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Dry: A Memoir

Review

Dry: A Memoir



Addiction is not funny. And recovery is not entertaining. Unless,
that is, these subjects are in the hands of Augusten Burroughs.
Then, it is not merely unexpectedly funny and entertaining but
appropriately poignant and touching as well. In DRY, the follow-up
to his bestselling memoir RUNNING WITH SCISSORS, Burroughs is all
grown up and working in the cutthroat world of advertising. To cope
with his high stress and demanding career, not to mention the
issues and trauma surrounding his childhood, Burroughs drinks. And
drinks. And drinks. In order to keep his job, Burroughs checks
himself into a 30-day rehabilitation program. With the support of
the rehab staff and his fellow patients, he starts to evaluate his
drinking and his life, soon admitting to his alcoholism. But when
he finds himself back at work, surrounded by old friends, enemies
and drinking buddies, sobriety proves to be a difficult
challenge.

With sobriety, Burroughs must not only come to terms with his
friendship with HIV positive Pighead, he must also make painful
choices about new friends and lovers. Sober living is, of course,
not without its temptations and Burroughs is honest that not all of
his post-rehab decisions were good ones. But honesty is a key
component in DRY; it is never lacking in this memoir. Powered by
lots of coffee and fresh insight, Burroughs is just as hilarious in
describing his navigation of a life clean and sober as he is in
describing his drunken escapades. The supporting cast is full of
similarly neurotic figures, which just goes to show you that
everyone has an interesting story to tell. Burroughs, however,
concentrates on his own and the book reads like a cross between a
great tale told to close friends, a stand-up routine and, most
often, a therapeutic catharsis.

DRY is simply wonderful. It is a frightening look at an awful
situation and a difficult triumph told in Burroughs's unique and
hysterically funny voice. Comparisons with the work of David
Sedaris are obvious, but Burroughs has a much darker and grittier
side and his observances are most often pointed inward, resulting
in a bittersweet and heartbreaking tale told with sarcasm, wit and
laugh-out-loud moments. Augusten Burroughs is a natural storyteller
and his best stories are about himself. DRY is not always
comfortable, but it is never predictable and is thoroughly
rewarding.

From happy hours lasting until the next day with his mortician
friend, to the silly and sad rituals of rehab and recovery, from
bad news boyfriends to the bedside of the ever-patient Pighead, DRY
is an easy read but a hard emotional journey. It is a hip and
eccentric addition to a genre that is often dull, sappy or
whitewashed. For those wondering what happened to the little boy in
RUNNING WITH SCISSORS, and for those meeting Burroughs for the
first time in DRY, you are sure to be challenged, appalled,
inspired and enchanted.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 21, 2011

Dry: A Memoir
by Augusten Burroughs

  • Publication Date: April 1, 2004
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Picador
  • ISBN-10: 0312423799
  • ISBN-13: 9780312423797