Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

RWS 2The guy who chose this book never came again because he was devastated when a fairly new member of the group trashed it for being badly written rubbish.

Augusten Burroughs was a strange child. He liked shiny things, making his hair lie flat, and generally being fabulous. His mother was a poet dangling over the precipice of insanity, and his father turned to alcohol to cope. Out of his life fell his father, and into his life wandered Dr Finch, his mother’s psychiatrist, in more than a little need of therapy himself. While his mum hails Dr Finch as her saviour and his dubious methods as genius, Augusten is drawn slowly away from her into the madness of the Finch household. Hope worships her father and believes that her cat is talking to her in dreams. Agnes eats dog biscuits and has to put up with her husband’s patients taking over her house. Neil, a patient of Dr Finch’s, wastes no time in setting up a bizarre gay relationship with 13-year-old Augusten. A lady with OCD lives in a room upstairs and never comes out. And Natalie, cynical and driven to madness by her family, becomes his new best friend.

Dr. Finch’s “masturbatorium”, and the somewhat gratuitous detail of the paedophilia to which Augusten is subjected goes a bit too far. No wonder he self-harmed.

RWSQuotations:

“I know exactly how that is. To love somebody who doesn’t deserve it. Because they are all you have. Because any attention is better than no attention. For exactly the same reason, it is sometimes satisfying to cut yourself and bleed. On those gray days where eight in the morning looks no different from noon and nothing has happened and nothing is going to happen and you are washing a glass in the sink and it breaks-accidentally-and punctures your skin. And then there is this shocking red, the brightest thing in the day, so vibrant it buzzes, this blood of yours. That is okay sometimes because at least you know you’re alive.”

“You deserve to need me, not to have me.”
“It’s a wonder I’m even alive. Sometimes I think that. I think that I can’t believe I haven’t killed myself. But there’s something in me that just keeps going on. I think it has something to do with tomorrow, that there is always one, and that everything can change when it comes.”
“My mother began to go crazy. Not in a ‘Let’s paint the kitchen red!’ sort of way. But crazy in a ‘gas oven, toothpaste sandwhich, I am God’ sort of way.”
“Doctor, if being a bitch is healthy, then I am the healthiest damn woman on the face of the earth”
“I told myself, ‘All I want is a normal life’. But was that true? I wasn’t so sure. Because there was a part of me that enjoyed hating school, and the drama of not going, the potential consequences whatever they were. I was intrigued by the unknown. I was even slightly thrilled that my mother was such a mess. Had I become addicted to crisis? I traced my finger along the windowsill. ‘Want something normal, want something normal, want something normal’, I told myself.”
“The line between normal and crazy seemed impossibly thin. A person would have to be an expert tightrope walker in order not to fall.”
“I will please shut the hell up the day you please drop the hell dead”
“I just look at her and she creeps me out. She looks like she would eat a baby. Not that she’s fat. She just looks hungry in some dangerous way that can’t be explained. She’s always so nice and friendly. Exactly the disposition of a baby killer.”
“We were young. We were bored. And the old electroshock therapy machine was just under the stairs in a box next to the Hoover.”
“I felt deeply tricked. Stunned. And furious. I also felt my default emotion: numbness.”
“Turn off the light,” she says as she walks away, creating a small woosh that smells sweet and chemical. It makes me sad because it’s the smell she makes when she’s leaving.”
“Our lives are one endless stretch of misery punctuated by processed fast foods and the occasional crisis or amusing curiosity.”
“I missed him so much that I had physical sensations of loss, all over my body. Like one minute I was missing an arm, the next my spleen. It was making me feel sick, like throwing up.”
“But she did love him. I believe it. I know exactly how that is. To love somebody who doesn’t deserve it. Because they are all you have. Because any attention is better than no attention.”
“In the opening to the Mary Tyler Moore Show Mary’s in the supermarket, hurrying through the aisles. She pauses at the meat case, picks up a steak and checks the price. Then rolls her eyes, shrugs and tosses it in the cart. That’s kind of how I feel. Sure I would have liked things to be different. But, ‘roll of eyes’ what can you do? ‘shrug’ I threw the meat in my cart and moved on.”
“Other people sound flat to my ear; their words just hang in the air. But when my mother says something, the ends curl.”
“The problem with not having anybody to tell you what to do, I understood, is that there was nobody to tell you what not to do.”
“I was learning that if I lived slightly in the future-what will happen next-I didn’t have to feel so much about what was going on in the present.”
“I couldn’t help but think, This car is taking me to a mental hospital and my mother is treating it like open-mic night at a Greenwich Village café.”
“Smoking had become my favourite thing in the world to do. It was like having instant comfort, no matter where or when.”
“Now I can add prostitute to my list of life’s accomplishments.”
“What nobody understood then is this: The only way that you achieve what you want and fulfil your dreams and become great is by demanding that sort of attention. You have to make it happen.”
“You know what we need? We need to get jobs, get the fuck out of that crazy house,’ Natalie said, dipping a McNugget into her sauce.

Yeah, right. Jobs doing what? Our only skills are oral sex and restraining agitated psychotics.”
“Life would be fabric-softener, tuna-salad-on-white, PTA-meeting normal.”
“I did not consider him to be any kind of a genius. I considered him deeply lacking in the area that mattered most in life. Star quality.”
“Maybe it was a Patty Hearst thing. Stockholm syndrome or whatever it’s called when you’re being held against your will but then you become sucked in and fall in love. Or if not exactly love, you fall into something you can’t see out of. ‘I can’t shoot a machine gun’ becomes ‘Hey, this hardly has any kick-back!”
“My mother is from Cairo, Georgia. This makes everything she says sound like it went through a curling iron. ”
“He was raised without a proper diagnosis.”
“It turned out I had always been a smoker. I just hadn’t had any cigarettes.”
“If we happened to be in rehearsal downstairs in my room and a neighbor padded across the lawn to rap gently on the window and ask us to please be more quiet, Natalie might simply lift up her skirt and mash her vagina against the window while extending her middle finger.”
“It was not uncommon to walk in the door of their home and find my mother sitting on the sofa reading over a manuscript with shampoo horns sculpted into her hair. Anne Sexton’s voice would be blasting from the speakers. A woman who writes feels too much…
“My brother was born without taste or the desire to be professionally lit.”
“Nobody’s trying to kill you, Deirdre. You’re killing yourself.”
“look for the ridiculous in everything and you will find it”
“And that was one thing I didn’t want: NO CASUAL SEX. I thought it was disgusting, the idea of just screwing around and then that’s it.”
“I knew that he was as reliable as a mathematical formula.”
“I like it when she’s shiny, like a star, like a guest on the Donnie and Marie Show.”
“He looked and sounded exactly like a real psychiatrist. Until he opened his mouth.
“Let’s ask God,” he said.”
“I had the same worry that we wouldn’t later be able to undo whatever it was we were doing to ourselves.”
“If my mother was odd enough to crave a bubble bath at three in the morning, Dorothy was inventive enough to suggest adding broken glass to the tub. If my mother insisted on listening to West Side Story repeatedly, it was Dorothy who said, ‘Let’s listen to it on forty-five!’ And when my mother announced that she wanted a fur wrap like Auntie Mame, Dorothy bought her an unstable Norwegian elkhound from a puppy mill.”
“My brother had very specific likes and dislikes. Basically, he liked anything until it harmed him and then he was wary.”
“Not crazy in a ‘let’s paint the kitchen bright red!’ sort of way. But crazy in a ‘gas oven, toothpaste sandwich, I am God’ sort of way. Gone were the days when she would stand on the deck lighting lemon-scented candles without then having to eat the wax.p28”
“Dorothy viewed my mother’s propensity toward madness not as something to be afraid of, but rather as something to look forward to, like a movie or a newly released color of nail polish.

‘Your mother is just expressing herself,’ Dorothy would tell me when my mother stopped sleeping, started smoking the filters of her cigarettes and began writing backward with a glitter pen.

No, she’s not,’ I would say. ‘She’s going insane again.’

Don’t be so mundane,’ she would yawn, passing my mother a shoebox filled with cat vertebrae. ‘She is a brilliant artist. If you want Hamburger Helper, go find some other mother.”
“Well, you know, just some old man all alone. God, I hope I don’t end up alone like that. Some pathetic old woman with nobody to go on a whale watch with.”
“My window fogs and this makes me feel like there is no world outside of the car.”
“Bookman isn’t a stable man. He has a lot of problems that run very, very deep.”
But he was really good at giving head.”
“I could not imagine the kind of person that would, upon seeing a crazy talcum-powder-covered Southern lady think to herself, Hmmmm, she might make a great new friend. The line between normal and crazy seemed impossibly thin.”
“I love her handbag. Inside are papers and her wallet and cigarettes and at the bottom, where she never looks, there is loose change, loose mints, specs of tobacco from her cigarettes. Sometimes I bring the bag to my face, open it and inhale as deeply as I can.”
“It wasn’t like he was holding me so much as trying to hold onto something.”
“Hope and God were buddies. Theirs was not a formal relationship steeped in ritual and tradition. It was more of a close yet casual friendship.”
“As I sat on the midnight PVTA bus to Amherst, I scanned the male faces, looking for a potential boyfriend. My standards were high: anyone who looked back at me.”
“I wish I had a tray table in my bedroom and I wish I smoked, just so I could extinguish my smoking materials”
“And then just as suddenly, I felt absolutely nothing. It was like a door quickly opened, showing me what horrible feelings I had inside, and then slammed shut again so I wouldn’t have to actually face them. In many ways I felt I was living the life of a doctor in the ER. I was learning to block out all emotions in order to deal with the situation.”
“I would borrow the microphone and stuff it down the front of my pants, examining myself from every angle in the mirror”
“One of the things I liked about her [Dorothy] was that she had long fingernails that she would carefully manicure and paint to fit her mood. If she were in a happy mood, her nails would be bright red. If she were feeling like she wanted to eviscerate her mother she would paint her nails burgundy.”
“But I think I would have been happier if the only thing that came out of his mouth was the sound of a turning page.”
“I know exactly how that is. To love somebody who doesn’t deserve it. Because they are all you have. Because any attention is better than no attention.”
“And as soon as I thought this, I tried to think of something else quickly. Because we were so close that I felt sometimes like she could read my mind.”
“I referred albums to the more modern eight tracks. Albums came with sleeves which reminded me of clean underwear. Plus, the pictures were bigger, making it easier to see each follicle of Tony Orlando’s shiny arm hair.”
“Oh, I had a great time. My thirty-three-year-old boyfriend said he wished they could package my cum like ice cream so he could eat it all day.”
“It’s a wonder I’m even alive. Sometimes I think that. I think that I can’t believe I haven’t killed myself. But there’s something in me that just keeps going on. I think it has something to do with tomorrow, that there always is one, and that everything can change when it comes.”
“Freedom was what we had. Nobody told us when to go to bed. Nobody told us to do our homework. Nobody told us we couldn’t drink two six-packs of Budweiser and then throw up in the Maytag. So why did we feel so trapped? Why did I feel like I had no options in my life when it seemed that options were the only thing I DID have?”
“Gone were the days when she would stand on the deck lighting lemon-scented candles without then having to eat the wax”
“The air is so clean out here, so fresh. Reminds me of when I was a little girl in Georgia.” Then she took More from her pack and lit it.”
“My mother is from Cairo, Georgia. This makes everything she says sound like it went through a curling iron. Other people sound flat to my ear; their words just hang in the air. But when my mother says something, the ends curl.”
“I wanted to shove her typewriter on the floor. I hated it and I hated her. I wanted to be a Cosby.”
“At that moment it would have been easier for me to spontaneously grasp quantum string theory”
“I liked his attention. But I also felt like there was something sick and wrong about it. Like it might make me sick later. I thought of my grandmother, my father’s mother. How when I used to visit her in Georgia she would always let me eat all the cookies and frozen egg rolls I wanted. “Go ahead, sweetheart, there’s more,” she would say. And it seemed okay because she was a grown-up, and I wanted all the Chips Ahoy! cookies in the bag. But I always ended up feeling extremely sick afterward. I looked at book, his eyes swollen with emotion.”
“Instead of becoming depressed that I was in the locked ward of a mental hospital, I pretended I was playing a role in a movie, possibly on my way to an Emmy.”
“The more time I spent at the Finches’, the more I realized what a waste of my life this school crap was. It was nothing but a holding tank for kids without bigger plans or ideas.”
“She was a rare psychotic-confessional-poet strain of salmonella.”
“Usually, they started with just two people bickering over something small. Like what to watch on TV. Then a third person would enter the room and see two people screaming over the TV and they’d decide to moderate, only they’d end up taking a side. Eventually, someone else would get sucked in.”
“It was so extraordinarily out of the ordinary.”
“One minute we were sitting at the lowly kitchen table moaning about the sorry state of our lives and the next we were liberating the architecture with heavy projectiles. This was pure, freedom. Better than sniffing glue.”
“Sometimes, I wrap aluminum foil around Cream’s middle, around her legs and her tail and then I walk her through the house on a leash. I like it when she’s shiny, like a star, like a guest on the Donnie and Marie Show.”
“for me it provided a kaleidoscopic view of everything that was wrong with me. I could already feel it opening all the windows in my hear, giving me a panoramic view of my flaws”
“I sat up and my mouth tasted horrible, like stale pot, beer and Cheetos. The exact combination of ingredients that had caused me to pass into unconsciousness on Natalie’s floor.”
“I confidently walked up to the counter, and his friends moved to the side to let me through. I handed him the note. “Happy Birthday,” I said. Then I smiled and walked out of the store. I did my crossing-the street trick again, lurking in the shadows and watching. I could see him turn the note over in his hand, open it and read, then turn it over again. He passed it to his friends, who passed it between them. Then I watched him make a shrugging gesture with his hands. And then they were all laughing again. My mortification was total and overpowering. I was suddenly having a very difficult time standing. I had experienced a perfect note of utter and true clarity. He was straight.”
“Freedom was what we had. Nobody told us when to go to bed. Nobody told us to do our homework. Nobody told us we couldn’t drink two six-packs of Budweiser and then throw up in the Maytag.”
“She reminded me of a scatterbrained old Cadillac that had been driven into the ground but somehow kept on starting, without fuss.”
“Basically, he liked anything until it harmed him and then he was wary. All creatures in life had an equal chance with my brother, from terrier to psychotherapist. Those that impressed him with an especially keen mental ability, an amusing trick or had a large portion of food to offer would gain his favor. If my brother could find nothing of value to the person, he would dismiss them entirely.”

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