Blogging the Bookshelf

Blogging my bookshelf – one book at a time

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“Magical Thinking: True Stories”, Augusten Burroughs

July 20th, 2009 · No Comments · Literature, Short Stories

Magical Thinking Synopsis: An assortment of hilarious vignettes from the periods of Burroughs’ life not already canvassed in “Running with Scissors” or Dry. Brilliant, Brilliant, Brilliant.

My Take: Here’s the thing about Augusten Burroughs. I love him – at its best, his writing zings and fizzles with caustic, but good natured wit. Sadly, my fiancée’s first exposure to him was via his least impressive work; his most recent effort ‘Wolf at the Table’. She wasn’t impressed, and to be honest, neither was I. This state of affairs is doubly unfortunate as it has led me to evangelise Burroughs to her even more than I ordinarily would. It’s a conundrum – the more I push it, the more the pressure will increase, building up the expectation to heights that can’t possibly be met and decreasing the likelihood that she will like him at all. It’s a strange thing this compulsion to bully your friends into liking the books that you yourself loved.

Anyway, I’m hoping that the next Burroughs’ book that she picks up (after I subtly wear her down) will be “Magical Thinking”. His life as a neurotic, gay, New York advertising executive turned best selling author with an excess of personal baggage from a truly bizarre childhood provides a rich subject matter. In this context, Burroughs’ furtive attempts to develop healthy, loving relationship with a partner in spite of his calamitous personal history are warmly and amusingly told:

”I must ease people into the facts of me, not deposit large, undigested chunks of my history at their feet. Too much of me too fast is toxic.” ….

”My brain is incorrectly formed, and I’m shaped like a tube. Plus, I’m an alcoholic, a ‘survivor’ of childhood sexual abuse, was raised in a cult and have no education.” ….

”(The new boyfriend) knows I write every day for hours but has no idea that all I’m writing about is me. It seems wiser to let him think I’m an aspiring novelist instead of just an alcoholic with a year of sobriety who spends eight hours a day writing about the other 16.”

However, while Burroughs shows a little more of himself in this book than say “Running with Scissors” but the star of “Magical Thinking” is still Burroughs’ writing. The prose in this book sparkles like a Burroughs concentrate. Burroughs’ masterful dry wit is sprinkled liberally throughout the pages of “Magical Thinking” and his narrative asides are a delight:

“Although I was able to maintain a pleasant expression, I was mentally throwing up in her face.”  ….

”Telemarketers… (are) calling with the frequent urgency of dumped boyfriends. At this point, I cannot help but wonder, is the entire telemarketing industry one big, jilted, clingy gay guy?” ….

‘I was struck with a bolt of distilled horror like I have never known before. Far worse than suddenly finding yourself walking through a prison cafeteria wearing Daisy Duke shorts and a Jane Fonda headband.’

“Magical Thinking” is one of those books that leaves you giggling and chortling throughout. Highly recommended.

Highlight: “Roid Rage” the story of the time Burroughs’ spent using steroids in order to live up to the buffed stereotypes of New York’s gay dating scene”

‘To nobody’s surprise, steroid use is common among gay men. When you combine a love for men with a love for drama, you end up with a guy on steroids.’  …

‘I said – I’m doing it for medical reasons’ my boyfriend would reply ‘your vanity is not a medical reason.’ ….

‘On typical days, (dust) is simply irritating. On Roid Rage days, it made me want to stomp down to the highway, pull drivers out of their cars, and bash their faces into pavement; Suck up that dirt like a good little Electrolux, Jersey Boy Bitch.’  ….

‘It’s weird. The day after I get the shot, I’m usually fine. It’s the day after this where I turn into somebody capable of committing a triple homicide, then going to a Ben Stiller movie.’


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