Submitted by [deleted] t3_10gxbzm in books

As the title suggests, I’ve finished the memoir ‘Running with scissors’ by Augusten Burroughs and I loved it, but one has to wonder…how much of it was actually real.

Edit : I think user blueskies1800 put it best “He is so funny. I don't care if it's true or not.”

Edit 2 : If anyone has book recs with similar humour, please comment down below. Genuinely one of the funniest memoirs i’ve read.

Edit 3 : Deleted 3 of my previous paragraphs cause I’ve changed my priority to wanting my recs in the comments for books that a similar in FUNNYNESS.



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SquashforSoup t1_j555ybp wrote

This book was given to me by a mentor. He said it would make me feel less "weird" because of my upbringing and trauma. My opinion is that he probably had to fill in gaps, but the story he tells at its core is real and really happened. We had weirdly similarities experiences.


closedblinds t1_j5594w3 wrote

Keep in mind that Augusten himself acknowledges in some of his other books that he can be an unreliable narrator- in his memoir Dry there are certainly remembered experiences that likely did not happen in the way he recalls, but that’s kind of the point, IMO. These are his experiences dealing with trauma, getting sober…A Wolf at the Table, which deals more with his childhood prior to Running With Scissors, is probably something you would be interested in reading.


ramriot t1_j56u869 wrote

You should probably read his brothers autobiography Look me in the eye for a greater clarity on that dysfunctional family dynamic.


seaworthy-sieve t1_j57jqpz wrote

I came to mention this. Like, John once put him upside down in a post-hole when he was a toddler. And iirc John witnessed their father putting out a cigar on Augusten when he was just a baby.


kerplunkdoo t1_j58c6r2 wrote

Yes, adults can be purposely cruel to children without remorse. It may have been something he learned from a sibling who told him but there is most likely evidence or memories. And yeah, even a parent, own flesh and blood, can be a selfish piece of shit!


faux-gogh t1_j57w7n6 wrote

That was written by Augusten's brother, John Elder Robeson. It is special in its own right. One certainly informs the other.

Yes, I do believe that their life stories are mostly true, especially in Burroughs' first memoir, Running with Scissors. I'm not so sure I'd agree with my statement for each of the consecutive books.

They are a special kind of family. Kind of like the Sedaris's on steroids. Or acid.


shineevee t1_j57yifg wrote

I think the difference between Sedaris & Burroughs is that things just seem to happen to Burroughs but Sedaris kinda brings the weird shit to him. 😂


Catfishjohn78 t1_j5980bo wrote

Fantastic read. This left way more of an impression on me than running with scissors.


PsychoSocialGiraffe t1_j55o86j wrote

Honestly, as someone who HAS experienced severe trauma, I’d say a lot of people have different experience with memory: inability to remember BECAUSE of trauma. Some remember every moment in detail, some don’t remember ANYTHING.

While I distinctly remember several specific moments of my childhood and could write a very interesting memoir if I chose to, I would say a lot of the details of my story would be fabricated due to lack of memory.

Not to say Augusten Burroughs made it up or didn’t, as I can’t know for sure, but just putting it out there as someone with severe trauma: it’s possible he doesn’t remember and it’s also possible he remembers DISTINCTLY.


snailien t1_j55zyra wrote

I don't mean to overstep, but if you ever feel like those repressed memories are taking a toll on your current behaviors/relationships, I highly recommend seeking out a therapist trained in EMDR. Ketamine treatment was also very helpful for me.


missblissful70 t1_j56ahsg wrote

I just realized my “anxiety disorder” is actually hypervigilance from PTSD. I am currently looking for a therapist who is trained in these things, as the trauma was for so long, and I was re-traumatized by an abusive boss.


PsychoSocialGiraffe t1_j56156u wrote

Thanks! I appreciate the advice. I’ve looked into EMDR before and started once but wasn’t in a good enough place to start it when I did. It’s something I’d like to pursue again in the future.

Currently I have a FABULOUS therapist who is helping me become more functional in my every day life and start recognizing emotions, realize when things are triggering me and how to handle them more effectively, and stand up for myself and my needs. She’s amazing and I am thankful to have her. Right now I’m definitely in the right place for this moment!!

I truly appreciate the advice, though, and, as someone who’s been in therapy and on meds for nearly 20 years, I appreciate any advice which may provide new insight on healing.

Thanks for your thoughts! I’m glad you got the help you needed and are improving yourself!!


DaughterOfGaladriel t1_j58e8bi wrote

Jumping in to ask about ketamine treatment! I did EMDR which was extremely successful for me. My daytime ptsd symptoms have disappeared but I’m stuck with the nightmares and sleep paralysis. My psych suggested ketamine treatment and I’m considering it. Did you have to stop other medications in order to do the treatment? Or did they allow you to keep your regimen?


Far_Information_9613 t1_j55gl0e wrote

I have worked in mental health and grew up in a fucked up family and have talked to friends and I believe it is all true, with only the slightest of exaggerations for “comedic” effect.


Bapril t1_j55yca2 wrote

I absolutely love this book. None of it seemed implausible to me so I’ve never even wondered if it’s all true. In retrospect I guess this means my childhood may have been a bit fucked up.


fuck_your_worldview t1_j55ajng wrote

Oh, yeah, I can’t imagine you’ll find many people who think there wasn’t any embellishment at all. I believe the real Finch family sued over some of the content, although it was eventually settled out of court and an acknowledgement added that implies it is at least a biased account.


knittinghoney t1_j56qzh6 wrote

I don’t really have an opinion on how accurate it is, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was embellished/exaggerated. I disagree though that it would be impossible for him to remember enough to write it. Some people have better memories than others and I definitely think it’s possible to write a more accurate memoir. He’s not even a little kid in the book, isn’t he around 12-14? If he was keeping a journal at the time, which I think he mentioned in the book, that would help too. And going through some major events and changes in his life that he’d be more likely to remember for that reason.


NNArielle t1_j57br75 wrote

Speaking as a trauma survivor, I've written down some of what happened to me and I've always tried to be as accurate as possible with what I've written, because I don't think anyone would believe what happened to me. Of course, trauma survivors are not all the same, but I think a lot of us experience gaslighting and we end up having to defend against that, even if it's just grappling with it in our own minds.


HiRollerette t1_j58bn3r wrote

“I don’t think anyone would believe what happened to me”

This is my exact life and I say this often. I have really only shared my memories with my husband of 25 years and he is constantly amazed at what I lived through. I wish you peace.


therapeuticstir t1_j554pjo wrote

I agree. I liked it but come on! My fav. David Sedaris is clearly writing fiction at times too.


Brennir10 t1_j56jxs5 wrote

The author himself acknowledged this book was “ loosely based on his experiences “…. Take that as you will


paparu5 t1_j56jn6q wrote

I think it's important to keep in mind the difference between memoir and autobiography. Memoir is not fiction, but there isn't the same expectation of fact checking that there is for autobiography. There's leeway for art and style.


Fuzzykittenboots t1_j565ds7 wrote

I think you are making two important points here:

  1. It is a good book. He is a great writer and the book being based in reality or not doesn't really take away from that. If anything I would see him as more of a creative storyteller if he simply made most of it up.
  2. When we tell stories about ourself they become just that. Stories with us as the unreliable narrator. Sometimes we remember things wrong, sometimes we draw the wrong conclusions when we lack information and sometimes we embellish or lie. But we always experience and look back on things with our own bias, If I have been told that my uncle was crazy then that is going to color my memories of him. And there is not going to be some sort of all knowing and neutral third party to tell us or others what is 'really' true.

cMeeber t1_j576lby wrote

I picked this book up at the book store in middle school and read this line that said something like: “my boyfriend says he would like to freeze my cum and eat it like ice cream.”

And I was like, oh. And put it down lol


zasinzoop t1_j58anfi wrote

i read this book in middle school and all i remember now is the cum popsicles.


BringMeInfo t1_j55vsmf wrote

Isn’t there a disclaimer in the book since the defamation suit that the family does not agree with his description of events?


NiteNicole t1_j55ccee wrote

You can Google it. The family spoke up when the book came out. I believe they won a defamation lawsuit. It is at best an exaggeration. I don't think it's even classified as a memoir at this point.


Thegarlicbreadismine t1_j572s1d wrote

No, actually they didn’t win the lawsuit. It was settled & under the terms of the settlement he had to acknowledge in an introduction or something that their recollections were different than his. He didn’t need to change anything in the body of the book. Settlement was mostly in his favor.


JustAnnesOpinion t1_j561eer wrote

I believe many memoirs, especially ones that focus on early life, get “enhanced” to push the drama or humor. When you call something a memoir, you are literally saying it’s what you recall and not what a camera would have recorded and when we look at all the research showing how malleable memory it’s apparent some dubiously true material will work it’s way in.

With all that said, I think it would be more honest to change the characters’ names and call some of the “wild childhood” memoirs autobiographical novels, but there has typically been a more robust market for memoirs.


Admirable-Volume-263 t1_j56jspa wrote

I felt that way about Mary Karr's memoir, 'The Liar's Club.' And based on the title, her dad's stretching of truth and her worshiping it, and a large amount of talk about "veracity" in her book "The Art of Memoir," she may be projecting a bit. I've seen other people question how a person could have such a detailed memory of their childhood. I can't comprehend it myself, but I haven't taken the time to research 'memory' either.


meganahs t1_j57kvk8 wrote

You should read his older brothers book, “Look me in the eye!” His older brother had undiagnosed Aspergers syndrome. He would later *be the engineer behind KISS’s fire guitars.


FartMongerSupreme t1_j5600yb wrote

I read this as a teen back in the 00s... and I could never remember the title!


OutlandishnessHour19 t1_j578til wrote

I have read a lot of his books, I think he tells a good story but there has just got to be a healthy handful of embellishment.

Magical thinking especially.

Still enjoyable reads though.

Also the movie they made of running with scissors is fun. Particularly the scene where 'blinded by the light' plays.


EssexUser t1_j587zv4 wrote

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. I’ve probably never laughed so hard in my life, but the story was her childhood story and was actually mostly horrible.


flyingponytail t1_j55byp1 wrote

Why does it matter if it was real or not? Has absolutely no bearing on my enjoyment of the story


Johnmunch85 t1_j55tiuo wrote

I think the issue is that it’s presented as a memoir, which is subject to The Non-Fiction Contract, so everything should be true to the best of the writer’s ability to remember. That being said, I also don’t really care and loved it nonetheless.


AshgarPN t1_j565w93 wrote

It has bearing on the real people depicted in the story.


MilesToHaltHer t1_j55lomy wrote

I don’t know, but the album is great!


Furrbucket t1_j578mu3 wrote

I came looking for this comment.

“…in aaaaahaaal-buquerque.., QUERQUE!”


Dauphine320 t1_j56vu57 wrote

I absolutely loved this book


Disastrous-Screen110 t1_j56vxsf wrote

So glad this book is being brought up here. One of my favorites.


WheresTheIceCream20 t1_j576dcu wrote

That's part of reading memoirs vs. autobiographies. Memoirs exaggerate the truth and fill in spots for dramatic effect. So when you read a memoir, you have to take a lot of it with a grain of salt and know that it is embellishment on the truth.


AgentFlatweed t1_j57c8vl wrote

I love this book, I relate very strongly to a lot of it. But, Augusten Burroughs has written multiple memoirs, including a few that are short story collections. He’s gotta be making some of it up. How much of Running with Scissors is made up as opposed to what isn’t is hard to say. Some of the real life Finches and Burroughs’ family have denied it, there were lawsuits, etc. But of course, they would, as it makes all of them look bad to varying degrees. I figure, whether every word if it is documented fact or some of it is artistic license, the emotions and the writing of it rings true.


propernice t1_j57m6qz wrote

I know that I wouldn't be able to trust my memory enough to ever write something close to a memoir. The level of shit I went through was such that I don't remember a big gap of my past. Like, my first real memories start when I was 14/15. I've heard stories, I've been told things, but I know now that the person who told me all of those things was a very unreliable narrator himself. So, I don't know what to believe. But I have proof of some of the things that happened and I can make leaps from there.

I read Running With Scissors a long, long time ago, but I remember enjoying it and not questioning much at the time.


whippet66 t1_j57zzbd wrote

Everyone is a hero in their own story.


The-Doom-Knight t1_j582kbj wrote

Probably about as accurate as the recent film Weird: The True Story of Weird Al Yankovic.


GuineaPigBikini t1_j583pzm wrote

I haven't read it but I'm working on a memoir (first draft is finished) and I worry a lot people will think I'm lying or that it's too detailed. In my case I've kept a detailed journal since childhood so I've had a lot to refer back to


fivefivesixfmj t1_j5864vh wrote

I think it is as true as he saw it. I am writing my memoir for my MFA. I have asked my sisters did this happen and they will be like well close but no. I have written about my military time and other guys wrote on a post how they did this or that and I am like um no. So I think it is true but only from his point of view.


ineedstheanime t1_j58cyiq wrote

I haven't read this book in 15yrs, but I remember feeling about the same as you and loving the entire ride. I really, really, wish I had my own masturbatorium. So convenient :)


booksncatsn t1_j58e5lx wrote

Let's Pretend This Never Happened is funny but a good look at dysfunction as well.


zcgk t1_j58l59f wrote

This book was recommended to me in like 2006 by someone I work with. I think it was still before the James Frey Million Little Pieces memoir fiasco. I also read DRY which I liked a whole bunch too. And later I even read the Wolf at the Table book about his father (it was mediocre). Definitely read DRY. I think I liked it better than RWS. He's a good writer.


AshgarPN t1_j566bxx wrote

I never read this, but I remember the scandal when it was revealed it was fiction, but labeled a “memoir” for book sales. I remember Oprah scolding the author on her show, feeling conned that she put it on her book list.

EDIT: wrong book


sastrid t1_j567nhe wrote

Different book. You’re thinking of “A Million Little Pieces” by James Frey


AshgarPN t1_j567rs0 wrote

Yes, I am. Thank you.


monster_mentalissues t1_j56bq8w wrote

And then she had him back on and apologized to him. But everyone seems to forget that.,8599,1897924,00.html


AshgarPN t1_j56n5dm wrote

Well, that sounds like she regrets bringing him on and publicly shaming him, but still holds him accountable for making up his memoir.

And per your link, she called him. Didn't have him back on the show.


mccarthysaid t1_j577a0r wrote

I don’t think it matters much either way really. Just enjoy it or don’t. Events can be embellished or imagined and still carry truth


SassySerenade t1_j57i654 wrote

Just because it didn’t happen doesn’t mean it isn’t true.


sighthoundman t1_j57pnqo wrote

Note that it's a memoir. By definition, a memoir is "This is what I remember".

Some of the names have been changed to protect the innocent. And maybe the guilty as well.

Also keep in mind that it is human nature to never let anything as inconvenient as facts get in the way of a good story.

With all that as background, Look Me In The Eye, by Burroughs' brother John Roberson reads very similarly. So you're looking at fictionalized truth or an impossible (based on my extensive interactions with people with ADD) conspiracy.

Note also that the estate of Burroughs' foster family sued him for libel. They settled out of court (so we can't know what they agreed to) and future editions of the book say that although the foster family remembers things differently, this is what Burroughs remembers. Burroughs said he felt vindicated by the settlement.


Appropriate-Pea-6508 t1_j57tw90 wrote

I had moments of disbelief - and wondered if he was exaggerating or making things up. I think his siblings said he was.


StoicComeLately t1_j58fi93 wrote

It was interesting to read. I like fiction and nonfiction, but I like to know which one I'm reading. That's my only issue with it.


A_sweet_boy t1_j58w5go wrote

I totally forgot about this book! I loved it, even if it’s exaggerated. Id say you should check out David Sedaris for similar stuff. Do the whole “2010 This American Life” thing


boomboxnation t1_j591s9g wrote

Good memoir, vs. autobiography, is frequently embellished. It's why I prefer a good memoir over a biography any day that ends in day.


DC_Coach t1_j595632 wrote

If you're at all into music history you'd do a lot worse than to pick up Rick Wakeman's autobiography. My experience was tears-streaming-laughing throughout most of it.


DeanoBambino90 t1_j5959hd wrote

If you keep a journal, it would make it easier. Not that I've kept a journal.


CWE115 t1_j59bvrn wrote

Augusten Burroughs has written a bunch of books about his life. I recommend all of them.

I would also recommend David Sedaris, who had a strange family and made the most of it. His fiction isn’t as great as his non-fiction imo.


cowardguys t1_j5t24n7 wrote

Loved this book. Augusten's story telling is funny , poignant, harrowing, sometimes vulgar... I've recently bought his latest book. This is how, for my daughter, she has told me she cannot put it down, another admirer!


Cantholditdown t1_j58er0m wrote

I saw this author at a book signing and reading like 20 yrs ago in nyc. He came across as a compulsive liar. Idk. I feel like I can sense compulsive liars pretty well and he was hitting on all cylinders


durgadas t1_j581cpg wrote

Ass burgers.


ZizzazzIOI t1_j55a6kq wrote

I thought that book was the absolute worst


snailien t1_j55zek7 wrote

I have experienced just as much, if not more, trauma than Augusten Burroughs and I was incredibly uncomfortable when I read his books because he puts on such a show of it, you know? Super sensationalized, going for shock value simply for its own sake, and obnoxiously arrogant. It was clear to me straight away that it was 99% fiction, and it sickens me that someone would so ostentatiously belittle people who have actually experienced this type of trauma for real. It's a flash fiction mockery. I'm (slowly) taking a course for memoir writing and there really is a whole formula with regard to the most effective way to evoke and relay your memories - the process of writing and that of remembering become intertwined. Last but not least, those of us who have experienced serious trauma (I have CPTSD) typically go through intense therapy (EMDR) to recover repressed memories in order to fully process them and start healing from them. Memoir writing thus becomes something of an act of healing in and of itself. Or it's supposed to, if you're not a fraud.