This is How by Augusten Burroughs. Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (2012). Self-help/memoir. Hardcover. 230 pages. 978-0312563554.
“Being an unhappy person does not mean you must be sad or dark. You can be interested instead of happy. You can be fascinated instead of happy.”
The rare writer who transforms dark thoughts and memories into cleverly worded stories about love, loss and learning, Augusten Burroughs has never been someone I consider to be a humorous writer but a memoir writer with a sense of humor and a dry wit. I’ll smirk here and there. I appreciate its honesty, bizarreness, rawness. He is willing to share intimate moments and thoughts. Of course, that makes or breaks a good memoir. apparently he’s decided that his years as an alcoholic and his experiences with a lover dying of AIDs as well as being fat, rejected, insecure, suicidal, among other things makes him the perfect person to write a how-to book. And I have to agree. Why not? Everyone has one out there– Bethenny of Real Housewives fame, Taxi’s Marilu Henner, [insert pop star name here].
A Wolf at the Table remains my favorite by Augusten. Sure Running with Scissors really went deep and was so implausible that people couldn’t help but laugh at Augusten’s situation. I think a lot of people lump him in with David Sedaris because they’re both gay and a bit off-beat. Gay is the only commonality between the two. Although, for the record, I don’t really think Sedaris is that funny. Augusten would be my friend if we ever met. I’d make him be. This is How has chapters on how to commit suicide, how to be with a dying lover, how to be fat, how to be thin, how to succeed, how to find love, how to be confident and much more from someone who hasn’t researched the best way for you to do these things. No. He’s giving the reader advice based on own painful trials and tribulations.
A few gems I’d like to share:
How to Find Love:
“Personal ads and dating websites work. Anything that hurls your ass into the orbit of other living people can work. But there’s still a mistrust of the Internet.”
“You are exactly everything enough to the person who thinks you are.”
How to Be Confident:
“To allow yourself to be ‘yourself’ when you are with others, you don’t need to have years of therapy-polished love for yourself—merely tolerance.”
How to End Your Life:
“If you hate life, you haven’t seen enough of it. If you hate your life, it’s because your life is too small and doesn’t fit you. However big you think your life is, it’s nothing compared to what’s out there.”
How to Identify Love By Knowing What It’s Not:
[This was one of the most enlightening and comforting chapters for me]
“Love Doesn’t Use a fist.”
“Love never calls you fat or lazy or ugly.”
“Love does not ask or even want you to change. But if you change, Love is as excited about this change as you are, if not more so.”
“Love does not maintain a list of your flaws and weaknesses.”
“Love believes you.”
“An abusive partner is controlling. They are manipulative. They might make a special point of coyly sharing information that they actually know will upset you. They might supply reasonable arguments as to why they and not you should make important decisions.”
“Emotional abuse is the process of breaking the spirit or shattering the confidence of another for one’s own purpose.”
“Abusive people never change.”