Jay Parini enjoys Augusten Burroughs’s collection of personal essays, Magical Thinking. Magical Thinking, Augusten Burroughs’s collection of true stories, is outrageous, hilarious and a touching tribute to his partner, says Kim Bunce. Magical Thinking is a memoir by American writer Augusten Burroughs. The book contains stories from the adult life of the author. Excerpts from the chapter.

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Augusten Burroughs is hideously kinky. This is both his attraction and his detraction. Anyone who has read Running with Scissors or Dry knows this already.

The first, an account of his nightmarish childhood drunk father, crazy mother, adopted by his mother’s therapistintroduced us to this quirky voice, which will tell us anything. The second is a frank but campy book about the writer’s alcoholism. In a sense, the author rehashes much of this material in Magical Thinking, a rag-bag collection of brief personal essays; in another sense, he amplifies the material, adding glittery new edges to one of the edgiest voices in America today.

Magical Thinking, for those who don’t know, is what kids do when they imagine, for example, that they can make the rain go away by shutting their eyes and counting to a preordained number.

Burroughs used to think he could break his mother’s back by stepping on sidewalk cracks. The title fits this thinkijg, which is full of chatty narratives in which the speaker seeks to influence the world in ways that it resists.


Magical Thinking: True Stories

He tries, for example, to get his lover, Dennis, to use a new skin moisturiser, tinking been hoodwinked by the ads: If you believe that, of course, you can believe anything, and Burroughs – the one he writes about – does, at least until disillusionment sets in.

One can hardly begin to describe the subjects of these essays.

Many of them are about being gay in New York, being trendy and neurotic, being hopelessly gullible, being silly, being a tourist in the modern world, being self-obsessed and hating it. The tone of each essay is established in the opening lines, as in “I Kid You Not”, about not adopting children: Just 10 years ago, this was unheard of. Then it was all about having a shar-pei puppy, the more wrinkles the better.

This, inevitably, leads Burroughs to reflect on his own unfitness for parenthood: First, because I burroughss startlingly self-centered. I require hours alone each day to write about myself. There is nothing Burroughs won’t tell us.

Review: Magical Thinking by Augusten Burroughs | Books | The Guardian

We hear about a woman whose mother gave her enemas with Dr Pepper, then made her drink what came out, for example. I don’t doubt that this happened to Burroughs -everything seems to happen to him.

The truth is, truth doesn’t matter. These are fictions, little shaped narratives, in which the absurd things that happen to the hapless author are conveyed with a tone of wide-eyed wonder. And some of the worst things that happen are those that don’t, as in “Transfixed by Transsexuals”, in which the author augussten his fantasies about changing sex to run wild.


I really liked being a guy.

Observer review: Magical Thinking by Augusten Burroughs | Books | The Guardian

It’s just I was bored with my life and wanted a change. It’s fun to read a book by a gay man in which gay sex is treated without fuss. At 14 he was “abused” by a priest in the bruroughs. He liked it a lot more than the priest: Later in life, Burroughs has a brief fling with another priest, who guides him into alcoholic recovery.

This is actually quite moving. For all of its many delights, I found a good deal of it downright irritating, as when Burroughs smugly writes: I hate news and information and anything that threatens to puncture the msgical of oblivion in which I live.

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