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by Augusten Burroughs
Picador USA, 2002
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Feb 25th 2004

Running with Scissors

Augusten Burroughs' disturbing memoir Running with Scissors has already received a great deal of praise, and it certainly is a gripping read.  Burroughs tells the story of his utterly dysfunctional family; his parents constantly argued, until they divorced and he was left with his mother.  She thought of herself as a great poet, and her main problem was that publishers did not recognize her genius.  She could not be burdened by having to look after her son, and so she was very happy when her psychiatrist Dr. Finch offered to let Augusten spend time with his family.  But Augusten, even at the age of 12, should have been able to tell that this move did not bode well when during a session with his mother and himself, the doctor explained that he has his own needs and between patients, or sometimes even during sessions, he will retreat to the back room from his office, which he referred to as "the Masturbatorium."  Eventually Augusten moves in with the Finches and becomes close with the rest of the family.  However, even there, he is not safe.  He knows he is gay, and he is eager to meet someone else who is also gay, so he is pleased to be introduced to Neil, a man considerably older than himself.  Augusten becomes very confused though when Neil rapes him and they then develop a long-term relationship.  With help from Dr. Finch, Augusten manages to drop out of school altogether, and leads a dissolute life of hanging around, popping pills provided by the doctor, and occasionally encountering his mother as she goes from one crisis to another.  Through it all, Augusten keeps on writing, and it is not at all surprising that he ended up moving to New York City and becoming a writer.  Running with Scissors is a real page-turner, and I would recommend it highly.  However, it may leave the reader with an unsettling feeling of uncertainty about its truth.  Some of the episodes are so bizarre and the Finch family runs so wild that there are points when one wonders whether Burroughs became carried away by the thrill of telling a great yarn.  If it is all true, then it is a miracle that he didn't end up in an institution himself. 


© 2004 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.


Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.