately acquires intuition with regard to their motives. Because of this, it is easy to understand that these are not simply eccentric people. To see them that way would trivialize the challenge the young Augusten faces. Most poignant was his wildly inappropriate sexual relationship with a man twice his age. Augusten suffers endless losses; his parent's marriage, his mother's sanity, the companionship of his surrogate family, but the realization that his "boyfriend" was gone, leaves him feeling emotionally empty and truly abandoned.

"Running with Scissors" never seems whiny because Burroughs never lapses into lamentations about another, better life he could have had. When the inevitable comparison does arise, he shrugs it off without a trace of self-pity. Thankfully, there are no self-help references in this book, no mention of the dreaded "recovery" process, and no maudlin scenes describing reconciliation. As a memoir, the narrative can be tricky in places when Burroughs bounces back and forth without chronological markers. In addition, there are a few tertiary characters that come and go, and keeping track of them can be difficult. However, neither of these detracts from the overall effect of the story.

I finished this wonderful book and admittedly, shed a few tears after the epilogue. Though I think most people will not understand the fragility and isolation of growing up gay, I hope everyone who reads this book will sympathize with the strength of character therein. I thoroughly enjoyed "Running with Scissors" and highly recommend it. If you like this book, you will definitely enjoy Lac Su's memoir, "I Love Yous Are For White People." I'm recommending it here.

posted by Steve11 on August 17, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

9 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

Not for Children

The only word I can think of to describe this book would be painful. I would not recommend this book to anyone under the age of eighteen. It is very graphic and mostly disturbing. If you are someone who enjoys reading about how messed up a boys life can be then this ...
The only word I can think of to describe this book would be painful. I would not recommend this book to anyone under the age of eighteen. It is very graphic and mostly disturbing. If you are someone who enjoys reading about how messed up a boys life can be then this is a book for you. Augusten went through quite a rough patch from age nine to seventeen. His parents got divorced and neither the mother nor father were mature enough to raise a child. They each had quite a number of problems. The father was an alcoholic and had not a care in the world besides himself. The mother was nothing short of insane. However he seems to luck out and find help from his mothers psychiatrist and finds a sense of family from him. As he tries to understand who he really is he realizes he is gay. Augusten had a very troubling past but seems to have emerged from it confident in his life to come. Anyone who can deal with all that has earned my respect. However I am indifferent on how I feel about this book because it is so disturbing. I had a hard time comprehending how anyone could bear to even live through all he did much less write a book about it. I feel terrible for this young boy, his childhood was nothing short of torture. I also do not understand how this book could be a comedy, a thirteen year old being raped by a thirty three year old is not what I would consider funny. There is some sarcasm throughout the book but I was to disturbed by what was happening to laugh. This was not my kind of book mostly because I usually like more action packed thrillers but it was interesting to say the least. The only thing I took from this book was that no matter what happens in life, when the chips fall you can only control your reaction and make sure it doesn't happen to you.

posted by 1069401 on March 25, 2009

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  • Posted August 17, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Crazy and Inspirational at the same time

    By the age of twelve, Augusten's parents had disintegrated in a mess of alcoholism and delusional psychosis, leaving him with a sense of isolation he is unable to shake. Already school-phobic, he wraps himself in a cocoon of comforting television images and Hollywood fantasies from the late 1970's. When in the course of his mother's treatment Augusten finds himself living with her psychiatrist and his large disorganized family, his struggle for perspective begins. Both disturbing and hilarious at the same time, Burroughs describes the consolation and distress of living in a world where squalor and chaos is so pervasive that it eventually becomes normal. The crux of Augusten's plight is assimilation: to remain in the family and fully integrate their dysfunction into his own life, or to leave and regain control over his future. This is a coming out story of a different kind; while his sexuality is a secondary issue, Augusten still must "come out" and back into functional society.

    Burroughs does a fantastic job describing characters in detail rich enough that the reader immediately acquires intuition with regard to their motives. Because of this, it is easy to understand that these are not simply eccentric people. To see them that way would trivialize the challenge the young Augusten faces. Most poignant was his wildly inappropriate sexual relationship with a man twice his age. Augusten suffers endless losses; his parent's marriage, his mother's sanity, the companionship of his surrogate family, but the realization that his "boyfriend" was gone, leaves him feeling emotionally empty and truly abandoned.

    "Running with Scissors" never seems whiny because Burroughs never lapses into lamentations about another, better life he could have had. When the inevitable comparison does arise, he shrugs it off without a trace of self-pity. Thankfully, there are no self-help references in this book, no mention of the dreaded "recovery" process, and no maudlin scenes describing reconciliation. As a memoir, the narrative can be tricky in places when Burroughs bounces back and forth without chronological markers. In addition, there are a few tertiary characters that come and go, and keeping track of them can be difficult. However, neither of these detracts from the overall effect of the story.

    I finished this wonderful book and admittedly, shed a few tears after the epilogue. Though I think most people will not understand the fragility and isolation of growing up gay, I hope everyone who reads this book will sympathize with the strength of character therein. I thoroughly enjoyed "Running with Scissors" and highly recommend it. If you like this book, you will definitely enjoy Lac Su's memoir, "I Love Yous Are For White People." I'm recommending it here.

    13 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2009

    Not for Children

    The only word I can think of to describe this book would be painful. I would not recommend this book to anyone under the age of eighteen. It is very graphic and mostly disturbing. If you are someone who enjoys reading about how messed up a boys life can be then this is a book for you. Augusten went through quite a rough patch from age nine to seventeen. His parents got divorced and neither the mother nor father were mature enough to raise a child. They each had quite a number of problems. The father was an alcoholic and had not a care in the world besides himself. The mother was nothing short of insane. However he seems to luck out and find help from his mothers psychiatrist and finds a sense of family from him. As he tries to understand who he really is he realizes he is gay. Augusten had a very troubling past but seems to have emerged from it confident in his life to come. Anyone who can deal with all that has earned my respect. However I am indifferent on how I feel about this book because it is so disturbing. I had a hard time comprehending how anyone could bear to even live through all he did much less write a book about it. I feel terrible for this young boy, his childhood was nothing short of torture. I also do not understand how this book could be a comedy, a thirteen year old being raped by a thirty three year old is not what I would consider funny. There is some sarcasm throughout the book but I was to disturbed by what was happening to laugh. This was not my kind of book mostly because I usually like more action packed thrillers but it was interesting to say the least. The only thing I took from this book was that no matter what happens in life, when the chips fall you can only control your reaction and make sure it doesn't happen to you.

    9 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2009

    Not funny - just distrubing

    I got this book on the recommendation of a friend. I have never been this disappointed in any book ever. It's not funny - it's just distrubing. What's worse, it tries to justify the molestation of a 13 yr old boy by a trusted 33 yr old man (eventually they become consenting lovers). In what is (I think) supposed to be a touching moment between Augusten and his psychiatrist, the doctor oversees a faked suicide attempt so the child doesn't have to go to school. If this story truly is autobiographical, Burroughs' mother, adopted father, and every other adult in the book should be tried for child abuse.

    5 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2008

    Depends

    This book was very good. Through most of it. A few of the chapters had such graphic sexuality it took away from the book. I'm sorry but if he had just said he was raped instead of writing a chapter-long summary, I would have been just fine. That said, This book is engrossing and a great read, you just have to stomach it and watch the audience. I'm a mature reader, but 13 was way too young.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2008

    My favorite book ever

    This book pulled me in the minute I started reading. It's so hilarious, you can't help but to want to know what else he's going to say. Eventually, the book becomes more serious dealing with more mature matter. However, it still ties in the humor Burroughs naturally brings into all of his book. I actually feel like I lived through what he has. It's been two days and with my busy schedule, I've managed to read over 250 pages already. It's almost ridiculous and unbelievable, but the obscurity is what makes it so interesting. I wouldn't reccomend this book to anyone under 15 as it deals with very mature things. I promise this story won't let you down, it'll will only leave you wanting more

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2013

    Extremely entertaining

    The author manages to make you laugh at a sad story with his quick wit and sharp tongue. I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. The imagery was so clear and distinctive, the entire book played through my head like a movie. This book does, however, contain semi-graphic sex scenes between the author and an older man, so if you're offended by such, I suggest you read something else.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2012

    Wow.

    One of the most intense books I think I've ever read. Slightly disturbing, but you can't stop reading it. I, personally, really enjoyed it. Very funny at times, and demanding your attention the whole way through. If you want a book that's not like any other you've ever read, and you're open minded, this is definitely for you.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 26, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Disturbing account

    Running with Scissors is a disturbing account of a young man's life and self-discovery. The "family" in which he is thrust is dysfunctional and destructive. How he manages to survive is a miracle. The audio book is read by the author which does add to the overall picture. It is quite explicit and definitely not for the average reader.

    The book is a memoir so has no clear ending nor real point other than to shock the reader with its strangeness. Although I found it interesting, I would be hard-pressed to recommend it to anyone.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Wonderful Writing

    I loved this book! Augusten pulls you in RIGHT AWAY! I first read Possible Side Effects. Now I want to read EVERYTHING that he has written.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2012

    Dark yet superb

    Just love this author!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2012

    Very interesting story.

    I would recommend this book - based on the skill of the writer and the bizarre story he tells. I will definitely be reading more from this author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2012

    Undecided

    Brutal at times, peppered with comedy. Engaging but emotionally draining.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 26, 2011

    Loved it!!!

    He doesn't hold back or try to sugarcoat anything. He is a brilliant author. Read his other books and you will agree. He is my favorite author! Hurry and buy his other books, you will be hooked in no time!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 17, 2010

    Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

    I had high expectations for this book given it's New York Time's rating and upcoming movie release. However I was very disappointed. The content is just disturbing. I found nothing entertaining at all. Perhaps, this was therapeutic writing for this gentleman, but it's just sad that any child should be raised in such craziness. Frankly more adults than just the doctor should be serving time! At least he was blessed with a survivor mentality and was able to build a life from the rubble.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 13, 2010

    This will make you think

    When I first picked up this book I did not know what to expect. The way the author portrays his characters is magnificent. You feel as if you have a great understanding of them. The plots deals with young Augusten Burroughs at the age of 12, his mentally ill mother sends him away to live with her doctor. Augusten has to go through a very weird child hood, for his mom is too ill to help him and his deadbeat dad does not support him. I love this book because the author makes you laugh and also makes you think about life choices. This book has a weird way of making you laugh, and making you think about your life. By taking a look on how Augusten grows up it makes you think about how much fun and interesting life can be. Running with scissors also has its disturbing parts but it wouldn't be such a great book with out.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2009

    Not as funny as I had expected from reviews

    I must admit that I was expecting more comedy than the tragedy I found in this book. I guess I didn't find much in Augesten Buroughs' life to laugh at; the emotional traumas he experienced growing up weren't funny. The only reason I even finished it was that I had bought it to read on a long plane flight, and was bored. I have not recommended it to anyone.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Very Different

    I normally don't get a chance to read for enjoyment (usually for research), but when a friend recommended "Running with Scissors" and after reading the reviews I had to make time. I am sure glad I did. It was unlike any book I have ever read before. The people around me, while I was reading it, said they wanted to read it when I was done.
    You will become absorbed from the moment when you pick it up for the first time.
    Great reading!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 28, 2009

    It's a laugh

    I seen the movie before I read the book and I think that they are both equally great. Running With Scissors is a non-stop laugh. I think it had just the right amount of everything to keep you itching to read what's on the next page. I personally didn't want to put the book down once I started reading it! Reading about people's lives usually aren't too interesting or entertaining but with Augusten Burroughs life you could never predict what was going to happen next because everything that happened in his child hood was so bizarre. From making sure every strand of hair was perfect and the creases on his clothes were sharp and fresh looking to wearing his hair down and dirty clothes. All in all I think this is a great book and if you're looking for a laugh and maybe a tear or two this is definitely a book I would recommend.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 11, 2009

    Deeply disturbing

    A friend of mine recommended this book because she said my writings reminded her of this author. After reading this, I'm filled with dread that my stories could be likened to his. It's filthy and horrific. For a child to have lived as he did is shameful. While I respect him for outing his upbringing, I find no humor in it whatsoever.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 14, 2008

    ¿We¿re running all right, running with scissors!¿

    Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs is a wickedly hilarious book. It is the memoir of a young boy, Burroughs, who is living with a psychotic mother and an alcoholic father. He is openly gay at a very young age, but does not fully comprehend what it means to be gay. However, he is convinced that he is because he aspires to be a cosmetologist and run his own ¿hair empire¿. His parent¿s distraught relationship finally ends, much to his dismay, leaving Augusten¿s mother crazier than before. She seeks the help of a local therapist, Dr. Finch. Dr. Finch has his own methods of therapy including bible dipping, a random pointing game that answers life¿s tough questions ¿directly through God¿s word¿, and the open expression of anger to keep insanity away. During one of his mother¿s therapy sessions at the Finch¿s house, his mother tells him that she has turned guardianship of him over to Dr. Finch. Augusten is then forced to live with the Finches, including Dr. Finch¿s wife Agnes, ¿She resembled a candy cane without the red stripes. She leaned forward, head down, as if trying to assume the crash position in an airplane while standing¿. At first, he was not very fond of their sloppy and hostile living environment; however, he eventually grew to love his new ¿roamer¿ lifestyle. He would spend half the time with the Finches and the other half of the time with his mother and her new ¿life partner¿. He develops a relationship with one of the Finch¿s adopted sons, Neil Bookman. They have a rollercoaster romance that ends with a surprising turn of events. Augusten¿s life with the Finches is an amazing and slightly disturbing story, that will keep you on the edge of your seat.<BR/>I found Running with Scissors to be fascinating, peculiar, and impossible to put down. The quirky details that make up this brilliant memoir are eye-catching and different from anything I have ever read before. Burrough¿s honesty throughout the book makes it seem more personal, almost as if he is telling you the story over a cup of coffee. He shares wacky stories about his childhood that seem too crazy to be true. While I was reading, I was wondering how he could have survived all the dangerous and ridiculous things he did in his youth.<BR/> The amount of drama in Augusten¿s everyday life is equivalent to that of a daytime soap. He has to deal with roaches, bad dye jobs, a staged suicide attempt, no parental guidance, and a household full of Dr. Finch¿s patients. He did not have the benefit of a proper upbringing because Dr. Finch thought that a child was old enough to take care of themselves at the age of thirteen. This left Augusten alone to deal with his numerous problems, only to rely on the comfort of his journal and love of writing.<BR/>Burrough¿s memoir is so compelling that you cannot help but sympathize with his overly dramatic alter ego. If you were ever the awkward kid or just the kid trying to find their place in this kooky world we live in, then you will be able to relate to Augusten Burroughs. He will reel you in with his love of shiny objects, Barry Manilow, and the finest in hair care. However, the thing that will keep you reading is his huge heart and desire to be accepted and loved.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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