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Dry: A Memoir

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Overview

You may not know it, but you've met Augusten Burroughs. You've seen him on the street, in bars, on the subway, at restaurants: a twenty-something guy, nice suit, works in advertising. Regular. Ordinary. But when the ordinary person had two drinks, Augusten was circling the drain by having twelve; when the ordinary person went home at midnight, Augusten never went home at all. Loud, distracting ties, automated wake-up calls, and cologne on the tongue could only hide so much for so long. At the request (well, it ...
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Dry: A Memoir

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Overview

You may not know it, but you've met Augusten Burroughs. You've seen him on the street, in bars, on the subway, at restaurants: a twenty-something guy, nice suit, works in advertising. Regular. Ordinary. But when the ordinary person had two drinks, Augusten was circling the drain by having twelve; when the ordinary person went home at midnight, Augusten never went home at all. Loud, distracting ties, automated wake-up calls, and cologne on the tongue could only hide so much for so long. At the request (well, it wasn't really a request) of his employers, Augusten lands in rehab, where his dreams of group therapy with Robert Downey, Jr., are immediately dashed by the grim reality of flourescent lighting and paper hospital slippers. But when Augusten is forced to examine himself, something actually starts to click, and that's when he finds himself in the worst trouble of all. Because when his thirty days are up, he has to return to his same drunken Manhattan life - and live it sober. What follows is a memoir that's as moving as it is funny, as heartbreaking as it is real. Dry is the story of love, loss, and Starbucks as a higher power.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
It would come as no surprise to any reader of Augusten Burroughs's first memoir, 2002's critically acclaimed bestseller Running with Scissors, that the adolescent depicted there would reach adulthood with a raft of emotional issues. In his earlier effort Burroughs recounted how, abandoned by his mother at the age of 12 and raised by her unbalanced psychiatrist, he dropped out of school, enjoyed the run of the doctor's dilapidated home, and entered an abusive relationship with the pedophile who lived in the guest house out back. In Dry, Burroughs presents himself in his early 20s, earning six figures a year as a New York City ad copywriter and drinking so much alcohol that it wafts from his pores. Landing in rehab, Burroughs initially resists 12-step bromides. Upon release, however, he recognizes the strength they give him as he confronts the death of a former lover, an affair with a fellow recovering addict, and his own struggles with the temptation to have just one drink. As with any tale of a battle against substance abuse, there is an element of just waiting for the eventual, inevitable relapse. But Burroughs's wit, along with his ultimate success in keeping his demons at bay, makes this a riveting read. Katherine Hottinger
The New York Times
Mr. Burroughs remains ebulliently glib when it's useful, as befits his advertising skills. But Dry also deals with two deaths: his lover's and, very nearly, his own. These are no laughing matters, but Mr. Burroughs remains adept at mixing comedy and calamity. — Janet Maslin
Publishers Weekly
Imagine coming home to find hundreds of empty scotch bottles and 1,452 empty beer bottles in your apartment. This is what Burroughs (Running with Scissors) encountered upon returning from Minnesota's Proud Institute (supposedly the gay alcohol rehab choice). "The truly odd part is that I really don't know how they got there," admits Burroughs in this autobiographical tale of being a prodigy with an extremely successful career in advertising and a drive to get as wasted as possible as often as possible. Burroughs's telling of the tale alternates among hilarious, pathetic, existential and hopeful. It is an earnest and cautionary tale of calamity, brimming with Sedaris-like darkly comic quips: "Making alcoholic friends is as easy as making sea monkeys." Burroughs's slight Southern accent and gentle yet glib delivery should summon empathy on the listener's part that may have been lost with another reader. From Minnesota, Burroughs returns to New York and participates in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Like James Frey in the similar yet very different book, A Million Little Pieces (see audio review, below), Burroughs believes that when rehab is over, he must walk into a bar to see if he can resist the temptation to drink. Though not a technique condoned by A.A., it certainly makes for a fascinating listening experience. Simultaneous release with the St. Martin's hardcover (Forecasts, Apr. 21). (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Burroughs's memoir of his troubled childhood, Running with Scissors, which was recently issued in paperback, captured considerable attention and even had a run on the New York Times's best sellers list. This sequel is an account of his early adult life as an advertising executive in New York City attempting to recover from alcoholism. He begins his advertising career as a 19-year-old with intelligence and a flair for writing but no education past elementary school. But scars remain from the years with his alcoholic father, his lunatic mother, and her wacky psychiatrist, and drinking slowly becomes the focus of his life. Consuming prodigious amounts of alcohol often leaves him hung over and reeking, causing his employer to urge him to attend rehab for a month. He chooses a hospital for gays in Minnesota and, after a week or so, begins to gain some insight about his drinking. After rehab, he returns to his apartment and begins to gather up the 27 large garbage bags of liquor bottles he has accumulated. With irreverent and humorous touches, Burroughs manages to personalize the difficulties of recovery without ever lapsing into sentimentality. This heartfelt memoir will interest readers who enjoyed his debut and those wanting new insights into addiction and recovery. Recommended for large public libraries.-Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Like the alcohol he so enjoys, Burroughs’s story of getting dry will go straight into your bloodstream and leave you buzzing, exhilarated, and wiped out. Burroughs is a malcontented, successful advertising copywriter: in his 20s, gay, living in Manhattan, and owner of a childhood that the word "nightmare" doesn't even begin to cover (as described in Running With Scissors, 2002). Burroughs is an alcoholic, a true-blue, two-fisted, drink-till-you-see-the-spiders-on-the-wall alcoholic. He is not, as he would say, the man you’d want operating the cotton gin—he is funny and dark. This is his story of trying to keep the next drink from coming. Declaring he's "vain and shallow"—"If I were straight, I am certain I would be one of those guys who goes to wet T-shirt contests and votes with great enthusiasm"—he’s quick to strike a pose to admire his silhouette; but in his own half-mad way, he's an original, a step aslant of the cutting edge, and wonderfully capable of expressing the miseries and sublimities of detox. It starts with his agreement—dry out, or get fired—to enter rehab; he chooses a gay clinic in Minnesota: "a rehab hospital run by fags will be hip. Plus there's the possibility of good music and sex." Reality quickly intrudes when the clinic staff checks him for cologne ("Oh, you'd be surprised by the things alcoholics will try and sneak in here to drink") and proceeds along a circuitous path thereafter, with plenty of opportunities for cliffhanging—bad decisions in his love life; a coworker trying to sabotage his efforts to reform; AA abandonment; his best friend's death; the "alcoholic terrorist" in his head—weaving in and out of gallows humor and ahoned starkness. In the end, it's all up to Burroughs, and to give the end away would be criminal, for this memoir operates on a high level of involvement and suspense. Didn't think you’d ever feel even an ounce of sympathy for—let alone root for—a drunken adman, did you? Meet Mr. Burroughs. Agent: Christopher Schelling/Ralph M. Vicinanza Ltd.
From the Publisher
"We not only laugh with him but wind up caring deeply as well. Dry will make readers glad to have Augusten Burroughs in the world, and eager for more."

O Magazine

"Burroughs is a brilliant writer—wickedly funny, painfully honest, and uber-cool. Without cheapening the hard work and commitment recovery requires, he allows the wry hilarity of his experience to shine brighter than the pain and darkness. I haven’t read anything this sharp, hip, or honest in my life. Count me as a lifelong fan of this courageous writer."

Elle (Reader's Prize winner for June)

"Beneath the quick-flowing, funny-sad surface of Burroughs' prose lurks considerable complexity...even more compelling than Burroughs' first outing." —Time

"Dry is a stylish memoir about a messy life." —Entertainment Weekly

"Humor and poignancy...we finish the book amazed not only that Burroughs can write so brilliantly, but that he's even alive." —People

O Magazine
"We not only laugh with him but wind up caring deeply as well. Dry will make readers glad to have Augusten Burroughs in the world, and eager for more."
Time
"Beneath the quick-flowing, funny-sad surface of Burroughs' prose lurks considerable complexity...even more compelling than Burroughs' first outing."
Entertainment Weekly
"Dry is a stylish memoir about a messy life."
People
"Humor and poignancy...we finish the book amazed not only that Burroughs can write so brilliantly, but that he's even alive."
Elle (Reader's Prize winner for June)
"Burroughs is a brilliant writer—wickedly funny, painfully honest, and uber-cool.
People
"Humor and poignancy...we finish the book amazed not only that Burroughs can write so brilliantly, but that he's even alive."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312423797
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 4/1/2004
  • Edition description: REV
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.41 (w) x 8.32 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

Augusten Burroughs

Augusten Burroughs is the author of Running with Scissors, Magical Thinking: True Stories, Possible Side Effects, A Wolf at the Table and You Better Not Cry. He is also the author of the novel Sellevision, which is currently in development for film. The film version of Running with Scissors, directed by Ryan Murphy and produced by Brad Pitt, was released in October 2006 and starred Joseph Cross, Brian Cox, Annette Bening (nominated for a Golden Globe for her role), Alec Baldwin and Evan Rachel Wood. Augusten's writing has appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers around the world including The New York Times and New York Magazine. In 2005 Entertainment Weekly named him one of “The 25 Funniest People in America.” He resides in New York City and Western Massachusetts.

Biography

Although Augusten Burroughs achieved moderate success with his debut novel, Sellevision, it was his 2002 memoir, Running with Scissors, that catapulted him into the literary stratosphere. Indeed, few writers have spun a bizarre childhood and eccentric personal life into literary gold with as much wit and panache as Burroughs, whose harrowing accounts of dysfunction and addiction are offset by an acerbic humor readers and critics find irresistible.

Born Christopher Robison (he changed his name when he turned 18), Burroughs is the son of an alcoholic father who abandoned his family and a manic-depressive mother who fancied herself a poet in the style of Anne Sexton. At age 12, he was farmed out to his mother's psychiatrist, a deeply disturbed -- and disturbing -- man whose medical license was ultimately revoked for gross misconduct. In Running with Scissors, Burroughs recounts his life with the pseudonymous Finch family as an experience tantamount to being raised by wolves. The characters he describes are unforgettable: children of assorted ages running wild through a filthy, dilapidated Victorian house, totally unfettered by rules or inhibitions; a variety of deranged patients who take up residence with the Finches seemingly at will; and a 33-year-old pedophile who lives in the backyard shed and initiates an intense, openly homosexual relationship with the 13-year-old Burroughs right under the doctor's nose.

That he is able to wring humor and insight out of this shocking scenario is testimony to Burroughs's writing skill. Upon its publication in 2002, Scissors was hailed as "mordantly funny" (Los Angeles Times), "hilarious" (San Francisco Chronicle), and "sociologically suggestive and psychologically astute" (The New York Times). The book became a #1 bestseller and was turned into a 2006 movie starring Annette Bening, Alec Baldwin, and Joseph Fienes.

[Although the doctor who "raised" Burroughs was never named in the memoir, six members of the real-life family sued the author and his publisher for defamation, claiming that whole portions of the book were fabricated. Burroughs insisted that the book was entirely accurate but agreed in the 2007 settlement to change the wording of the author's note and acknowledgement in future editions of the book. He was never required to change a single word of the memoir itself.]

Since Running with Scissors, Burroughs has mined snippets of his life for more bestsellers, including further installments of his memoir (Dry, A Wolf at the Table) and several well-received collections of razor-sharp essays. His writing continues to appear in newspapers and magazines around the world, and he is a regular contributor to National Public Radio's Morning Edition.

Good To Know

Some fun and fascinating outtakes from our interview with Burroughs:

"When I was very young, maybe six or seven, I used to make little books out of construction paper and wallpaper. Then I'd sew the spine of the book with a needle and thread. Only after I had the actual book did I sit down with a pencil and write the text. I actually still have one of these little books and it's titled, obliquely, Little Book."

"Well, all of a sudden I am obsessed with PMC. For those of you who think I am speaking about plastic plumbing fixtures, I am not. PMC stands for Precious Metal Clay. And it works just like clay clay. You can shape it into anything you want. But after you fire it, you have something made of solid 22k gold or silver. So you want to be very careful. Anyway, I plan to make dog tags. So there's something."

"I'm a huge fan of English shortbread cookies, of anything English really. I very nearly worship David Strathairn. And I'm afraid that if I ever return to Sydney, Australia, I may not return."

"I will never refuse potato chips or buttered popcorn cooked in one of those thingamajigs you crank on top of the stove."

"And my politics could be considered extreme, as I truly believe that people who molest or otherwise abuse children should be buried in pits. And I do believe our country has been served by white male presidents quite enough for the next few hundred years. I really could go on and on here, so I'd best stop."

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    1. Also Known As:
      Augusten X. Burroughs
    2. Hometown:
      New York, New York and western Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 23, 1965
    2. Place of Birth:
      Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    1. Education:
      No formal education beyond elementary school
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

DRY


By AUGUSTEN BURROUGHS

ST. MARTIN'S PRESS

Copyright © 2003 Augusten Burroughs
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0312272057


Chapter One



Sometimes when you work in advertising you'll get a product that's really garbage and you have to make it seem fantastic, something that is essential to the continued quality of life. Like once, I had to do an ad for hair conditioner. The strategy was: Adds softness you can feel, body you can see. But the thing is, this was a lousy product. It made your hair sticky and in focus groups, women hated it. Also, it reeked. It made your hair smell like a combination of bubble gum and Lysol. But somehow, I had to make people feel that it was the best hair conditioner ever created. I had to give it an image that was both beautiful and sexy. Approachable and yet aspirational.

Advertising makes everything seem better than it actually is. And that's why it's such a perfect career for me. It's an industry based on giving people false expectations. Few people know how to do that as well as I do, because I've been applying those basic advertising principles to my life for years.

When I was thirteen, my crazy mother gave me away to her lunatic psychiatrist, who adopted me. I then lived a life of squalor, pedophiles, no school and free pills. When I finally escaped, I presented myself to advertising agencies as a self-educated, slightly eccentric youth, filled with passion, bursting with ideas. I left out the fact that I didn't know how to spell or that I had been giving blowjobs since I was thirteen.

Not many people get into advertising when they're nineteen, with no education beyond elementary school and no connections. Not just anybody can walk in off the street and become a copywriter and get to sit around the glossy black table saying things like, "Maybe we can get Molly Ringwald to do the voice-over," and "It'll be really hip and MTV-ish." But when I was nineteen, that's exactly what I wanted. And exactly what I got, which made me feel that I could control the world with my mind.

I could not believe that I had landed a job as a junior copywriter on the National Potato Board account at the age of nineteen. For seventeen thousand dollars a year, which was an astonishing fortune compared to the nine thousand I had made two years before as a waiter at a Ground Round.

That's the great thing about advertising. Ad people don't care where you came from, who your parents were. It doesn't matter. You could have a crawl space under your kitchen floor filled with little girls' bones and as long as you can dream up a better Chuck Wagon commercial, you're in.

And now I'm twenty-four years old, and I try not to think about my past. It seems important to think only of my job and my future. Especially since advertising dictates that you're only as good as your last ad. This theme of forward momentum runs through many ad campaigns.

A body in motion tends to stay in motion. (Reebok, Chiat/Day.)

Just do it. (Nike, Weiden and Kennedy.)

Damn it, something isn't right. (Me, to my bathroom mirror at four-thirty in the morning, when I'm really, really plastered.)


It's Tuesday evening and I'm home. I've been home for twenty minutes and am going through the mail. When I open a bill, it freaks me out. For some reason, I have trouble writing checks. I postpone this act until the last possible moment, usually once my account has gone into collection. It's not that I can't afford the bills-I can-it's that I panic when faced with responsibility. I am not used to rules and structure and so I have a hard time keeping the phone connected and the electricity turned on. I place all my bills in a box, which I keep next to the stove. Personal letters and cards get slipped into the space between the computer on my desk and the printer.

My phone rings. I let the machine pick up.

"Hey, it's Jim ... just wanted to know if you wanna go out for a quick drink. Gimme a call, but try and get back-"

As I pick up the machine screeches like a strangled cat. "Yes, definitely," I tell him. "My blood alcohol level is dangerously low."

"Cedar Tavern at nine," he says.

Cedar Tavern is on University and Twelfth and I'm on Tenth and Third, just a few blocks away. Jim's over on Twelfth and Second. So it's a fulcrum between us. That's one reason I like it. The other reason is because their martinis are enormous; great bowls of vodka soup. "See you there," I say and hang up.

Jim is great. He's an undertaker. Actually, I suppose he's technically not an undertaker anymore. He's graduated to coffin salesman, or as he puts it, "pre-arrangements." The funeral business is rife with euphemisms. In the funeral business, nobody actually "dies." They simply "move on," as if traveling to a different time zone.

He wears vintage Hawaiian shirts, even in winter. Looking at him, you'd think he was just a normal, blue-collar Italian guy. Like maybe he's a cop or owns a pizza place. But he's an undertaker, through and through. Last year for my birthday, he gave me two bottles. One was filled with pretty pink lotion, the other with an amber fluid. Permaglow and Restorative: embalming fluids. This is the sort of conversation piece you simply can't find at Pottery Barn. I'm not so shallow as to pick my friends based on what they do for a living, but in this case I have to say it was a major selling point.

A few hours later, I walk into Cedar Tavern and feel immediately at ease. There's a huge old bar to my right, carved by hand a century ago from several ancient oak trees. It's like this great big middle finger aimed at nature conservationists. Behind the bar, the wall is paneled in this same wood, inlaid with tall etched mirrors. Next to the mirrors are dull brass light fixtures with stained-glass shades. No bulb in the place is above twenty-five watts. In the rear, there are nice tall wooden booths and oil paintings of English bird dogs and anonymous grandfathers posed in burgundy leather wing chairs. They serve a kind of food here: chicken-fried steak, fish and chips, cheeseburgers and a very lame salad that features iceberg lettuce and croutons from a box. I could live here. As if I didn't already.

Even though I'm five minutes early, Jim's sitting at the bar and already halfway through a martini.

"What a fucking lush," I say. "How long have you been here?"

"I was thirsty. About a minute."

He appears to be eyeing a woman who is sitting alone at a table near the jukebox. She wears khaki slacks, a pink-and-white striped oxford cloth shirt and white Reeboks. I instantly peg her as an off-duty nurse. "She's not your type," I say.

He gives me this how-the-hell-do-you-know look. "And why not?"

"Look at what she's drinking. Coffee."

He grimaces, looks away from her and takes another sip of his drink.

"Look, I can't stay out late tonight because I have to be at the Met tomorrow morning at nine."

"The Met?" he asks incredulously. "Why the Met?"

I roll my eyes, wag my finger in the air to get the bartender's attention. "My client Fabergé is creating a new perfume and they want the ad agency to join them tomorrow morning and see the Fabergé egg exhibit as inspiration." I order a Ketel One martini, straight up with an olive. They use the tiny green olives here; I like that. I despise the big fat olives. They take up too much space in the glass.

"So I have to be there in a suit and look at those fucking eggs all morning. Then we're all going to get together the day after tomorrow at the agency and have a horrific meeting with their senior management. Some global vision thing. One of those awful meetings you dread for weeks in advance." I take the first sip of my martini. It feels exactly right, like part of my own physiology. "God, I hate my job."

"You should get a real job," Jim tells me. "This advertising stuff is putrid. You spend your days waltzing around the Met looking at Fabergé eggs. You make wads of cash and all you do is complain. Jesus, and you're not even twenty-five yet." He sticks his thumb and index finger in the glass and pinches the olive, which he then pops in his mouth.

I watch him do this and can't help but think, The places those fingers have been.

"Why don't you try selling a seventy-eight-year-old widow in the Bronx her own coffin?"

We've had this conversation before, many times. The undertaker feels superior to me, and actually is. He is society's Janitor in a Drum. He provides a service. I, on the other hand, try to trick and manipulate people into parting with their money, a disservice.

"Yeah, yeah, order us another round. I gotta take a leak." I walk off to the men's room, leaving him at the bar.

We have four more drinks at Cedar Tavern. Maybe five. Just enough so that I feel loose and comfortable in my own skin, like a gymnast. Jim suggests we hit another bar. I check my watch: almost ten-thirty. I should head home now and go to sleep so I'm fresh in the morning. But then I think, Okay, what's the latest I can get to sleep and still be okay? If I have to be there at nine, I should be up by seven-thirty, so that means I should get to bed no later than-I begin to count on my fingers because I cannot do math, let alone in my head-twelve-thirty. "Where you wanna go?" I ask him.

"I don't know, let's just walk."

I say, "Okay," and we head outside. As soon as I step into the fresh air, something in my brain oxidizes and I feel just the slightest bit tipsy. Not drunk, not even close. Though I certainly wouldn't attempt to operate a cotton gin.

We end up walking down the street for two blocks and heading into this place on the corner that sometimes plays live jazz. Jim's telling me that the absolute worst thing you can encounter as an undertaker is "a jumper."

"Two Ketel One martinis, straight up with olives," I tell the bartender and then turn to Jim. "What's so bad about jumpers? What?" I love this man.

"Because when you move their limbs, the bones are all broken and they slide around loose inside the skin and they make this sort of ..." Our drinks arrive. He takes a sip and continues, "... this sort of rumbling sound."

"That's so fucking horrifying," I say, delighted. "What else?"

He takes another sip, creases his forehead in thought. "Okay, I know-you'll love this. If it's a guy, we tie a string around the end of his dick so that it won't leak piss."

"Jesus," I say. We both take a sip from our drinks. I notice that my sip is more of a gulp and I will need another drink soon. The martinis here are shamefully meager. "Okay, give me more horrible," I tell him.

He tells me how once he had a female body with a decapitated head and the family insisted on an open casket service. "Can you imagine?" So he broke a broomstick in half and jammed it down through the neck and into the meat of the torso. Then he stuck the head on the other end of the stick and kind of pushed.

"Wow," I say. He's done things that only people on death row have done.

He smiles with what I think might be pride. "I put her in a white cashmere turtleneck and she actually ended up looking pretty good." He winks at me and plucks the olive from my drink. I do not take another sip from this particular glass.

We have maybe five more drinks before I check my watch again. Now it's a quarter of one. And I really need to go, I'll already be a mess as it is. But that's not what happens. What happens is, Jim orders us a nightcap.

"Just one shot of Cuervo ... for luck."

The very last thing I remember is standing on a stage at a karaoke bar somewhere in the West Village. The spotlights are shining in my face and I'm trying to read the video monitor in front of me, which is scrolling the words to the theme from The Brady Bunch. I see double unless I close one eye, but when I do this I lose my balance and stagger. Jim's laughing like a madman in the front row, pounding the table with his hands.

The floor trips me and I fall. The bartender walks from behind the bar and escorts me offstage. His arm feels good around my shoulders and I want to give him a friendly nuzzle or perhaps a kiss on the mouth. Fortunately, I don't do this.

Outside the bar, I look at my watch and slur, "This can't be right." I lean against Jim's shoulder so I don't fall over on the tricky sidewalk.

"What?" he says, grinning. He has a thin plastic drink straw behind each ear. The straws are red, the ends chewed.

I raise my arm up so my watch is almost pressed against his nose. "Look," I say.

He pushes my arm back so he can read the dial. "Yikes! How'd that happen? You sure it's right?"

The watch reads 4:15 A.M. Impossible. I wonder aloud why it is displaying the time in Europe instead of Manhattan.

Chapter Two



I arrive at the Metropolitan Museum of Art at a quarter before nine. Fifteen minutes early. I'm wearing a charcoal gray Armani suit and oxblood red Gucci loafers. My head throbs dully behind my eyes, but this has actually become normal. It usually wears off by the end of the day and is completely gone after the first drink of the evening.

I didn't technically sleep last night, I napped. Even in my drunken stupor of last night, I realized I couldn't show up here this morning looking like a total disaster, so I managed to call 1-800-4-WAKE-UP (You snooze, you lose!) before I laid down on my bed, fully dressed.

I was awake by six A.M. and still felt drunk. I was making wisecracks to myself in the bathroom, pulling faces. This is when I knew I was still drunk. I just had way too much energy for six A.M. Too much motivation. It was like the drunk side of my brain was trying to act distracting and entertaining, so the business side wouldn't realize it was being held hostage by a drunk.

I showered, shaved and slicked my hair back with Bumble and bumble Hair Grooming Creme. Then I ran the blowdryer over my head. Afterward, I arranged my hair in such a way that it appeared casual and carefree. A wisp of hair falling across my forehead, which I froze in place with AquaNet. After having gone on more fashion shoots than I care to count, I've learned that terminally unhip AquaNet is the best. The result was hair that looked windblown and casual-unless you happened to touch it. If you touched it, it would probably make a solid knocking sound, like wood.

I sprayed Donna Karan for Men around my neck and on my tongue to oppose any alcohol breath I might have. Then I walked to the twenty-four-hour restaurant on the corner of Seventeenth and Third for a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and coffee. The fat, I figured, would absorb any toxins.

As a backup safety measure, I swallowed a handful of Breath Assure capsules and wore a distracting, loud tie.

Continues...


Excerpted from DRY by AUGUSTEN BURROUGHS Copyright © 2003 by Augusten Burroughs
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Table of Contents

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Interviews & Essays

Mopping Up the Past
I was feeling a little bit high because my new Swiffer Mop was as brilliant in person as it appeared to be in the infomercial. I hitting the little trigger thing on the handle with my finger and watching the cleaning solution stream out with such astonishing precision. I was gliding the mop over the bare wood floor and I was thinking, This is it. Mopping has changed forever. When the phone rang. "Augusten, it's Jennifer," my editor said. She was on a speaker phone, I could tell. You can always tell when somebody is on a speaker phone because you can hear the expectation on the line, you can hear the other people leaning forward, looking at each other. "As of right now, you're a New York Times bestseller."

With these words, she changed my life.

Instantly, I became a person with a happy childhood.

"Are you serious?" I asked her.

She shrieked and then there was more shrieking from the other people on her end.

"Are you sure it's not a mistake?" I asked her. Couldn't The New York Times make a mistake?

"No, it's not a mistake!" she cried.

After I hung up the phone, I stood there for a moment. I still had my Swiffer Mop in my other hand. I thought, How appropriate.

I'd taken my ragged, filthy, squalor-filled childhood and I had cleaned it and polished it.

I had the sensation of thousands of pigeons suddenly lifting off my back and taking to the air. So much weight, lifted.

Because before Running with Scissors was a big, bestselling memoir, it was just my terrible childhood. That I never spoke about. That I was horribly ashamed of. That I never, ever wanted to think about again.

But here is what I learned from writing this book. If something haunts you, if something weighs you down, you must face it head on. There can be no stepping around it. There can be no trading of the terrible past for fresh cocktails. This does not work. You will never forget. Best, then, to sit down and really spill it all out. Tell somebody everything. Or write it all down. Or paint a picture that contains all the details.

In this way, you can free yourself.

After I finished writing Running with Scissors, I felt an enormous sense of relief. There, nothing left to hide. And I didn't really care if the book sold tremendously well. I just hoped that a few people would read it and see that I got through something terrible, so they can too. I hoped that my publisher would publish more things I wrote.

There is much discussion of The Memoir. Is it dead? Are there too many? Should people in their 30s even be allowed to write them?

My feeling is that it doesn't matter what you write, it matters only that you write with complete honesty. That your story has the distinctive ring of truth to it. Because this is what people crave: the truth.

It can be beautiful or ugly or funny or sexy or confusing. But as long as it has the ring of truth to it, everything will be okay. Because people will respond to it. They may not like it, but they will not feel cheated, emotionally.

So this is all I really know about the memoir.

People ask me, "So now that you're so successful, has your life changed?" And the answer to this is that yes, my life has changed.

I have written every single day for my entire life. When I was tiny, before I could write, I spoke into a blue tape recorder. But from the age of 11 on, I wrote. The difference is that now, I don't keep what I write in boxes, stowed in the closet, never to be opened again. Augusten Burroughs

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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions
1. At what point in Augusten Burroughs's memoir do you think the reality of his addiction actually became real to him?

2. Why did he realize how much he loved Pighead only when it was too late?

3. Do you feel addictions were portrayed realistically or not in Dry? Why or why not?

4. Who do you feel was the bravest character in the book?

5. Who do you feel was the most villainous character in the book?

6. Why do people choose inappropriate partners? Why did Augusten in Dry? Did he trade one addiction for another in terms of his choice in men?

7. What are some of the most dangerous behaviors recovering alcoholics can undertake? What are some of these behaviors you saw in Dry?

8. Can you pinpoint the one thing that finally got Augusten to a point where he could really be in recovery? What was it and why?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 271 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(178)

4 Star

(60)

3 Star

(26)

2 Star

(4)

1 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 165 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2009

    caution do not put this book down

    AA members can relate and laugh along as well as cringe

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 8, 2009

    rung "Dry"

    This was the kind of book for me, that I wanted to keep reading but I was drawn in so much by him that I'd have to put it down and actually take a rest from it. I just love the way he writes. He doesn't mince words, gets right to the point. This, of course, makes it really harsh at times and you just want to drag him right out of the book and make him stop whatever self destructive behavior he's involved in at the time.
    You definitely feel like you've been rung "Dry" by the time your done reading this.
    I'd read Running with Scissors and thought I'd read something else by A. Burroughs and I will continue reading more of his work.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2008

    Remarkable enough to make me cry

    I've read all of Augusten's books and this one no doubt is my favorite. I had a difficult time putting the book down. It's written in such a way that you feel as though you are going through the motions (and emotions) with him. Powerful ending, I was sobbing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2006

    He is worth reading

    I think he writes with honesty, cynicism, and with heart..what more could you want? I highly recommend reading all his books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2003

    compelling, funny, and first rate

    What a solid follow up to Running With Scissors. It's so nice that it isn't a let down after his brilliant, bestselling, and critically acclaimed account of his bizarre childhood. Dry is a must read on so many different and significant levels. It is at once profound and riotously funny--makes you stop and consider the consequences of your own behavior and laugh until your guts hurt. What more can you ask from a book? Like his previous literary efforts, this one is well worth the price . . . and then some.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2013

    I recently requested a sample of this book and felt it would be

    I recently requested a sample of this book and felt it would be a good read. Boy...was I wrong!!! Where the sample left off on my nook, I began to read & the book took a turn from 4 the worse!!! It wasn't about a man who found the strenght to over come his addictions. It became a flat out GAY book about his lovers & love life etc. etc. etc. I was soo disappoint NOT to mention mislead by the sample of the first few charpters!!! This book should have been under Gay & Lesbian NOT Addiction & Recovery!!! I didnt even finish this piece of trash book NOr will I recommend it to anyone! Save your money & time...I beg of you! The author wrote this book for a quick dollar AND in my opinion for a hook up down the road with other men!

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  • Posted May 21, 2012

    Sobering story (no pun intended) Having read "Running With

    Sobering story (no pun intended)
    Having read "Running With Scissors," the prequel to this memoir, I cannot help but draw comparisons to
    the memoir "'Tis," Frank McCourts followup to his moving childhood story, "Angela's Ashes." Both Running with Scissors and Angela's Ashes are gritty stories of growing up in extremely difficult circumstances in extremely dysfunctional family settings, and yet despite the environments these children grew up in, their stories are told with humor and the sort of tone you might expect from an innocent child who knows no other way of life. Of course, in both stories, the reader knows that the child will grow into adulthood without many of the basic tools needed to lead "normal" productive lives. Both "'Tis" and "Dry" demonstrate that what happened to these children, was plain and simply not funny. Augusten Burroughs is adept, however, in framing his adult struggle with sobriety with all the emotions that come with the human condition--sadness, anger--and yes, humor. I found myself rooting for him. If you are expecting another Running With Scissors, you will be disappointed, but if you are looking for a truthful narrative about one man's struggle with alcoholism, it is well worth the read.

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  • Posted December 18, 2011

    A haunting memoir

    Augusten is easy to love. The detail in his memoir makes me feel like I have sat next to him during the darkest nights of his life. His writing leaves the reader as a witness to his inner voice, his personal narrative on himself and those around him. I feel like I understand him and I can relate. This book is intense and at times overwhelming. I like to read in bed just before I turn out the lights but I found myself staying up all night because I couldn't fall asleep without knowing the outcome of a situation Augusten was sharing. This is a fabulous follow up to his first memoir Running With Scissors but can stand alone as well. I read this because after his first memoir I felt like I had to know what happened next in his life. I wanted to know if he was ok. I found myself really caring about him. This memoir left me with the same feeling. I want more!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2011

    Got it for jury duty and never expected it

    Sat down in the jury room waiting for to be called and bought on my Ipod. I'm in Alanon and have alot of people in my family who drink. It was an amazing to listen to and I don't think I would have the respect for my family who are sober until now I hugged my mom when I finished the book. He made me change my mind and made we want to read all of his books. Get it whether you have people who drink or don't.

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  • Posted March 22, 2011

    Overall great and compelling

    Dry is a pretty great book. I found myself (a straight person) relating not only to a gay love story, but also to the life of someone battling the chemicals Burroughs is. It does drag at parts, but over all is cuttingly funny, dampened soberingly by the downside of alcoholism, and come together in a great ending.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2011

    Good

    Dry is the sequel to Burroughs's Running with Scissors. Augusten is all grown up and lives in New York doing advertising. Augusten has a problem, though: he is a serious alcoholic and doesn't even realize it. So his coworkers tell him that he needs to go to rehab. I expected the entire book to be about Augusten's experience getting sober in rehab, but in reality, his time in rehab accounted for only about fifty pages of the book. This would have been okay if Augusten's experiences after rehab had been more interesting. But they weren't. For over 100 pages, Augusten just rambled on about his new social life, his attendance of AA meetings, and his work. His experiences were rather normal for a
    recovering addict and after reading his previous book, I was searching for some eccentricity or at least some entertainment. The ending, which I won't give away, made up a bit for the repetitive middle of the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2010

    Refreshingly, brutally honest.

    I had not previously read any of Augusten Burroughs' work, but this book interested me because I had heard good things about his writings. I am also an alcoholic in active recovery, so I have read many books on the subject and heard my share of horror stories in meetings. What I hadn't experienced, however, was this particular author's incredible ability to show me his story.

    This story grabbed me immediately, and I enjoyed it from cover to cover. The autobiographical account of his journey from almost losing is job due to his showing up at work smelling "like a distillery", to his being coerced into going into rehab; his subsequent entry into recovery, and his tentative re-entry into the "normal" world- every word of it rings true to those of us who have stumbled across the trecherous road of early recovery.

    Burroughs' writing is eloquent; he vividly narrates scene after scene via his inner monologue, which is filled with bare-bones honesty and scathing wit. Self-effacingly describing his career in advertising as "perfect" for a man who has spent much of his life making things look more appealing than they are is a perfect segue into the his description of his other career as a drunk. Being a semi-functioning alcoholic is a talent that comes more naturally to those of us who had traumatic childhoods/parenting: we are used to lying, covering up and polishing off the tarnished veneers of our lives in order to self-preserve: to avoid other people trying to change our way of life. Burroughs' clearly had a ghastly upbringing -memories of which he occasionally injects into the story nonchalantly- and they hit the reader like a splash of cold water in the face.

    To read this story is to truly step into the mind of an alcoholic. The hardest pill for many a non-alcoholic to grasp is that beneath the self-seeking, cruel and self-defeating actions symptomatic of many a diseased alcoholic is a very big, very desperately loving heart. This is perhaps the cruelest burden the alcoholic carries, as we see Burroughs' struggle to care for his best friend, "Pighead", while trying desperately not to care too much for his HIV+ friend, for fear of losing him to the disease.

    Augusten Burroughs is a very gifted storyteller. This soul-baring tale of overcoming fear (in all of its insipid forms) and bravely living life stripped naked of chemical comforts is a great story. I look forward to reading more of his work.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Writer

    This is the 1st Augeusten Burroughs book that I have read. I have a read a lot of memoirs about addiction. I liked his humor with his descriptive writing. He has a great way of you visualizing what he is writing. I could say it was a book I couldn't put down. I didn't quite care for the parts about his sexual encounters. It kind of grossed me out. Would I recommend this book to anyone that enjoys memoirs? yes. Would I read another book by this author? probably not.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    Utterly enthralling and frightfully close to home.

    Such a vividly inspiring book that I cannot even begin to convey it's message or express how much it has benefited me in my recovery, my recent relapse and my perspective on the entire ailment of alcoholism and all the measures it takes to be dealt with. This book saved me from continuing and got through to me in ways I thought no one ever would. Breathtaking, honestly. A good portion of it simply had me in uncontrollable tears. If you like to get drunk everyday or know someone who does, read this. I doubt you'll ever look at alcohol the same way ever again. I can't, and I thank Augusten Burroughs for that.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2010

    Great Memoir

    LOVE Augusten. He is so funny and knows how to tell a story. I hope he stays clean so he is around for a long, long time. Looking forward to more!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Amazing of course.

    Auguston Burroughs is an amazing writer. His writing is humorours, insanely uncensored, and well excecuted. In this book he discusses his challenges with drinking how his childhood has played a major role in why he does so. This book made me laugh, cringe and cry. It was hard to put to down once I started. If your a first time Auguston Burroughs reader, I suggest getting Running With Scissors before reading this one. This is an amazing book and definatly a must read!

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  • Posted September 22, 2009

    Excellent read

    Addictive and fast read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Just can't put it down

    Dry. A Memoir is an excellent book. It takes you through Augusten's young adult years and how he deals with his "demons." This book is so captivating, as all his others, I couldn't put it down. I never truly felt that with other authors.
    This book is a must read!

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  • Posted July 26, 2009

    Addictive ! ! !

    Dry was the 1st of August Burroughs books that I'd read. I was immediately hooked and have read all his books now. I can't help but wonder why I've enjoyed his writing so much. His writing style is easy to read although the content is disturbing. He manages to bring a humor to dark situations and his openness and honesty is mind blowing at times. Dry is definitely my favorite of all his books, with Possible Side Effects running a close second. I'd highly recommend his books to a reader to wants a fairly quick and easy read that will both shock and entertain you all at the same time.

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  • Posted May 1, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Dry

    This book is great. it gives you a sense of how alcoholics live. I love this author. He is so real and uncaring of being judged. I loved it

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