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From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Running with Scissors comes Augusten Burroughs's most provocative collection of true stories yet. From nicotine gum addiction to lesbian personal ads to incontinent dogs, Possible Side Effects mines Burroughs's life in a series of uproariously funny essays. These are stories that are uniquely Augusten, with all the over-the-top hilarity of Running with Scissors, the erudition of Dry, and the breadth of Magical ...
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From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Running with Scissors comes Augusten Burroughs's most provocative collection of true stories yet. From nicotine gum addiction to lesbian personal ads to incontinent dogs, Possible Side Effects mines Burroughs's life in a series of uproariously funny essays. These are stories that are uniquely Augusten, with all the over-the-top hilarity of Running with Scissors, the erudition of Dry, and the breadth of Magical Thinking. A collection that is universal in its appeal and unabashedly intimate, Possible Side Effects continues to explore that which is most personal, mirthful, disturbing, and cherished, with unmatched audacity. A cautionary tale in essay form. Be forewarned--hilarious, troubling, and shocking results might occur.
"Unflinchingly, Augusten Burroughs gouges himself (literally and figuratively), bleeds, gets it on paper--often without a neat resolution or the genre's obligatory epiphany--and then makes you laugh. Now that's genius."--The New York Times Book Review
"Burroughs makes good, snarky company even with nothing serious in mind."--The New York Times
"Oh, that boy is trouble. Augusten Burroughs offers more tales of his dysfunctional family and his ill-fated forays into polite society in his outrageously funny new collection of essays, Possible Side Effects. . . . Tart, smart, and wicked fun."--O, The Oprah Magazine
"The primary reason for reading the essays in Possible Side Effects is to enjoy the sound of his rueful, funny, faintly sulky voice. . . . This is a book by someone who understands the frailty and absurdity of the human condition."--The Washington Post Book World
"These essays aren't for the faint-hearted . . . but you will laugh, a lot, and out loud, sometimes cringing. . . . You may see yourself here, with the sting such recognition entails."--The Oregonian
"Augusten Burroughs's spare style and facility with double entendre are well suited to the biting comic essay form. He tackles everything from the tooth fairy to doll-collecting innkeepers to lesbian personal ads in this volume, and the result is fairly even and definitely hard to put down once you begin. Burroughs's greatest strengths as a memoirist are his refusal to fit into one easy box (gay man, alcoholic, ad man, New Yorker, hypochondriac, compulsive slob) and his ability to elevate reader curiosity using tone and plain observations. . . . He somehow manages to lure you in time after time with his unique way of describing things that could have happened to anyone, but didn't--at least not quite this way."--The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
"From the author of the bestsellers Running with Scissors and Magical Thinking comes another set of memoir-style essays capturing Burroughs's unique and humorous perspective on life's twists and turns. . . . Burroughs comically documents his diverse experiences, from childhood and adulthood, using aspects of his character--his social isolation, slovenliness, and imagination, to name just a few."--Daily News (New York)
"At this point, labeling Augusten Burroughs a memoirist is a bit of an understatement. . . . Burroughs has excavated every crevice of his personal life for material. So maybe calling him a miner is more accurate. Fortunately, his work is much more environmentally friendly. . . . Burroughs is funny--when he's not breaking your heart. . . . Burroughs's breezy, clear-cut writing style is perfectly matched to his subject matter: prose-y when necessary but highly conversational, fluid, and frank . . . Something wonderful and new to savor."--The Toronto Star
"'The Forecast for Sommer' is a gut-wrenching ode to a suicidal friend of his mother's, while 'The Georgia Thumper' tackles his hatred toward his cruel maternal grandmother. Those two stories alone are worth the book's price."--Entertainment Weekly
"In essay after essay, Burroughs's troubles follow one another in hilarious succession. . . . He can be profoundly moving."--The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Augusten Burroughs returns with Possible Side Effects, another lewd but sophisticated collection of intimately personal essays. Brave, dark, and screamingly funny, this book is so engaging it'll leave you craving more."--Harper's Bazaar
"His ruminations on everything from Nicorette gum, the BBC, pornography, and his messed-up childhood with a delusional manic-depressive mother read like a darker, hipper David Sedaris. . . . A funny, sharp, and totally enjoyable read."--Jane magazine
"Delightful . . . This book is yet another testament to his wild imagination and could keep the readers up at night as well as help the author gain a whole new legion of fans . . . Sure to enthrall . . . A memorable book; highly recommended."--Library Journal
"He's learned to make love, not Dewar's . . . Edgy at the edges but soft in the center, Possible Side Effects connects to neurotic midlifers, slightly off-kilter, kidless, dog-doting, and solitary souls."--Baltimore Sun
"Memorable and well worth reading . . . His unique perspective [is] fashioned from a lifetime of bad influences, inner torment, and a salad bowl of insecurities. And what is truly amazing: He can find the humor in it."--Associated Press
"Burroughs's twisted nature has an immediate appeal. . . . Some sketches mine the indignities of his stint in advertising; others turn to fresh material of ever-so-slightly-ruffled domestic bliss with his saintly boyfriend, Dennis. . . . Another entry, about a burn-scarred dermatologist who offers ten-year-old Burroughs the tenderness his narcissistic mother can't, is so genuine and heartbreaking that you slow yourself to savor it."--San Francisco Chronicle
"Burroughs's perceptive chronicle of his adult and childhood experiences is both poignant and self-deprecating--and best of all, it is laugh-out-loud funny."--Philadelphia City Paper
The first time I was star-struck, the object of my affection was a glamorous Eastern Airlines stewardess. She had towering blond hair, frosted blue eyelids, and was well into her twenties. I was eight. We were thrown together when my parents put me on a flight by myself to Lawrenceville, Georgia, to visit my wealthy grandparents.
"I call them by their first names, Jack and Carolyn," I told her with pride. "They're my father's parents. And my grandmother wears lots of jewelry, just like you."
"Aren't you precious?" the flight attendant said.
I smiled because I loved the name, precious. It reminded me of precious stones like rubies and emeralds and diamonds. And even semiprecious stones, like onyx, which was the black stone men wore, and the ugliest one of all.
The flight attendant returned to the kitchen, and I looked out the window, happy to see the mundane "North" pass by, far below me. As the only member of my family for generations born above the Mason-Dixon line, I was fascinated by the impossibly exotic South.
Like, instead of dirty, gray squirrels, my grandparents had Technicolor peacocks on their lawn. And while we got hateful blizzards in the winter, my grandparents got yet more sunshine. I found it impossible to believe that snow did not cover the world but here was proof.
Though this became an annual trip for me, my grandfather traveled a lot, so I never spent much time with him. And he was gruff, so when he was around I was frightened and avoided him.
But my grandmother spent every minute with me. And I adored her.
Carolyn was blond and wore minks. She had gigantic jade and diamond rings on nearly every finger. And a gold charm bracelet that made a soft tinkle sound when she waved her hands in the air. At night, she slipped into a nightgown with fur trim along the neck and at the hem. And even her slippers had high heels. I thought she was beautiful, like a movie star.
Only when she leaned in very close to me and I saw through her thick pancake makeup to the deep lines beneath did I become slightly alarmed. Old people had always scared me a little. And while my grandmother certainly wasn't old from a distance, she seemed brittle when you looked at her very closely. Sometimes when she kissed me on the forehead at night, I flinched, worried a piece of her might chip off and stick to me.
The summer I turned seven the tooth on my upper left side became loose. And I spent the afternoon worrying it with my finger.
"Honey, just let that tooth come out all on its own accord. Don't force it before it's ready," my grandmother said.
"But Carolyn, it's almost ready. It's just about to come out."
"Well, sweetie. Just let it be. It'll come out. And then do you know what to do?" she asked.
We were sitting on iron garden chairs in her glass sunroom. I was watching television and Carolyn was paging through a mail-order catalogue, licking her fingers and then dog-earring the corners of certain pages.
"Do when?" I said.
"Do you know what to do when your tooth falls out?" she asked, smiling at me.
I didn't understand what she was asking me. Was there something I had to do?
"Call the police?" I guessed.
She laughed in her gentle, though somewhat mischievous way. "No, you don't call the police, silly. Don't you know about the Tooth Fairy?"
"Honey," she said, now concerned. She placed her catalogue on her lap and leaned forward. "The Tooth Fairy? You know about the Tooth Fairy. How could you not? You're seven years old. Surely, you know about the Tooth Fairy."
I felt bad, like I'd done something wrong. "No," I said in a small voice.
My grandmother explained. "Goodness gracious. I knew your mother was an odd bird, but I had no idea she was raising you in a cave in that godforsaken New England."
I wondered if my mother knew about a cave someplace. And if we could go there when I went back home.
"The Tooth Fairy is a fairy, like Tinkerbell? You know Tinkerbell, don't you?"
I did know Tinkerbell. The irritating cartoon insect. "Yes," I said. "I know that thing." I frowned.
"Well, the Tooth Fairy is like Tinkerbell. And whenever you lose a tooth, you place it under your pillow at night before you go to bed. And then the Tooth Fairy slips into your room and takes your tooth away. And leaves some money in its place, right there under your pillow. Real money, sweetheart. That you can spend on whatever you like."
I was horrified.
I imagined that creepy bug woman with her devil wand, sneaking into my bedroom at night while I was sleeping, and taking my teeth and leaving things under the pillow that shouldn't be there. Cash, which my father said was very limited. And something I knew I shouldn't have.
"Carolyn, is this real?" I asked, because I just couldn't believe it.
She smiled, then laughed as she set the catalogue on the floor next to her feet. "Baby, yes of course it's real. The Tooth Fairy is real for every child."
And I thought, why hadn't somebody warned me about this? Why hadn't any of my friends ever talked about this horrible bug that comes into your bedroom and takes your teeth?
I immediately stopped fiddling with my tooth. I tried to press it back in place.
That night, Carolyn tucked me into bed. "Open your mouth," she said.
She leaned forward. "Oh, you've still got your tooth! That means the Tooth Fairy won't come tonight. But"--and her eyes became wide--"maybe tomorrow!" The skin around her mouth was cracked and her lipstick was bleeding into the lines around her lips. Suddenly, she seemed extremely scary.
After she left, I got out of bed and checked the windows again. They were locked. But could it enter the room any other way?
I went to the bathroom that was attached to the bedroom and I grabbed all the towels, rolling them into tubes and then placing them in front of the crack under the door. I didn't know how strong the Tooth Fairy was, but I knew an ordinary insect wouldn't be able to move those towels.
Then I climbed back into bed and prayed to Jesus.
At this point, I wasn't sure where I stood, Jesus-wise.
Although my parents never attended church or mentioned Jesus except when they screamed at each other--and then they used his full name, "Jesus Fucking Christ"--they did explain that he was a man who lived in the sky and granted wishes to certain people. People he liked.
So I prayed. "Dear Jesus. Please keep It out of my room. I promise, promise, promise that I will be honest and very nice to everybody and I love my mother and my father and brother and all my relatives here and over in Cairo, Georgia, and I love everybody that I know and even people I don't know now but will know someday. And I promise everything. But please keep It out of my room and away from me. Thank you, Jesus Fucking Christ."
Somewhat relieved, but not altogether certain I was safe, I eventually drifted to sleep.
Only to awaken that next morning seeing a smear of blood on the cream satin pillowcase. And there, right under my shoulder near the pillow, my tooth, bloody and with a horrible dark root-thing attached.
I began to cry. I got out of the bed as fast as I could and looked closer at the pillowcase. It was blood all right. And a lot of it. And that was my tooth. And it didn't look smooth and pretty. But weird and awful and out of my mouth.
I ran into the bathroom to look at my face and there, in the corner of my mouth, more blood.
I cried harder.
I ran back to the bedroom and lifted up the pillow, to see where the money was. But there was nothing, just the tooth and another streak of blood.
I didn't even put my pants on. I just ran downstairs in my underwear, sobbing, looking for Carolyn.
"Baby, baby, what is the matter?" she said. She was in the kitchen, standing at the sink, draping a paper towel over the length of dental floss she had strung between the two cabinets. My grandmother always rinsed her paper towels and used them again. Even though my grandparents lived in a mansion that my mother called "half the damn size of Georgia."
She turned the water off and dried her hands hastily on her apron. She bent down. "Sweetness, what is the matter? You stop that crying right now. What happened?"
For lack of words, I opened my mouth, showed her the black hole. The pit, that ached and tasted metallic, like blood.
She inhaled. "Oh! Look at you! Big boy!"
I said, "It came and It knocked my tooth out and then It left and there's blood everywhere and I don't know how It got in and I prayed to Jesus but It came anyway."
And then I cried some more.
My grandmother stroked my head. "There, there, baby. It's okay, it's okay. What are you fussing about? What came? What it?"
"That Tooth Fairy. It came and took my teeth and I looked but there wasn't anything under the pillow, like you said. It didn't give me money. It just took."
My grandmother sighed. "Well, baby. Sometimes, the Tooth Fairy, she gets the date wrong. You know what I mean? You know how sometimes you get mixed up and you have to do something at school? Only you forget which day? And so you don't do it?"
I had no idea what she was talking about. I just knew I wanted to get on the first Eastern Airlines jet home.
"Listen, it's okay," she said, leading me by the arm out of the kitchen and into her bedroom.
"You sit yourself right down here," she said, tapping the soft, thick comforter on the bed.
Then she walked across her room and got her purse. She pulled out her wallet, showing me. "See? See, baby? I think the Tooth Fairy must have put your money in here. By mistake." Then she pulled out a fifty. "See! Look at this!" she cried, lifting the crisp bill out of her wallet and placing it in my hand. "This was meant for you, sugar. For you! The Tooth Fairy, she made a little error. It can happen to anyone, even a fairy. She made a little mistake and she put your money into my wallet. Imagine that!"
I took the money and looked at it. It looked just like regular money except something was different.
"It's a fifty, sweetie. Do you know what that means?"
I did know what that meant. I knew exactly what that meant. I got an allowance and that was a one. This was the same size as the one, but you could buy fifty times more things with it.
"Are you sure I'm supposed to have this?"
"I am absolutely sure," she said. "The Tooth Fairy just had the wrong tooth. And I think I know what confused her so much," my grandmother said.
Then she reached into her mouth and pulled out all of her teeth, all at once, even her gums.
And I couldn't breathe.
She smiled and gummed the words, "I lothed my eeth, ooo!"
Copyright © 2006 by Island Road, LLC. All rights reserved.
About this Guide
The following author biography and list of questions about Possible Side Effects are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach Possible Side Effects.
Posted October 13, 2012
I purchased this book as a gift for someone,and was told it was absolutely hilarious.They read the entire thing in one day,as it was impossible to put down. Can't wait to read it myself.
I have read several other books by Augusten Burroughs, and have enjoyed each one. Always an exquisite journey.
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Posted July 24, 2011
Posted July 11, 2013
Posted March 13, 2013
The wit in his honesty is refreshing. Burroughs says what we have all thought at times. He describes the mental illness in his family in a way that helps you realize how common it is, yet our society hides it, just has he hid his own battle with alcoholism.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 22, 2012
Hollyleaf glanced over her shoulder, catching Fallen Leaves eye. "Our apprentices have suffered worse injuries." She told him. "So long as she doesn't run or jump for a couple of hours, she'll be fine." "Should she go back to camp?" Fallen Leaves asked. "No, I'll stay with you. Even if I can't chase prey I can help carry home the catch," Honeyfern called. She began to walk a little faste, as if to prove she was okay. Fallen Leaves trotted after them. In the end there was little fresh-kill to carry home. Redtail hunted clumsily, making so much noise that birds set up alarm calls all along the shoreline the first time he stumbled on the slippery rocks. Hollyleaf's thoughts seemed elsewhere and she let a mouse escape beneath her muzzle. Fallen Leaves led them back into camp, a sparrow between his jaws. Thunderstar was dozing on highledge beside Squirrelflight. Moonflower and Stormtail lay outside the nursery while Swiftbreeze and Ferncloud spread pawfuls of moss to dry in the sun. At the entrance to the elders' den, Mousefur sat staring into space with Dappletail beside her. Fallen Leaves headed for the fresh-kill pile with Hollyleaf on his heels. Honeyfern limped after them, holding a shrew. "Is that all you caught?" Runningwind bounced up to her. "It's not leaf-bare yet!" Hollyleaf nosed him away. "She hurt her leg." She sniffed at Honeyfern's sprained shoulder. "How is it feeling?" Honeyfern rolled her eyes. "I'm fine!" Fallen Leaves saw hurt flash in Hollyleaf's eyes. He dropped his sparrow. "Get some poppy seeds from Featherwhisker or Cloudspots if you think the pain will keep you awake tonight." He glanced at Runningwind. "Is Bluefur back?" Runningwind nodded. "She got back just after you left." The thorn barrier rustled. Fallen Leaves turned to see Cinderpelt wriggle out. Sweetpaw, Whitestorm, and Frostfur trotted after her. Whitestorm, his head high, eyes shining, was carrying a plump pigeon. On the highledge, Thunderstar got to his paws. "Borders clear?" "Yes." Cinderpelt halted beside the rock tumble. "And we remarked the scent line along the ShadowClan border. It was a bit stale." "Good." Thunderstar bounded down into the clearing. "And you checked the tunnel entrances?" Cinderpelt nodded. "No sign of invasion." Lionheart padded across the clearing. "Windclan wouldn't dare come back after the shredding we gave them last time." His eyes lit up when he spotted Whitestorm's pigeon. "Nice catch." Thunderstar's whiskers twitched. "I think you'd better lead the next patrol." He looked pointedlly at his warrior's round belly. "You could do with stretching your legs." Lionheart widened his eyes in mock indignation. "It's all fur, you know." He sat back on his haunches, revealing a wide expanse of soft gold fluff. Cinderpelt purred in amusement. Frostfur padded around Lionheart, studying him. "You'll certainly make it through leaf-bare." Lionheart stood up and shook out his pelt. "A good warrior needs to stay strong."
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Posted February 16, 2012
Posted September 20, 2011
The author is hysterically funny! Love his perspective on people, his life, mother, trips and everything else. You have to read it. I would love to meet him someday.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Like David Sedaris and Rikki Lee Travolta, Augusten Burroughs has a style all his own. If you like that style, you'll like anything he writes. If you don't like his style you'll hate anything he writes. If you like Augusten Burrough's style then you'll like Possible Side Effects. It is most similar to his book Magical Thinking. But, be warned like other Burroughs books there is a lot of graphic content.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 7, 2010
My 12 year-old bought this book after finding it in the "children's" section (or perhaps near that section). She was already about 75 pages into it before I noticed that it was by the author of "Running With Scissors," a book I would not finish because of a disturbing scene detailed the author's first homosexual encounter. I asked my daughter what had happened in this book and she said that there had been a scene in which the author describes watching a couple have sex through a pair of binoculars. I snatched the book back and returned it. It may be a fine book, but In my opinion, the book doesn't belong with children's literature!
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Posted November 15, 2009
I have read all of Augustens books and have loved them all...this was no different. I found myself laughing outloud with the turn of each page. I definatly recommend this book!
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Posted May 9, 2009
Posted March 30, 2009
Posted January 20, 2009
Posted December 25, 2008
I have read all of Augusten's books, this is by far my 2nd favorite (Running with Scissors being the 1st. I read it in the airport waiting for a flight and literally laughed out loud, people sitting around me actually went in bought the book. His books draw you in and keep you till the end when you want more and more!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 10, 2008
I enjoyed the way the author allows you to see life through his eyes, no matter how complicated it was, and sets a funny tone to it. Very funny, easy and real read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 23, 2008
Like all of this author's books, there is a combination of strangness, sorrow, and certainly humor. Humor is the key to his work, and if you liked 'Running With Scissors' then you'll love 'Possible Side Effects' too.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 10, 2008
Posted August 16, 2007
Augusten Burroughs is a brilliant writer and this book is amazing. For those who are not amused, you all are just...too serious. I read this book and just laughed at every line of sarcasm,and the ways both the author and the characters viewed the world. The book was enjoyable from the first to the last page. Read it!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 24, 2006
Possible Side Effects by Augusten Burroughs is a very interesting insight into the authors life and the way he perceives it. Augusten will tell you exactly how he is looking at the people around him and the situations he finds himself in. It is very interesting to learn about the occurrences of his childhood and how they contributed to the way he is now and the way he looks at things. His childhood also affects the way he handles himself in situations that he finds himself in. Also, the way that he writes it has no way of following any certain time line or time frame he just thinks of a memory and decides that that is what he is going to write down. Whatever pops into his head is what he is going to use even if the order doesn¿t make perfect sense. The different time periods vary between his early childhood, his teen years, and his past and present adult life. Augusten Burroughs has a very unorthodox way of looking at life and people. He shares stories from his dysfunctional childhood and family. When describing people, places, or things he uses very different similes that most people would not use or even think of. However, it is very amusing all the same. I enjoyed looking at his positive way of looking at every situation even if it is something most people would cringe at and make it even worse rather than look on the bright side of things. I did not like the way he can not ever be wrong though. And when he is wrong it is extremely hard for him to admit to his faults. Anyone with a dysfunctional family or who has odd little ticks or habits would enjoy this book immensely. It lets people know that no matter how odd or out of place they think they are. They are not the only ones that think that way. I enjoyed reading this book it was very hard for me to put down.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 12, 2006
Despite the reviews printed on this audiobook's packaging, the book was not screamingly funny, surprisingly thoughtful, or outrageously magical. It was neurotic, but not endearingly so. Rather than having any of the characteristics attributed to it by the published reviews, the book was merely irritating and reflected the author's self indulgence. If Entertainment Weekly has named Mr. Burroughs as 'one of the fifteen funniest people in America,' the state of the nation's humor is, indeed, in very bad shape.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.