Thursday, October 16, 2008

Possible Side Effects

One of my favorite authors, Augusten Burroughs, has a remarkable, unique, and hilarious style of writing. I really enjoy all of his books, from his true-life short stories to his memoirs. He's one of the most talented writers today, I would surely argue.

I just finished reading Possible Side Effects, a collection of true short stories, that vary from absolutely hysterical to witty and clever. The absurdity of these stories are so engaging; I couldn't stop reading this book. I would often think of it because it deals with very true and real subjects but talks about them in such a strange, bizarre way. What a strange guy, but strange is very cool.

I actually read the book through audiotape that he actually reads. I really enjoy hearing authors read their own books because you get the inflection and the tone they intended for. You also get to hear the voice of the author, which is not always what you think it will be. I didn't picture his voice to sound like this at all, but he read his stories very well.

Below, I am going to briefly describe the true short stories with a brief synopsis. Even if you have no interest, read some of the descriptions because they might interest you.

"Pest Control:" Augusten visits his grandmother who lives in the south as a child. It is his first experience losing his tooth; he is terrified of the tooth fairy.

"Bloody Sunday:" A trip Augusten takes to London to promote his new book. He ends up with a nosebleed on the flight and spends the whole time in his luxurious hotel room. Much commentary on the British.

"The Sacred Cow:" Augusten and his partner buy a second dog who they buy for the sake of their first dog. This story shows the differences between having two pets (or children) and the struggle of getting used to it.

"Team Player:" Augusten enjoys collecting college t-shirts only though he has an elementary school education. He gets called out on it, but it soon becomes okay because he starts speaking at colleges about his books. (Commentary on Skidmore College and Saratoga).

"Killing John Updike:" Talking about all the strange items one will sell of famous people when they die.

"Attacked by Heart:" Augusten visits the cardiologist.

"The Wisdom Tooth:" Augusten breaks a tooth while eating clam chowder on vacation. He then has many tooth problems and dreams of suing companies for millions so he can never work again.

"GWF Seeks Same:" Augusten's lesbian friend puts an ad in the paper that costs her thousands of dollars. She is a "lipstick lesbian," which he talks about, and then talks of female/female relationships.

"Mint Threshold:" On a Junior Mints campaign when Augusten worked at an advertising agency.

"Getting to No You:" Bad first dates that Augusten prolongs because he doesn't know how to say no. A horrendous date with "Alex."

"Kitty, Kitty:" Augusten gets a dog after rehab but cannot take care of it. He gives it away and feels remorse.

"Peep:" About watching others through their windows: Uma Thurman and another sad couple having an affair.

"Taking Tests, Taking Things:" Augusten takes tests to become a policeman because he is tired of his job. He then talks of working security and watching the videos. He watched tons of people shoplifting without doing anything. On shoplifting and when it's okay and not okay.

"Unclear Sailing:" A failed attempt at a job cutting sails for sail boats. The boss makes him feel inferior on his first and last day.

"Moving Violations:" Augusten's crazy waitress friend he calls Druggie Debbie. They drive around after shifts to smoke. The rest of the piece is on bad drivers and Augusten's dirty solution to curing bad drivers.

"You've Come a Long Way, Baby!" Old movies, smoking, and Augusten's addiction to Nicorette chewing gum.

"The Forecast for Sommer:" Augusten's mother's girlfriend, Sommer, who lived with them for a while during Augusten's childhood, kills herself.

"Try Our New Single Black Mother Menu:" Augusten's take on African Americans in the 70s and continuing racism to present day. Also, commentary of race and fast food industries. Augusten says he was the first Super Size Me candidate without the cameras.

"The Georgia Thumper:" On Augusten's other mean, old grandmother who he despised and tortured.

"Little Crucifixions": Augusten's cracking hands problem, his encounter with the mis-shapen dermatologist, and his problems later in life with his hands.

"What's in a Name?" Augusten's strange older brother (who has Aspergers) who did the strangest expirements and needed Augusten's help. Also on names his brother gave his family members.

"The Wonder Boy": The Wonder Bread expirement. Augusten plays a trick on his mom and she thinks he's psychic for the rest of his life.

"Fetch:" Augusten gets his first dog as a child when he watches men by the pond, who are breeders, and works cheaply for them. Augusten coerces his way into getting a dog by pretending to kill himself in the bathtub.

"Mrs. Chang:" On Augusten's reading instructor who spoke with a thick Chinese accent. He then thought all children's stories had Chinese characters and even thought Santa Claus was Chinese, jumping on a man in the doctor's office and calling him Santa.

"Julia's Child:" Augusten pretends he has his own Julia Childs cooking show.

What do you think of Possible Side Effects or Augusten Burroughs' works?

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