Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

Running with Scissors

Augusten Burroughs is the author of the bestselling trilogy, Running with Scissors, Dry, and Lust & Wonder. Return to the memoir that started it all.The true story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of Anne Sexton) gave him away to be raised by her unorthodox psychiatrist who bore a striking resemblance to Santa Claus. So at the age of twelve, Burroughs found...

Title:Running with Scissors
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:031242227X
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:315 pages

Running with Scissors Reviews

  • Oriana

    I talk about this all the time, so here, definitively, is my explanation of the four categories of memoir.

    1) People who have had seriously interesting / crazy lives, and who also happen to be terrific writers, able to render their stories in a compelling, original way (like David Small's brilliant

    , or what I consider the gold-standard memoir, Nick Flynn's breathtaking

    ).

    2) People whose lives are interesting / crazy enough that it really doesn't ma

    I talk about this all the time, so here, definitively, is my explanation of the four categories of memoir.

    1) People who have had seriously interesting / crazy lives, and who also happen to be terrific writers, able to render their stories in a compelling, original way (like David Small's brilliant

    , or what I consider the gold-standard memoir, Nick Flynn's breathtaking

    ).

    2) People whose lives are interesting / crazy enough that it really doesn't matter how well they write, because theirs will necessarily be a compelling, original book just based on subject matter (like

    , about the accountant-by-day, drag-queen-by-night, who wears fishbowls for boobs and lives with a crack-addicted boyfriend; or, yes,

    ).

    3) Really brilliant writers who can turn a "normal" life into a fascinating read (like Sloane Crosley or Alison Bechdel or Lynn Barber or -- fuck off, haters -- Dave Eggers).

    4) Idiot people who don't write particularly well and who have more or less "regular" lives, but whose inflated sense of self leads them to write memoirs anyway.

    Right? Any memoir you read goes into one of those categories.

    Anyway, about this book: I totally liked it, but I feel kind of lied to, having seen the movie first. In the movie, everything was just reelingly insane, but so over-the-top that it was funny, and also it was light, somehow, and sort of fun. In the book, though, it's all so much darker, and it made me feel kind of awful for finding the movie so clever and cool.

  • Timothy

    Family settles with "Running with Scissors" author, publisher

    By Rodrique Ngowi, Associated Press Writer | August 29, 2007

    BOSTON --A family that claimed author Augusten Burroughs defamed them in his best-selling book "Running with Scissors" has settled a lawsuit against the author and his publisher, their attorney said Wednesday.

    Burroughs and his publisher, St. Martin's Press, agree to call the work a "book" instead of "memoirs," in the author's note and to change the acknowledgments page in futu

    Family settles with "Running with Scissors" author, publisher

    By Rodrique Ngowi, Associated Press Writer | August 29, 2007

    BOSTON --A family that claimed author Augusten Burroughs defamed them in his best-selling book "Running with Scissors" has settled a lawsuit against the author and his publisher, their attorney said Wednesday.

    Burroughs and his publisher, St. Martin's Press, agree to call the work a "book" instead of "memoirs," in the author's note and to change the acknowledgments page in future editions to say that the Turcotte family's memories of events he describes "are different than my own," and expressing regret for "any unintentional harm" to them, according to Howard Cooper, an attorney for the family. He said financial terms of the settlement are confidential.

    The family's lawsuit had sought $2 million in damages for defamation, invasion of privacy, and emotional distress. It alleged the book is largely fictional and written in a sensational way to increase its market appeal, and demanded a public retraction and an acknowledgment that "Running With Scissors" is a work of fiction.

    An attorney for Burroughs declined comment, and St. Martin's Press did not immediately return a call for comment Wednesday.

    Burroughs has said the book is only loosely based on his life.

    According to a statement from the family's attorneys, Burroughs' new acknowledgments note will say that the Turcottes "are each fine, decent, and hardworking people," and that the book was not intended to hurt them.

    The deal comes 10 months after the family said it had "mutually resolved" issues with Sony Pictures Entertainment to avoid a lawsuit over a movie based on the book.

    "With this settlement, together with our settlement with Sony last year, we have achieved everything we set out to accomplish when we filed suit two years ago," the family said in the statement. "We have always maintained that the book is fictionalized and defamatory. This settlement is the most powerful vindication of those sentiments that we can imagine."

    Burroughs, formerly Christopher Robison, lived with the Turcottes in Northampton as a teenager. According to the lawsuit, Burroughs' entire family was in therapy with Dr. Rodolph Turcotte, a psychiatrist. In 1980, Burroughs' mother asked Turcotte to become his legal guardian so he could attend Northampton schools. His mother still cared for him, but he had a room at the Turcottes' home.

    Though the family in Burroughs' book is named "the Finches," the lawsuit claims they are easily identified as the Turcottes, and that Burroughs identified them in interviews.

    Events in the book which the suit claimed were false include the Turcottes' condoning sexual affairs between children and adults, Turcotte's wife eating dog food and the family using an electroshock machine it stored under the stairs. The lawsuit claims the book also falsely portrays a home in unbelievable squalor, with a young child running around naked and defecating, and old turkey being stored in the showers.

  • Martin

    I found this book profoundly disturbing and torturous to read. I understand that it is cleansing and theraputic for those that have been traumitized to write/talk aobut their problems to help with the healing process. There are very few things that my ironclad stomach can't suffer and my brain is developed enough to handle even the most shocking of situations. This book tested my patience from begining to end and in the end I was very dissapointed.

    First off, from reviews and the book cover I was

    I found this book profoundly disturbing and torturous to read. I understand that it is cleansing and theraputic for those that have been traumitized to write/talk aobut their problems to help with the healing process. There are very few things that my ironclad stomach can't suffer and my brain is developed enough to handle even the most shocking of situations. This book tested my patience from begining to end and in the end I was very dissapointed.

    First off, from reviews and the book cover I was given the impression that regardless of the contents within that this was a humurous look at this parcitular authors teenage years. What I found instead were rampant displays of sloth, decay and enough illegal activities to jail every one of the characters for 5-15 years in a PMIA prison. Debauchery doesn't disurb me in the slightest and I have a pension for books that provide plenty of shock and awe regardless of the legality.

    Secondly, the fact that such a gathering of mentally fucked people was not only allowed but encouraged disurbs me greatly...mostly because I find that this is an unfortunate circumstance that can be found in any city any where in the world. The truth of the book is what made me hate it. Rather than having hope for the characters I found that I wanted to euthanize them all just to end their misery. But hey three chapters of development and then putting them all down like rabbid dogs would have made for an even worse book.

    On a final note **SPOILER ALERT** if I was expecting a book detailing the disgusting side of middle America, horrendous images of mental illness, gay molestation and multiple lives ruined from neglect and substandard care I might have enjoyed it and found nothing humurous or uplifting on how the author presented.

    This might be a rare case where I don't bother to even give an author a second chance because of how bad this book was.

  • Will N Van

    It has been said that Truman Capote's last book, "Answered Prayers," cost him the friendship of almost everyone he knew at that time in his life, and it has even been speculated that this contributed to his demise. He had mined the personal secrets and character flaws of those around him for literary gold, and most probably embellished as brilliant authors often do. The characters were apparently easily correlated to their real-life counterparts.

    And so, things haven't changed all that much. Augu

    It has been said that Truman Capote's last book, "Answered Prayers," cost him the friendship of almost everyone he knew at that time in his life, and it has even been speculated that this contributed to his demise. He had mined the personal secrets and character flaws of those around him for literary gold, and most probably embellished as brilliant authors often do. The characters were apparently easily correlated to their real-life counterparts.

    And so, things haven't changed all that much. Augusten Burroughs has recently settled a lawsuit with the Turcotte family, referred to as "the Finches," in "Running with Scissors," for defamation, invasion of privacy, and emotional distress. This is due to events in the book claiming that the Turcottes advocated sex between children and adults, Turcotte's wife eating dog food, and the family using an electroshock machine that it stored under the stairs for recreation.

    I can honestly say that, If I were a member of the Turcotte household and knew that the events depicted in the book were undeniably false, I would most likely be outraged and choose the same course of action.

    That being said.

    This is simply one of the most engaging, darkly humorous, and skillfully written books I have read in years. The delusional mother, the unorthodox psychiatrist; every single character jumps off of the page in bizarre, warped technicolor. Hilarious. Horrifying. Difficult to describe.

    Skip the movie adaptation, which seems to lack the sense of absurdity in many key places.

    Does it have to be true to be brilliant writing?

  • Scott

    She wasn't "Let's paint the kitchen red" crazy. She was full on head in the oven, toothpaste sandwich, I am God crazy..

    paraphrased, but you get it..

  • Jason Pettus

    (Today's review is much longer than Goodreads' word-count limitations. Find the entire essay at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

    I've mentioned here regularly the entire idea of there being an "underground-arts canon;" that is, that just like the academic community, what we call the modern cutting-edge arts has now been around long enough (arguably

    (Today's review is much longer than Goodreads' word-count limitations. Find the entire essay at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

    I've mentioned here regularly the entire idea of there being an "underground-arts canon;" that is, that just like the academic community, what we call the modern cutting-edge arts has now been around long enough (arguably since the early 1900s) that we can now say, "If you want to consider yourself well-versed on the subject, you need to make sure to read this person and this person and this person." This is a hugely important subject among intellectuals, after all, because that's what intellectualism is mostly based on in the first place; of that entire group of deep thinkers coming together and collectively deciding what is most important to their group, of what most directly and profoundly helps any intelligent person understand what that group is all about. And thus in the last year and a half have I been desperately trying to fill in the holes of such a canon in my own life; for those who don't know, see, I spent the 15 years before opening CCLaP not as an academe but as an actual working artist, so mostly spent those years actually photographing and writing instead of reading and studying. It's important that I fill in these intellectual gaps now, precisely because I am trying to be a full-time arts critic these days, because it matters with artistic criticism just how much you know about the subject; and thus it is that I'm constantly having to admit these days to a woeful lack of exposure to this artist or that, as I finally make my way through the first of their projects and talk about them here at the site.

    And that, ladies and gentlemen, brings us to gay Generation X memoirist Augusten Burroughs; because Burroughs is precisely one of these shining lights of the so-called "contemporary canon," according to his fans, one of those "must-read" authors you absolutely need to be familiar with, in order to understand the contemporary underground arts in any kind of sophisticated way whatsoever. His work has previously always simply eluded my attention, for whatever reason; before last week, not only had I never read any of his books, I hadn't even seen the slick high-budget 2006 Hollywood adaptation that was made of his first bestseller, the horrifically comedic / comedically horrific coming-of-age tale

    , much less the four other freaking personal memoirs written since or the absurdist novel written before. And whether you like him or hate him, the simple fact is that my non-knowledge of his work is a weakness for me as a critic and book reviewer; there are simply so many people familiar with his books by now, so many references made in other literary reviews to his manuscripts, that any decent reporter of the underground needs to make sure they're familiar with him, for no other reason than so they're on the same page as other lovers of the underground.

    And it's all this, of course, that made it even such a bigger shock than normal when I actually sat down and read two of Burroughs' memoirs, his oldest (the aforementioned

    from 2002) and newest (

    , from 2008), and realized the following:

    , any intelligent person will ask at that moment -- how can it be that these books have had so much praise heaped on them over the years, when they turn out to be such weak excuses for compelling literature? Has there been...what, a massive hypnotic spell placed over all the people who gush and gush about the stirring prose and fascinating storylines found within? Has the collective lack of education and anti-intellectual stirrings of Neocon America over the last thirty years finally hit its tipping point, with the American populace simply no longer able to distinguish good books from bad ones?

    Or is it that Burroughs got in during the last gasp of an artistic movement that we now consider trite and passe, exactly the "Generation X" house-of-cards I mentioned earlier, and thus suffers the dated wrath of a veteran like Douglas Coupland but at a fraction of the time?

    Because let's make no mistake -- when the snotty pop-culture historians of the future think back to these days, and specifically the whole New Age middle-class suburban Oprah Hillary "It Takes A Village" politically-correct pink-ribbon crowd,

    Because that's basically what both of these books are, through and through, from the first page to ostensibly the last; they are whiny, victim-oriented, badly-written, semi-made-up so-called "true stories" about just how bad poor little Augusten has had it his whole whimsically funny life, of how every terrible thing that's ever happened to him is everyone else's fault but his own, and how by the way all those bad things just happened to be poetically poignant and contained the exact kind of dialogue that makes middle-aged suburban Oprah-worshipping pink-ribbon-wearing New Age soccer moms swoon. Nice coincidence, that!

    And in fact, that brings up one of the first and ultimately biggest problems I encountered with Burroughs' work, when I tried to make my way through it for the first time last week; that it simply comes off as untrue, as made-up, not exactly a

    under the legal definition of the term, but definitely "cutsied up" so bad that it might as well be a fictional story. Because, see, for those who don't know, both of the books under review today supposedly cover Burroughs' early childhood among dysfunctional hippies in the "let it all hang out" 1970s, a series of vignettes that he actually writes from the mindset and viewpoint of that particular age; so in other words, if he's recalling an event from when he was five years old, he actually writes it as a five-year-old would supposedly see it. And in that manner, Burroughs essentially gets to have his cake and eat it too; he gets to say outrageously offensive things about all the real people around him at that time in his life, absurdly unprovable things that rely as much on magical realism as...you know,

    , while still having the convenient James-Frey Oprahesque New-Age excuse of, "I'm a writer, and I'm paid to write about how something

    . And this is how these events

    to me. And it doesn't matter if what I say is exactly

    or not, not from a

    standpoint, because they

    factual accounts of how I

    at that moment, or perhaps how I felt thirty years later when looking back on it through the filter of a mainstream publishing contract and looming deadline."

    I think it's very telling, for example, that his own parents freaking sued him for defamation when

    came out*, but that this hasn't stopped any of these publishing companies from continuing to put out, put out, put out yet another semi-crap childhood memoir and yet another semi-crap childhood memoir by him. Because simply, we live in an age where a huge majority of the American public can no longer distinguish fact from fiction -- an age where over 50 percent of all Americans believe that

    is a true story, an age where over 50 percent of all Americans believe that

    is a true story. And that's because our country's educational system has been steadily crumbling since the end of World War Two, since the moment the US first started embracing the military-industrial complex, and first started diverting more and more of our national budget away from everything else and towards the military. No one gets a decent education in the United States anymore, critics claim, not unless they seek one out as an adult as the theory goes; and therefore most Americans are no longer even educated enough to understand the difference between true and made-up, the difference between science and "Intelligent Design" (i.e. "Creationism" with a new name), the difference between "memoir" and "sh-t I pulled out of my ass that sounds all tragic and crap, and that no one can exactly either prove or disprove."

    And that's why earlier, I said that I was only guessing at what was the "ostensible" endings of these books; because to admit the absolute truth, I only made it about halfway through

    before finally giving up, and couldn't even get thirty pages into

    without doing the same. And seriously, Mr. Burroughs, if you just happen to ever come across this review -- I understand that writers with unique voices are easy to parody, precisely because they have unique voices, but do you really have to make it so damn tempting as well?

    UGH. It's writers like Augusten Burroughs that makes me want to turn my entire back on Generation X in general, despite me actually being a member of Generation X; it's books like these that makes me understand why kids currently in their twenties hate me and my friends so much, of why they feel the desire to angrily vomit whenever the subjects of tribal-tattoos or Pearl Jam are...

  • Tina

    I learned, along with the rest of my reading group, that running with scissors is preferable to reading this book.

  • Fabian

    I read this book in about four hours. & maybe that's as good an encapsulation of the experience as I can give.

    I like the eccentric, non-plot-driven memoir that sounds too strange to be true... and because it exists, because it ACTUALLY happened (unlike you James Frey!!), it merits thoughts about American families in addition to the ironies of self-obsessed psychologies.

    Written in cute concise prose, even if some jokes do not actually make you laugh but sicken you to the point of feeling trul

    I read this book in about four hours. & maybe that's as good an encapsulation of the experience as I can give.

    I like the eccentric, non-plot-driven memoir that sounds too strange to be true... and because it exists, because it ACTUALLY happened (unlike you James Frey!!), it merits thoughts about American families in addition to the ironies of self-obsessed psychologies.

    Written in cute concise prose, even if some jokes do not actually make you laugh but sicken you to the point of feeling truly bad for the preteen hero, the entire account is enormously entertaining, as is evident by the fast consumption of it.

    The movie is actually bad; despite Anette Bening, the creator of "Nip/Tuck" & the film's director does not go to where this descriptively homosexual, deeply self-reliant misfit of a person goes.


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