exercises in compound storytelling

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Augusten Burroughs: Running with Scissors

List of psychiatric medicationsImage via Wikipedia
Augusten Burroughs's 2002 memoir Running with Scissors is one of the most disturbing things I've read in a while. Granted, I don't read a lot of fiction, and I don't generally read just for freak value, but I picked this up at my local library on a whim, and by the time I got to the parts I found really disturbing it was really too late to put it down.

The basic story is this: Burroughs's mother is crazy, and she comes under the influence of a psychiatrist who is also crazy. She leaves him at the age of twelve with the doctor and the doctor's family. Hilarity more or less ensues. Some sexuality and adult situations. Some cruelty to animals.

Much of the stuff that jumps out at the casual reader is barely worth name-checking: the sex, the drugs, the codependent behavior. What's left when I ignore all of this is a story of a child who slips through the cracks, who should have gotten attention from welfare officials, but who was mostly ignored, probably on the strength of the leeway society gave psychiatrists at the time. And I suppose a lot of what happens here happens elsewhere in situations where oversight is inadequate, absent, or wrong-headed: cults, communes, foster homes, etc.

And I think that's all I really have to say about it. It struck me as a story of improperly placed trust, social status, etc. and I'm not really sure what else to say about it.

It's a reasonably good example of how an outrageous story becomes more palatable if presented as nonfiction. The story moves briskly. I don't recommend reading it.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

No comments: