Augusten Burroughs wanted to grow up with the Brady Bunch, but instead he got the Addams family. Running with Scissors is the true story of a boy given away by his mother to be raised by her psychiatrist, a certified lunatic and Santa Claus’ doppelganger. The doctor’s wacky family, a couple of patients later and a sinister man living in the garden complete the picture. There were no rules and no school, the Christmas tree stayed up all year round, Valium was devoured like sweets, the future was predicted by the direction faeces fell into the toilet and when things got a bit sluggish there was the antique electroshock therapy machine under the stairs to get things moving.
No wonder Running with Scissors has been called “a crazed sitcom”, “the Brady Bunch on Viagra” and “twisted”; it certainly feels that way when you are in the deepest darkest depths of the pages and the pits of Burroughs’ mind.The memoir is both hilarious and horrifying, accounting the events of five years out of Burroughs life that he spent with his mother’s psychiatrist after she had had one too many breakdown’s to raise him. It is told in such an unbelievable manner that it makes the most outrageous episode of Jerry Springer seem like absolute rationality and sanity. Burroughs eloquence and no-bars-attached approach allows Running with Scissors to shine as a darkly comic yet terrifyingly cruel memoir of dysfunctional childhood and identity crisis in a flamboyant parallel universe that collides with fanatical cravings for conventionality, traditionalism and orthodoxy. Running with Scissors is a harrowing memoir of shattered childhood, that prompted a lawsuit from the psychiatrists family.
Running with Scissors sucks you in from the opening pages and refuses to relent its grip until you close the last page, even then it leaves you craving more. It is Burroughs wry, vulnerable and sardonic tone that lets you wholeheartedly into his life of squalor, sexual encounters with a paedophile and estrangement from his biological parents in favour of a life of isolation and alienation a million miles away from the life he had dreamt for himself. Running with Scissors is a startlingly open debut memoir that you find yourself ginning like the Cheshire cat at with every surreal event and snippy aside that Burroughs inserts; luckily one of Burroughs talents is laughter, to see the humour in the lonniest and the darkest of situations. Truth certainly becomes stranger than fiction in Running with Scissors; Burroughs sets a new standard in the memoir genre.
Running with Scissors has to be my favourite book of all time, one that I couldn’t recommend more. Let me know what you think!