What a Dump!

Review of Magical Thinking: True Stories by Augusten Burroughs.

When I criticize gay men for being snobbish, inbred, body-obsessed, posturing, sexually dysfunctional, tedious, narcissistic, pretentious, superficial, airheaded, spoiled, catty, pop-culture-besotted, provincial, acquisitive self-important mutant exhibitionist replicants, people are always snarking at me. “That’s not fair,” they whine. “You’re over-generalizing.”

But now I can respond with only two words: Augusten Burroughs.

Life certainly holds many more distressing surprises than this, but for those of us who have more-or-less dedicated ourselves to the notion that reading should mean something, there’s a sick feeling that comes at the end of a truly dreadful book. Such as Magical Thinking.

The writing is just barely clever, in a desperate, “please think I’m funny” sort of way, but at the end of the day one is left with two impressions: First, that the author is pretending when he says he is telling the truth, and is hiding genuinely revolting and degrading truths behind his jokes. And, second, that we are laid low when disdain and snobbery are actually mistaken, by wide swaths of the public, for humor and cultural commentary. Please give us Robert Benchley back.

A couple of years ago I read Running with Scissors because a (former) friend recommended it. It was like eating Cheetos: fun while you’re doing it, but later on you feel bloated and your fingers stink. But then the media frenzy over Magical Thinking made me reconsider: Maybe I’d been too harsh; I’d try again.

Turns out, when it comes to Augusten Burroughs, there’s no such thing as too harsh. That a piece of jejune scribbling like this could win a major book contract and be nominated for a Lambda LITERARY award boggles the mind, but then no one has ever gone broke underestimating the tastes of the snobbish, inbred, body-obsessed, posturing, etc. public that presumably finds this book something more than an affront to trees everywhere. I’ll warn you: Don’t get near this book with a pin or any other any sharp object. If you accidentally let the air out, it will instantly become two pages long and shrink to the dimensions of a postage stamp.

I suppose I should thank Burroughs for providing additional evidence, as if we needed it, that gay male cultural “production” these days is nothing anybody should be very proud of, but the victory is a Pyrrhic one.

It’s an empty world after all.

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Posted on 16 April 2005, in Book Reviews & Literaria and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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