Magazine article The Spectator

Bum Ego Trip

Magazine article The Spectator

Bum Ego Trip

Article excerpt

Bum ego trip Michael Glover RUNNING WITH SCISSORS by Augusten Burroughs Atlantic Books, L14.99, pp. 304, ISBN 1843541505

'Our lives are one endless stretch of misery punctuated by processed fast foods and the occasional crisis or amusing curiosity,' remarks Augusten (pronounced You-gusten, by the way) Burroughs as he creeps towards the end of what must be one of the strangest and most engrossingly repellent memoirs of dysfunctional American family life ever to be published.

Who is Augusten Burroughs anyway? Exactly. He is a nobody who is interested in nothing but writing about himself. And this book is that obsession made manifest. Everything is grotesque about it, from first almost to last. I say almost because the last few pages turn a touch poker-faced, if not moralistic - which is quite out of keeping with the freewheeling dottiness of 99 per cent of it.

The anti-hero's problems begin, as these things tend to do, with difficult, warring parents. His mother chain-smokes More cigarettes, writes confessional poetry of a decidedly second-rate stamp, compulsively sketches the Virgin of Guadeloupe in lipliner, and regularly eats mustard sandwiches. His father is an irascible, alcoholic professor of mathematics. The father, we are told, suffers from psoriasis to such an extent that he resembles a dried mackerel - one of the book's many good jokes in awful taste. His mother, teetering on the brink of psychosis, is recommended a new shrink, the crazy Dr Finch, who presides over a family life quite as unusual as Burroughs' own. …

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