Thursday, August 7, 2008

Book Review - Augusten Burroughs - A Wolf at the Table

It occurred to me after looking back over my earlier posts that I've spent a disproportionate amount of time discussing food. And why not? A few days can go by without me reading a book, watching a movie, playing a gamne, going anywhere, or having any particularly profound experiences...but not a day goes by that I don't eat. So this makes sense in a way. Still, I don't want you to get the wrong impression that this blog is going to be about nothing but food and bus-oriented homicides. So here's a book review to mix things up.

My exposure to Augusten Burroughs is still fairly minimal. I read his popular Running with Scissors back in the day, and I have some of his other books loaded on my Kindle, but that was about it so far.

One day, I found a copy of his latest piece, A Wolf at the Table on my desk at work, and I picked it up to read. It begins in a very tense patch of in media res before going back to the beginning and telling the story of Augusten's earliest memories and proceeding more or less forward, through Augusten's earliest years, past the Running with Scissors years, into the near present.

It's a harrowing read, especially if you're blessed/cursed as I am with extremely protective feelings towards the cubs. At many points, I had to put down the book to fume, to feel angry that anyone could be so unresponsive towards their own flesh and blood. In the end, you can only decide, as the author did, that there is something missing from this man who shaped his earliest years. His inability to put other people first, to deal with the needs of his sensitive son and his injured wife, leaves me in a cold/hot rage. Even if you set aside a fair portion of the author's words as hyperbole or exaggeration, you're left with a feeling that something was very wrong in the Burroughs household...wrong in a more dangerous way that makes the environment from Running with Scissors seem quite tame and normal by comparison.

If you need a good fume, or if tales of children in peril are what you're in the mood for, this is a fine book. It also fills in an important piece of the Burroughs history, if you're reading Augusten's memoirs and need a little more backstory.

Be warned, though. Don't come to this book looking for Burroughs trademark acid wit. This book is not funny. Maybe the subject matter was just a little too painful to the author to try to append humor to it after all these years.

- The Happy Bear

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