book review: YOU BETTER NOT CRY

BetterNotCryIf you have to be single and you have to be bitter and you also have to be without family for the holidays, Manhattan is the only place to be. And praise Jesus for the Jews, the Chinese, and the alcoholics. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be able to have sex, eat, or forget all the people I’d had sex with.

I really fell for Augusten’s writing with A Wolf at the Table. Maybe because I have an absent father. My mom divorced my father when I was about eight. Several years later my dad basically disappeared into the verdant scum that is Florida. He turned up several years ago but pretty much blew it.

I’m not a fan of holidays and particularly do not like Christmas. So when someone writes stories about the holiday I’m not really thrilled about it but willing to read them if I like the author. YOU BETTER NOT CRY focuses on Christmas-related stories. So for me, they are hit and miss. There are seven stories in the slim green bound book and I particularly liked three.

There’s the absurdity of a young Augusten making a brick-hard gingerbread house from scratch and sans recipe [As for all the spices—cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, fennel—I skipped them all.] in “And Two Eyes Made Out of Coal.”

In “Ask Again Later,” Augusten wakes up in a hotel bed next to a much older French guy dressed as Santa. Did they or didn’t they?, Augusten wonders and immediately rushes to his doctor for every test conceivable. He is then haunted by Santas throughout the Manhattan streets and of course thinks of this kinda creepy Frenchman.

My question was: How did I go from merely seeing the dirty French Santa in a bar to being in his hotel room the next morning? And this presented me with an actual equation. How did one plus one equal old French Santa?

Augusten spends Christmas with his HIV-positive partner in the poignant, wistful and bittersweet “The Best and Only Everything.” Augusten is forthright with details about the initial rush of love and the banality of a relationship. Wanting what you don’t have and then not wanting what you have. We’ve all been there.

George was vertical, not horizontal. All of him was right there from the first moment. He didn’t have “sides”; he had fathoms. If you didn’t know him after one date, you couldn’t know him. In this way, he was a treasure perfectly hidden right before my eyes. He was the wreck of the Sussex in my backyard swimming pool.

I like the darkness in Augusten’s writing. The honesty. The bizarre. The raw. The surprises. He is willing to share intimate moments and thoughts. Of course, that makes or breaks a good memoirist. YOU BETTER NOT CRY might not be the best work by Augusten Burroughs but it will bring a smirk to your face or tear to your eye and that’s what the holidays are all about.

Augusten Burroughs is currently on TOUR.

Title: YOU BETTER NOT CRY: Stories for Christmas
Author: Augusten Burroughs
ISBN: 0-312-42379-9
Pages: 206
Release Date: October 27, 2009
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Review source: St. Martin’s Press
Rating: 3/5

–review by Amy Steele

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