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A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My Father

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Nominated for the 2009 Audiobook of the Year As a little boy, I had a dream that my father had taken me to the woods where there was a dead body. He buried it and told me I must never tell. It was the only thing we'd ever done together as father and son, and I promised not to tell. But unlike most dreams, the memory of this one never left me. And sometimes...I wasn't altoge Nominated for the 2009 Audiobook of the Year As a little boy, I had a dream that my father had taken me to the woods where there was a dead body. He buried it and told me I must never tell. It was the only thing we'd ever done together as father and son, and I promised not to tell. But unlike most dreams, the memory of this one never left me. And sometimes...I wasn't altogether sure about one thing: was it just a dream? When Augusten Burroughs was small, his father was a shadowy presence in his life: a form on the stairs, a cough from the basement, a silent figure smoking a cigarette in the dark. As Augusten grew older, something sinister within his father began to unfurl. Something dark and secretive that could not be named. Betrayal after shocking betrayal ensued, and Augusten's childhood was over. The kind of father he wanted didn't exist for him. This father was distant, aloof, uninterested... And then the games began. With A Wolf at the Table, Augusten Burroughs makes a quantum leap into untapped emotional terrain: the radical pendulum swing between love and hate, the unspeakably terrifying relationship between father and son. Told with scorching honesty and penetrating insight, it is a story for anyone who has ever longed for unconditional love from a parent. Though harrowing and brutal, A Wolf at the Table will ultimately leave you buoyed with the profound joy of simply being alive. It's a memoir of stunning psychological cruelty and the redemptive power of hope.


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Nominated for the 2009 Audiobook of the Year As a little boy, I had a dream that my father had taken me to the woods where there was a dead body. He buried it and told me I must never tell. It was the only thing we'd ever done together as father and son, and I promised not to tell. But unlike most dreams, the memory of this one never left me. And sometimes...I wasn't altoge Nominated for the 2009 Audiobook of the Year As a little boy, I had a dream that my father had taken me to the woods where there was a dead body. He buried it and told me I must never tell. It was the only thing we'd ever done together as father and son, and I promised not to tell. But unlike most dreams, the memory of this one never left me. And sometimes...I wasn't altogether sure about one thing: was it just a dream? When Augusten Burroughs was small, his father was a shadowy presence in his life: a form on the stairs, a cough from the basement, a silent figure smoking a cigarette in the dark. As Augusten grew older, something sinister within his father began to unfurl. Something dark and secretive that could not be named. Betrayal after shocking betrayal ensued, and Augusten's childhood was over. The kind of father he wanted didn't exist for him. This father was distant, aloof, uninterested... And then the games began. With A Wolf at the Table, Augusten Burroughs makes a quantum leap into untapped emotional terrain: the radical pendulum swing between love and hate, the unspeakably terrifying relationship between father and son. Told with scorching honesty and penetrating insight, it is a story for anyone who has ever longed for unconditional love from a parent. Though harrowing and brutal, A Wolf at the Table will ultimately leave you buoyed with the profound joy of simply being alive. It's a memoir of stunning psychological cruelty and the redemptive power of hope.

30 review for A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My Father

  1. 5 out of 5

    Betsy

    CAVEAT: This book is potentially triggering for survivors of physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse, as well as animal lovers. I heard Augusten Burroughs said, and I paraphrase, that Running with Scissors was a joyous romp compared with this book. Now that I have read it, I understand why. Running with Scissors does seem like a collection of insouciant anecdotes juxtaposed with the raw, unpolished emotionality that Burroughs unfurls in this narrative. I've read doubts from others about what in CAVEAT: This book is potentially triggering for survivors of physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse, as well as animal lovers. I heard Augusten Burroughs said, and I paraphrase, that Running with Scissors was a joyous romp compared with this book. Now that I have read it, I understand why. Running with Scissors does seem like a collection of insouciant anecdotes juxtaposed with the raw, unpolished emotionality that Burroughs unfurls in this narrative. I've read doubts from others about what in this book happened and what was less than 100% factual...whether or not every event in this book occurred is really a small detail. To me, Burroughs here exposes the terror, the powerlessness, the confusion of being the victim of an abuser against whom one can not have agency, can not escape, can not rationalize. People wonder why victims stay in bad situations, and this book expresses that slow, upheaving descent into abuse vividly--the complexity, the confusion, the instability that keeps the victim/s scrambling and unsure. There are some moments of inconsistency in the voice that Burroughs uses in his retelling (shifts in persona from child to words that seem more likely to come from an adult) and some lapses in time that elicit frustration. But, this is part of what makes this precisely a re-telling, a re-living, a re-memberance. Burroughs is, as one would, piecing this back together. The seamed echos make it that much more realistic, that much more like the re-claiming and re-telling of other abused people's stories that I have heard, more like my own voice, too. If you try to be the enforcer, the lawyer, the law when you read this, you might be disappointed or frustrated. But if you come to it as the listener, the empath, the psychologist, you can learn from his story.

  2. 5 out of 5

    tee

    Burroughs is dramatic. He's a ranting, raving, immensely creative drama queen. Unfortunately his drama queen antics were too overboard this time around with way too many "could have" "maybe he..." "i think he could have"s. Sandwich this with his writing being an awkward combination of sufficiently good and cringeworthy and you have a headache on your hands. The bright! he stared at the bright! when he was a year and a half old. Gah, save me. It goes without saying that I think abuse of children i Burroughs is dramatic. He's a ranting, raving, immensely creative drama queen. Unfortunately his drama queen antics were too overboard this time around with way too many "could have" "maybe he..." "i think he could have"s. Sandwich this with his writing being an awkward combination of sufficiently good and cringeworthy and you have a headache on your hands. The bright! he stared at the bright! when he was a year and a half old. Gah, save me. It goes without saying that I think abuse of children in any form is horrid; that includes anything Burroughs' father may have done; whether it was making him feel unwanted or scaring him. He sounded like a bitter, twisted, nasty old man - the way he supposedly treated animals shows that. For a child, the daddy that doesn't pay you attention and simmers with rage in his rocking chair can indeed be frightening. He is that wolf at the table. I guess in a way a desperate part of me just hoped that by the time you hit forty, you're hopefully starting to mend and ceasing to chase daddy's affection. When you read a memoir like this and see that this shit can still hurt so many years later, it's daunting. I say this at 31 years old with pocketfuls of unhealed bitterness of my own. Damage that I want to be mending but can't seem to. Perhaps Burroughs writing this book was cathartic and part of his healing process. If that's the case, I hope it helped. I guess it's just frustrating as a reader to see this guy putting himself back in the range of fire over and over again. Reading it as fiction, you'd want to slap him, really. Dude, you found an abandoned cabin in the fucking woods - go hang out there, why would you be so intent on wanting to curl up in daddy's lap? From your descriptions of dearest daddy it probably smelt like cheese anyway. Or rather, in true Burroughs spirit, if you'd cuddled daddy his crotch would have snapped you up with it's burning teeth of fire whilst wailing banshee screeches, lashing octopus limbs, fire, doom, death. You know, maybe, but daddy just sat in his chair drinking himself to oblivion in a vain attempt to deal with his shitty life and scribbled notes about the price of corn instead. Reading this book as the memoir it is intended to be, however, it's just sad. I was that kid seeking my mum's affection and attention. I kept going back for more. If I had been reading my story, I would've wanted to tell me to just quit it too. Part of me wanted to tell him to get over it. And himself. I think that had a lot more to do with the dramatic tone rather than his trauma. I mean, if you're going to be a dramatic jerk - at least make it worth my while. It's what I had expected. Instead, it was a patchwork of rather isolated incidents with a young Burrough's furtive imagination fuelling the drama. He wasn't physically abused, thankfully, and I well understand that emotional abuse can be ten times worse but it seemed that much of the abuse was implied. A look from daddy, could be three pages of what Burroughs thought the look meant. The dog that became daddy's dark sidekick after several days of young Burroughs' absence - had been magically turned by the dark overlord. Burroughs envisioned the dog having been tortured by electricity, poked with sharp implements ... and so on. The dog was a little nuts; it was likely it was hardly ever fed considering how neurotic and self-obsessed the entire family is. No wonder it was acting out. The thing that I noticed, was that he nagged his dad a lot and subsequently got ignored. Over and over. His bedroom door was no protection for his dad's fist; which was never used against anyone but was implied (over and over). And sure, a violent parent can be terrifying, a father punching a wall nerve-wracking but why not just write that, rather than imply things that apparently didn't happen? Every time he called his father 'dead' instead of 'dad', I cringed. He googled for missing students near where his father lived. I mean, come on, if that isn't a bloody overactive imagination then what is?! This book is less about his father's neurosis' and a lot more about his own. On a side note, if this isn't a fine case for why divorce is a must for some people then I don't know what is. Why would these two have even stuck together?! (Yet again, I say this having similar examples in my own life). Daddy was a boring, old, bitter man and his hatred and dissatisfaction with his life made him ill and sore and pained. When little kids come along and get in the way of one's misery and navel gazing, they got told to go away. I mean, who wants to bounce a curly-headed little angel up and down on one's arthritic, swollen knee. But then what child wants to be petted by smelly, flaking hands anyway? Maybe Daddy didn't want to subject such a bouncing, bubbly, charming little tyke, such as Burroughs to a mouthful of blackening stumps. The odour of death. Dark wings of Satan flapping all around that gingivitis cavern of gloom. And death. Which kills. I'm sorry Augusten, I don't know where my love affair with you took a nose dive. I'm pretty sure this book had something to do with it. I'm a little worried that if I re-read your other books, they'll only irritate the shit out of me. WAS I ON CRACK OR SOMETHING WHEN I THOUGHT THAT YOU WERE AWESOME?! Or is it more to do with the fact that you are nothing without that humour for which I so loved you in the beginning. I hope your next ten, fifteen, fifty memoirs are at least hilarious.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lyn

    Sad, pitiful, disturbing but ultimately redemptive. Augusten Burroughs’, born Christopher Robison, 2008 autobiographical work A Wolf at the Table describes his difficult childhood with this parents and his older brother. To say that the Robison’s were dysfunctional is like saying Neil Peart of Rush is a drummer. The action in this novel takes place when Augusten in younger and mostly precedes the action in his 2002 novel Running with Scissors. Mostly about the caustic and troubled relationship bet Sad, pitiful, disturbing but ultimately redemptive. Augusten Burroughs’, born Christopher Robison, 2008 autobiographical work A Wolf at the Table describes his difficult childhood with this parents and his older brother. To say that the Robison’s were dysfunctional is like saying Neil Peart of Rush is a drummer. The action in this novel takes place when Augusten in younger and mostly precedes the action in his 2002 novel Running with Scissors. Mostly about the caustic and troubled relationship between Augusten and his creepy, Dionysian father, this is also about how this poisonous upbringing effected him later in life. A ubiquitous theme in Burroughs’ narrative is that he does not want to be like his father who is somewhat mindful of the dad in Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values, though there is nothing charming about Father Robison as opposed to the roguish abstractly disconnected charisma of Phaedrus. There is much mention of his brother, John Elder Robison, who is the author of Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's. Knowing that John’s unusual behavior could be explained by his Asperger’s Syndrome created an oddly gratifying sense of theatrical irony while reading. A fitting illustration of the book was the scene where Augusten’s father gave him a baseball glove – no ball – and then the son-of-a-bitch wouldn’t even go outside with his son. Of course, what would be the point without a ball to throw and catch? This reads, though as a memoir (really a war story) as also a cautionary tale, especially in our modern day come-as-you-are society. I was raised by my step-father, a damn fine man then and now, as good a father as they come, and I have raised three wonderful sons. As an attorney I have represented moms and dads in divorce and custody proceedings and more than a few child support actions. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. I have seen fathers who were genuine and true, flawed as are we all, but dedicated and loving and providing an example of what to be and too frequently, but humbly, what not to be. And … God help us all, I have seen the sperm donors who, but for morals and laws, are breathing too much good air. (the term worthless sack of s*** comes to mind). Burroughs does not give us a Field of Dreams happy ending, but he does get through a tortuous there and back again modern day fable of neglect, abuse, self-loathing and deliverance.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Anita Dalton

    I think this is a fine book but I have no idea if you should read it or not. If you don’t know what I know, maybe it won’t be worth it to you. Because I think, at its heart, this is less a memoir for me than a book of kinship, a description of what it is like to be small and terrified, held in thrall to a mentally ill and at times despicable parent, to never feel peace, to watch creatures you love die (or in my case disappear entirely without a trace) and have nothing you can do about any of it. I think this is a fine book but I have no idea if you should read it or not. If you don’t know what I know, maybe it won’t be worth it to you. Because I think, at its heart, this is less a memoir for me than a book of kinship, a description of what it is like to be small and terrified, held in thrall to a mentally ill and at times despicable parent, to never feel peace, to watch creatures you love die (or in my case disappear entirely without a trace) and have nothing you can do about any of it. I felt a great connection with Burroughs, as if finally there might be a person on this planet who could hear the story of my own life and nod and not pepper me with questions as they tried to understand how a man can be a monster to his family and a kind, a polite family man to strangers. Read my entire review here.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    I had to stop reading this because I was so infuriated by the first chapter. I'm sorry, but there is NO WAY Augusten Burroughs remembers looking at the mobile above his bed when he was not even a year old (and in such detail!), or what the bottle tasted like at that age (or being sad when it was taken out of his mouth!), or that he was thinking the moment his friend got lost at the seaside ("I just assumed he'd never return"... what toddler thinks like that?). After "Running With Scissors," I'm I had to stop reading this because I was so infuriated by the first chapter. I'm sorry, but there is NO WAY Augusten Burroughs remembers looking at the mobile above his bed when he was not even a year old (and in such detail!), or what the bottle tasted like at that age (or being sad when it was taken out of his mouth!), or that he was thinking the moment his friend got lost at the seaside ("I just assumed he'd never return"... what toddler thinks like that?). After "Running With Scissors," I'm sure he has some dramatic argument for why memoirs shouldn't be a literal reading of the truth - or why "the truth" doesn't exist in a subjective world - or some bullshit, but I'm not buying it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Will N Van

    Augusten Burroughs is one of my favorite contemporary authors, and it has always puzzled me a bit regarding the debate as to whether or not the events in "Running With Scissors," and now "A Wolf at the Table," are ultimately word for word truth. Given the corroboration from his older brother who has written his own memoir, I would have to say that there is a good chance that much of what Burroughs writes is based on his actual experiences. I suppose if I were a character mentioned by him and fel Augusten Burroughs is one of my favorite contemporary authors, and it has always puzzled me a bit regarding the debate as to whether or not the events in "Running With Scissors," and now "A Wolf at the Table," are ultimately word for word truth. Given the corroboration from his older brother who has written his own memoir, I would have to say that there is a good chance that much of what Burroughs writes is based on his actual experiences. I suppose if I were a character mentioned by him and felt that I had been terribly slighted, It would be far more important to me (hence the lawsuit), but what do the best writers do? The embellish. They exaggerate. They often lie. Capote would say the same were he still with us. A Wolf at the Table is considerably darker than Burrough's most well-known work, describing his perspective of a father who was quite possibly a sociopath. The darkness in him begins to unfold slowly, through alcoholism, emotional neglect and manipulation, and this character study gives light to some of the developments in "Running With Scissors." A cynic might ask such questions as: do we really need another book about a traumatic childhood and a distant and emotionally abusive father? Shouldn't Burroughs just "grow up and get over it already?" Why should we care? The reason I do care comes down to his writing skill. He is simply brilliant at what he does. The often gorgeous prose, the depth of character development, and the emotional impetus that he conveys puts him in this category in my opinion. So much so, that I could care less if he actually remembers sitting in his high-chair at age two, staring through the holes in a saltine cracker. It doesn't have to be true to be great writing.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jan Kendrick

    Wow. This is a tough one... A tough review to write, a tough book to read. Normally I like Burroughs' books, but I am truly torn over this one. Things I liked: The description, the imagery. I truly FELT (not just UNDERSTOOD) what he was writing. I also liked the way the book flowed. It was chronological for the most part, which made sense, but it wasn't rigid. It wasn't a day-by-day diary of his life. That would've been too much. Finally, I liked the threads he wove throughout the book: his father Wow. This is a tough one... A tough review to write, a tough book to read. Normally I like Burroughs' books, but I am truly torn over this one. Things I liked: The description, the imagery. I truly FELT (not just UNDERSTOOD) what he was writing. I also liked the way the book flowed. It was chronological for the most part, which made sense, but it wasn't rigid. It wasn't a day-by-day diary of his life. That would've been too much. Finally, I liked the threads he wove throughout the book: his father's health (knee, skin), the drinking, the animals, his fear of being/looking like him, the idea of loneliness... (There are more, but I don't want to risk spoiling anything..) Finally, I liked the ending. It was well-paced and appropriate. Things I didn't like: The beginning was hard to get into. He begins the book when he is less than a year old and talks about that time as if he has actual memories of it. It was hard to believe, which made it hard to read. I don't usually care about that kind of thing, but somehow it bothered me here. He just went on and on about life and huge thoughts he had at such a young age... Again, usually I am happy to extend grace on the details for the sake of telling a good story, but it was all just too much. Also, the voice in the book was awkward. In the beginning, he tried to use a childlike voice to reflect the age he was writing about, but it just didn't work for me. I found it more distracting and awkward than authentic. Finally, the subject matter was simply tough to stomach at times. That's not entirely Burroughs' fault, of course. It happened; he was just telling the story. But at times it felt more dramatic than it needed to be to get the point across. Some things felt more like punishment to the reader than necessary detail. All in all it's a well-written book that's simply tough to read at times. But I'm glad I did.

  8. 4 out of 5

    K.D. Absolutely

    Early this year, I read Augusten Burrough’s bestselling memoir about his dysfunctional family in Running With Scissors (2002). It covers the time that Burroughs spent living in the home of his mother’s therapist. I was enjoying it (after all, Augusten Burroughs ranks #15 in the Top 25 Funniest People in America according to a magazine's survey) until it came to that detailed oral sex scene between him and the other male character towards the end of the book. That threw me off not because I am sq Early this year, I read Augusten Burrough’s bestselling memoir about his dysfunctional family in Running With Scissors (2002). It covers the time that Burroughs spent living in the home of his mother’s therapist. I was enjoying it (after all, Augusten Burroughs ranks #15 in the Top 25 Funniest People in America according to a magazine's survey) until it came to that detailed oral sex scene between him and the other male character towards the end of the book. That threw me off not because I am squeamish about homosexual acts but I thought that it was totally misplaced. I’d like to give him another try so when I saw a second-hand copy of his memoir prequel, A Wolf At My Table (2008), I immediately bought it. This is a prequel because this covers mainly his relationship with his father from the time he was born up to the time of his parent’s divorce before story closed with his father’s death scene. I am not new on coming-of-age gay boyhood memoirs. I’ve already read and liked The Boy’s Own Life (1982) by Edmund White, America’s Boy (2007) by Wade Rouse, and even gay girlhood: Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985) by Jeanette Winterson. For me these are all better in many aspects than Burrough’s version of his sad experiences of being unloved or ridiculed because of his sexual preference. This book, A Wolf At My Table is definitely not a book that one gives to his/her father for Fathers’ Day. Burroughs hated his father while growing up and this book is full of invective and hatred that for me are very unfortunate because his father is dead and cannot defend himself anymore. I am not sure if what Burroughs claims to have happened were all true but why wash your dirty linens in public? I’d suggest that he should have gone and talk to his shrink instead of using his dead father to sell his books. This is like desecrating the memories, whether good or bad, of his father just to earn a living. And if you want to know what started that hatred, here it is: his father let his guinea pig Ernie die by not taking care of it while Burroughs was out of town with his mother. His father did not know that the poor guinea pig was dead when his wife and son came back. Maybe the father just did not know how to take care of that small animal as there was no mention about him being able to take care of anything. A similar case happened to me and my daughter when she was 5-6 years old. My wife brought her to Baguio over a weekend and they asked me to take care of my daughter’s pet fishes in the aquarium. I did not know that fish could be overfed. So, I fed them lots of pellets and enjoyed watching them eat those just like how I normally feed dogs when I have only one chance in a day to do so: I put a whole day's quantity of dog food on his plate and watch his stomach grow to its full size. So, all the fishes in the aquarium died two days after. Just in time for my daughter’s return. Luckily, my daughter did not react the same way Burroughs overreacted. He wanted to kill his father and he did not want to have anything to do with him anymore. Had this happened to me and my daughter, I would have bought all the aquarium fishes in Metro Manila just to earn her love back! I just did not understand why Burroughs had to put all those dramatic dialogues expressing his strong hatred to his father. He writes well but he has the tendency to overwrite himself and turns his own character into an OA (overacting) performance. Maybe he was part of a drama guild when he was young or that being overly melodramatic is really his style. This came as a surprise for me considering that he is again one of the funniest people in the USA according to a local (US) showbiz magazine. Overall, I think this is just a clear case of a mismatch: a wrong father to a wrong son. The father was a straight detached traditional old-school man. Burroughs is a homosexual who is very emotional and has good flair on drama. Love could have bridged the gap between them but unfortunately as they say life is a big joke and it just did not develop between the two until that part towards the end of the story.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Some of the "Average Joe" negative reviews of A Wolf at the Table that I've read online complain that author Augusten Burroughs' "didn't really know what it was like to be abused" or that Burroughs' mental anguish in the hands of his father's quasi-psychotic unpredictability "was boring, same day in day out" or that "it wasn't funny." Wow. What a bunch of self-centered, whiny turds. A Wolf at The Table is what it is - a simple memoir of a son who spends a lifetime searching for the love of his fa Some of the "Average Joe" negative reviews of A Wolf at the Table that I've read online complain that author Augusten Burroughs' "didn't really know what it was like to be abused" or that Burroughs' mental anguish in the hands of his father's quasi-psychotic unpredictability "was boring, same day in day out" or that "it wasn't funny." Wow. What a bunch of self-centered, whiny turds. A Wolf at The Table is what it is - a simple memoir of a son who spends a lifetime searching for the love of his father (who happens to be detached, cunning, and mentally ill). Yet, it is powerfully written and evocative. Burroughs' growth and maturity as a writer, the ease at which his writing breathes from the page is most evident in A Wolf at the Table. It compelled me from the start. In fact, I contend that might be the best Burroughs' work to date.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    I like Augusten. In this post-Frey Scandal world, it seems anyone who writes memoir has suddenly become suspect and frankly, I resent it. No one ever screamed FRAUD at Truman Capote for fictionalizing his past – well, at least not to his face, I’d imagine. Anyway, much has been made of the fact that the quirky humor that has kind of defined his style thus far is missing from this book (and make no mistake: it is) but then the subject at hand, viz., his alcoholic and possibly psychotic father, do I like Augusten. In this post-Frey Scandal world, it seems anyone who writes memoir has suddenly become suspect and frankly, I resent it. No one ever screamed FRAUD at Truman Capote for fictionalizing his past – well, at least not to his face, I’d imagine. Anyway, much has been made of the fact that the quirky humor that has kind of defined his style thus far is missing from this book (and make no mistake: it is) but then the subject at hand, viz., his alcoholic and possibly psychotic father, doesn’t really lend it self to odd character studies and witty observations – though, to be fair, I did have a good laugh at the odd turn of phrase here and there. The most exciting thing about this book is that Augusten’s prose has grown leaps and bounds over the last few years. He has said in interviews that he is now turning back to Fiction – sometimes people forget that his first novel,Sellevision,was Fiction – and I can’t wait to see the results. In sum: if you like Augusten you will love this book; however, If you think he is a fraudulent memoirist, then keep scanning the shelves.

  11. 5 out of 5

    John

    This is my brother's newest book, a dark story about our late father This is my brother's newest book, a dark story about our late father

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sandra

    Very sad. It breaks my heart to think how many kids might be living in a hell like this right at this moment.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jason Pettus

    (Today's review is much longer than Goodreads' word-count limitations. Find the entire essay at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.) I've mentioned here regularly the entire idea of there being an "underground-arts canon;" that is, that just like the academic community, what we call the modern cutting-edge arts has now been around long enough (arguably (Today's review is much longer than Goodreads' word-count limitations. Find the entire essay at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.) I've mentioned here regularly the entire idea of there being an "underground-arts canon;" that is, that just like the academic community, what we call the modern cutting-edge arts has now been around long enough (arguably since the early 1900s) that we can now say, "If you want to consider yourself well-versed on the subject, you need to make sure to read this person and this person and this person." This is a hugely important subject among intellectuals, after all, because that's what intellectualism is mostly based on in the first place; of that entire group of deep thinkers coming together and collectively deciding what is most important to their group, of what most directly and profoundly helps any intelligent person understand what that group is all about. And thus in the last year and a half have I been desperately trying to fill in the holes of such a canon in my own life; for those who don't know, see, I spent the 15 years before opening CCLaP not as an academe but as an actual working artist, so mostly spent those years actually photographing and writing instead of reading and studying. It's important that I fill in these intellectual gaps now, precisely because I am trying to be a full-time arts critic these days, because it matters with artistic criticism just how much you know about the subject; and thus it is that I'm constantly having to admit these days to a woeful lack of exposure to this artist or that, as I finally make my way through the first of their projects and talk about them here at the site. And that, ladies and gentlemen, brings us to gay Generation X memoirist Augusten Burroughs; because Burroughs is precisely one of these shining lights of the so-called "contemporary canon," according to his fans, one of those "must-read" authors you absolutely need to be familiar with, in order to understand the contemporary underground arts in any kind of sophisticated way whatsoever. His work has previously always simply eluded my attention, for whatever reason; before last week, not only had I never read any of his books, I hadn't even seen the slick high-budget 2006 Hollywood adaptation that was made of his first bestseller, the horrifically comedic / comedically horrific coming-of-age tale Running with Scissors, much less the four other freaking personal memoirs written since or the absurdist novel written before. And whether you like him or hate him, the simple fact is that my non-knowledge of his work is a weakness for me as a critic and book reviewer; there are simply so many people familiar with his books by now, so many references made in other literary reviews to his manuscripts, that any decent reporter of the underground needs to make sure they're familiar with him, for no other reason than so they're on the same page as other lovers of the underground. And it's all this, of course, that made it even such a bigger shock than normal when I actually sat down and read two of Burroughs' memoirs, his oldest (the aforementioned Scissors from 2002) and newest (A Wolf at the Table, from 2008), and realized the following: "Oh my God, Augusten Burroughs' memoirs f-cking suck." How can this be?, any intelligent person will ask at that moment -- how can it be that these books have had so much praise heaped on them over the years, when they turn out to be such weak excuses for compelling literature? Has there been...what, a massive hypnotic spell placed over all the people who gush and gush about the stirring prose and fascinating storylines found within? Has the collective lack of education and anti-intellectual stirrings of Neocon America over the last thirty years finally hit its tipping point, with the American populace simply no longer able to distinguish good books from bad ones? Is that what happened? Or is it that Burroughs got in during the last gasp of an artistic movement that we now consider trite and passe, exactly the "Generation X" house-of-cards I mentioned earlier, and thus suffers the dated wrath of a veteran like Douglas Coupland but at a fraction of the time? Because let's make no mistake -- when the snotty pop-culture historians of the future think back to these days, and specifically the whole New Age middle-class suburban Oprah Hillary "It Takes A Village" politically-correct pink-ribbon crowd, they will think of Augusten Burroughs. Because that's basically what both of these books are, through and through, from the first page to ostensibly the last; they are whiny, victim-oriented, badly-written, semi-made-up so-called "true stories" about just how bad poor little Augusten has had it his whole whimsically funny life, of how every terrible thing that's ever happened to him is everyone else's fault but his own, and how by the way all those bad things just happened to be poetically poignant and contained the exact kind of dialogue that makes middle-aged suburban Oprah-worshipping pink-ribbon-wearing New Age soccer moms swoon. Nice coincidence, that! And in fact, that brings up one of the first and ultimately biggest problems I encountered with Burroughs' work, when I tried to make my way through it for the first time last week; that it simply comes off as untrue, as made-up, not exactly a lie under the legal definition of the term, but definitely "cutsied up" so bad that it might as well be a fictional story. Because, see, for those who don't know, both of the books under review today supposedly cover Burroughs' early childhood among dysfunctional hippies in the "let it all hang out" 1970s, a series of vignettes that he actually writes from the mindset and viewpoint of that particular age; so in other words, if he's recalling an event from when he was five years old, he actually writes it as a five-year-old would supposedly see it. And in that manner, Burroughs essentially gets to have his cake and eat it too; he gets to say outrageously offensive things about all the real people around him at that time in his life, absurdly unprovable things that rely as much on magical realism as...you know, realism, while still having the convenient James-Frey Oprahesque New-Age excuse of, "I'm a writer, and I'm paid to write about how something felt. And this is how these events felt to me. And it doesn't matter if what I say is exactly true or not, not from a factual standpoint, because they are factual accounts of how I felt at that moment, or perhaps how I felt thirty years later when looking back on it through the filter of a mainstream publishing contract and looming deadline." I think it's very telling, for example, that his own parents freaking sued him for defamation when Scissors came out*, but that this hasn't stopped any of these publishing companies from continuing to put out, put out, put out yet another semi-crap childhood memoir and yet another semi-crap childhood memoir by him. Because simply, we live in an age where a huge majority of the American public can no longer distinguish fact from fiction -- an age where over 50 percent of all Americans believe that The DaVinci Code is a true story, an age where over 50 percent of all Americans believe that The Secret is a true story. And that's because our country's educational system has been steadily crumbling since the end of World War Two, since the moment the US first started embracing the military-industrial complex, and first started diverting more and more of our national budget away from everything else and towards the military. No one gets a decent education in the United States anymore, critics claim, not unless they seek one out as an adult as the theory goes; and therefore most Americans are no longer even educated enough to understand the difference between true and made-up, the difference between science and "Intelligent Design" (i.e. "Creationism" with a new name), the difference between "memoir" and "sh-t I pulled out of my ass that sounds all tragic and crap, and that no one can exactly either prove or disprove." And that's why earlier, I said that I was only guessing at what was the "ostensible" endings of these books; because to admit the absolute truth, I only made it about halfway through Running With Scissors before finally giving up, and couldn't even get thirty pages into A Wolf at the Table without doing the same. And seriously, Mr. Burroughs, if you just happen to ever come across this review -- I understand that writers with unique voices are easy to parody, precisely because they have unique voices, but do you really have to make it so damn tempting as well? "Me. Pre-natal. What are these fleshy jail-cell walls that hold me in so tightly? Probably the result of my mother, of course, the cocktail-swilling fool. I wish to yell at her, wish to express my disgust at her smothering yet cold presence. But then I realize -- Oh yes, that's right, I'm a fetus. I'm not yet capable of advanced thought or human speech. So why is it that I'm already so eerily attracted to the Six Million Dollar Man?" UGH. It's writers like Augusten Burroughs that makes me want to turn my entire back on Generation X in general, despite me actually being a member of Generation X; it's books like these that makes me understand why kids currently in their twenties hate me and my friends so much, of why they feel the desire to angrily vomit whenever the subjects of...

  14. 5 out of 5

    malic

    this book is terrifying. it's about a little boy who longs for love from his father, who in return psychologically terrorizes him. This is Burroughs' third full-length memoir, and it takes place mostly before the time Running With Scissors was written about, with a couple of stories that take place in his adulthood. However, I think I would still recommend reading his books in order of when he wrote them. A Wolf starts with a melodramatic tone, and then Burroughs jumps into his memories of bein this book is terrifying. it's about a little boy who longs for love from his father, who in return psychologically terrorizes him. This is Burroughs' third full-length memoir, and it takes place mostly before the time Running With Scissors was written about, with a couple of stories that take place in his adulthood. However, I think I would still recommend reading his books in order of when he wrote them. A Wolf starts with a melodramatic tone, and then Burroughs jumps into his memories of being a baby. While these memories set the tone of his family life and contrast with the lack of memories he has of his father as a very young child, I didn't quite believe them. His descriptions use too many adjectives that only an adult would understand. However, this part of the book lasts only a short while, and then it gets really good. Burroughs is a genius at writing from the perspective of a himself as a little boy, with insight from the analysis of an adult. He writes candidly about the physical and emotional abuse from his father, as well as his own love, fear, and anger towards his dad and his never-ending need for approval from him. Burroughs also writes about growing up as a gender non-conforming boy. While Burroughs never directly never blames his dad's homophobia on their relationship, I could not help but wonder how much it impacted their dynamics. Probably, though, homophobia its self is too simple. Towards the end of the book, Burroughs writes that the time he lived with his mother's psychologist (Running with Scissors) was the most informative part of his life. I don't believe this at all. I think these first thirteen years of Burroughs'life living with his parents was, which is probably why he could only write this book after the four others. also, i listened to the audio book which Burroughs narrates and it's so incredible to listen to him tell his own stories.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Luke

    If you've read and enjoyed Burroughs' 'Running With Scissors' then there's really no excuse for not reading 'A Wolf at the Table' - purely because it provides the other half of the story. Let me clarify. While Burroughs' earlier memoir revealed what a uniquely torturous childhood he'd had, it also presented it in a very John Irving kind of way - horrible, yet camp and darkly fabulous. There were, amongst the freaky parenting and bizarre psychotherapy (wankroom, anyone?) moments of happiness there If you've read and enjoyed Burroughs' 'Running With Scissors' then there's really no excuse for not reading 'A Wolf at the Table' - purely because it provides the other half of the story. Let me clarify. While Burroughs' earlier memoir revealed what a uniquely torturous childhood he'd had, it also presented it in a very John Irving kind of way - horrible, yet camp and darkly fabulous. There were, amongst the freaky parenting and bizarre psychotherapy (wankroom, anyone?) moments of happiness there, and it served to lighten the edge of the work. That's not the case in this memoir. It speaks pretty much exclusively of Burroughs' father - a figure who's not really mentioned at all in the earlier work. And from what's contained here, it seems that mentioning him at all is something that's required a lot of time to pass - the man is truly monstrous to his son, who merely wants to be loved. This is a strong, brave book. Burroughs' style is a little uneven, and I found my attention occasionally wandering - but his prose is much tighter this time around, and some of the horror of the family unit will quickly bring your attention back to the page. This is a deeply, deeply sad book to read, but it's worthwhile. It's amazing Burroughs survived at all, let alone lived to write something as confronting as this.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    I read Running With Scissors and was alternately horrified and fascinated with the author's life. I read Scissors with a weird detachment, viewing it instead as a fictional memoir, because it was too difficult to read, imagining that what he described actually happened to him. But, I did enjoy his writing style, the wit, and his sense of humor. I wouldn't describe his books as "funny" but there is a certain dark biting humor to them. I started out reading this book, already mentally prepared, hav I read Running With Scissors and was alternately horrified and fascinated with the author's life. I read Scissors with a weird detachment, viewing it instead as a fictional memoir, because it was too difficult to read, imagining that what he described actually happened to him. But, I did enjoy his writing style, the wit, and his sense of humor. I wouldn't describe his books as "funny" but there is a certain dark biting humor to them. I started out reading this book, already mentally prepared, having read Scissors not too long ago. It turns out, this book is a bit different of a style. I still detached the little boy in the book from the author, because the story is just so sad. The relationship between father and son filled me with longing and fear, two things Augusten himself seemed very familiar with. He has a very unique way of writing that really puts you in the moment with him. And several times, as I read, and he described his fear of his father coming to get him, I felt my own heart race, as if I was afraid his father would come get ME because I was reading his son's book. The parts about the animals really bothered me. They link cruelty to animals to serial killers and Augusten often thought as a father as a serial killer, so I thought that was interesting. Augusten's father was definitely a menace to the family. I was especially sad when he turned Brutus against his wife and son. All in all, a good read. The story was engrossing. Some people wrote bad reviews based on the fact that his early memories were "made up" but all stories are embellished, even memoirs. I thought those memories really added to the story and the book would have lacked something without them. They helped to add setting and make his dad seem more HUMAN, like he was once normal and wasn't anymore.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Cat

    god, it almost pains me to leave augusten burroughs a shoddy review but im sorry, this book bored me to death. one of the things i most admire and apriceiate about A.B. is his outstanding humor and wit despite the traumatic events that have shaped his life. this book lacked the humor. and when you take away the humor, you are left with a husk. a husk filled with crap. another thing that really drove me mad, were all the seeming contradictions that i am left from all the other books hes written. in god, it almost pains me to leave augusten burroughs a shoddy review but im sorry, this book bored me to death. one of the things i most admire and apriceiate about A.B. is his outstanding humor and wit despite the traumatic events that have shaped his life. this book lacked the humor. and when you take away the humor, you are left with a husk. a husk filled with crap. another thing that really drove me mad, were all the seeming contradictions that i am left from all the other books hes written. in some books, he appears to be close with his father; in others, he is a distant, but semi-neutral figure. one that isnt given much thought either way. other miniscule details as well. augusten is still my homeboy/hero, but really. dry was a more disturbing book, and it was brilliant. but note: it was funny. please stick to humor, augusten. maybe ill give this another try in a couple weeks, but for now i am severely hating on it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    BAM Endlessly Booked

    This is the third Burroughs memoir I have read. I honestly have no idea how he survived and became successful. The only word I have to describe his childhood would probably offend half of my followers, but it was seriously f$&@ed up. Unbelievable I'd have a drinking problem too. I think we all look back and think," man that was totally dysfunctional" about aspects of our younger years, but Burroughs takes the cake. This is the third Burroughs memoir I have read. I honestly have no idea how he survived and became successful. The only word I have to describe his childhood would probably offend half of my followers, but it was seriously f$&@ed up. Unbelievable I'd have a drinking problem too. I think we all look back and think," man that was totally dysfunctional" about aspects of our younger years, but Burroughs takes the cake.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Antoine

    Beautiful and painfully written. Augusten Burroughs tells a dark and twisted recollection of his childhood... As he experienced it. This book is for anyone who ever longed for the acceptance of a parent. Moved me to tears.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Spider the Doof Warrior

    This book is rather poetic. Augusten Burroughs has not had the healthiest family and childhood in the world. It's interesting to read about people's less than ideal childhoods. It has the effect of making me feel a bit hopeful. As if people can somehow be successful and eventually whole despite all of that. But man, Augusten's father frustrated me. Books about dysfunctional childhoods are also very depression and stressful. Like all Augusten wanted was some affection but he didn't get it. But his This book is rather poetic. Augusten Burroughs has not had the healthiest family and childhood in the world. It's interesting to read about people's less than ideal childhoods. It has the effect of making me feel a bit hopeful. As if people can somehow be successful and eventually whole despite all of that. But man, Augusten's father frustrated me. Books about dysfunctional childhoods are also very depression and stressful. Like all Augusten wanted was some affection but he didn't get it. But his poor father ALSO had a messed up childhood. Going from being treasured to hit for asking for a bedtime story. The thing about dysfunction is it can be passed down from one generation to the next, but you can say, wait a minute, what I been through was screwed up and I won't let my children go through it. It will be difficult, but it can be done.

  21. 4 out of 5

    da AL

    A harrowing journey told compellingly and with raw honesty.

  22. 4 out of 5

    jack

    this book was amazing. it made me consistantly naseous while reading it. and i could not put it down. the copy i read was hardback, borrowed from a friend, without the slipcover. it was black, with metallic read pressed into the spine. the pages were the roughcut type of paper binding. it felt like a living thing. sinister and beautiful. perfect packaging. i have enjoyed other of his books, but often they felt shallow in parts or like "fluff" reading. but i'm glad now that i read those because i this book was amazing. it made me consistantly naseous while reading it. and i could not put it down. the copy i read was hardback, borrowed from a friend, without the slipcover. it was black, with metallic read pressed into the spine. the pages were the roughcut type of paper binding. it felt like a living thing. sinister and beautiful. perfect packaging. i have enjoyed other of his books, but often they felt shallow in parts or like "fluff" reading. but i'm glad now that i read those because i was able to appreciate how, somehow, magically, he was able to survive the horror of his childhood and eventually, through his own will, become not only a healthy person, but a funny person. also, his writing has vastly improved. and i wonder at his courage in writing this. i think of everything he would have to remember, relive, to get the details down. and just the thought of that, like parts of this book, makes me literally feel sick to my stomach.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)

    Burroughs tells the story of his relationship with his father up until early adolescence, at which point his parents divorced. This is sort of loosely written, not exactly chronological, but that's to be expected with childhood memories. It's easy to read and moves quickly. If you look at it from the perspective of a child, it's really sad. It must have been so hard to always live with no sense of certainty or safety. He kept trying so hard to get his father to notice him and show approval, even Burroughs tells the story of his relationship with his father up until early adolescence, at which point his parents divorced. This is sort of loosely written, not exactly chronological, but that's to be expected with childhood memories. It's easy to read and moves quickly. If you look at it from the perspective of a child, it's really sad. It must have been so hard to always live with no sense of certainty or safety. He kept trying so hard to get his father to notice him and show approval, even after he was all grown up and successful. I liked the way the book didn't tie it all up in a nice smarmy bow at the end. He didn't say, "My father died and I forgave him and realized he did the best he could, blah, blah, blah...new age barf." The truth is, his father was a bad man, and there really never was a resolution. That's how real life goes.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Carmen

    There is no laughter in this book. Chronologically set before Burroughs renowned RUNNING WITH SCISSORS, this book chronicles his years 0-12, living with his two mentally ill parents. This book focuses on his father, and is very successful in creating a dark, gothic atmosphere. Living in a house in the forest, Burroughs's father is a threatening figure who smiles wrong, and wields an axe. Living in terror of him, Burroughs and his mother walk on eggshells, never knowing when he's going to snap and There is no laughter in this book. Chronologically set before Burroughs renowned RUNNING WITH SCISSORS, this book chronicles his years 0-12, living with his two mentally ill parents. This book focuses on his father, and is very successful in creating a dark, gothic atmosphere. Living in a house in the forest, Burroughs's father is a threatening figure who smiles wrong, and wields an axe. Living in terror of him, Burroughs and his mother walk on eggshells, never knowing when he's going to snap and decide to kill them both. Burroughs is at his best in this memoir when he describes the most dark, sinister events of his early childhood. Coming home from a week away with mom to find his beloved guinea pig dead in a cage full of filth - neglected by his father. Watching his dad chop wood with an axe and seeing him smile in that crazed way. Watching his older brother and father exchange blows until Augusten runs to the shed to fetch the rifle - handing it to his older brother and screaming at him to kill their father. Augusten, 9-years-old, fleeing through the woods, his feet bleeding, wondering if his dad is going to catch up to him - find him - murder him. Augusten laying in bed at night, fantasizing about how to kill his father and get him out of his and his mother's lives for good. Augusten crouched in the dark hallway, listening in horror as his dad rapes his mom. Augusten, trapped in a car with his father who is picking up speed and deliberately heading straight for a telephone pole. Augusten, waking up in the middle of the night to see his father standing silently at the foot of the bed, staring at him with burning eyes, while the family dog stands in the way, hackles raised, growling - ready to protect Augusten from the man that wants to kill him. When Augusten is not plunging us into this gothic horror story, his intermittent random thoughts are fluttering and scattered. He could choose to describe anything from the texture of tree bark to a day at school or a bizarre favorite childhood food. It's disjointed and takes away from the intense scariness presented elsewhere. However, I don't know how it would be avoidable - after all, he had to fill up the spaces with something and it would have been very difficult to write a non-fiction book that only stays in this dark, Stephen King's THE SHINING-type vein. Augusten's unexpected, unshakeable faith in God was interesting and very well-written. Believing that God is not some wish-granter, but instead someone who's helping guide Augusten into making good choices, I really enjoyed this clear, true view of a child's faith. God is with Augusten no matter where he goes or what happens, and Augusten - instead of praying for magical cures for his horrible life, only prays for God to do what is best. When this faith in God is shattered by his father - an atheist philosopher and former preacher - Augusten turns into a more dangerous individual. Knowing that only he can change his own life - that there is no God - makes him take action and forces him into becoming the creator of his own destiny. His father probably didn't intend for that little talk to forge Augusten into a powerful person who begins to plan exactly how he would kill his father if he had to. But that's exactly the effect it has. Burroughs also gives a page or so of explanation about why he chose to live and not kill himself. I really appreciated his views on why living is better than dying even when living in a hell like the one he was faced with. Burroughs dredges up the strength to survive, to get out and prove to himself and everyone else that he is not his father. In short, a harrowing and haunting memoir about the darkness in people's hearts. A story about a little boy trapped in a house with two psychotic parents and no way out except through death. Burroughs paints a clear picture of the persistent rot of mental illness that can infect everyone around it with fear and hatred. There's no question that instead of being some kind of supernatural evil, Burroughs's father is a very sick man who needs help. And this is the truest, scariest human evil of all - the kind of evil when a man thinks he's doing the best thing by killing his family and then himself.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    Several years ago, I read Augusten Burroughs's memoir Running with Scissors (later turned into a movie). I found it disturbing that he had so much abuse and tragedy in his life, but he seemed intent on minimizing it and just trying to get a laugh. Reviews of the book hailed it as hilarious, and given that it was supposedly true, I found the whole thing profoundly sad. Since then, I have been reluctant to read his other books, but something moved me the other day and I picked this one up. A Wolf Several years ago, I read Augusten Burroughs's memoir Running with Scissors (later turned into a movie). I found it disturbing that he had so much abuse and tragedy in his life, but he seemed intent on minimizing it and just trying to get a laugh. Reviews of the book hailed it as hilarious, and given that it was supposedly true, I found the whole thing profoundly sad. Since then, I have been reluctant to read his other books, but something moved me the other day and I picked this one up. A Wolf at the Table focuses on Burroughs's relationship (or lack of) with his father. Burroughs lived with his father until he was about 12 years old and his parents divorced. During those years, Burroughs is brutally honest about the lengths he went to to get his father to notice him and to physically touch or hold him, and the pain he felt at small and frequent realizations that his father did not care one bit about him. Burroughs's father's behavior, however, goes beyond neglect, as he seems to manipulate Augusten and go out of his way to destroy things (and pets) that Augusten loves. As we later learn in Running with Scissors, Augusten's mother herself suffers from profound mental illness, and certainly battered wives' syndrome, and is unable to explain anything to Augusten, though she does go to lengths to protect him from his father's violence. Strangely, Augusten does have an older brother, who remains with his father in the times when Augusten and his mother escape. The sibling relationship is touched upon, but it appears that Augusten has little understanding of who his brother is or why it is okay to leave his brother with their father. I would be quite interested in learning what happened to Augusten's brother and how he viewed and coped with their dysfunctional family. A Wolf at the Table was a much more honest memoir in my mind than Running with Scissors. Burroughs reveals what he thinks he remembers, and is pretty good at reporting his actual feelings at the time, and then providing some hindsight. This is a sad book and is not the witty funny Burroughs as he has come to be portrayed in the literary media. Unlike Running with Scissors, however, this book did make me care about Burroughs as a person, and made me more interested in his later life. Accordingly, I plan to read Dry - his memoir about his struggles with alcohol, and probably reread Running with Scissors with this more informed background.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sharon James

    “I knew I had an ugly life. I knew I was lonely and I was scared. I thought something might be wrong with my father, wrong in the worst possible way. I believed he might contain a pathology of the mind -- an emptiness -- a knocking hollow where his soul should have been. But I also knew that one day, I would grow up. One day, I would be twenty, or thirty, or forty, even fifty and sixty and seventy and eighty and maybe even one hundred years old. And all those years were mine, they belonged to no “I knew I had an ugly life. I knew I was lonely and I was scared. I thought something might be wrong with my father, wrong in the worst possible way. I believed he might contain a pathology of the mind -- an emptiness -- a knocking hollow where his soul should have been. But I also knew that one day, I would grow up. One day, I would be twenty, or thirty, or forty, even fifty and sixty and seventy and eighty and maybe even one hundred years old. And all those years were mine, they belonged to nobody but me. So even if I was unhappy now, it could all change tomorrow. Maybe I didn't need to jump off the cliff to experience that kind of freedom. Maybe the fact that I knew such freedom existed in the world meant that I could someday find it. Maybe, I thought, I don't need a father to be happy. Maybe what you get from a father you can get somewhere else, from somebody else, later. Or maybe you can just work around what's missing, build the house of your life over the hole that is there and always will be.”

  27. 4 out of 5

    Marko

    The reviews for this book are quite diverse. You have the nice ones and you have the bad ones, that range from 'oh how dramatic' to 'oh how boring' to non sequiturs like 'how can a kid be so eloquent'. I've seen this before. When it comes to children in pain (or people in intense pain), some have the tendency to raise their guard up and become ignorant and stupid. Like, when people started accusing Hanya Yanagihara's novel A Little Life for being hyper-realistic and then, several weeks after, HON The reviews for this book are quite diverse. You have the nice ones and you have the bad ones, that range from 'oh how dramatic' to 'oh how boring' to non sequiturs like 'how can a kid be so eloquent'. I've seen this before. When it comes to children in pain (or people in intense pain), some have the tendency to raise their guard up and become ignorant and stupid. Like, when people started accusing Hanya Yanagihara's novel A Little Life for being hyper-realistic and then, several weeks after, HONY posted a three-part story about a guy who got constantly raped in his orphanage and who lost his foot while trying to escape. Horrible things happen all the time. Just become something sounds dramatic doesn't mean it's not true. Look, this is not gonna be the best memoir/autobiography/non-fiction you will ever read. But it's got the heart of an intelligent child in unbelievable pain. Not a lot of people have lived through living with a homicidal, sadistic father. It's worth the (short) read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Anastasia

    What a sad little book. Burroughs' descriptions of trying so hard to get his father's love and attention just broke my heart. I read this in a few hours, but it made me very curious about the rest of his family-- his mother and brother are both authors, too. I think anyone who is a parent might find this book interesting. Burroughs does a great job of reminding us how even very, very young children feel. His retelling of his childhood feelings about his parents made me ponder how my son will ulti What a sad little book. Burroughs' descriptions of trying so hard to get his father's love and attention just broke my heart. I read this in a few hours, but it made me very curious about the rest of his family-- his mother and brother are both authors, too. I think anyone who is a parent might find this book interesting. Burroughs does a great job of reminding us how even very, very young children feel. His retelling of his childhood feelings about his parents made me ponder how my son will ultimately be impacted by his relationships with me and his father.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I'm always fascinated by Augusten Burroughs' books and this one was no exception. I find his writing style to just kind of suck me in and I just fly through the pages even when the subject matter is so heavy. I'm always fascinated by Augusten Burroughs' books and this one was no exception. I find his writing style to just kind of suck me in and I just fly through the pages even when the subject matter is so heavy.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jonny Keen

    Some good writing, although the prose is cringe-worthy at times. And I don't believe he was ever subconsciously mispronouncing "dad" as "dead". Burroughs certainly takes plenty of creative license with his memoir, but there's no denying he had a distributing and interesting childhood. Some good writing, although the prose is cringe-worthy at times. And I don't believe he was ever subconsciously mispronouncing "dad" as "dead". Burroughs certainly takes plenty of creative license with his memoir, but there's no denying he had a distributing and interesting childhood.

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