None of the many readers of Burroughs's mordant memoir debut, Running with Scissors , would doubt that its entertainingly twisted author could manage, by page 41 of his new installment, to check himself into America's frumpiest alcohol rehab facility for gays. Burroughs has a knack for ending up in depraved situations and a vibrant talent for writing about them. Asked to sign reams of legal forms before entering rehab, he notes, "the real Augusten would never stand for this. Initially repulsed by his recovery program's maudlin language and mind-numbing platitudes, Burroughs eventually makes a steadfast, equally incredulous friend in rehab, finds his own salvation and confidently re-enters society. But when he falls for a wealthy crack addict and his best friend begins to succumb to AIDS, the support he'd enjoyed in rehab begins to crumble.
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I worshipped Darren Stevens the First. You've seen him on the street, in bars, on the subway, at restaurants: a twentysomething guy, nice suit, works in advertising. But when the ordinary person had two drinks, Augusten was circling the drain by having twelve; when the ordinary person went home at midnight, Augusten never went home at all.
Loud, distracting ties, automated wake-up calls and cologne on the tongue could only hide so much for so long. At the request well, it wasn't really a request of his employers, Augusten lands in rehab, where his dreams of group therapy with Robert Downey Jr. But when Augusten is forced to examine himself, something actually starts to click and that's when he finds himself in the worst trouble of all.
What follows is a memoir that's as moving as it is funny, as heartbreaking as it is true. Dry is the story of love, loss, and Starbucks as a Higher Power. He is also the author of the novel Sellevision. Augusten's writing has appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers around the world including The New York Times and New York Magazine.
Like once, I had to do an ad for hair conditioner. The strategy was: Adds softness you can feel, body you can see. But the thing is, this was a lousy product. It made your hair sticky and in focus groups, women hated it. Also, it reeked. It made your hair smell like a combination of bubble gum and Lysol. But somehow, I had to make people feel that it was the best hair conditioner ever created.
I had to give it an image that was both beautiful and sexy. Approachable and yet aspirational. Advertising makes everything seem better than it actually is. When I was thirteen, my crazy mother gave me away to her lunatic psychiatrist, who adopted me. I then lived a life of squalor, pedophiles, no school and free pills. When I finally escaped, I presented myself to advertising agencies as a self-educated, slightly eccentric youth, filled with passion, bursting with ideas.
And exactly what I got, which made me feel that I could control the world with my mind. I could not believe that I had landed a job as a junior copywriter on the National Potato Board account at the age of nineteen.
For seventeen thousand dollars a year, which was an astonishing fortune compared to the nine thousand I had made two years before as a waiter at a Ground Round.
It seems important to think only of my job and my future. This theme of forward momentum runs through many ad campaigns. A body in motion tends to stay in motion. Just do it. Nike, Wieden and Kennedy. When I open a bill, it freaks me out. For some reason, I have trouble writing checks.
I postpone this act until the last possible moment, usually once my account has gone into collection. I am not used to rules and structure and so I have a hard time keeping the phone connected and the electricity turned on. I place all my bills in a box, which I keep next to the stove. Personal letters and cards get slipped into the space between the computer on my desk and the printer. My phone rings. I let the machine pick up. The other reason is because their martinis are enormous; great bowls of vodka soup.
Jim is great. He wears vintage Hawaiian shirts, even in winter. Last year for my birthday, he gave me two bottles. One was filled with pretty pink lotion, the other with an amber fluid.
Permaglow and Restorative: embalming fluids. A few hours later, I walk into Cedar Tavern and feel immediately at ease. Behind the bar, the wall is paneled in this same wood, inlaid with tall etched mirrors. Next to the mirrors are dull brass light fixtures with stained-glass shades. No bulb in the place is above twenty-five watts.
In the rear, there are nice tall wooden booths and oil paintings of English bird dogs and anonymous grandfathers posed in burgundy leather wing chairs.
They serve a kind of food here: chicken-fried steak, fish and chips, cheeseburgers and a very lame salad that features iceberg lettuce and croutons from a box. I could live here. About a minute. She wears khaki slacks, a pink-and-white striped oxford cloth shirt and white Reeboks. I instantly peg her as an off-duty nurse. He gives me this how-the-hell-do-you-know look. They use the tiny green olives here; I like that. I despise the big fat olives.
They take up too much space in the glass. Some global vision thing. One of those awful meetings you dread for weeks in advance. It feels exactly right, like part of my own physiology. You make wads of cash and all you do is complain.
The undertaker feels superior to me, and actually is. He provides a service. I, on the other hand, try to trick and manipulate people into parting with their money, a disservice. I gotta take a leak. We have four more drinks at Cedar Tavern. Maybe five. Just enough so that I feel loose and comfortable in my own skin, like a gymnast.
Jim suggests we hit another bar. I check my watch: almost ten-thirty. If I have to be there at nine, I should be up by seven-thirty, so that means I should get to bed no later than —I begin to count on my fingers because I cannot do math, let alone in my head— twelve-thirty. As soon as I step into the fresh air, something in my brain oxidizes and I feel just the slightest bit tipsy.
Not drunk, not even close. We both take a sip from our drinks. I notice that my sip is more of a gulp and I will need another drink soon. The martinis here are shamefully meager. He tells me how once he had a female body with a decapitated head and the family insisted on an open casket service. Then he stuck the head on the other end of the stick and kind of pushed.
He smiles with what I think might be pride. I do not take another sip from this particular glass. We have maybe five more drinks before I check my watch again. What happens is, Jim orders us a nightcap. I see double unless I close one eye, but when I do this I lose my balance and stagger. The floor trips me and I fall. The bartender walks from behind the bar and escorts me offstage. His arm feels good around my shoulders and I want to give him a friendly nuzzle or perhaps a kiss on the mouth.
He has a thin plastic drink straw behind each ear. The straws are red, the ends chewed. I raise my arm up so my watch is almost pressed against his nose. He pushes my arm back so he can read the dial.
DRY: A Memoir
Augusten Burroughs's memoir, "Dry," is an unflinching look at one alcoholic's crooked journey towards an unsure sobriety. Told in the first person, Burroughs takes us down a dark and harrowing path recounting his life as a strung-out, well-paid ad executive who is forced to accept treatment for his drinking problem or lose his job. It's an interesting concept, the forced epiphany, and one Burroughs doesn't take too much time to ponder. Some people have epiphanies, and others simply have epiphany thrust upon them.
Dry : A Memoir
Dry: A Memoir
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