Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

Tessa Bright Wildsmith
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“Running with Scissors” is a memoir about Augusten Burroughs childhood, and how he grew up under the strangest circumstances. It’s so far from any resemblance of a normal childhood that I often forgot it was a memoir and was convinced I was reading fiction.

Burroughs was the son of a mentally imbalanced poet. After years of eccentric behaviors and all-out war between his mother and father, twelve-year-old Augusten is sent to live with his mother’s equally eccentric and unorthodox psychiatrist, Dr. Finch, who looked exactly like Santa Claus.

In Dr. Finch’s home, there were no rules, and everyone was allowed to do whatever they felt like at the moment with no consequences. In one specific part of the book, Augusten and Dr. Finch’s daughter, Natalie, decided to tear the ceiling out of the kitchen, and everyone was perfectly ok with this. In this home, no one ever took down the Christmas tree, and a friendly pedophile lived in the shed out back. Like I said, it was all almost too much to be a memoir and not an elaborately woven fictional plot.

Burroughs’ account of his extremely abnormal childhood is funny and entertaining. He tells the story in a light-hearted view of himself as a child. His impressions of people and his thought process at the time are endearing and comical. There are parts of the book that may be a little too honest, leaving the reader to wish perhaps he or she hadn’t read that part. I am a fan of dark material, so I’m not sure what bothered me about it. It may have been because this is a true memoir, and not fiction made up in someone’s mind.

Dr. Finch comes across as not completely competent, especially to be treating other people with mental problems. Burroughs mother is uncaring and self-absorbed, and his father is dark and absent. Augusten definitely didn’t grow up surrounded by good influences, nor was he given much guidance at all. Some of the other children in Dr. Finch’s home were sympathetic, especially his daughter, Natalie, who was close to Augusten’s age and his closest friend growing up.

“Running with Scissors” is as disturbing as it is funny. It’s horrifying to think about someone growing up this way, and yet with Burroughs funny and light-hearted recounting of his unusual upbringing, it comes off as ridiculously funny.

Burroughs sequel to “Running with Scissors” is titled “Dry” and tells the rest of his story: how he came out of this crazy childhood as an alcoholic and his journey to recover as an adult.

Have you read “Running with Scissors?” Discuss your thoughts on the book below.

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