Augustus Burroughs: Dry

I picked up a hardback copy of this book at a sidewalk yard sale in Sisters, Oregon for a quarter because I needed some lighter reading than neurolinguistic programming during my weekend campout. Even if it had cost full price, it would have been well worth it.

I was first attracted to the book by the author’s name, and wondered if he was any relation to William S. Burroughs, of “Naked Lunch” fame, but it turns out that he isn’t. In fact, he chose this name himself. Changing one’s name seems to be a natural response to having had a traumatic childhood. 

This book is a memoir of a young man who was given up as a child to his mother’s psychiatrist. The author’s brilliant powers of observation and extreme wit and humor made this book both hilarious and deeply moving. That’s not a combination easy to achieve. It dealt powerfully, honestly, and unforgettably with topics such as child abuse, addiction and recovery, and the difficulties of self-definition and intimate relationships. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a more vivid and true representation of the descent into the madness of the blaming rhetoric of an abuser or its resultant mistrust, alienation and loss.

For me, the criteria for judging whether or not writing is a work of art is its ability to challenge beliefs and evoke strong emotionThis book engaged me on every level—mentally, intellectually, and emotionally. I laughed and cried without feeling manipulated or marketed to. There were also passages that made me stop and reread them just to fully experience their meanings and marvel at the truths inherent in them. It may not be for the faint of heart, but I found this book well worth spending an afternoon reading.

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