Thursday, July 07, 2011

From the Archives: Mini Reviews from May 2005 (part 1)

I began keeping a reading journal several years before I began blogging. I find it interesting to sift through my thoughts of books that I read back then. My reviews were often brief and contained little substance, but I thought it'd be fun to document them here on my blog as well as share them with you. Here are a couple from April 2005:

Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
Picador, 2002 - Nonfiction, 304 pgs

Author Augusten Burroughs is the son an alcoholic professor and a psychotic poetess. When his parents divorce, his mother sends him to live a good deal of his later childhood years with an psychiatrist with questionable treatment methods and his family, who sound like characters that could have come straight from a work of fiction; however, they are very real. In a sometimes shocking and often humorous account, Augusten Burroughs shares the early years of his life with readers. We are transported to a lifestyle where pills, booze, sex and illegal drugs are the norm.

At one point, I stopped to make a note in my book journal about how the lack of structure in his life was very limiting. It's easy to assume that no boundaries and little to no structure in our lives would offer us more freedom, when in truth it can more often prove to be a trap. Without direction and without structure to propel us along, we can flounder aimlessly or we slip into destructive behaviors. After thinking this, I read on in the book and came across the quote, "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." [pg. 264]. I thought that summed up my thoughts pretty well.

Throughout the book I found myself laughing, even reading passages out loud to my husband, but as I finished the book, I was left with a heavy sadness. As much as the author made light of his childhood experiences, as much as he used humor to soften the harsh realities of it, and as much as he used the humor to survive through it all, it was still terribly sad.

A Density of Souls by Christopher Rice
Miramax, 2000 - Crime Fiction (S/T), 288 pgs

A Density of Souls is a disturbing book that enraptured me from the very beginning. The author spins a dark tale of four childhood friends who grow apart as they struggle under the weight of their own and each other’s secrets, betrayals, shame and love. A Density of Souls brings to light one boy’s suffering and the prejudice he faced having been labeled and recognized as a homosexual early on in his life. It is the story of his coming to terms with who he is, not only for himself, but also for those around him. Alcoholism, suicide, and domestic violence also are woven throughout Mr. Rice’s novel, adding depth to the characters and the lives they lead. The characters are complex; their pain and torment felt real as I read each page. Even with the worst of the characters, I could empathize on some level. The emotions were raw. Christopher Rice tempts readers with the truth and yet tries to keep it just out of reach as the story unfolds, and, for the most part, he succeeds. The New Orleans setting was a character in and of itself, casting its own shadow on the lives of the characters. This is one novel that lives up the praise it has received by so many.

Have you read either of these books? If so, what did you think?

© 2011, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. I didn't like Running With Scissors at all. I was horrified at his life and mostly that it was marketed as a humourous book.
    Good comment about the lack of structure in a life. Makes it easier to keep those nap schedules for baby!

  2. I also had problems with running With Scissors when I read it. It made me feel kind of dirty. It was such a strange book, and I felt so bad for Augusten to have been raised in that house with those people. And the bit about analyzing the contents of the toilet, uuggh!

  3. I didn't care for Running With Scissors, but both of my parents loved it.

  4. I have always been curious about Burroughs, but have never managed to actually read him yet...

  5. I felt like I had read DENSITY OF SOULS and looking back, I read it in September of 2000. I don't remember much about it other than the New Orleans location (not surprising since this is Anne Rice's son) and that it was about a group of friends. Have you read any of his other books? I haven't.

  6. I have read Running with Scissors. I found it heartbreakingly funny. I read it shortly after reading the James Frey book so have to admit I was a bit skeptical about Burrough's story and wondered how much of it was embellished.

  7. Another non-fan of Running with Scissors checking in. Me and my suspicious mind (and the influence of that whole James Frey incident)didn't believe the whole story.

  8. I haven't read either but I love your description of A DENSITY OF SOULS. Sounds wonderfuL!

  9. Running with Scissors made me sad too...I like going back into your archives!

  10. I really liked Running with Scissors - I felt like you did, I liked his sense of humor but was feeling sad too. This book sparked my interest in memoir. I've read all his books except the fiction.

    I can see why others might not like it. But I admired his strength.

  11. I read Running With Scissors back in the day also. I loved it. I loved his snarky way at describing horrifying details. I know a lot of people did not but I did.


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