Dry: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs

Dry: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs

Title: Dry
Author: Augusten Burroughs
Published: April 1st, 2004
Length: 293 pgs.
Format Read: Print
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Picador USA
Rating: ★★★★★

Dry is a memoir by Augusten Burroughs. It is the second in a series of memoirs. His first memoir Running With Scissors was adapted for film and produced by Brad Pitt. Dry takes us through Augusten’s battle with alcoholism. This memoir is his tale of addiction recovery, tragedy, love, and friendship; about putting things back together after they fall apart; a story of surviving. It’s a story that is interesting and at times, heart-wrenching, hilarious, and surprising.

When you think of a memoir, you think of a stuffy, boring account of the entirety of someone’s life, you usually get some juicy details here and there, but Augusten flings open a mansion’s worth of dark closets and shine a light on his skeletons for all to see. Augusten manages to turn the adversities and tragedies of his life into something you can’t look away from without making you feel dirty for doing so. The seriousness of the issues does not make the telling of the tale any less enjoyable. Augusten has the uncanny ability to pop open the Pandora’s Box that is his life; turning ordinary into sensational with the stroke of his pen and leaving his audience in awe. With a style of writing that endears the reader to him even when he’s a pain in the ass. Or worse.

Dry, in the end, is an extremely human, soul-baring tale. At 19 years old Augusten Burroughs is an out of the closet gay man who managed to carve out a lucrative career in advertising despite his lack of education, and the atrocities he experienced as a child. Augusten is a hard-working go-getter who seems invincible and capable of accomplishing anything. Seven years later, at the age of 24, Augusten is a fun-loving party boy living in Manhattan making a crapload of money living check to check and getting wasted every night. After an intervention at work, Augusten has no choice but to go to rehab for 30 days to dry out.

His tale is one ripe with experiences easy to connect with, although I’m mostly a teetotaler I, as do many people, have a close friend who drinks too much and gets nasty when drunk.

“Augusten, do you know how you get when you drink? You get nasty. You don’t get silly and put a lampshade on your head or say witty, philosophical things. You get foul, dark and ugly. I don’t like you when you drink, not at all.”

Or that person you dated who you loved so much, but they never loved you as you loved them — until you got over them. Or when you realize you never really got over them, you just made yourself too busy, whether it was to rush into a new relationship or to bury yourself in work. You made yourself forget so you wouldn’t have to deal with it. Augusten got so drunk he couldn’t feel anything for six years.

“And then something else hits me. Something so blindly obvious that it’s no wonder I have been unable to see it. The problem is that it’s been eight years since that trip to Massachusetts, six-and-a-half since he learned he was positive, six-and-a-half since I decided to get over him in that way. And I didn’t. I didn’t get over him. I never got over him. My feelings simply went into remis-sion. They were pushed out of the way by the olive in the bottom of my martini glass. No wonder I don’t feel anything. I’m about to lose everything.”

Dry made me laugh out loud often and had me in tears by its end

“I’m not so sure. So all day long, I keep an eye on him. I watch him for signs of guilt. We pass in the hallways, and I make eye contact. He makes eye contact back and smiles. But he doesn’t look away, which to me would implicate him. I’m tempted to confront him, but if he didn’t do it, I really would seem like a crazy alcoholic faggot.”

I have certainly felt defective and empty at low times in my life, although the quote below is about Augusten being an alcoholic, he isn’t the only one who has had the feelings he experienced at that moment…

“It’s like there’s this pit inside of me that can’t be filled, no matter what. I’m defective.”

A memoir is not an autobiography. The purpose of a memoir is a story of an event or a particular set of events that occurred in someone’s life, not to create a chronological account of every event. Writing his memoir was also a tool of reflection for Augusten. I believe this memoir is more than a tale of his addiction and recovery. Augusten’s story isn’t just about the events that occurred during this time in his life.

The memoir also is about understanding how he felt about the events as well; whether revelations came to mind at the time of the actual events or in retrospect as he put together this memoir. Au-gusten is a highly opinionated person, with a wild imagination and a wandering mind. Every ran-dom, sarcastic thought gives substance to Burroughs tale; and provides the reader with insight into Burroughs’s psyche.

Dry was a pleasant surprise for me. I generally stay far away from non-fiction. My sole purpose in reading is as recreational a past time. Reading allows me to take a vacation to a faraway land or experience life as someone else without having to buy a plane ticket or pack a bag. A great book takes me away from reality for a few hours out of my day. I have a severe aversion to bor-ing books and usually, stick to the Urban Fantasy Genre.

Dry was recommended to me by a persistent co-worker, or I’m sure I would never have discov-ered it. Augusten grabs you and pulls you into the whirlwind that is his life. He bared his soul opening himself up for all the world to see, making memoir writing seem an effortless endeavor.

I binged this book. I found a comfortable place to sit and didn’t look up until the last page. I en-joyed the book for its rawness, pure, unfiltered reality written sensationally. You won’t read Dry and think oh my god I feel sorry for Augusten. You will read Dry cheering all the way. When you reach the last page, you will feel fulfilled, vindicated, as if it was your life.

The truth is after experiencing the things Augusten went through; most people would never have managed to be a functional human being much less go on the become such a magnificent writer.

Through his tale, I saw Augusten grow into the type of person who could write this memoir, alt-hough it’s not his first book; Augusten learned many things about himself while recovering from alcoholism. He became someone who faces the situations in his life instead of burying his feel-ings and seeking a numbness so profound he feels nothing. It wasn’t an easy road for him. Dry is pretty raw; it may even be too real for some. Augusten took everything wrong in his life and made it into a magnificent tale of survival that anybody could read and enjoy.