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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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  • 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 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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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2014

    The book Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs is definite

    The book Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs is definitely a page turner. It was interesting and will keep you wanting to read, but some of the content is graphic and intended for mature readers. Augusten has a negative outlook on the events that occur in his life and instead of trying to change it, he decides to dwell and not do anything about it.

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  • Posted February 19, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Viewer discretion is definitely advised when taking the plunge

    Viewer discretion is definitely advised when taking the plunge into this story. A homosexual teenage boy is sent to by his mother to live with her psychiatrist and his crazy bible dipping dysfunctional family. The Finches believe in complete freedom, and that how they raise their kids and Augusten, who at 14 is in a relationship with a man in his 30’s. This poor author definitely had some extremely tough teenage years before obviously finding success as an author, but I love the way he presents his story. He has you with your eyes open wide in shock, but the tone is nonchalant, or you’ll be ready to throw down the book in disgust, but he makes light of the situation. It gives you a different perspective on your own life and, hopefully, how good you’ve got it. It reminds me a lot of the Glass Castle in a lot of ways because of the startling situations and overall craziness, but ultimately the Glass Castle is better. I would recommend this to someone who is willing to read something totally weird but good at the same time. 

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  • Posted July 9, 2013

    After a lengthy lawsuit, Burroughs admitted that the Finches, wh

    After a lengthy lawsuit, Burroughs admitted that the Finches, who in real life are the litigious Turcottes, were not really as extreme as portrayed, which is a pity. Turcottes’ wife did not eat dog food and the electro shock machine was not used for giggles. But like Mulder from the X-Files, I want to believe.

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  • Posted July 6, 2013

    The free nature of the psychiatrist father was delightful. But m

    The free nature of the psychiatrist father was delightful. But mostly, it was the squalid description of the kitchen, and the DIY home renovation project that was allowed, that has lingered with me. 




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  • Posted July 4, 2013

    I found it disconcerting not knowing if what I was reading was f

    I found it disconcerting not knowing if what I was reading was fiction or nonfiction. The author’s claims that it was once a memoir but is now a novel frustrated my enjoyment. The writing was excellent though and I would have given it higher stars if it were clearly a memoir or a novel.

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  • Posted July 1, 2013

    It¿s hard to know how much of this is memoir and how much of it

    It’s hard to know how much of this is memoir and how much of it is fantasy, either way it is a good story, told with light hearted humor. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2012

    RUNNING WITH SCISSORS

    I thought personally that the book was very distrubing, if im suppose to be giving my honest opinion. I think that this guy should go to the police. Even though it wont do him very good. But i dont know it was very awkward and weird. I liked the ending and i liked some parts but i think that he should have kept some things to himself.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2012

    Odd but engrossing

    Hard to believe this really happened. Memorable.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2012

    Fun Memoir

    Absurd events throughout the memoir kept me interested, but I never felt a linked narrative or connection from one memory to the next.

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  • Posted February 18, 2012

    Traumatic

    Most people have messed up childhoods, right? This guy definitely had a traumatic life. His story is entertaining, but also painful to read.

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  • Posted February 1, 2012

    okay

    this book runnin w/ scissors is a ok book but really it was a waste for me

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 23, 2011

    Craziness

    One word ......CRAZY. I found myself wondering how one can be raised with such chaos and still somewhat be grounded. I saw the humor and was in awe at the jaw dropping events. If you had a strange childhood, this book will enlighten you. I liked it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Not a Book I would recommend

    This is a very disturbing autobiography of Augusten Burroughs very dysfunctional life with his extremely unbalanced mother and the characters she exposes him to. Other reviewers portray it as "amusing" . I just found it to be incredibly sad that society failed this young boy so horribly.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2009

    thought it would be better

    the book was ok, not what I had expected. It was a little shallow and ended abruptly.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2008

    it was alright

    I know a lot of people said that you would either hate or love this book but I'm in the middle. It was okay, it's true that what Burroughs went through was disturbing. However, for some reason I didn't feel like he wrote about his experiences effectively enough to completely engage my attention. The reviews on the back of the book said that it was funny, and hilarious however I think I only laughed once. I also felt like Burroughs was writing about characters not actual people. I felt like he just described them but didn't delve into them the way I wish he would have. It's true what he went through was horrifice, although I'm sure he embellished a little, which is often done in a memoir. It was nice that he didn't go through the novel making the reader feel as though they should feel pity on him. The book was okay nothing spectacular as others claim though.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2007

    Disturbing

    I ended up reading this book in 1 day as it was attention grabbing. Having worked as a psych nurse for 20 years made me more apathetic towards the characters. The book made me feel dirty somehow and somewhat frustrated. Not a casual read by any means.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2007

    Well Written, but disturbing story

    Running with Scissors is very well written because even though there are many disturbing events that take place, you still want to read to the end to see what else happens.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2007

    For an open minded reader

    Running with Scissors is a hilariously alarming autobiography of a young boy (Augusten Burrows) growing up under the influence of his psychotic mother. As his mother slips further into insanity and progressively becomes unfit to raise Augusten, he is placed under the care of her even more unstable psychiatrist, Dr. Finch. In this new household, there are no rules. Augusten lives through many wild adventures such as having a boyfriend that is nineteen years older than him, tearing down the kitchen ceiling, and struggling to find his purpose and identity amidst all the chaos in his life. A major theme that is seen multiple times in Augusten¿s life is maturity. Although he is still young and is sometimes pushed to attend school, he is very independent and his day to day routine changes depending on how he feels and what he wants to accomplish. Throughout his narrative he is very descriptive and honest about his encounters, which is something that I really enjoyed. I also took a liking to the fact that the events he describes are so extreme that there is no possible way he could make it up. It was an amazing insight to put myself into his shoes and imagine what I would have thought and how I would have reacted to these situations. What I really didn¿t enjoy was how much information was delivered about his sexual encounters with his boyfriend. He would repeat multiple times the difference between their ages and it was difficult to read knowing that this child had almost complete control over a pedophile that was more than twice his age. You should not read this if you are easily disgusted, or don¿t have an open mind. I would definitely recommend this to someone who knows how to escape their world for a moment¿s time, who can put themselves in others places in order to fully understand what he is trying to say about his life, and who can accept the fact that there are others out there that do in fact live like this.

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