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Augusten Burroughs
315 Pages
Publisher: Picador USA (November 2005)
ISBN: 031242227X
Price: S$27.95 (Available in Borders)

with scissors/





There is a fine cutting line between tragedy and comedy. Running with Scissors straddles the edge so delicately that one does not know when to laugh or when to cry with Augusten’s abysmal childhood experiences.

A pedophile and rape, an alcoholic father, a crazy mom and various episodes of nervous breakdowns, a coming-out to two families, a quack and his family – these are some of the things that Augsuten Burroughs had to deal with before he turned 16. In his dry narrative voice, Augusten managed to turn a story of betrayal and loath into something vaguely funny, if only the humour in the story can withstand the odious weight of its own wretched trajectory.

Witty chapter titles aside, Running with Scissors is a disturbing read. Laughing with the book is akin to smirking at a vivisection. You have to perceive it as some sort of inspirational story to stomach its contents: If Augusten can survive a childhood like this, impossible is nothing. Yeah, just do it.

Along the way, it happens to be one of the most unforgettable memoirs you will ever read.

P.S. Horrors of horrors, the book is actually coming to life in a theatre near you. Helmed by Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy, imagine Annette Bening as Deirdre the crazy mom, Alec Baldwin as the alcoholic father, Brian Cox as the shrink Dr Finch, Gwyneth Paltrow as the frigidly eerie Hope, Evan Rachel Woods as Augusten’s “Princess Diana” soulmate Natalie and Joseph Fiennes as the 33-year-old boyfriend of Augusten’s. Erm, truly a fascinating proposition for the morbid.


“I can't stop staring at her feet, which she has slipped into treacherously tall red patent-leather pumps. Because she normally lives in sandals, it's like she's borrowed some other lady's feet. Maybe her friend Lydia's feet. Lydia has teased black hair, boyfriends and an above-ground pool. She wears high heels all the time, even when she's just sitting out back by the pool in her white bikini, smoking menthol cigarettes and talking on her olive-green Princess telephone. My mother only wears fancy shoes when she's going out, so I've come to associate them with a feeling of abandonment and dread.

I don't want her to go. My umbilical cord is still attached and she's pulling at it. I feel panicky.”


This book is not for the faint-hearted. But you will read it and enjoy it. Just don’t be too openly happy about it. There is a sequel of sorts by the way, a memoir of Augusten’s adult alcoholic life called “Dry”. Stop grinning at the prospect of reading that one, you freak.

Review by Lim Mun Pong





This review is made possible with the kind sponsor of BORDERS


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