This book by Augusten Burroughs is a collection of factual (and I use that word lightly) short stories. The first story: Commercial Break, reflects on Burroughs desire for stardom via a Tang commercial, at the tender young age of seven. I think this story was meant to set the background for the rest of this book. In this first story we are introduced to his strange exceedingly unhappy family, his flair for drama, fetish for neatness, and his desperate desire to be loved.
Burroughs continues on into his adult years. He tells a cautionary tale of a twelve-thousand dollar house keeper from hell, and of his amazing ability to alienate even the most persistent of telemarketers. We can also learn finer points of gender re-assignment, and of course amazing powers of magical thinking.
Some of his stories seem to be reflections of David Sedaris’s work. In The Vanderbilt Genes, Burroughs mulls over the possibility that he was taken at an early age from a life of comfort and luxury. Sedaris wonders along the similar lines, although imagining himself a prince stole from faraway lands. In the story The Rat/Thing Burroughs discuss his annihilation of a Rat/Thing, “This technically wasn’t a rat/thing. It was more specifically, a small white mouse.” In hopes of poisoning it, he hoses this offending rodent with a can of Raid, that does nothing but sear its cornea’s and cause it to go into a blind panic. Eventually Burroughs does mange to dispose of it, but all the while I was thinking, what the name of that essay where Sedaris drowns a mouse in a bucket, while talking to complete strangers?
While some of these stories were amusing there seemed to me to be subtle reoccurrences of loneliness and insecurity. In certain stories I’d come across something and I’d think, ‘this is funny so why am I not laughing?’ Because there’s an element of sadness in them, something that seems to be amusing but in reality it hits too close to a real problem to be really amusing.