Augusten Burroughs has published two memoirs, a novel, and now with
POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS, two collections of personal essays. In this
latest addition to his canon, expect to find more of his trademark
honesty and heartbreaking humor.
Like MAGICAL THINKING, his previous collection, POSSIBLE SIDE
EFFECTS covers a variety of topics --- from doll collectors to
childhood dreams, from dating to dentistry. Burroughs is not like
many a typical essayist, a distant or an objective observer. He is
the center of each tale, and each description is colored by his
unique perspective and even more unique background.
But knowing Burroughs's background, his bizarre often abusive
childhood, his battle with alcoholism, and his career in
advertising is not necessary to read POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS. He
fills in enough details and gives readers what they need to know in
order to fully appreciate his world. And this book is all about
Augusten Burroughs's world: he loses a tooth at his grandmother's
and fears the tooth fairy, gets a new dog, takes a creepy vacation
with his partner Dennis, gets a gushing nosebleed on an airplane,
and obsesses over his heartbeat. From the mundane to the
extraordinary, this is neurosis at its best.
POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS isn't just a quirky read, although it is
often quite quirky. It is also, characteristic of Burroughs's work,
dark, sometimes scary, sometimes surreal. He writes about a
suicide, his mother's mental illness, his own alcohol abuse, race
issues, and hating his grandmother. This book can be brutal.
Burroughs's reputation as a humorist is perhaps a bit off the mark.
It's not that he isn't funny; it's that humor isn't always the
lasting impression of his work. Readers may walk away with a sense
of sadness. Yet it is a sadness buoyed by optimism. In fact,
Burroughs's optimism is key in his autobiographical material.
Without this trait, the material would be too depressing.
POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS is a touch less funny than MAGICAL THINKING,
but again it is not really about the humor. The humor, the wit, is
just the vehicle for delivering inten