Running With Scissors (Burroughs) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
...a bawdy, outrageous, often hilarious account...In keeping with this book's dauntless comic timing, this guy doesn't miss a beat.
Janet Maslin - The New York Times

If you love Sedaris, you'll fold over laughing with Running with Scissors, a witty and hilarious memoir.
GENRE Magazine

Bookman gave me attention. We would go for long walks and talk about all sorts of things. Like how awful the nuns were in his Catholic school when he was a kid and how you have to roll your lips over your teeth when you give a blowjob," writes Burroughs (Sellevision) about his affair, at age 13, with the 33-year-old son of his mother's psychiatrist. That his mother sent him to live with her shrink (who felt that the affair was good therapy for Burroughs) shows that this is not just another 1980s coming-of-age story. The son of a poet with a "wild mental imbalance" and a professor with a "pitch-black dark side," Burroughs is sent to live with Dr. Finch when his parents separate and his mother comes out as a lesbian. While life in the Finch household is often overwhelming (the doctor talks about masturbating to photos of Golda Meir while his wife rages about his adulterous behavior), Burroughs learns "your life [is] your own and no adult should be allowed to shape it for you." There are wonderful moments of paradoxical humor Burroughs, who accepts his homosexuality as a teen, rejects the squeaky-clean pop icon Anita Bryant because she was "tacky and classless" as well as some horrifying moments, as when one of Finch's daughters has a semi-breakdown and thinks that her cat has come back from the dead. Beautifully written with a finely tuned sense of style and wit the occasional clich ("Life would be fabric-softener, tuna-salad-on-white, PTA-meeting normal") stands out anomalously this memoir of a nightmarish youth is both compulsively entertaining and tremendously provocative.
Publishers Weekly

This memoir by Burroughs is certainly unique; among other adventures, he recounts how his mother's psychiatrist took her to a motel for therapy, while at home the kids chopped a hole in the roof to make the kitchen brighter. Not all craziness, though, this account reveals the feelings of sadness and dislocation this unusual upbringing brought upon Burroughs and his friends. His early family life was characterized by his parents' break-and-destroy fights, and after his parents separated, his mother practically abandoned Burroughs in hopes of achieving fame as a poet. At 12, he went to live with the family (and a few patients) of his mother's psychiatrist. At the doctor's home, children did as they wished: they skipped school, ate whatever they wanted, engaged in whatever sexual adventures came along, and trashed the house and everything in it, while the mother watched TV and occasionally dusted. Burroughs has written an entertaining yet horrifying account that isn't for the squeamish: the scatological content and explicit homosexual episodes may limit its appeal. Recommended for the adventurous seeking an unsettling experience among the grotesque. —Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo
Library Journal

Autobiography of adolescent trauma depicting the author's quest for survival in an unorthodox family alongside his quest for fabulous hair. Copywriter turned novelist Burroughs (Sellevision, 2000) captures in his memoir a particular cultural moment in the late 1970s and early '80s when the baby boomers' flaccid if-it-feels-good-do-it ethos soured. "My parents loathed each other and the life they had built together," he writes. The estrangement of his increasingly manic-depressive poet mother and cold, alcoholic father flung young Burroughs into the strange Northampton, Massachusetts, household of family psychiatrist Dr. Finch, a jolly and permissive yet ominous figure who advocated intense therapy and nonjudgmental fathering. At his mother's insistence, Burroughs spent much of his adolescence living among the Finches. The fussy, hairdressing-obsessed boy was unnerved by their squalid household but became close with irascible daughters Hope and Natalie, participating in their substance abuse and delinquency, helping them wreck the Finches' dilapidated Victorian house. The doctor's pseudo-parenting encouraged the boy's sexual relationship with creepy, manipulative, much older Neil Bookman, Finch's "adopted son." When the doctor coached Burroughs to stage a suicide attempt in order to get out of going to school, our hero began to wonder whether life with the Finches would equip him, or Hope, or Natalie with mainstream survival skills-eventually, surprisingly enough, it did. Burroughs strongly delineates the tangled, perverse bonds among these high-watt eccentrics and his childhood self, aspiring to a grotesque comic merger of John Waters and David Sedaris. However, his under-edited prose is frequently uninspired and rambling, relying on consumer-culture references (from Clairol, Pat Benatar, Brooke Shields, Captain and Tennille, Sea Monkeys, the Brady Bunch, to Magic Eight Balls, etc., etc.) and repetitive sequences of abrasive dialogue ("Stop antagonizing me.... Just stop transferring all this anger onto me"). Presumably he garnered these details from his oft-mentioned journal, but they fail to deepen the characters. An unusual upbringing, reconstituted into a very usual memoir.
Kirkus Review

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