St Martin’s Press
You Better Not Cry is Burroughs’ most recently released collection of anecdotal short stories, all of which are non-fiction. Being a Christmas collection, all of the stories revolve around Burroughs’ most anticipated holiday—Christmas.
The book begins with what may be my new all-time Burroughs story. It starts off unsuspecting; Burroughs is eight years old and awaiting the arrival of his grandparents, who are visiting for Christmas. At this point, he is quite confused, not being able to tell Jesus and Santa apart. Sounds crazy, I know, but the logic he described made sense! Anyway, the grandparents show up with a life size Santa Claus, who Burroughs excitedly calls Jesus, much to the chagrin of his family members. Up until that point, I was entertained. But then all out hilarity ensued. Little Burroughs eventually proceeds to start eating the face of the wax Santa as his relatives comingle in the other room. I was reading the story in bed the other night while my boyfriend watched TV in the other room. He eventually had to pause the TV and ask me what my problem was because my laughter refused to cease. I can’t think of any other book where I had such a strong reaction.
The remainder of the stories were almost as good. They brought a smile to my face and it was nice to read a book that I could completely escape with and just have a good time with. The last two stories took a turn though and had a much more serious tone than the funny stories preceding them. Before I get into that, I want to post a blurb from Publishers Weekly:
Burroughs’s holiday-themed memoir lacks the consistent emotional intensity of his earlier work, despite a few gems. Arranged roughly chronologically, the vignettes begin with concrete Christmas memories (preparing a detailed, multipart list of desired presents in ‘Claus and Effect’) and move toward musings on the spirit of the holiday (facing a flooded house with an atheist partner in ‘Silent Night’). While the childhood stories have Burroughs’s trademark dry wit — he once gnawed the face off a life-size Saint Nick made of wax — they aren’t particularly memorable. It’s when he turns his attention to the less tangible essence of the holiday that the writing comes alive, especially in the final two pieces, ‘The Best and Only Everything’ and ‘Silent Night.’ In the former, Burroughs (Running with Scissors) remembers a long-ago Christmas spent with a former lover dying of AIDS and in the latter, which takes place a decade later, he describes dealing not only with a burst water pipe but also feeling ready to celebrate the season with a tree for the first time since the death of his old boyfriend.
I wanted to post the above review because I had the opposite reaction. I do agree that the final two stories were well written, but I actually enjoyed them the least. I don’t know about you, but when I pick up a book by Augusten Burroughs, I do it for the laughs. It’s not that I think his work lacks substance—it’s just that he has such a wonderful way of telling a story. So while I appreciate what he was attempting with ‘Silent Night’ and ‘The Best and Only Everything’, they were probably my least favorite stories of the collection. Although I understand that the stories went in chronological order, I think Burroughs made a mistake in ending on such a serious note. His funny stories were the heart of this book, as they are all his works, so it would have been a better idea to close on a different note. Regardless, this collection is just what you would expect of Burroughs—wonderful. Below you can find a trailer for the book as well as a sweepstakes that is currently being offered.
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