Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Wolf at the Table

Everyone knows that Augusten Burroughs had an extremely f*ed up childhood. Running with Scissors was unbelievable and extremely difficult to read at times, but it was all true and you had to have compassion for this poor boy. And for some reason, we are compelled to keep reading about him. I think it's mostly because his writing style is simple, yet humorous, and we know that for the most part he is a mentally healthy adult now. Not to say that his early adulthood wasn't as messed up as his childhood (read Dry), but still.

This time Burroughs sets out to tell of his early childhood with his father – the wolf – and his desperate attempt to get attention, love and validation from this man. My heart would break as I read passage after passage of even the smallest attempts for Augusten to get his father to notice him; only to be rejected over and over again. His father was one sick ticket who didn't even deserve to have children (seems there are so many who don't deserve it, yet they're the ones procreating). John Robison was emotionless, violent and a raging alcoholic.

However, I can't say that this was a great book. This one read more as sentences of facts rather than a memoir or a novel. While I was interested in the father/son relationship, it just didn't do the best job at holding my attention as Burroughs' previous books. The humor was gone and in its place was darkness. But I believe that it is utterly necessary for Augusten to write about his life in order to continue his attempt at healing. It is amazing what this one person had to endure ...  you couldn't make this stuff up.

While A Wolf at the Table was not my favorite, I don't regret reading it. Running... is still my favorite of his books (the movie didn't even begin to do it justice). And now he's written another biography, this time of short Christmas stories that could be fun. But I'm beginning to think he needs to explore the fiction world a little further: his wit and writing style deserves to branch out and it just might be time to stop with the memoirs.

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