Monday, March 24, 2008

Running with scissors - a memoir

I read this book by Augusten Burroughs over the weekend. I had put off reading it until all the lawsuits were settled - I wasn't up for another James Frey experience. Well waiting didn't help much because both sides ended up claiming victory. Burroughs [born Chris Robison] claimed victory because the events, he insisted, were accurate. The Turcotte family claimed a moral victory in that Burroughs can no longer market his publication as a memoir but simply as a book.

The book/memoir is deeply disturbing. It indicts all of the adults in young Augusten's life. His mother comes across as a deeply narcissistic woman who suffers bouts of psychosis. His father as a cold and rejecting non-human. The psychiatrist as completely insane. All of the adults are abusive and/or negligent. There are no redeeming adult figures.

I read this book at the same time as I was reading Alice Miller's "The Truth Will Set You Free". I kept wondering where were the helping witnesses or the enlightening witnesses who were going to rescue this boy from the snare of pedophilia and neglect. They are not to be found in his report. And yet I believe Alice Miller when she states that children survive trauma when they find the protection of helping witnesses even while the trauma is occurring. I can only surmise then that Burroughs eventually found himself in the office of an enlightened therapist who helped undo some of the harm that was done to him. Nothing else explains Augusten's survival. And yet survive he does.

The book is written in the here-and-now. The tone rings true, not as that of an adult reflecting back on his life, but as a boy and later adolescent caught up in the swirl of dysfunction. We see events through the boy's eyes. The world he is experiencing is harsh and bewildering. The book works because of the authenticity of this tone. It hurts for the same reason. I can understand why the adults portrayed felt deeply betrayed. This is not a book written by an adult looking back through the eyes of maturity and resolution. This is an angry and confused boy who is still trying to figure out how he is going to make it in such a crazy world. I am surprised that he made it at all. I hope that one of these days Burroughs finds the maturity to let us know who were the helping and/or enlightening witnesses who aided his journey to survival.

My writing blog: Love Life & Tennis

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