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80 of 82 people found the following review helpful
on 28 February 2003
Ths book was recommended to me by a friend in America and I snapped it up as soon as it became available over here. My friend said I wouldn't be able to put it down. She was right. I read the entire thing in one sitting.
The story recounts five years in the life of Augusten Burroughs. His mother, being crazy, gives up her son into the care of her psychiatrist, and life for 12 year old Augusten just gets even crazier. The book reads as though it is a comedy and, trust me, you will find yourself laughing out loud on several occasions, but there is nothing comedic about the contents of the book. Some of the events are so shocking they seem slightly unbelievable and just when you think things couldn't get any worse, Burroughs throws something even more terrible at you, and you are left reeling from the impact.
You have to keep reminding yourself that this is a memoir, that these things did really happen to this little boy. Burroughs lived through this and the fact that he has produced such a stunning memoir, and indeed written it with such humour, is truly remarkable.
I would advise everyone who has ever read a book to read this one. It may never win literary acclaim, but Running With Scissors is an amazing read. I never thought it was possible to feel both repulsion and warmth at the same time, but Burroughs has shown me how it is done. Then again, through Running With Scissors, Burroughs has opened my eyes to a lot of things.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 9 August 2013
This is a very adult book about childhood, you have to keep reminding yourself that throughout this period of his life the writer was a young boy / teenager. I love quirky but did not laugh out loud at the events. I understand that it contains some gallows type humour but the subject matter is serious, I didn't get the feeling that the writer was laughing much through this period. It is an interesting, thought-provoking read, some great one liners and insights. If you are looking for a read about a very unusual family then this fits the bill.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 13 September 2009
W-o-w. I must say, I am ashamed of myself for letting this one slide down my pile of 'books to read' for so long. I'm not sure quite how to review it, except to say that this is one of those books, those turbulent memoirs, that has to be read to be believed. If you can believe it in its entirety at all, that is.

Augusten Burroughs was a strange child. He liked shiny things, making his hair lie flat, and generally being fabulous. His mother was a poet dangling over the precipice of insanity, and his father turned to alcohol to cope. Out of his life fell his father, and into his life wandered Dr Finch, his mother's psychiatrist, in more than a little need of therapy himself. While his mum hails Dr Finch as her saviour and his dubious methods as genius, Augusten is drawn slowly away from her into the madness of the Finch household. Hope worships her father and believes that her cat is talking to her in dreams. Agnes eats dog biscuits and has to put up with her husband's patients taking over her house. Neil, a patient of Dr Finch's, wastes no time in setting up a bizarre gay relationship with 13-year-old Augusten. A lady with OCD lives in a room upstairs and never comes out. And Natalie, cynical and driven to madness by her family, becomes his new best friend.

This world - and the book itself - is by turns repulsive and attractive, brilliant and insane, hopeful and hopeless, hilarious and deadly sober. It is incredible, it is bizarre, and the memorable childhood translates into a memorable autobiography. I liked it so much that I just ordered the movie version (starring Annette Bening and Brian Cox) and I'll be looking for 'Dry' - the follow up and by all accounts just as good - very soon!
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on 5 May 2006
I read this book after reading an extract from it in a magazine and nothing could have prepared me for what I found. The book is a dark and disturbing memoir of a boy who is "raised" by the crazy family of his mother's psychiatrist. But don't be fooled, this is no navel-gazing, weighty tear-jerker; Burroughs writes candidly and with a dark humour and never encourages the reader to feel sorry for him or judge the bizarre parade of characters that pass through.

I'm sure this book won't appeal to everyone and if you're looking for a probing, 'hankies at the ready' story of a scarred childhood, then this isn't for you; however, if you want a fascinating, darkly comic book that explores the seedier side of growing up, then this is an excellent choice.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 11 August 2010
This book is definitely an entertaining read. The events depicted range from the outlandish to the really disturbing, and all are described with searing frankness and at times great wit. Some of the cultural references littered throughout are before my time and/or US-specific (as in mentions of the Donny and Marie Show, a sitcom called Maude etc.) but I was able to fill in the gaps to some extent. How to quantify what makes for a good memoir is difficult, but on the grounds of the shear abnormality and oddness of the stories recounted in this book, it's probably hard to top. However, due to the craziness of Burrough's upbringing and the lawsuit that ensued after publication I did find myself doubting the veracity of some of the events portrayed. Press and interviews in relation to the book do seem to confirm some of the more disturbing events as being factual, and the lawsuit was settled with Burroughs having to conceed very little. Nonetheless I'm inclined to take some of the stories with a pinch of salt. Nonetheless, I would recommend "Running with Scissors" to anyone who's interested.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 26 April 2012
My first time with this writer on a recommendation. Well written and spiked with black humour. But I didn't always feel comfortable with attempts to create one shock upon another making me feel I was being pushed down life's toilet bowl. Indeed coprophilia is not left untouched. Despite the excellence of the writing, I began to feel the author was laughing at my expense. What character indignities, incredulities and prurience can I create for my reader in the name of black humour? So in the end I became inured to the explicitness, the older man seducing a youth, the excess of eccentricity and the comedy slowly waned. I have been given the follow up and will give it a go out of politeness to the giver. A lot of readers will like the book and dive wholeheartedly into it lapping up the torridness of a life. As for me - yeah, ok - writing first class but do I want to read page after page of life's comedic awfulness taken to its extremities? Not on the day I read it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 14 May 2009
I just finished reading this book a few hours ago and the only thing I could think of was 'wow'. You think your family is weird or screwed up? Think again...This book recounts such a unique upbringing it borders on the verge of fiction. It is impossible not to feel empathy or at least a sense of awe towards the characters, however shocking they are. At times the book is so disturbing that you have to laugh with fascination and disbelief.
Having had a messy childhood myself, I felt that his' is by far the most abnormal. And having said that, I feel a deep admiration for the author. I truely cannot conceive anyone going through what he did and escaping unscathed. This book is incredible; a harsh reminder that there is no such thing as 'the norm' when it comes to life.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 7 April 2004
I read this whole book in about 5 days,it really got me hooked from the start. It's such a surreal story it's hard to believe it really happened but it's a pretty amazing read. The life that Burroughs describes shows his flaws as a human,the way he's missed out in some aspects of life. It's pretty inspirational and highly entertaining. There are harrowing parts but this is never too intense as he brings natural humour to his narrative. The balance of seriousness and humour is just right and never seems forced. My only complaint is that it's not long enough!! I seriously really enjoyed this book, it's a bit out of the ordinary but well worth picking up as it will certainly make you think and make you smile.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 November 2014
Augusten Burroughs has written a beautiful and shocking memoir. 'Running with Scissors' explains how the author spent most of his teenage years in the company of a crazy psychiatrist and his dysfunctional family. Details of the memoir have drawn criticism ove the years. (Members of the family sued Burroughs for defamation.) Nevertheless, I must for this review assume that every recorded event is true. With this regard, Burroughs' work is remarkable for many reasons.

There are several episodes in the memoir that might disgust the reader. As a boy, Burroughs was raped by a psychiatric patient. Dr. Finch, the crazy psychiatrist, encouraged him and his other wards to express anger irresponsibly. Over the course of the memoir, Burroughs and his peers lead a disordered life of immature hedonism, unchecked and unchained at any moment. As Burroughs observes later in the book, the trouble with nobody telling you what to do is that nobody tells you what not to do.

'Running with Scissors' is also remarkable for its written style. In an era when 'Tragic Life Stories' have become a hackneyed genre, Burroughs' memoir describes terrible circumstances without an ounce of self-pity and without a word of embellishment. Indeed, one might argue that the prose is muscular and colloquial, even ungrammatical. This is however a strength, not a fault. Burroughs' informal style allows the reader to feel comfortable reading about uncomfortable stories.

In summary, 'Running with Scissors' is a well-conceived, well-developed, and well-written read. I have no doubt that I'll be reading the author's other work in the near future.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 4 September 2010
Running with Scissors is the first set of memoirs by Augusten Burroughs, charting his childhood from the ages of eleven to seventeen.

Augusten's mother is a mentally ill poet who dreams of being published in The New Yorker. So much so that she somewhat neglects her duties as a mother to young Augusten. But all is well because she realises that she can in fact send her son to live with her shrink, Dr Finch. And this would be fine were it not for the fact that Finch is more insane than she is.

Faking a suicide attempt that allows Augusten to drop out of school (a plot designed by Finch), the boy lives a life of freedom with his new family, embarking on a series of strange events that will ultimately lead him to discovering who he is and what he wants to do with his life.

This book is hilarious. Augusten's adventures are so funny that I laughed out loud many times, something I rarely do when reading. Whether it be pulling down the ceiling of the kitchen because he thinks a skylight is needed or, aged thirteen, dating his step brother Neil (who is in his thirties) you can't help but laugh at the humour injected into what could have been severely damaging experiences.

There's a memorable cast of characters including a grinning Hispanic who wants to be his new father, his sisters Hope and Natalie with whom he forges strong and poignant bonds, little Poo so named because he does poos everywhere, Dr Finch himself who thinks nothing of dishing out trial medicines seemingly without thought and who believes messages can be read in human turds, and his mother who swings from poetic flights of fancy to full blown psychotic episodes. But most memorable of all is Augusten. Chain smoking at thirteen, with dreams of establishing a hair product empire, you read this book with what I guess is some sort of strange envy. His life, though messed up, is bohemian and carefree and whatever comes along he just grabs without thinking. He's irresponsible, bratty and bitchy but he's also caring and kind, and it's his heart that lets you invest in the book.

If you're looking for funny and strange memoirs, edged with pathos, then Running With Scissors is the book for you.
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