RUNNING WITH SISSORS

Augusten Burroughs

Running with Scissors is the true story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of Anne Sexton) gave him away to be raised by her unorthodox psychiatrist who bore a striking resemblance to Santa Claus. So at the age of twelve, Burroughs found himself amidst Victorian squalor living with the doctor’s bizarre family, and befriending a pedophile who resided in the backyard shed. The story of an outlaw childhood where rules were unheard of, and the Christmas tree stayed up all year round, where Valium was consumed like candy, and if things got dull an electroshock- therapy machine could provide entertainment.

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Running with Scissors is the true story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of Anne Sexton) gave him away to be raised by her unorthodox psychiatrist who bore a striking resemblance to Santa Claus. So at the age of twelve, Burroughs found himself amidst Victorian squalor living with the doctor’s bizarre family, and befriending a pedophile who resided in the backyard shed. The story of an outlaw childhood where rules were unheard of, and the Christmas tree stayed up all year round, where Valium was consumed like candy, and if things got dull an electroshock- therapy machine could provide entertainment. The funny, harrowing and bestselling account of an ordinary boy’s survival under the most extraordinary circumstances.

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  • Picador
  • Paperback
  • June 2003
  • 320 Pages
  • 9780312422271

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$14.00

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About Augusten Burroughs

Augusten Burroughs is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dry, Magical Thinking, and, most recently, Possible Side Effects, which were also New York Times bestsellers. Augusten has been named one of the fifteen funniest people in America by Entertainment Weekly. He lives in New York City and western Massachusetts.

Praise

“Funny and rich with child’s eye details of adults who have gone off the rails.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Burroughs tempers the pathos with sharp riotous humor… Edgier, but reminiscent of Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, this is a survival story readers won’t forget.”—Booklist

“Burroughs has memorialized his bizarre childhood showing off a dark wit that often rivals that of David Sedaris—while telling a true story that would make even Sedaris cringe.”—New York Magazine

“The anecdotes can be so flippant, and so insanely funny (quite literally), that the effect is that of a William Burroughs situation comedy.”—The New York Times

Discussion Questions

What sort of person does Augusten’s mother Deidre initially appear to be? Does your impression of her change throughout Running with Scissors? Does Augusten’s? How?

Why does Deidre leave Augusten with Dr. Finch? Did she do the right thing? With whom would Augusten have been better off? Why? What would you have done if you were left with the Finch family?

Augusten initially likes Dr. Finch. Do his feelings toward him change? Why? Is Dr. Finch eccentric or crazy? What’s the difference?

Augusten sees much of his life in the context of television shows and commercials. Which television shows and commercials were influential to you while growing up? If you had to pick a television show—drama, comedy, or variety series—that best described your own life, which one would it be?

The Finch family lives accustomed to chaos and filth. Do you think it’s possible to get used to anything after a while? Explain. Are their things about your way life that might seem strange to other people or other cultures? Have you ever had to adjust to a situation that initially seemed foreign or disturbing to you? Explain.

On page 69, Augusten writes, “It was one thing to be gay. But it was something else altogether to seem gay.” What do you think he means? Which seems gayer to you: Rock Hudson, Liberace, or metrosexuals? Explain.

Augusten writes that “Finch believed that anger was the crux of mental illness” (p. 98). Do you agree with the doctor? Why? Who in Running with Scissors seems genuinely mentally ill? Why?

Should Hope be charged with animal cruelty because of her treatment of the cat? Should Augusten and the other Finches be charged as accomplices?

Why do you think Natalie and Augusten become best friends? What pulls them apart? Do you believe Deidre’s finally accusation? Explain.

What do you think happened to Neil Bookman? From what you know about him and the 1970s, make up your own epilogue for Neil.

Dr. Finch believes that children should choose their own parents. Do you agree? Who does Augusten eventually choose? Did he make the right decision? Why? Are their any circumstances under which a child should disown his or her family? Explain.

Do you see Running with Scissors as a comic or horror story? Both? Explain.