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MAGICAL THINKING by Augusten Burroughs

MAGICAL THINKING

True Stories

By Augusten Burroughs

Pub Date: Oct. 5th, 2004
ISBN: 0-312-31594-5
Publisher: St. Martin's

Growing pains come first, then the adult pains, from the ever-odd, tragically farcical Burroughs.

“I learned that I had, in fact, been not merely kidnapped but stolen from the first family in American history,” the Vanderbilts, that is—in your dreams, Augusten. And readers will hope that many of these 27 stories are dreams, bad ones that Burroughs (Dry, 2003, etc.) cooked in his exorbitant imagination. But no, they are probably faithful renderings of his comically rendered anguish. They start with wicked swipes at his “so-called parents,” with their “Del Monte green bean breath,” and his tormenting brother: “a farm animal, a grunting primitive.” Was he not meant for something better than this, Burroughs pleads? Maybe, maybe not. He admits he was the kind of kid who “lived for television commercials” (though he is an abject failure at his one stage test); by fourth grade he “wanted to be Christine Jorgensen, the world’s first famous transsexual,” and had “decided that I would probably opt for the self-lubricating vagioplasty.” Then he gets older and stranger still. He considers poisoning his cleaning lady because she is as difficult and complicated as he is; he suffers remorse for killing a rodent that is trapped in his bathtub, then “I turned on the television and watched a little QVC. As I watched the host demonstrate the George Foreman Grill (which actually does seem easy to clean). . . .” Without missing a beat, he will note that “a handsome, hairy-chested Greek man is far better than mouth cancer,” that “I’m here to defend our Holy Fathers . . . Catholic priests have given me some of the best blow jobs of my life,” that “what little factual information I absorbed in my life was gleaned from lectures the Professor gave to Gilligan.” Honesty is Burroughs’s policy.

Dementedly original and unstoppable: Burroughs deserves a shelf all to himself, just as an unpredictable convict might require protective custody.