Celebrity

BEYOND THE BOOKS

Augusten Burroughs tells it like it is



 

BEYOND THE BOOKS
Augusten Burroughs tells it like it is


 

FLARE recently caught up with Augusten Burroughs, the best-selling author of Running with Scissors and Dry, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto to discuss his latest heart-wrenching memoir, A Wolf at the Table. The book revolves around his tumultuous relationship with his late father and gives readers further insight into how Burroughs has overcome his difficult past.

F: What made you want to become a memoirist?
A:
Before I could write, I would speak into a tape recorder and tell it about my day because I didn’t have adults in my life to talk to. Children need to share and exchange and feel validation. I think that’s the genesis of why I became a memoirist in the first place.

F: Is it strange for you to sit down and talk to people who already know so much about you from your books?
A:
No everyone thinks ‘this is going to be so awkward’ so they make it not awkward.

F: Do readers know as much about you as they think they do?
A:
Every memoir is like the tip of an iceberg. There’s so much more under the surface, but it’s more of the same.

F: Is writing your therapy?
A:
A memoir’s job is to transform the author and the reader. Each book has helped me fall even more into place with peace.

F: How would you describe your readers?
A:
19-year-old smart girls with glasses and their boyfriends, moms and dads.

F: Do they relate to your experiences?
A:
With this book more than ever. So many people can relate to having a terrible father.

F: What advice would you give to your father?
A:
My father couldn’t accept advice. I believe he had a problem in his brain, I think he was missing something human.

F: Do you still speak to your mother?
A:
My mother gave me away when I was a little boy and she didn’t get me back. It would be a nice resolution to have a reunion on Oprah, but it’s not going to happen.

F: Are you happy in terms of where you are right now?
A:
I don’t know if I’m a happy person. There’s always something missing. Maybe that’s my addictive nature. But, I’m happier than I’ve ever been, on most days.

F: What was the pivotal moment that set you free from addiction?
A:
When I realized that I was going to die from my alcoholism. It bothered me that I had never even tried to write. A week and a half after thinking that I sat down and wrote two sentences that made me laugh. And, I hadn’t laughed for a year and a half since my friend Pete from Dry died. I just kept writing and writing. By the fourth day I was no longer drinking and by the seventh day I had finished a book.

 

F: Is fame something you sought?
A:
When I was a kid, yes. But my idea of fame was from the 70’s. Celine Dion does fame now the way I wanted it then.

F: If you could change one thing about your past, what would it be?
A:
I would have run into school instead of away from it.

F: What’s your biggest turn off?
A:
Pretension, arrogance and cruelty

F: Do you believe in life after death?
A:
It’s so greedy and so human to think that there is more after this.

F: If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing?
A:
I would work with people with late stage cancer or AIDS, people who are dying and have to face it because that’s when you’ve got to cut all of the bullshit. I would be good at doing everything to ensure the person’s death was graceful.

F: Who are some of your favorite authors?
A:
Any memoir Haven Kimmel (A Girl Named Zippy) writes I will read. She is about fifty times funnier than David Sedaris and one hundred times funnier than me. Her new book Iodine is like Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. If Sylvia Plath read Iodine, she would have killed herself earlier because it is that good. Elizabeth Berg is an author I’m particularly emphatic about because in America she is given the title of popular women’s fiction, which I find incredibly sexist and condescending. Berg writes about the exact same things—marriage, divorce, relationships, as John Updike and yet Updike is Jesus and Berg is a soccer mom woman.

F: What are you currently working on?
A:
I’m working on two novels that have nothing to do with my life at all. One of the novels is based on events that took place and are very well documented so I’m doing a lot of research. I don’t want to tell you what it’s about, but I’ll tell you exactly what people will think when they find out. They will go “What? Why on earth would he…?” and then they will roll their eyes and go “Oh, of course!” It’s the story of someone who has been misunderstood.

 

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