Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Your Life Isn't that Interesting

As a quick perusal of the posts that have accumulated here so far will attest, Tosy and Cosh is hardly a litblog, nor am I in any way a litblogger. And yet I am a somewhat enthusiastic reader, if less so than I used to be. The book I am reading right now, Augusten Burroughs' Magical Thinking, is an example of the memoir craze that's swept through the literary world in the past several years. I've read a few of these much-heralded "literary" memoirs, and some have been quite good, engaging reads (Dave Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius chief among them) that truly illuminated a character, even if the character in these cases is the author him or herself.

Magical Thinking is Burroughs' third memoir. The first two were wonderful books. Running with Scissors told the story of Burroughs' childhood, a truly bizarre upbringing in which he spent a large portion of his formative years under the care of a possibly mentally ill psychologist and his mostly adopted brood. Dry, his second memoir, told the story of his battle with alcoholism, in bracing, funny, and bleak fashion. Both books told stories, engaging stories that propelled the books forward, as any good story does. This third work is, instead, just a collection of essays, many, if not all, seemingly lightly edited journal entries. There is no connective tissue, no story to speak of, and the result is very flat. I get the impression that the publishers wanted another book sooner than he was able to deliver one, and that he submitted this loose collection to appease them, and, and here I have no quarrel with him at all, make some more money. Nonetheless, the whole thing is pretty disapointing, none of the individual pieces all that notable on their own, and the whole being decidely less than the sum of its parts.

I understand that Burroughs' next book will be a memoir about his father. I imagine that that focus will allow him to produce a book of comparable stature to his first two; at least, I hope so.

Until Whenever

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