Feature

Is Augusten Burroughs making things up?

It

What happened
Augusten Burroughs, author of the best-selling memoir Running With Scissors, is stirring controversy with his latest memoir, A Wolf at the Table, which is about his father. As with Running With Scissors, some critics suspect that parts of his new book were fabricated.

What the commentators said

It’s hard to believe that Burrough’s new memoir is entirely true, said Claude Peck in the Star Tribune. “Burroughs handles recollected scenes confusingly, often lapsing into fantasy language, secondhand accounts and dreams that cast doubt on just what happened and what was imagined upon later reflection.” And how could he “remember, and reproduce in quotation marks, a 300-word philosophical rant by his father”?

“With his new book, said Deirdre Donahue in USA Today, “Burroughs proves that his memory well hasn’t gone dry.” It’s impressive how “he’s still dipping his favorite literary bucket—the memoir—into the past and pulling up fresh material.” Of course, “because of the James Frey/Margaret B. Jones scandals, all memoirs face closer scrutiny. Any writing based on childhood memories is going to be subjective.” But “this story feels true.”

Whether this story is true or not, said Janet Maslin in The New York Times, maybe it’s time for Burroughs to move on from memoir writing. “He remains a writer with a large and loyal following, a fluent and funny storyteller whenever he actually has stories to tell. Maybe those stories needn’t be so personal. Maybe his range can expand beyond tales of dysfunction. And maybe some thoughts belong on the page more than others do.”

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