Friday, October 23, 2009

AUGUSTEN BURROUGHS/ happy birthday

     I am reading Running With Scissors, a memoire by author Augusten Burroughs, a gay man with a very unconventional 70's childhood. (But wasn't that a given in the 70's?) It's funny, quirkey, and a little tragic, and a real trip back to the era. Happy Birthday, Augusten.
     Wikipedia says: The book tells the story of Burroughs' bizarre childhood life after his mother, who had an obsession with Anne Sexton, sent him to live with her psychiatrist.  Running with Scissors spent four weeks on the The New York Times bestseller list.
     Running with Scissors covers the period of Burroughs' adolescent years, beginning at age twelve (after a brief overview of his life as a child). Burroughs spends his early childhood in a clean and orderly home, obsessing over his clothes, hair, accessories, and having great potential, with his parents constantly fighting in the background.
     When his parents separate and his mother begins to second guess her sexuality, Burroughs is sent to live with his mother's psychiatrist, Dr. Finch. The doctor lives in a rundown Victorian house located in Northhampton, MA. He lives with his wife as well as his biological and adopted children and some of his own patients, where rules are practically non-existent and children of all ages do whatever they please (such as having sex, smoking cigarettes and cannabis, and rebelling against authority figures). On one occasion, Burroughs and Dr. Finch's daughter Natalie destroy the kitchen ceiling because they feel it is too low and depressing. However, the dysfunctional issues that occur in the Finch family are outdone by the psychotic episodes frequently experienced by Burroughs' mother.
Burroughs tells Dr. Finch's adopted 33-year-old son, Neil Bookman, that he is gay. From the age of thirteen to fifteen, Burroughs has an intense and open sexual relationship with Bookman, which starts when Bookman forces the young boy to perform oral sex on him. Neither his mother nor any member of the Finch family is bothered by their relationship. Burroughs begins to enjoy exacting power over Bookman by threatening to charge him with statutory rape. Bookman is besotted with the young boy, even though Burroughs has problems with their relationship (going in phases of needing the affection of Bookman to wanting to humiliate or get away from him). Bookman eventually leaves Northampton and is never heard from again by Burroughs or the Finches.
Burroughs forms a close relationship with Dr. Finch's daughter Natalie, who is one year his senior. They leave the Finch household together.
     At the end of the book, when Burroughs is living in his own apartment with Natalie, he is asked to choose sides between his mother and Dr. Finch when she accuses him of raping her. The relationship between his mother and the doctor had been turbulent ever since a scene at a motel, where Dr. Finch's abnormal methods of therapy reached a point at which they could possibly be interpreted as sexual assault. He still considers Dr. Finch's family and his mother to be his family, and he cannot bring himself to choose sides. The book ends with Burroughs leaving Massachusetts and moving to New York City.
     The book was made into a film that I have on my Netflix list due to arrive about the time I finish the book. Here's a trailer


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