Augusten Burroughs, 2002, 319 p.
Since Running With Scissors has been dissected ad nauseum for quite a few years, I’m going to keep the review portion of this post short and sweet. Here is my quickie review of R W S:
It was good. I recommend it.
Augusten Burroughs and his publisher, St. Martin’s Press, were sued for defamation by the Turcottes, the dysfunctional family featured in Running With Scissors. The Turcottes were unable to disprove the veracity of Mr. Burroughs’ memoir, and the lawsuit was settled last August. Mr. Burroughs said that he felt vindicated, and called the settlement “a victory for all memoirists.” The words were barely out of his mouth before the fecal material really started to fly all over the place concerning memoirs and fabrication.
I read somewhere a couple of years ago that memoirs were becoming “the new fiction.” Now, in retrospect, I believe that truer words were never spoken. It seems like practically every other memoir that hits the bestseller lists these days is a total lie. In addition to James Frey’s mega-humiliation in 2006, several other fake memoir writers have recently been exposed. Margaret B. Jones never belonged to a gang in Los Angeles, as she professed in Love and Consequences. She was raised by wealthy parents in Sherman Oaks and attended a tony private school. Mischa Defonesca wrote a book about being raised by wolves while she was in hiding during the Holocaust. She wasn’t even Jewish, and what idiot is going to believe that anyone is raised by wolves? Are we that stupid? According to a group of Australian journalists, Ishmael Beah’s bestseller, A Long Way Gone, about being forced to become a child soldier in Sierra Leone, is filled with inconsistencies regarding his parentage and the time he actually spent in the ranks.
A substantial portion of the reading public seems to think that memoirs are supposed to be truthful. Let me scoff at this misperception with a resounding guffaw: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Anyone with two IQ points to rub together should’ve figured out long ago that memoirs, by their very definition, are not honest. They never were.
All memoirs are creative nonfiction. Every memoir is a lie because memories are subjective. Our brains do strange things with our memories; as time passes, they become convoluted and a little blurred along the edges. They change to suit our purposes. Here’s an example: my paternal Grandfather was not a nice man. He was a selfish, narcissistic philanderer. After his death, he suddenly became a saint in my Grandmother’s esteem. She developed “selective memory” concerning him, and only remembered the good things. So, knowing that memories are inaccurate, I always read memoirs with a healthy dose of skepticism. It would be dumb not to.
Anyway, back to the recent spate of lying memoirists and the lying publishers that publish them. They should be severely taken to task because these books are not even vaguely based on fact. It’s one thing to embellish being kissed passionately at your senior prom in the diary of your life. It’s another thing altogether to write that you walked into the gym with an AK-47 and blasted half your classmates into a million little pieces when you never even set foot in the city or the school where the alleged prom took place. We’ve been defrauded, and it’s a real bummer.
Perhaps we should file a class action lawsuit.