Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

scissors 2003. Picador. 320 pages.

Someone said that they key to an instant non-fiction bestseller is to brand the book as a “memoir”. Although most memoirs leave a powerful mark,  I’ve read a handful of memoir packaged works that left me terribly disappointed.

Though i won’t say that Running With Scissors is very monumental, it’s a delightful read. Augusten Burroughs has the ingenious talent of stringing everyday ‘safe’ words together that will give you an electric shock.

Growing up in the 70’s, Burroughs was left by his mother to live with her psychiatrist, Dr. Finch. Together with the other adopted Finch children, Burroughs experiences adolescence and teenage/young adult years in a very radical house and family with too much freedom.

The family belives that a child reaches his maturity at the age of 13, and no adult can tell him or her what to do. This may sound like paradise to most teenagers. And while Burroughs initially embraced and enjoyed his freedom (he’s discovered and was enouraged to explore his homosexuality) in the end he realizes that he needs boundaries and rules, and that all he really wanted was a “Hamburger Helper” mother.

The Finch family creates a colorful out of this world dynamics (they read their future by the shape of their excrement, and consult the bible via “bible dips” –where one asks a question say, “should i take this job or not” and another flips randomly at a page in the bible, and the ‘asker’ points his finger anywhere in the page. whatever word his finger lands on is the answer to his question). A house where anger is celebrated, and cleaning up is almost forbidden.

It’s about how living with a dysfunctional family can make or break an individual. but most importantly, its about how one learns to better himself despite and inspite of his background.

I saw the movie right after reading the book. Brilliantly acted, but the book is 100X better, The movie has a dark aura to it, and has so many cinematic juxtaposition to create a feel of ‘irony’ or emphasize a mood. While it worked 1-2 times, too much of it is just blah.

Annette Benning was wonderful playing Dierdre Burroughs (Augusten’s mother). Augusten’s role, played by Joseph Cross, i felt wasn’t really justified 100%.

Scenes from the movie:

The author, Augusten Burroughs

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