Thursday, August 13, 2015

Book Review: Dry

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Dry

Author: Augusten Burroughs

Author's (wordless, opaque) web site:

Publisher: Picador

Date: 2003

Length: 309 pages

Quote: “I was awake by six A.M. and still felt drunk...This is when I knew I was still drunk. I just had way too much energy for six A.M.”

Although it's subtitled “A Memoir,” Dry reads like a novel and has an opening disclaimer to the effect that, to a substantial extent, it is one. This is, after all, the same Augusten Burroughs who claimed to have been abandoned by his parents and brought up by a so-called psychologist who sodomized and prostituted him from the time he reached puberty until he got a the advertising industry. With a background as similar as that to the classic Prozac Dementia pseudomemory, it's hard to believe that we know anything about the author of Burroughs' books.

Whoever Burroughs really is, though, he's funny most of the time, with a tolerable dose of emotional catharsis tucked away in each story. Such that you can almost overlook that this is a story about a homosexual man who thinks he's in love with another homosexual man, until a platonic male friend dies, and then he really knows what love and pain feel like. He falls off the Alcoholics Anonymous wagon, onto which he's been shoved by co-workers as a requirement for him to keep his job. He climbs back on. He keeps his job. For the moment, at least, he's safe, alive, and dry.

Is this book part of a sinister plot to make the homosexual lifestyle seem more acceptable to the book-reading community? Actually, it probably is. Does reading it have that effect? Actually, it probably doesn't. Actually, if you have an intense emotional attraction-repulsion thing going toward either the homosexual lifestyle or the drugs, violence, prostitution, free-floating hostility, and general self-destruction associated with it, you probably don't want to read this book. If you do want to read this book, you're either part of that lifestyle, or else far enough from it to feel detached, even compassionate, while reading about Love and Loss in the Underworld.

If you read it, you will laugh. You may cry. You will laugh again, after crying. And if you're one of us “straight” people—the word “straight” meant a lot more than “heterosexual” in the 1980s, when it started being used to mean merely that—one of us sober, law-abiding, family-type people, you will give thanks; I can't imagine any reader of Dry finishing the book and thinking “I want to be like the narrator of this story.” More likely you'll think “Even as a trade for his talent and his sense of humor I wouldn't want to be like the narrator of this story.”

You might feel more compassion, more empathy, toward somebody like the narrator of this story--at the office, e.g. And would that make you more inclined to cut that person more slack, or would it make you want to "help" the person Hit Bottom and Turn Around, the way the narrator does?

 Burroughs is alive; therefore Dry is a Fair Trade Book. $5 per copy + $5 per package = $10, of which 10%, or $1, will be sent to Burroughs or a charity of his choice. (If you want four paperback copies, you'd send us $25 and we'd send Burroughs or his charity $4.) Payment may be sent to either address at the bottom of the screen.