Edge

From rehab to the New York Times bestsellers list:

In less than five years, Augusten Burroughs has become a New York Times bestselling author, been named one of the top 25 funniest people in America by “Entertainment Weekly” and finds the newly released film adaptation of his memoir “Running with Scissors” receiving Oscar buzz for some performances.

The truth that Burroughs reveals in “Running with Scissors” is the heartbreaking yet hilarious, beautiful yet gloomy and convoluted yet simple reality known as his childhood. As the son of an alcoholic father and mentally ill mother, Augusten is no stranger to drama, but nothing prepares him for his mom’s decision to let her whacked-out psychiatrist adopt him.

While his mother searches for her sanity and inner voice as a poet, Augusten finds himself thrown into a family that condones his sexual relationship with a 33-year-old psycho and has an electroshock therapy machine lying around their house.

“Nip/Tuck” creator Ryan Murphy was itching to write and direct a film based on Burroughs’ best-seller. The film made its Miami premier at the AMC Theater at Sunset Place on October 25. The following afternoon, just one day before the film hit movie theatres nationwide, I sat down with Burroughs at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Miami, where he spoke candidly about his works, struggle with alcoholism and the film.

TMH: Last night, right after I got back from the screening of “Running with Scissors”, I logged onto CNN.com and saw an ad for the film. It just seems to be everywhere. How does all of the attention feel?

Burroughs: Well, I’m isolated from it, I’m in a little cocoon of oblivion. I just think that the performers did such a wonderful, wonderful job. And I know they didn’t do it for money.I’ve always loved Annette Bening ever since I became aware of “The Grifter”. The fact that I feel that she has done the best work of her career and the movie is very exciting.

TMH: It’s an understatement that your childhood was tough. It doesn’t appear that you had encouragement back then, but what about in your adult life? I know last night you mentioned that you can be lazy.

Burroughs: It’s funny. It’s a dichotomy. I am lazy, but I’m also absolutely, fiercely driven. When I have time off, I just like to be in bed. But no, no one has ever pushed me. I push myself.

My support comes from my friends, and I’m very close to my partner Dennis, we met in 2000. We live together in a house we built together in Western Massachusetts right next to my brother, his wife and my nephew and we’re very close to our neighbors.

TMH: You’ve said that you haven’t received a formal education since you were in the fourth grade. What informal education did you receive that [fostered your talents]?

Burroughs: Who knows where talent comes from? Probably a great deal of it’s genetic or inbred. But I’ve [probably]been writing since I was nine. I used to have a blue tape recorder that I spoke into and [told]about my day. When I was living in the ‘Finch house,’ I had five subject college notebooks that I would write in and fill. The writing was just desperate.

It was sort of like if you’re in a plane and there’s no pilot, you’re going to learn to fly the plane. That’s really how I learned to write.

Then I started reading at 24 and that just opened up the whole world. That was what I had been missing my whole life. I felt like I had discovered the emotional Holy Grail.

TMH: When did it hit you that you wanted to write “Running with Scissors”?

Burroughs: I think it has been simmering in me all my life in the sense that I was running from it. All of my behavior was informed by this childhood.Flash forward a number a years, as I talk about in [my book]“Dry”, I was a very, very hardcore alcoholic. At 30, I went through rehab. I was sober for about two years and then my best friend Pig Head, from “Dry”, died and I started drinking again. I got much worse. I started to develop heart problems and I started to go downhill fast. You know, I think I was months, if not a year, from having a heart attack and killing myself with alcohol.I blew it. I mean, I had mislived my life.But it bothered me that I never tried to write. It was like a pebble in my shoe.

It was just a couple weeks after having that thought that I sat down and wrote “Sellevision” [Burroughs’ first book]. To make a long story short, by the fourth day, I was consumed with it and I was no longer drinking. By the seventh day, I had finished the book and my life had changed. I knew now what I would do for the rest of my life: I was going to write.

TMH: So you had not [started writing]“Running with Scissors” at that point. How did you go about finding a publisher?

Burroughs: After I finished “Sellevision”, I knew that I had finished a book. Whether it is a bad book or a good book, who knows? I sent it around to every literary agent I could. All rejects.

Then one agent that I contacted said, ‘Send me a manuscript.’ I did and he loved it. He sent it around town. Everyone turned it away, except one woman at St. Martin’s Press. She loved it. She bought it. Paid me nothing for it, but I was so, so happy.

In a time when success is associated with young starlets who make millions from baring all on reality television shows and magazine covers, 41 year old Burroughs is redefining the American dream by stripping away at the layers of his life to find, as he says, “the truth.”

Nick Maslow can be contacted at n.maslow@umiami.edu.

November 3, 2006

Reporters

The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

It’s the play Miami Hurricanes fans will never forget — and Florida State fans are trying to forget. ...

Miami Hurricanes fans might recall their favorite college football players in past years dreaming of ...

The new quarterback is usually the ones fans gush over. For the University of Miami, last season it ...

Debate all you want, but University of Miami football coach Mark Richt made it clearer than ever Wed ...

Last year, when University of Miami tailback Mark Walton attended the Atlantic Coast Conference Foot ...

UM dining services team earns national recognition for special event catering. ...

From hammerheads to great whites, University of Miami researcher Neil Hammerschlag is a dedicated sp ...

An ACLU report authored by UM sociologists documents racial and ethnic disparities in Miami-Dade Cou ...

Following the summit between Trump and Putin, reaction from politicians, pundits and former intellig ...

A School of Communication associate professor played an important hand—an artistic one!—in World Cup ...

Miami senior Tyler Gauthier was named to the 2018 Fall Watch List for the Rimington Trophy presented ...

Miami junior wide receiver Ahmmon Richards was among those named to the watch list for the 2018 Bile ...

University of Miami junior running back Travis Homer was named a preseason candidate for the Doak Wa ...

Six former Canes competed on NBA Summer League teams, with three averaging at least 10 points per ga ...

Quick Hits gives University of Miami volleyball fans an opportunity to get to know the new student-a ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.