In Writing

I’ve somehow managed to be one of the few humans who likes to read but had not yet read anything by Augusten Burroughs. The author of Running with Scissors, a memoir that spent three years on the New York Times bestsellers’ list, he has produced a prodigious number of books about his life, which means he either has an amazingly interesting life or he doesn’t like the idea of writing novels.

If you’ve read Secret Side you know it began its life as a memoir, but ended up a novel because telling the truth is exhausting. Making stuff up is much more fun! And, yet, the nagging desire to get down my version of the events of my life still nibbles at the edges of me, so I’m back on this idea of writing a memoir, just as soon as I finish these edits. And, since the first step of any genre is knowing it well, I ordered Lust & Wonder based on a positive review.

The first thing you notice when you start reading Burroughs’ work is that you are in the hands of someone with a great facility with words. He twirls them and loves them and drops them like bombs. The second thing you notice is that his writing journey is absolutely amazing, as he reveals in an early chapter. He was a slacker and then he was the toast of the town. I usually feel a nagging jealousy for those stories, but, somehow I was rooting for him. So if you’re a writer, or someone with an unlived dream, Lust and Wonder will give you a boost.

My only quibble with it is that anything more than about three memoirs is a lot, unless your life involves several wars and maybe some revolutions, and somewhere near the end of the book Burroughs seems to simply run out of material (he’s written, I believe, eight memoirs at the age of fifty-ish). His boyfriend is cute! Laughs a lot. Laughs all the time! It’s a darn shame, because this is one of the writing talents of our time. I hope he decides to establish a school in Zimbabwe or something, or starts making some stories up, because I want him to keep telling new ones.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a well-written memoir, Lust and Wonder has much to recommend it. I’ve also ordered Running with Scissors and Dry to see what he had to say when the saying was new.

I’m also reading The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr, Your Life as Story, Writing Your Life, Wild (again), Eat Pray Love (again), Angela’s Ashes (again), I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (shockingly, for the first time). Any other suggestions for must-read memoirs?

Check out Augusten Burroughs’ books: click here


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