Wednesday, May 07, 2008

and BAD NEWS...

First, the good news.

At the wine and cheese party on Monday, I ran into one of The College's eminences, for whom I had agreed to do some work, and seized the moment to try to settle how I was going to finish it. My hours had to be booked before the end of the semester, so I was going to have to get paid first and do the work later, which always makes me [and my employers] antsy. And what did he say? He quietly remarked that it might be just as well if we settled up with what was done already and he got someone else to take it on in the coming year. Yes, he was a little tipsy -- so was I. But after all the foot-dragging and leading-on I have been reduced to to work around his deadlines, he was remarkably civil, stopping just an inch shy of positively friendly.

And I can't tell you what it's like to have that burden lifted off my shoulders: another set of interlocking deadlines in which I constantly fell farther and farther behind... Well, yes, I can: It feels like a burden has been lifted off my shoulders.

More good news:

I got my "repaired" DVD player to work again: the problem was not in the "repair," as I had convinced myself the other night, but in my rather inattentive attempt at connection (third glass of wine, anyone?), as became clear as soon as I tried to untangle the cables in daylight. So, I'm back in Movieville. And I had been completely unprepared for the desolation that set in when I couldn't watch a movie; it isn't that I do it that often, I just didn't want to think that I couldn't. Does that make any sense at all?

And now the bad news:

Months ago I saw that Augusten Burroughs had a new book coming out, and I was thrilled. I was ready for something new to make me laugh. [I'd been reading Magnus Mills, and he verges on the "too creepy to be really funny."] Anyway, I pre-ordered the new opus on Amazon, something I almost never do [something that has something to do with the fact that there are already too many damn books in the house, which, as I think I have said before, is not large.] It arrived on Monday, and I dove in and worked my way through it at high speed. What a disappointment.

Bad Troll, no doughnut!

Leave aside for the moment that his mother and the "Finch" family both felt monstrously ill-used by their treatment in Running With Scissors. [How could they not? His mother spoke out on NPR with considerable equanimity, even magnimity, given what he had written (click here); the "Finch" family went public with a lawsuit (click here), later quietly settled.] However unfair he may have been to everyone who ever had anything to do with him, at least he had turned his experience into howlingly funny material. No matter how often one questioned the truth of it, he kept making me laugh -- and it was not a period when I had a lot to laugh about. So I was grateful.

I found Dry funnier, and less loaded, but remained grateful to him for making me laugh out loud. I've come to believe that anything that can do that has some redeeming social value. Yes, he used his wit to skewer, not to say demolish, his mother, his therapist's family, in fact, almost anyone who had had much of anything to do with him up till then. But he was funny.

Now he turns morosely sincere to do a hatchet job on his father: A Wolf at the Table. His steadfastly loyal elder brother, presented as a beloved relation in earlier pieces, here comes in for a few nasty lumps as well. All the doubts and "still, small voices" about fairness are back, but without the counterargument of laughter. The saddest part is, as even Entertainment Weekly noted, that "not a single page of it rings true". Not as "memoir," which I guess needs to stay in quotation marks these days, and not even as fiction.

It doesn't even try for humor, which makes it profoudly sad: it's just not good, either as a story or as "writing." It sounds like a spoiled child's carefully tended grievances, well-aired, or a therapist's imagined explanations of inchoate dreams and memories foisted onto real experience like an ill-fitting garment...

The saddest part: I could have saved myself $15 if I had waited to read Janet Maslin's review in the New York Times. [That will teach me to buy a book without reading a review because I don't want to lose the fun of discovering it for myself. Oh, well...] Not only am I robbed of my long-anticipated laughter, I had to see, once I started checking the web for reactions before posting this, that practically everyone who reviewed the book felt the same way I did.

Now I don't even have the consolation of casting the first stone...


Hang in there, all.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for telling me about the book.I loved Dry but was bored with Running with Scissors..
    I wont bother with this new book.
    Augustin seems to me like a self aborbed narcissistic ex drunk:)