I was looking through my computer for an old file and I came across some reviews I did for (unfortunately now defunct) online magazine Sigla in 2005. I thought I’d share one of them with you today. Hope you enjoy.
Magical Thinking – Augusten Burroughs
Published by Atlantic Books
There are not many authors who can write three volumes of memoirs before their mid thirties but Augusten Burroughs has more than enough material to work with. In Running With Scissors he recounted his childhood and teen years, spent living with his mother’s psychiatrist after his mother gave him away, having correctly judged herself incapable of raising him. Unfortunately so too were the psychiatrist and his family. The follow up to this hair raising volume was Dry, which dealt with Burroughs’ move to New York, his successful career in advertising and his alcoholism, which came as no surprise given his chaotic childhood. In an age where rehab memoirs are ten a penny and everyone has had a dysfunctional family, Burroughs stood out due to the fact that his books were savagely funny and self deprecating.
I wondered what he now had to write about. Was this going to be a book about writing books? Surely he had not had time to cram more craziness into his life as it must by now be wholly taken up by writing and promoting his wares. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that Burroughs had once again come up trumps. Magical Thinking is a collection of essays and anecdotes about small occurrences in Burroughs’ day to day life; his minor celebrity, his brief dalliance with steroids, telemarketers, killing a rat that breaks into his apartment, his experiences as a teen model, and towards the end of the book, his happy relationship with his current partner Dennis.
Unlike his other books, the tales related in this book are almost mundane. These are experiences that we’ve all had or can relate to. What takes them out of the realm of the mundane is their author. His take on the world is original, scathingly funny and very self-aware. He says about himself, “I like flaws and feel more comfortable around people who have them. I myself am made entirely of flaws stitched together with good intentions.”
There are several incredibly funny moments in the book, my favourites being “Beating Raoul”, which tells the story of Burroughs’ blind date with an arrogant investment banker who has a condition Burroughs christens “micropenis”, and “Debby’s Requirements” , a story about Burroughs’ crazy domineering housekeeper who is so small in stature that she can only clean the lower half of his apartment.
Burroughs acknowledges that he is a flawed human being, that he can be by turns selfish, shallow, insecure, honest, funny. Magical Thinking, like Augusten Burroughs, is free of pretension and is a consistently well written and hilarious collection of essays from a writer who consolidates his reputation with each new book.