Possible Side Effects
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Possible Side Effects

4.1 116
by Augusten Burroughs

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National Bestseller

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

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National Bestseller

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.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review

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

Burroughs makes good, snarky company even with nothing serious in mind.
The Oprah Magazine O

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.
The Washington Post Book World

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 Oregonian

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 Globe and Mail (Toronto)

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.
Daily News (New York)

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.
The Toronto Star

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.
Entertainment Weekly

'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.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

In essay after essay, Burroughs's troubles follow one another in hilarious succession. . . . He can be profoundly moving.
Harper's Bazaar

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.
Jane magazine

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.
Baltimore Sun

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.
Associated Press Staff

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.
San Francisco Chronicle

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.
Philadelphia City Paper

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.
Publishers Weekly
Nostalgia, entertainment and humor are possible side effects of listening to this audiobook. Burroughs delivers a slew of reflections about both serious and mundane aspects of his life. His style of delivery fluctuates from piece to piece so one is never sure what the theme or moral is until he finishes. When he's not highlighting the idiosyncrasies of humanity or his own eccentricities, he romanticizes life in New York City, plots John Updike's death and expounds upon the love of his partner or pets. Though his performance keeps listener's attention, it's far from stellar. He fluctuates with character accents. He voices all of his women in the same tone and quality. His overemphasis with expletives often detracts because it's not usually necessary; expletives will stand out on their own. His youthful voice does help legitimate the stories in that the experiences shared need vibrancy to imply truthfulness. Light and endearing with the occasional somber thought, this audiobook takes hold of listeners from the beginning and carries them through adventures and mishaps that prove worth the trip. Simultaneous release with the St. Martin's hardcover (Reviews, Feb. 20). (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Fans of the irreverent, often caustic Burroughs will revel in his latest collection of memoir-essays, which, like those in Magical Thinking, run the gamut from appealing to appalling. The author of Running with Scissors (a soon-to-be-released motion picture) offers another no-holds-barred look at his eventful life, including his troubled childhood, his former career in advertising and current career as a memoirist, his love life, his struggles with alcoholism, and his great love of animals. An absolutely brilliant writer as well as a gifted narrator, Burroughs easily draws listeners into descriptions of the everyday (vacations, business proposals, doctor visits) and his life-altering events, such as the day he took his dog to the ASPCA because his alcoholism prevented him from properly caring for the animal. While public libraries need to be aware that several of Burroughs's essays would merit the equivalent of an NC-17 rating, this outstanding work deserves serious consideration for an Audie and/or Grammy Award. Highly recommended. Beth Farrell, Portage Cty. Dist. Lib, OH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Popular memoirist Burroughs (Running with Scissors, 2002, etc.) again turns his whirligig neuroses into something resembling a book. In this general updating of life in the world of bestsellerdom, the author pulls together a string of autobiographical essays and sketches that consistently entertain, even if they don't always enlighten. You can almost see the child from a disturbed home dancing frantically about in these pages, doing anything to ward off the darkness. It brings a grimace with the laughter. Like many creative people who don't know what to do with themselves, Burroughs once worked in advertising, an experience summed up in a particularly gruesome piece about working on a Junior Mints campaign. "I hadn't been on the account for one week," he writes, "and already the phrase mint threshold was being bandied about." While the ad game is good for several anecdotes, Burroughs always spirals back to the morass of his inner world, which seems at times an endless parade of worry and addiction. After years of drinking and drugging, the author appears to have managed the transition from those substances to other dependencies: junk food, QVC, chain hotels, nicotine gum. Each of these provides grist for his self-mocking, Sedaris-like humor. Later chapters journey into territory more familiar to his fans: the tempestuous landscape of his childhood, complete with a manic-depressive mother and a brother afflicted with Asperger's Syndrome. The book peters out amidst less successful pieces of this sort; oddly, the less serious his subject matter, the more meaningful and heartfelt his prose. Readers will likely disregard the post-James Frey author's note indicating that "some of the eventsdescribed happened as related, other were expanded and changed." As if we didn't know. Wears a little thin by the end, but still no mean effort. Sometimes, a genuine laugh or 20 is enough. First printing of 500,000

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Chapter One

Pest Control

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?"

"The what?"

"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.

I did.

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.

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Possible Side Effects 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 114 reviews.
iris829 More than 1 year ago
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.
Brenda22 More than 1 year ago
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.
Marcie Ward More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed Magical Thinking. This was a disappointment compared to it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ok this book is hilarious!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
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Relentlessly confessional and screamingly funny at the same time.
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Hud16 More than 1 year ago
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.
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