By Karinya Funsett
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, December 7, 2005
"Magical Thinking: True Stories" should not be on bookstore shelves as a stand-alone piece of literature. It should instead be sold as volume III in the boxed set of Augusten Burroughs' life. I say this not because it is a bad book, but because if it is read without "Dry" and "Running With Scissors," Burroughs' first two autobiographical books, the reader will feel as if he or she has entered the theater halfway through the movie. Burroughs constantly references incidents and characters from his childhood, and the reader is expected to understand. The book is enjoyable on its own, but is probably more meaningful when combined with some prior knowledge of Burroughs' life.
The book is composed of a number of short "true stories." Some are written up and told as straight anecdotes with a minimum amount of reflection on the part of the author, while other stories serve as catalysts for some serious self-analysis through well-developed personal essays. This format invites the reader to keep turning the pages while also lending itself to being read in a reader's downtime; most of the essays only take a few minutes to read, so the book is easy to pick up at one's leisure. Unlike many essay collections, here there is often no common thread to the pieces other than the presence of the author. Actually, when read together, the essays present the author as a scattered - but likeable - individual who thrives on contradictions.
7 out of 10
- Magical Thinking: True Stories
- Augusten Burroughs
One reason for the scattered feel of the book as a whole is that the essays are not necessarily arranged in chronological order - or if they are, there are often many years separating them. This leads to an essay chronicling the cruel death-by-torture of a mouse Burroughs found in his bachelor-pad bathtub being followed by a thoughtful, tender essay contemplating the author's 10-year relationship with his partner. Other essays discuss the author's former career in advertising, his brother with Asperger's syndrome, his adventures with a controlling midgetesque housekeeper and war stories from the Manhattan dating field. They are occasionally grotesque and shocking, sometimes gentle and loving and almost always extremely entertaining.
Many of them are laugh-out-loud funny, and the fashion in which the funnier stories are told is reminiscent of David Sedaris. Actually, some of the similarities between Burroughs and Sedaris are almost uncanny - both are gay male memoirists, both were afflicted with behavioral ticks and addictive personalities, and both rely heavily on humor to tell the stories of their lives. That said, Sedaris fans, or anyone who is looking for an entertaining, relatively light read, should check out the world of Burroughs. The life he's led provides more than enough material to fill his three books of memoirs, and he's been blessed with writing skills sharp enough to do justice to his stories. "Magical Thinking" makes for a decent read on its own, but to really appreciate it, check out his other two nonfiction books first.