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Magical Thinking: True Stories

Magical Thinking: True Stories

Автором Augusten Burroughs

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Magical Thinking: True Stories

Автором Augusten Burroughs

3.5/5 (72 оценки)
315 pages
5 hours
Oct 5, 2004


From the number-one bestselling author of Running with Scissors and Dry comes Augusten Burroughs's most eagerly anticipated collection yet: true stories that give voice to the thoughts that we all have but dare not mention.

It begins with a Tang Instant-Breakfast Drink television commercial:

"Yes, you, Augusten. You were great. We want you." I can now trace my manic adult tendencies to this moment. It was the first time I felt deeply thrilled about something just a fraction of an instant after being completely crushed. I believe those three words "We want you" were enough to cause my brain to rewire itself, and from then on, I would require more than other people....- from Magical Thinking's "Commercial Break"

A contest of wills with a deranged cleaning lady. The execution of a rodent carried out with military precision and utter horror. Telemarketing revenge. A different kind of "roof work." Dating an undertaker who shows up in a minivan. This is the fabric of Augusten Burroughs's life: a collection of true stories that are universal in their appeal yet unabashedly intimate, stories that shine a flashlight into both dark and hilarious places. With Magical Thinking, Augusten Burroughs goes where other memoirists fear to tread.

Oct 5, 2004

Об авторе

Augusten Burroughs is the author of Running with Scissors (Atlantic 2004), Dry (Atlantic 2005), Magical Thinking (Atlantic 2005) and Possible Side Effects (Atlantic 2007), all of which have been New York Times bestsellers and are published around the world. A film version of Running with Scissors starring Annette Benning and Gwyneth Paltrow was adapted for the screen by Ryan Murphy. Augusten has been named one of the fifteen funniest people in America by Entertainment Weekly. Sellevision is his latest book. He lives in New York City and western Massachusetts.

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Magical Thinking - Augusten Burroughs



When I was seven, I was plucked from my uneventful life deep in darkest Massachusetts and dropped into a Tang Instant Breakfast Drink commercial. It was exactly like being abducted by aliens except without the anal probe. I was a lonely kid with entirely imaginary friends. I played with trees.

Then, one day during penmanship class, a white van pulled up in front of our little gray schoolhouse, and the men from Tang climbed out.

My elementary school sat atop a low grassy hill in the center of Shutesbury, a small New England town that was so small New England town one had the sensation of existing within a snow globe at a souvenir shop. The mailboxes at the local post office had ornate brass doors with etched-glass windows. There was a white church with solid mahogany pews and a pipe organ. A small red library was tucked on the edge of the town square and carried books about local birds and field mice. It was retchingly quaint.

Of course, in this wholesome idyllic community, my school was the anchor. It was a gray clapboard building, two stories tall, with shutters. There was a steeple on top and inside a bell that worked. The door was bright red. There were two apple trees on either side. The playground consisted of a sandbox, two swing sets, and an area of blacktop on which was painted a hopscotch outline.

Now that I am an adult and have wasted much of my life as an advertising executive, I can easily imagine the conversation that must have taken place among the occupants of that van, upon their seeing my schoolhouse.

So Cronkite was grilling the guy, you know? Just really asking the tough questions. Then they cut away to Nixon, and boy oh boy, you should have seen his face. It was li—

Jesus fucking Christ, Mitch. Get a load of that.

Huh? Oh, mother of fucking God. STOP THE VAN.

Christ, there’s even a bell on top.

Love those trees. But are those actually apples? Christ, yes, those are apples. The client’s gonna hate that. Apples clash with the orange flavor.

So we’ll cut ’em down and throw up a couple of maple trees. What’s the fucking difference?

You know, you couldn’t build a set this perfect in Burbank, you really couldn’t. This is so New England schoolhouse. We have hit pay dirt, gents. I think we’ve got a few triple martinis ahead of us tonight.

I was sitting in Mrs. Ames’s tedious penmanship class looking out the window when the white van pulled into the circular driveway. I watched as a window was rolled halfway down and two lit cigarettes were tossed out. Then the doors opened, and the men stepped out.

Mrs. Ames noticed, too, because she paused in the middle of looping a D. When she turned her ancient neck to the window, my mind added the sound effect of a branch creaking under the weight of snow before it snaps. I was quite sure that Mrs. Ames was one of the original settlers of the town. She once said that television was nonsense, just a fad like radio.

Visitors were uncommon at our school. Especially visitors dressed in dark suits, wearing sunglasses, and carrying black briefcases. These were like the men who followed President Nixon around and whispered things in his ear.

Remain seated and do not talk, Mrs. Ames said, glaring at us down the point of her nose. I shall return in a moment. She quickly brushed her hands down the front of her heavy gray wool skirt to remove any wrinkles. She straightened the dainty single pearl that hung around her neck, centering it perfectly between her breasts, which were certainly bound with ace bandages beneath her crisp white shirt.

The group of men removed their sunglasses in unison, raised their chins in the air, and inhaled. I could tell they were inhaling because they slapped at their chests and flared their nostrils. It was a familiar gesture. Many of my mother’s friends from New York City or Boston did the same thing when they came to Shutesbury. Personally, I could never understand why, because the air was thick with pollen and insects. If one wanted fresh air, why not just open the door to the clothes drier and stick your face in there?

One of the men approached the school, came right up to the window, and knocked on the wood next to the glass. It’s real, all right, he called back to his associates.

A moment later, Mrs. Ames joined the men outside and, to my horror, smiled. I’d never seen Mrs. Ames smile before, and the thought had never occurred to me that such an act was even possible for her. But there it was, her mouth open in the white daylight, her teeth exposed. One of the men stepped forward, removed his sunglasses, and said something to her. She touched her hair with her hand and laughed. Kimberly Plumme, who liked to insert marbles into her vagina at recess, said, Gross. Her lips frowned in disgust. I myself was horrified to see Mrs. Ames laugh. And then blush. To see her in such a state of obvious bliss was unbearable. I had to look away.

Eventually, Mrs. Ames walked back into the room, and I watched her legs, all plump and plastic-looking through her support hose. She wore high heels of an unfashionable style that made a sharp, angry sklack against the tile floor when she walked. She was kind only to the girls. And by kind, I mean she was not mean. She was punishing to the boys, even the prissy, girly boys like me. But for once, she had something to say that interested me.

Children, children, may I have your attention please? She clapped her hands together quickly. Smacksmacksmacksmacksmack.

But this was unnecessary because she already had our full attention. We’d been sitting there waiting for her, not daring to breathe lest we disturb the balance of the universe, causing her to fall and die and then not be able to tell us why the men had come to our school. Or worse: somehow cause the men to simply drive away.

We have some very special surprise guests here today. She looked to the door and nodded, and the men entered the room. Hi kids, they said. Hi there, everyone.

It was thrilling to hear them speak in their deep, baritone voices and to see, up close, the dark razor stubble that shadowed their chins. At the same time, an exotic aroma entered the room, one that made me feel light-headed and flushed, like I’d been on a pogo stick. Only as an adult would I be able to name this intoxicating scent: English Leather.

Mrs. Ames continued. These men are from New York City. And I hope you all know where New York City is. Because we have studied our geography quite a bit this year. Does everyone here know where New York City is?

We nodded yes, but we all thought, What’s the matter with you, crazy old witch? Why is your face so red?

Although it alarmed me to recognize that my own face was red, as well. Something about the presence of the men made both Mrs. Ames and me turn red and become hot. The fact that we had this in common made me wonder what was wrong with me.

Good. Well, then. These men are here to make a television commercial.

Here, I almost peed. She might as well have told me that as of today, I never had to come to school ever again and for that matter was free to hit anybody I wanted to, without being punished. I lived for television commercials. The only reason I watched TV was so that I could see the commercials. Faberge Organics Shampoo: I told two friends. And they told two friends. And so on … and so on … and so on. Or my current favorite: Gee, your hair smells terrific! I was also fond of the commercial with the dog chasing the chuck wagon underneath the kitchen sink: It makes its own rich gravy.

I watched one of the men scan the faces in the room. Occasionally he would jab his friend on the shoulder and nod in the direction of one of the students. As I was watching him he caught my eye and smiled. I thought he was a very friendly man, very nice. I admired his crisp dark suit, white shirt, and black tie. His hair was thick and glossy, combed back. I smiled at him. He nudged his friend and nodded in my direction, and then the other man looked at me. He smiled, too.

I wanted to jump up out of my seat and run to the men, hugging them around the legs. I wanted to lick the hair on their wrists.

Mrs. Ames announced to the class, These men would like to use our schoolhouse in a commercial for their special beverage. It’s called Tang. Do any of you know Tang?

There were gasps in the room. Of course we knew Tang, the orange crystalline powder that the astronauts brought with them to outer space. I loved Tang and would sometimes eat it by the teaspoon, straight from the jar. I loved the green label, the orange lid. The way the lid was extra wide and easy to unscrew. I even liked the paper eardrum that was over the mouth of the lid when you first opened the jar. You had to puncture the eardrum with a spoon, and printed on top was Tang, Tang, Tang.

My mother despised Tang. I’ve just made this fresh tangerine juice and put it into this nice clay pitcher I bought at the Leverette Arts Center, and you want that god-awful artificial junk. She did like cinnamon DYNAMINTS, though.

Mrs. Ames told us that the men from the van wanted to use some of us in their commercial. Not all of you, now. Only some of you. They’re going to have to choose.

Instantly, the students began raising their hands. Except for me. Some voice inside me said, Don’t do it. It’s beneath you. Instead, I sat politely at my desk with my hands clasped firmly together. I was very pleased that I’d thought to wear my fourteen-karat-gold electroplated ID bracelet that day. One thing was certain: I would be in their Tang commercial. And if any of the other children tried to get in my way, I would use my pencil to blind them.

So these men would like to separate everybody into groups and then ask each group a few questions.

Chaos erupted as the kids began to screech with excitement. Desks were shoved back, chairs knocked over. Mrs. Ames tried to gain control of her students by slapping her ruler against the edge of her globe. Now, now, now, silence! Stop this! Children, come to attention at once!

Reluctantly, the class came to attention, facing the flag and placing their hands over their hearts, ready to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

No, not that, she said. Just stand still and be silent.

Eventually, we were split up into groups of three. Then group by group the men met with the kids.

I stared hatefully at the back of Lisa Tucker’s fat head. I was trying to determine where the odor she emitted was coming from. A hole? Some sort of vent for her brain? I hated Lisa, and so did everyone else. She smelled like feet and something worse, something spoiled and eggy. And she was mean. She was a strong girl who pushed the boys around. Her older brother, Tommy, was one of the big kids who went to the new school down the street. Once he hit me so hard he knocked the wind out of me. I wished that Lisa and Tommy would go swimming in the ocean and be eaten by Jaws. Surely the men would know not to cast her in their commercial.

When it was finally my turn, the men were tired, as evidenced by their loosened ties and the large wet spots that spread from under their arms. They’d spoken to all thirty kids and had notes splayed out on the table in front of them. They looked funny sitting in our small chairs, which had never seemed small before.

The man who had first smiled at me said, Hi guys. So do any of you want to be in a commercial? He looked at me when he said this, and I got the feeling that he had already chosen me. His eyes said, You are special and better than all the other children, and I would like you to come live with me and my blue eyes in a city far away from here. His eyes said, I will save you.

We all nodded our heads yes.

Good then. Good. So what I want to do is, I want to see if you can laugh. I’m gonna tell you a joke, and I just want to see what you sound like when you laugh. Ready?

The other children nodded, I thought, like puppets. I smiled and winked at him, like I’d seen people do on TV.

He winked back and nudged the man on his left.

Okay, he said. Then he raised his voice and made a comical face. Your mother wears army boots!

Neither of the other kids laughed.

I tossed my head back in an explosion of delight and laughed so hard I was able to bring tears to my eyes. My face was flushed, my hands dripping with sweat from the pressure.

Wow, said the man. You really liked that joke, did you?

His friend turned to him. Yeah, Phil, you’re a real laugh-riot.

I quickly looked back and forth between the two men, but I wasn’t sure what was going on between them. Had I laughed before the punch line? Or was it a trick joke? Had I just blown my chance?

Do you kids like Tang? he asked.

The other two kids nodded grimly.

I love Tang! I gushed. "Only I like to make it with an extra scoop. Plus, you can put it in ice cube trays and then freeze it! That’s really good."

Where had that come from? I’d never in my life frozen Tang.

That’s great! said the man with the blue eyes who was going to take me away to live with him in a penthouse apartment.

All of the men exchanged a look. Then my man said, Thanks a lot, kids.

Disgusting Evan and retarded Ellen immediately pushed their chairs back from the table and fled. But I was crushed, stunned, so I moved in slow motion, carefully rising from my chair. They might as well run over me with their white Tang van now, I thought.

Uh, no. Not you. What’s your name?

Augusten? I said.

Yes, you, Augusten. You were great. We want you. It was the man with the blue eyes speaking, and now I had my confirmation: he adores me, too. Instantly, my mood reversed, and I began to grind my teeth in joy.

I can now trace my manic adult tendencies to this moment. It was the first time I felt deeply thrilled about something just a fraction of an instant after being completely crushed. I believe those three words We want you were enough to cause my brain to rewire itself, and from then on, I would require MORE than other people. At the same time, my tolerance for alcohol was instantly increased, and a new neural pathway was created for the future appreciation of crack cocaine and prescription painkillers.

You want me? I said, containing my enthusiasm so completely that I probably appeared disinterested.

Well, yeah. Don’t you want to be in the commercial?

Well, yeah. A lot. I tried to imitate an excited boy. I was excited but somehow unable to express the actual emotion of excitement. My electrical system was all off now.

Good, he said clapping his hands. Then he slid a stack of papers across the table. Then you need to take these home and have your parents read them over very carefully. We’re going to be back Monday.

*   *   *

The ride home on the school bus was excruciatingly long. Only ten of us had been chosen to be in the commercial, so the rest of the kids were sullen. Chad, who hadn’t been chosen, sat with his head pressed against the window, crying.

Piggy Lisa hadn’t been chosen either, and this had made her nasty. She blew spit balls through a straw until she accidentally hit the school bus driver, Mr. Ed. Mr. Ed hit the brakes and glared into his rearview mirror, scanning our faces to see if he could tell which kid was guilty. He was missing one of his front teeth. This made us (or was it just me?) think of him not as a man but as an animal, capable of inflicting great pain and possibly death. Little girl, he growled at Piggy Lisa, you spit one more of them thingies at me and I’ll come right on over there and milk them little titties a yours like you was a cow.

That shut her up. Piggy Lisa sank into her seat and folded her arms across her fatty chest.

Wendy was the prettiest girl in school, so of course she had been chosen. But Wendy was mentally lazy, relying on her looks alone to see her through life. She was what we called a dip.

What does it mean? What does it mean? she kept asking over and over. She was entirely ecstatic, rising from her seat frequently and twirling around to ask the other kids, But what does it mean? Constantly, she tucked her long blonde hair behind her ears.

It means, you dip, that you’re gonna be in some dumb TV commercial for dumb old Tang. This was spoken by Gary, who, because of my powerful mental powers, also hadn’t been chosen.

I sat quietly on the middle hump seat over the wheel and tried to contain my insane excitement by staring out the window, and thinking of television cameras.

But as soon as I got home, I sprinted up our gravel driveway and threw open the front door, screaming I’m gonna be in a Tang commercial! I’m gonna be in a Tang commercial!

My mother was talking on the phone and smoking a cigarette.

I screamed into her other ear, I’m gonna be in a Tang commercial! They want me!

She winced and pulled away, then spoke into the phone. I have to go, Dee. Augusten’s home, and he’s hysterical.

As soon as she hung up, I pounced on her again, shrieking about how I was going to be on TV!!! I told her that she had to sign the papers right now so I could bring them back to school.

Unfazed, my mother set her cigarette in the clamshell ashtray and uncapped her Flair pen. She signed the papers without reading them and passed them back to me. Just don’t bring home any animals, she said. Then she took a long drag from her cigarette and added, Who knows? Maybe now you’ll become a famous television star like you’ve always wanted. Then you can move away from your father and me and go live in a mansion in Hollywood.

I inhaled sharply, as if slapped. YES, I thought. With an electric gate in front and a tiki lounge by the pool.

*   *   *

Obsessions with television talk shows, movie stars, mirrors, and anything gold-plated had defined my personality from an early age. This trait baffled my highly educated and bookish parents. Whereas my mother loved teak, I favored simulated wood grain. My father’s appreciation for old farm tractors was an interesting counterpoint to my fixation on white stretch limousines and Rolls Royce grills.

Although my parents couldn’t stand each other day to day, the one thing they did agree on was that I was very different from them. Where did you come from? my mother asked me one afternoon as I used a Q-Tip to clean between the links on my gold-tone Twist-O-Flex watchband. Or Where on earth did you ever hear of such a thing? my father wanted to know when I told him that even the plumbing in the toilets was made of solid gold at the Vanderbilt’s Breakers mansion.

At Christmas, my mother decorated our tree with strands of cranberries and popcorn that she strung together herself, Danish Santas, and antique clear light bulbs. I, on the other hand, saved up my allowance for a good five months for my own artificial Christmas tree, which I kept in my bedroom, festooned with silver tinsel, thick ropes of gold garland, and lights that flashed spastically and constantly. I bought spray snow, which I applied in artful, yet natural windswept patterns, to my windows. I illuminated my tree with my desk lamp, as though it were on a set.

In preparation for my television acting debut, I watched commercials incessantly, committing them to memory and reciting key phrases endlessly to my parents.

Can I help you fry the chicken? I mimicked in a high-pitched southern girl’s voice.

I wanna help, I countered in a different high-pitched southern girl’s voice.

Then, imitating their mother, I said, I don’t fry chicken anymore. I use new Shake ’N Bake.

I loved to sing jingles. That great Pepsi taste. Diet Pepsi won’t go to your waist. Now you see it. Now you don’t. Oh, Diet Pepsi one small calorie. Now you see it. Now you don’t.

Sometimes I got the words wrong, but my intentions were true.

Let’s get Mikey to try it. He won’t eat it; he hates everything!

My father, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, couldn’t bear my constant performing. Jesus, son. What’s the matter with you? If you don’t stop that noise, you won’t be in any commercial at all. You’ll be right back in your room practicing penmanship.

This muted me, briefly. Long enough to contemplate his sudden death and wonder how I would ever be able to produce convincing tears. Onions, I’d heard, could do the trick if you applied just a small bit of the juice right under your eye. I went into the kitchen and tried this myself, thrilled with the weepy, sincere results. Oh Dad!

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  • (4/5)
    I enjoyed this book more than Running With Scissors due to the various subjects of the essays. Many focused on Burroughs dating life, which, at times, sounded hilariously (scarily?) similar to my own. Overall, the book seemed much lighter and funnier than his memoir, which made it easier to read.
  • (2/5)
    Some chapters were disturbing and I wish that I could remove the memory, but overall it was mostly entertaining. Not quite as witty as Sedaris.
  • (4/5)
    Boy, is this outside my normal parameters! Burroughs' writing is candid, direct, and sometimes uncomfortable. But his skill with words and feelings is so precise, I was driven from page to page to follow his thinking and explore his life. This series of essays is alternately funny, touching, hilarious, off-putting, amusing, and horrifying. But it is, in the end, uplifting and hopeful. To find that one person you feel blessed to share oxygen with is the ultimate goal of most humans - and Burroughs has found his. How blessed he is.This is an excellent book, that I would recommend, even to my white-bread arrow-straight friends. I'm white-bread and arrow-straight myself, and I found it truly intriguing.
  • (3/5)
    Augusten Burroughs's life is like a train wreck-- fascinating & horrible all at once.
  • (4/5)
    Quick, easy read with plenty of laughs. I was never overly fond of this author's novels but his short stories seem to hit right on the head. I've loaned this book out several times, and find myself coming back to it now and again for a brief bit of escapism. Each story is a unique gem and, in many cases, a joke unto itself.
  • (3/5)
    I love just about anything that Augusten Burroughs writes. This wasn't my super favorite (Dry), but it was enjoyable.
  • (1/5)
    David Sedaris-lite. Encounters with strange people and situations, mostly in New York. A neurotic narrator. You get the feeling there's a germ of truth in all these personal essays, but a lot of exaggeration. Which I suppose sums up Running With Scissors, but this one is nowhere near as harrowing. Much of this book feels like stuff that didn't make the first cut. Both Sedaris and Burroughs are gay and now in long-term relationships with dully normal, well-adjusted partners. AB is different from Sedaris in that he has a long history of alcoholism. They both come from strange families, but Sedaris doesn't see that his was damaging and regards his parents affectionately.What I found most intriguing about AB in this collection, although it's only alluded to, is that he had a very long and apparently successful career in advertising. (And how do you maintain that with a serious drinking habit?) He could probably write a good novel with that kind of knowledge and experiences. Perhaps he has; I see that he's written several books since this one.
  • (5/5)
    There are few authors who can write autobiographically-based short stories and end with me desperately wanting to befriend them. Not that it would work...I'm a bit more enthusiastic than Augusten Burroughs might care to handle.

    I'm starting to lose count of the number of times I've read this.
  • (4/5)
    I don't know how this man ever survived past his childhood and early twenties!! Burroughs delivers another quick-paced, amusing, and utterly stupefying tale.
  • (5/5)
    My favorite story is "Debby's Requirements", the ending made me smile in a revengeful sort of way.I also like what Augusten and his art director Greer do when they realized they had eavesdroppers.
  • (5/5)
    Very funny and enjoyable
  • (4/5)
    I really enjoyed this book, a collection of true, quirky, and honest stories, hilarious and universal in their appeal. Each chapter is its own anecdote, not necessarily related to the others, and most are humorous, although a handful are a tad serious. Burroughs is able to turn the most mundane event, such as finding a rat in his bathtub, training his NYC dog to pee on grass, or messing with telemarketers, into an absolutely fascinating narrative. Had I realized that this was third in a series of memoirs by this author, I would have have saved this for last, but it stood on its own just fine. It was a quick read that I finished in a few hours and was unable to put down. I'd recommend this to readers who enjoy comedy or memoirs in general, but I'd suggest beginning with the other two books, "Running with Scissors" and "Dry."
  • (5/5)
    Wry, witty, funny, sarcastic, mean (at times)...I adore Augusten Burroughs. His take on the world around him is so sharp. This book covers everything from his childhood obsession with being famous (and then freezing up for a commercial for Tang) to his now domesticated life with boyfriend Dennis. His written is beautiful and his take on the world unique. Love his nonfiction.
  • (2/5)
    Heavily disguised autobiographical anecdotes, neither as funny or as clever as they would like to think.
  • (3/5)
    his was an awkward read for me. Augusten's life is so different from mine and his meanness disturbed me. I didn't like it in the same way that I didn't like Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone, which is probably my most-hated book ever.The difference is that Wally Lamb's books was fiction, and Augusten Burroughs' book is not. So, whether I like it or not, Burroughs lives his life and has the courage to put it into print, and I have to grant some credit for that.Yes, Magical Thinking: True Stories is funny. Yes, it was intriguing. I felt a bit like a tourist reading it. Much in the same way that I was an embarrassed sojourner whilst reading certain parts of Jeffrey Eugenides Middlesex or whist walking around Amsterdam's sadly fascinating red-light district. Augusten's life is sordid and mean and he doesn't seem to notice or mind. I felt sad after reading his book.One of my Christmas gifts was Oliver Van DeMille's A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century, which came highly recommended from my cousin (who is a published poet you know). I will review the whole book later, but for know I want to share with you the four classifications of stories: bent, broken, whole, and healing. A. Bent stories portray evil as good and good as evil. Such stories are meant to enhance the evil tendencies of the reader, such as pornography and many horror books and movies. The best decision regarding Bent stories is to avoid them like the plague. B. Broken stories portray accurately evil as evil and good as good, but evil wins. Something is broken, not right, in need of fixing. Such books are not uplifting (in the common sense of the word), but can be transformation in a positive way. Broken stories can be very good for the reader if they motivate him or her to heal them, to fix them. The Communist Manifesto is a broken classic; so are and The Lord of the Flies and 1984, In each of these, evil wins; but they have been very motivating to me because I have felt a real need to help reverse their impact in the real world. C. Whole stories are where good is good and good wins. Most of the classics are in this category, and readers should spend most of their time in such works. D. Healing stories can be either Whole or Broken stories where the reader is profoundly moved, changed, or significantly improved by her reading experience.Magical Thinking: True Stories? Broken.
  • (4/5)
    Many Burroughs fans probably won't find this quite as engaging as "Running With Scissors" or even "Dry." Still, there are some delightful laugh-out-loud moments, spawned by memorable characters and offbeat encounters.
  • (4/5)
    Score one for Amazon. I was recommended this, I assume on the basis of my liking David Sedaris, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. One sees the same sort of progression in Sedaris' work from young messed-up kid to someone who appears to have at least some control over his life, which is rather cheering, and with plenty of laughs along the way.
  • (3/5)
    A friend of mine told me this is his favorite book by Augusten Burroughs, whom he loves.

    All I'm saying is, if this is one of his better efforts, I'm probably not going to bother with the rest. It's amazing that someone who claims such an extraordinary childhood can have such a mundane style.
  • (3/5)
    This book was good, if not a little disturbing at moments. Burroughs is damn funny in the midst of sardonically skewering himself, his family, his friends, and everybody else he comes across.I think I would've liked it better if I would've read Running with Scissors first.
  • (1/5)
    Either I've become a cranky, old woman, or this book is really terrible. I forced myself to read all of the essays in this book because reviewers from such notable newspapers as The New York Times and The Chicago Sun-Times have described other works by Augusten Burroughs with such words as "entertaining", great", "breathtaking", and "funny". I found no reason to laugh or smile throughout this book. Rather, I found this book lacked any grace. Additionally, I was offended by lines such as the following which might have found entertaining:"But Dennis and I will have none of this madness. Neither of us wants to accept the special challenges presented by a severely handicapped Romanian child or a baby who was born addicted to crack and has only half a head.""After a year, my body was transformed. But only from Auschwitz into lean.""When I get a craving for Nature, I turn on the Discovery channel and watch bear-attack survivors recount their horror and show the results of their reconstructive surgery."I think I've had my fill of this author's crude attempts at humor.
  • (4/5)
    AS with his other books-a very funny look at difficult times.
  • (4/5)
    A little uneven. Autobiographical stories, mostly from his life after rehab. Some as good as Dry, others as irritating as Running With Scissors.
  • (2/5)
    Ok. I really, really wanted to like this book a lot. It was a quick, easy read: a compilation of snippets from the author's life and thoughts. A few of the stories unfolded nicely and others felt like Burroughs was trying a bit too hard to jar the reader. It reminded me of the kid who sticks a pencil in his nose to get everyone’s attention. Vanderbilt Genes and Telemarketing Revenge were two stories that were just right. For me, towards the end of the book it felt like a repeating merry-go-round of darkness that just wasn’t funny, interesting or engaging.
  • (4/5)
    I like Augusten Burroughs' style for the most part, although this one didn't "wow" me like his memoirs Running With Scissors and the follow-up Dry, both of which I enjoyed immensely. But like the others, this is not for the weak at heart -- it's a very blunt, in-your-face collection of short stories which are often disturbing. The language tends to be strong, there's a lot of references to his gay lifestyle (sometimes detailed), and he tends to be rather opinionated on certain issues. But if you're okay with that, you'll likely enjoy this. The man definitely has issues, but I think I would too, had I had a background such as his.
  • (5/5)
    The true stories in this book are brilliant, full of humour and a self deprecating wit. Perhaps the author has at long last found some happiness.
  • (5/5)
    I love Augusten Burroughs. He is so self absorbed and self focused but I enjoy his writing. This book it of several stories from his life, that are written only as the person livign them could have told them. He turns a simple story of finding a mouse in his apartment into a funny battle of wits. A little raunchy, hilarious, and a little touching in this book.
  • (5/5)
    I just cannot get enough of his writing. Now that I've read everything he's published, I was thrilled to find out he has a blog.
  • (5/5)
    I love him!! He's so quirky, and his life seems so unbelievable, but he's great - I always laugh out loud when I read him!
  • (3/5)
    I found this collection of short stories about the author's life somewhat amusing, though I don't think I got quite the shock value Burroughs intended. Some of the stories had me chuckling, but others I found myself simply saying so what. I found him to be extremely vain and shallow, and fortunately he sees himself with these qualities too so he wasn't deluding himself which made me feel better about him. (I really dislike shallow people but I suppose I can stand them a bit more when at least they realize how shallow they are.)His story about magical thinking really rang true though. There are no coincidences, and if you put enough energy into your thoughts and desires, you can affect change in the world around you. It's one of the premises of many earth-based religions. Though he approached the subject as if everyone thought he was crazy because he believed it. His exact beliefs about baby Jesus and a cow though, that was pretty cute. But again, each of us is entitled to envision divinity in our own manner, like different facets of a diamond, all paths to the same thing, and all that...I remember also thinking, while I was reading this, that though he had a fucked-up life, and did some wacky things, my own life would probably be just as comedic and shocking were I to put all my past experiences into a book. I had my own strange oral surgery experience, a somewhat similar rodent/rat incident, and my own way of dealing with door-to-door Jehovah Witnesses that seems to come up at every party I attend. But this journal entry isn't about my own experiences; I bring it up only to make the point that a lot of these stories didn't strike me as strange as they may have others possibly because I've had just as strange experiences in my own life.That said, though I found the book interesting enough to continue reading all the way through, I think it was about half way that I began to find them getting a bit more dull. Again, most likely just the way they affected me personally.
  • (3/5)
    This is a follow on 'memoir' from the author of Running with Scissors, Dry, and -- his first book-- Sellevision. The book is a random walk of the author's musings about gay life, living in New York City, being an author, his long-term relationship, and more. The book jumps from laugh-out-loud funny to verging on the pornographic to the sadly desperate. Burroughs opens his heart and soul to the reader--and the effect is a touching, charming, self-aware--but sometimes vindictive--openness that makes the reader yearn for more (and be a little bit scared of Burroughs!). Burroughs is a solid writer, and his technique plus facility at story-telling makes the book move along, perhaps even too fast at times. The stories themselves run the gamut: one about having angry spells during taking steroids-for purely cosmetic purposes- (Roid Rage); one about a psychotic cleaning lady; and others about spurned lovers and his longtime boyfriend. If you are easily put off, and have interest in either gay culture or New York City life, this will be hilarious. If you have delicate sensibilities or aren't amused by the antics and neuroses of someone truly in need of either therapy or some stabilizing influence, then stay away from this one.