Running with Scissors

Image by ProfessorMortis via Flickr

By Mandy Webster

Running with Scissors: A Memoir. Augusten Burroughs. St. Martin’s, 2002.

In his memoir, Running with Scissors, author Augusten Burroughs explores, in sometimes excruciating details, his childhood with a crazy mother who literally gave her son away to her shrink.

Unfortunately, Augusten is not much better off with the shrink than he would have been if he’d simply stayed with his mother. While living with Dr. Finch’s family, Augusten is plied with prescription medications by the good doctor and openly drinks and smokes pot with Dr. Finch’s daughter, Natalie. Dr. Finch has only slight reservations about the relationship which develops between Augusten and Bookman, who is 20 years older than the 13 year old main character.

Burroughs follows his most brutal moments with what are sometimes twisted observations which help lessen the punch to the gut one experiences upon reading about his abuse. His matter-of-fact description of his first sexual experience at the hands of the much older Bookman ends with Augusten contemplating a crack in the wall while imagining his splayed body nailed to a cross. 

At times, you forget the young Augusten is barely a teenager when his sexual relationship with an adult man first begins. Augusten himself believes that he is in a ‘relationship’ with Bookman. Although, he does occasionally stop to consider the fact that a part of him hates the man.

After reading Running with Scissors, I was left wondering how many abused children out there do not ask for help simply because they believe themselves to be in a relationship with their abuser? How many bystanders know about these so-called ‘relationships’ and say nothing because they live in a culture where this type of behavior is not only acceptable, but is encouraged?

Dr. Finch seems to have no problem selling his daughters off to the highest bidder. Only his wife Agnes, who is completely powerless, and in my mind a victim of abuse as well, seems to have a problem with Augusten’s ‘relationship.’

While not laugh-out-loud funny, Running with Scissors is quite humorous. If you’re into twisted humor, this book is for you. The insane descriptions of the Finch family are so unbelievable, I have a hard time believing Burroughs made them up. (Despite the fact that the real-life family who inspired Burroughs’ Finches sued him for fabricating details which one ‘Finch’ said were, “categorically false or had been wildly embellished.”)

However, if you can’t handle reading about children in graphic adult situations, you’d better skip this one.

Amanda L. Webster