Sunday, February 10, 2008

Augusten Burroughs' Collection of Short Stories Possible Side Effects By Lezah Williamson

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I've been on an Augusten Burroughs kick lately. I had read Dry a couple of years ago, and really liked it, but it wasn't until this Christmas that I finally got my hands on his better known work, Running With Scissors. While Running With Scissors grew on me as I read, I preferred Dry. I ended up seeing the film version of Running With Scissors this weekend, and it did not live up to the book, in spite of an all-star cast.

The one book, however, that has been languishing on my night stand since Christmas, is Possible Side Effects, a collection of short stories by Burroughs. Now, I'm not the biggest fan of short stories to begin with, and the book did nothing to change that notion. Sadly, I read a few stories and put it down, only to forget about it. This weekend, however, I finally made it through my Christmas reading and ran out of things I wanted to read. So Possible Side Effects was next on my list.

Well, for the first half of the book it was more of the same, short stories of such varying quality that it made me question whether they'd actually have been published if Burroughs wasn't so much the flavour of the moment.

But then I came across one short story called Locked Out that made the book worthwhile. Burroughs outlines an incident in which he locks himself out of his apartment. This is at a time when he is about 30 years of age, is still working in advertising, and has fallen off the wagon after a stint in rehab. His apartment is a mess, of the 'call the Hazmat team' variety. He is sobered up, literally and figuratively, when the locksmith gains access to his apartment and sees the squalor in which he lives.

Burroughs sits down and starts to write. In seven days, he not only dries himself out, but he writes the first draft of his novel, Sellevision.

A writer is born.

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