Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mentiroso Mentiroso Pantalones en Fuego?

So if you are like me, you have probably read a few Augusten Burroughs "memoirs." I started out with "Dry" one summer because the Monmouth County library was out of my first choice, the far more famous, career making book "Running with Scissors." "Dry" was fine but I was always peeved at the fact that in reviews or book blurbs, people kept comparing Burroughs to David Sedaris. Let's be frank, that is outrageous. Burroughs is nowhere near as funny or clever or charming as David Sedaris (plus I think it's pretty much clear in Sedaris's work that he is a flagrant exaggerator). "Dry" revolved around Burroughs' plummet into the bowels of addiction with his alcoholism tanking his lucrative advertising career as well as his ability to entertain in the home (I seem to recall his apartment was flooded with red wine bottles and he went to a meeting with fancy jewelry company clients with the scent of booze coming out of his pores. Cue Summer Roberts "umm ew"). "Dry" had a few amusing observations and passages, but overall was just a decent read. There is something about Burroughs' style and stories that seem very manufactured and false. This was further confirmed when I finally read "Running with Scissors." I didn't get the hype with this book. It had more humor than "Dry" but even more so I felt somewhat deceived. Burroughs is so detailed and precise and his life is so unbelievable that.......I just don't believe it. Of course, you need to take every memoir with a grain of salt. Details are fudged, memory fails, stories are subject to your interpretation of events. No one goes around with a video camera and a tape recorder 24/7 in the hopes of one day writing a precise memoir. However, with all the recent attention heaped upon James Frey and Margaret Seltzer, people are scrutinizing memoirs and viewing them with more distrust than ever before. These are sort of thorny issues. What is the line between exaggeration and misrepresentation of facts? Is it when living people are falsely portrayed? Is it mixing up names and dates and places?

When I heard that Burroughs is coming out with a new book focused on his harsh and oftentimes difficult relationship with his absentee father, I felt these old feelings of annoyance rise to the surface once again. While before, I was not too keen on his style and not that interested in anything he had to say about his life, I now felt as though I wanted to see him exposed. Sure, there was that "Vanity Fair" expose in 2007 that shed light on the lawsuit brought against Burroughs by the family that is featured in "Running with Scissors", but I needed more. Burroughs denies fictionalizing or sensationalizing his memoirs despite the fact that he must now call them "books". These denials are what perturb me. Yesterday, NYMag arrived and the headline said something to effect of "Augusten Burroughs get the Polygraph Treatment". Now, yes maybe I'm too literal a person, but I thought for a minute the man was finally undergoing a polygraph test. I'm not a proponent of the polygraph typically. There is a reason why results are inadmissible in court and you can certainly pass/fail questions due to nerves or skill, so they aren't scientifically foolproof. However, I thought it would be very juicy indeed to pin Burroughs down. Unfortunately, it's just the writer of the article's internal polygraph that fluctuates throughout the article. Blah! Can anyone make this man take a polygraph?!? Can we get some crossover promotion with St. Martin's Press and "Moment of Truth"?

What do you all think about Augusten Burroughs? Are you guys fans? Do you think he's a liar? Does it matter?

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