Saturday, 25 September 2010

Augusten Burroughs' Running With Scissors

Running with Scissors is based on the real life teenage years of the author. A memoir that reads too bizarre to be true but is so downright peculiar you couldn’t make it up.

Augusten Burroughs wasn’t your average American teenage boy. He spent a lot of time being preoccupied with being fabulous and dreaming of a hair product empire. His mother was a self-obsessed lunatic which drove his dad to alcoholism. As his father dissolved into his tumbler another man entered his life. Dr Finch, his mum’s psychiatrist and Father Christmas lookalike. Burroughs fell into the unconventional way of life of the Finch household where the Dr’s wife ate dog biscuits, a menacing man resided in the garden shed, the school-run just didn't happen and Valium was consumed like candy. On top of this Dr Finch encouraged Augusten to enter his first relationship – with a 30 year old.

It sounds too tough to swallow but you quickly develop a taste for Burroughs’ genial style. The author clearly had an old head on his teenage shoulders and as a reader you live the story with him as opposed to outwardly witnessing a tragedy. Burroughs, as awful as his life reads, never once plays the victim or tries to psychoanalyse his past. Instead he has sought the humour in every situation and as a result has created a book that will have you laughing hysterically from start to finish.

Unfortunately, Ryan Murphy’s 2006 film adaptation didn’t have the same effect. The casting of Annette Benning as Augusten’s mother was the only thing that was right with it. The comedy fell flat and you were left with the impression that the director didn’t really have control over the film. However, Murphy has since gone on to become a creator of Glee, so he clearly found his feet. It’s just a shame he had to trample all over Running with Scissors to find them.

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