Saturday, July 9, 2011

Magical Thinking by Augusten Burroughs

Augusten Burroughs' fourth book, a collection of stories based on the author's life, grabbed my attention because of Burroughs' hugely popular bestseller, Running with Scissors. Magical Thinking catches up with the author, now in his early thirties and dealing with the consequences of his dysfunctional childhood.

Many years after his parents' divorce and having recovered from alcoholism, Burroughs now lives in Manhattan and has a successful career in advertising. His life may seem good on the surface, but Burroughs is unhappy as he goes through a chain of casual relationships and aspires to be a writer.

He is not afraid to open up about pretty much everything, from his dating, to hooking up with priests, to graduating from the Barbizon School of Modeling at the age of fourteen. The stories' beginning, from the first sentence, brief and to the point, yet bursting with information, takes immediate hold of the reader. After the first sentence it is already to late to stop reading. These are some of my favorites: "The year I snuck an interracial lesbian couple into the background of an American Airlines commercial, I was feeling particularly flush." "The most distracting thing about getting a blow job at a funeral home wasn't the fact that there were three fresh bodies downstairs in the cooler or one dead body twenty feet away from me in a casket across the room." "When I was ten years old, I realized I'd been kidnapped as a toddler."

Although Burroughs' writing may seem superficial at first, he uses superficiality to direct his writing to a more profound level. He may start off talking about trying to get his boyfriend to use a new moisturizer and then lead into a discussion on the dynamics of a long-term relationship. Through mundane, everyday situations, Burroughs opens up on his beliefs, traits, and insecurities.


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