Book Review: Magical Thinking


Magical Thing: True Stories

Augusten Burroughs

MacMillan Audio

8 hours

Apparently Augusten Burroughs and I are very similar to one another.  We both like dogs.  We both have TMJ.  And we both sleep eat.

Sleep eating is a condition where you wake up in the middle of the night to eat.  Sometimes you’re not even conscious.  What’s more, Augusten and I even have the same sleep eating snack of choice—M&Ms. Now I will admit my sleep eating habit has improved over the past few years, but if you entered my apartment five years ago, you most assuredly would have discovered peanut M&Ms in my refrigerator.  The bad thing about sleep eating is you may not even my able to control it—sometimes you wake up in the morning with M&Ms melted in your palm and no recollection of how they got there.  So hearing about Augusten’s sleep eating in Magical Thinking really hit home for me.

Magical Thinking is Burroughs’ first collection of personal essay which was published a few years ago and followed by the essay collection Possible Side Effects, which I have also read.  In fact, I have read everything published by Burroughs with the exception of A Wolf at the Table and his new book You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas, both of which I hope to read in the near future.  I decided to listen to Magical Thinking on audiobook rather than read it, which I haven’t done with any of Burroughs’ other books.  This was an excellent choice for two reasons.  One, because Burroughs’ read the book himself, which is always a treat and lent more hilarity to the stories being told.  Secondly, there was an interview at the end.  Now, I will say I wish the questions had been more probing—I wanted some dirt!!  Especially when it comes to all the wonderfully outrageous circumstances in Running with Scissors.  Alas, the interview only mentioned RwS, along with Sellevision and, of course, Magical Thinking.  Mostly it was word associations and an in-depth look at Nicorette gum, which was fascinating.  He goes through an insane amount of Nicorette gum a week!

There were a few stories in Magical Thinking that rose above the rest.  One was “The Rat Thing’.  If you are sensitive towards animals at all, you may want to skip this chapter, or at least 6a00d8341c730253ef00e5520f114f8833-640withe ending.  It was hard for me to listen to, quite honestly, but I could empathize so much with the situation that I was also laughing insanely as I listened.  Like me, Augusten has to wake during the night a few times to pee (see—I told you! The similarities abound!).  So in his sleepy stupor, he’s relieving himself when he discovers a huge rat in his bathtub, trying mightily to escape.  I can only imagine how I would react in the same situation.  I am sure it would probably involve tears, to tell you the truth.  So Augusten spends the next few hours (yes, HOURS) attempting to get the “rat thing” out of the tub.  He finally succeeds, much to the detriment of the “rat thing”, which is now discovered to be a small mouse.  Later on, this is one of the few stories in the book Burroughs’ goes into detail about in his interview.  He ended up feeling guilty in how he treated the “rat thing”, which made me feel a bit better about the ending.

The only stories I didn’t enjoy as much were the ones about Dennis, the boyfriend.  They just didn’t include the same level of hilarity that is achieved in the other stories.  They display a bit of sappiness.  Ok, you love Dennis, I get it.  Now on to the funny stuff!  But maybe some readers need a break from all the craziness that is Augusten Burroughs.  The Dennis stories give you some breathing time.

In closing, I just want to say that if you have yet to read anything by Augusten Burroughs, you must.  I would recommend starting with Running with Scissors.  Such a great, unbelievable book.

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4 Responses

  1. I hadn’t heard of Burroughs before, but I will put him on the list. Sometimes I’m a bit finicky about humour in books, but I probably just haven’t found the right one yet 🙂

    Thanks for the thoughtful ‘Rat Thing’ warning. I hate reading stuff where rats come to grief. Mice don’t engender quite the same personal response, but I would still be wary…

  2. […] -Magical Thinking, by Augusten Burroughs […]

  3. […] Magical Thinking, Augusten Burroughs (audio) […]

  4. You don’t understand, of course dennis was a big part of the book. I’m Sure he had tons more funny stories to tell, but thing that makes this book great, is the point that goes along with it.
    It’s the one that hits you after you close the back cover, after Reading it.
    It’s the one that you realize after you set the book down, and digest the whole of the book, not jsut the sum of the parts.

    Don’t get me completely wrong here, this is a funny book, which was a big reason why I loved it. He did put the lovey parts into it though for a reason, and this is the main reason why this book is so great, in My eyes at least.

    The parts with Dennis, pretty much the second half of the book, was the part of the book that was relatable.
    It was the part that showed Augusten as he wrestled with his insecureties for the greater good, instead of letting himself get the best of the situation, like he was accustomed to previously.

    Of course everyone wants to feel in control, but Augusten shows in this book (to me at least) that it’s not what really matters after all. It’s not even important.
    the fact of the matter is, that in order to have order, it’s important to stop trying to control things so much, and rather let things happen as is.
    There will always be enough conflict in a lifetime without the need of interfeance from ego. The most important thing, is to find someone that will make dealing with the conflicts much easier.

    This is what I got out of the book, and it meant alot to me. Of course it’s cliche, but it doesn’t matter. I mean, my opinion of the main idea of this book Is portrayed everywhere, pretty much in every Pop culture communication format. It’s important not to overlook the quality of a piece of art just because of the quantities in which it exists.
    This book bridged the gap between stale words and true meaning for me. A brilliant, Brialliant read, for anyone who is looking for an answer to an undefinable question.

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