Lust & Wonder by Augusten Burroughs

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  • Lust & Wonder by Augusten Burroughs
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (March 29, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312342039
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312342036

 

I first met Augusten Burroughs in graduate school, while studying for my Masters in Library & Information Studies. He rode back and forth to class with me, on my 45-minute each way commute to Rockford, IL from my home in the far-flung Fox River Valley suburbs of Chicago. He kept me company; I never drove alone. It was me and Augusten, Augusten and me, in my soccer mom continuing education rapid-transit minivan, for a wonderful few weeks.

We laughed, we cried. Sometimes there were snacks.

Okay, fine, he rode along in the form of a book on audio CD, but he was there. I HEARD HIM. He spoke words; we bonded, and the things he said became a part of me.

The book was Running With Scissors, his outrageously wonderful ode to the terrors and nightmares he endured growing up in one of the most sick and twisted families ever to reproduce. It was horrifying, sometimes sickening, but also, somehow, wildly funny. And here’s what it taught me: mine wasn’t the only criminally brutal childhood, and I wasn’t the only soul to have suffered as I did.

And if Burroughs found a way to turn horror into humor, maybe there’s a way the rest of us can survive, too.

 

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Thanks for takin’ one for the team, Augusten. We, the abused and the warped, salute you.

All these years later, during one of my regular marathon book-lusty browsing sessions in Barnes & Noble, I came upon his latest book. I hadn’t meant to buy it, only to sit with it a while and read a few pages, catch up with his latest revelations and cheap out by leaving without it. Fifty pages later, it was inside a shopping bag on its way home with me.

The following Sunday, chained in my apartment by a particularly debilitating bout of depression, muffin crumbs stuck in my unwashed hair and wearing the same p.j.s I’d had on since Friday, I finished the whole book in one marathon session.

Note to psychiatrists everywhere: Augusten Burroughs is all the Rx you need.  Screw you, big pharma! Here’s a writer with a powerful ability to hold back knives from slicing the delicate undersides of wrists, persuading the most reluctant to scrape through our pathetic existences long enough to bray like a donkey through every last word he writes.

Because it cannot be put down.

It is unputdownable.

Which is why I love this man.

Lust & Wonder is the snarky/sad/dysfunctional Augusten Burroughs we’ve grown to love times about a thousand. Picking up where Dry left off, it’s a memoir published out of sequence. But damn if that makes a bit of difference. You don’t have to follow crazy in order. Hell, you should never follow crazy in order. It’s like looking straight into the sun, man.

Resist.

This latest installment follows Augusten’s adult life, from his early barefoot, long-haired years spent scribbling advertising slogans on the backs of napkins through the break-out publication of his first book, the novel Sellevision. From there he careens through an agonizingly long period of misspent time during his early years of fame, when the money and accolades started pouring in, bringing him enough money to buy an awful lot of man jewelry.

I cannot overstate the man jewelry part.

In a relationship with a man who never truly loved him, it would be years before his eventual admission to himself that he’d been denying the love of his life all along –  until he could deny it no longer, blowing his whole life up in one crazy-ass explosion of insanity, otherwise know as the life of Augusten Burroughs.

My best friend from grad school.

Owner of lots of man jewelry.

And one guy I can always count on to make me realize there’s a way out of the dark, through laughter at the absurdity of it all. A powerful friend, indeed.

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I love you, man.

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