You may not know it, but you’ve met Augusten Burroughs. You’ve seen him on the street, in bars, on the subway, at restaurants: a twentysomething guy, nice suit, works in advertising. Regular. Ordinary. But when the ordinary person had two drinks, Augusten was circling the drain by having twelve; when the ordinary person went home at midnight, Augusten never went home at all.
Loud, distracting ties, automated wake-up calls and cologne on the tongue could only hide so much for so long. At the request (well, it wasn’t really a request) of his employers, Augusten lands in rehab, where his dreams of group therapy with Robert Downey Jr. are immediately dashed by grim reality of fluorescent lighting and paper hospital slippers. But when Augusten is forced to examine himself, something actually starts to click and that’s when he finds himself in the worst trouble of all. Because when his thirty days are up, he has to return to his same drunken Manhattan life—and live it sober. What follows is a memoir that’s as moving as it is funny, as heartbreaking as it is true. Dry is the story of love, loss, and Starbucks as a Higher Power.
Augusten Burroughs’s bestselling memoir, Dry, came out a decade ago but the cover pictured is of the tenth anniversary new edition. I’d heard of this American author – who hasn’t? He wrote Running with Scissors, and multiple other bestselling memoirs, story collections, and a novel, Sellevision that’s in development as a TV series.
He is universally adored for his turn of phrase and dark brand of funny. On that scale, I’d place him as darker than David Sedaris, yet lighter than William Burroughs (who is dead, so AB is definitely lighter that). But in Dry we see how close to dead he was in the period this memoir relives.
Some of Dry is not for the faint-hearted. The descriptions of his drinking, the agony of loss, the trainwreck of his post-rehab love life, it all makes for hard reading, yet the silver lining of his humour and the way he writes kept me glued to the pages. Some might call him cynical and there was certainly a distance he kept between himself and the people in his life, but I’d call that his survival skin.
Dry: A Memoir is hauntingly good. So many quotable lines, descriptions that I had to reread they were so wow, humour in the midst of downright horror. It’s a book that will stay with me a long time. Maybe even ten years, who knows. There’s something hyper-real about Dry – Augusten (can I call him that?) is there beside you on a metal fold-out chair in a dingy AA room with his twitchy acerbic thoughts, he’s there with the Dewars oozing out of his pores, and he’s there in all of his nakedness (worse than that – more ‘flayed skin’) amplitude of having to experience his emotions. It’s oftentimes a very uncomfortable read, but on the other hand it’s very beautiful.
My rating: 5 / 5.
You can buy Augusten Burroughs’ books here.
When Lizzie Harwood isn’t neck-deep in writing and motherhood, she is an editor and writing coach to amazing clients all around the world. Visit editordeluxe.com for more on writing, editing and creativity. See lizzieharwoodbooks.com for book club guidelines and giveaways of her three published books. Contact her at [email protected] with your book to review.