Cover image for Dry
Title:
Dry
Author:
Burroughs, Augusten.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First Picador edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Picador, 2004.

©2003
Physical Description:
viii, 309 pages ; 21 cm
General Note:
Includes an excerpt from Magical thinking (p. [295]-309).
Language:
English
Personal Subject:
ISBN:
9780312423797
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

From the bestselling author of Running with Scissors comes Dry --the hilarious, moving, and no less bizarre account of what happened next.

You may not know it, but you've met Augusten Burroughs. You've seen him on the street, in bars, on the subway, at restaurants: a twenty-something guy, nice suit, works in advertising. Regular. Ordinary. But when the ordinary person had to drinks, Augusten was circling the drain by having twelve; when the ordinary person went home at midnight, Augusten never went home at all. Loud, distracting ties, automated wake-up calls, and cologne on the tongue could only hide so much for so long. At therequest (well, it wasn't really a request) of his employers, Augusten landed in rehab, where his dreams of group therapy with Robert Downey, Jr., are immediately dashed by the grim reality of fluorescent lighting and paper hospital slippers. But when Augusten is forced to examine himself, something actually starts to click, and that's when he finds himself in the worst trouble of all. Because when his thirty days are up, he has to return to his same drunken Manhattan life--and live it sober. What follows is a memoir that's as moving as it is funny, as heartbreaking as it is real. Dry is the story of love, loss, and Starbucks as a higher power.


Author Notes

Augusten X. Burroughs was born with the name of Christopher Richter Robison in Pittsburgh, PA in 1965. At the age of 18, he chose the name Augusten X. Burroughs and legalized it in a Boston courtroom. He was raised in Western Massachusetts, after his mother had abandoned him to live with her psychiatrist. Burroughs dropped out of school at 13, his mother and her shrink helping him fake a suicide attempt, got his GED at 17 and then flunked out of community college. Burroughs survived a harrowing childhood, but used it and the strength he gained from surviving to springboard his literary career.

He has been a dog trainer, candy store clerk, waiter, sail cutter, store detective and, from the age of 19, an advertising copywriter. Burroughs lived in San Francisco for five years, then moved to New York in the early 1990s.

Burroughs writes memoirs (including the bestseller Running with Scissors which was made into a movie in 2006), as well as a sex column in DETAILS magazine, the occasional commentary for NPR, articles for New York Magazine, and essays for salon.com, Borders and Booksense. All of Augusten's subsequent books -Dry, Magical Thinking, Possible Side Effects, A Wolf at the Table, You Better Not Cry, This is How and Lust and Wonder- were instant New York Times bestsellers.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

How to follow your successful my-childhood-was-so-bad-it-was-funny memoir? Why, with a then-my-alcoholism-was-so-bad-it-was-funny memoir, of course. Burroughs, who described in Running with Scissors [BKL Je 1 & 15 02] perhaps the funniest emotionally and sexually abusive family in memoir history, now tells the story of his adulthood. After infuriating his advertising coworkers by showing up at a series of meetings stinking of booze, Burroughs is sent to a recovery center for gays and lesbians in Minnesota. He sobers up, at least for a while, and begins to confront both the demons and the comic irrationality of addiction. The narrative descends into cliche-ridden recovery jargon now and again, but Burroughs openly acknowledges the triteness of it and allows us to laugh. Blessedly free from sentimentality and the predictable fall-and-rise plot of your average booze-soaked memoir, Burroughs' characters are well drawn and fresh, even when they rely on archetypes (there's a still-wet drinking buddy, for example, but he's a hilariously morbid undertaker). Burroughs again displays his talent for finding hope and hard-won laughs in the nastiest of situations. --John Green


Publisher's Weekly Review

Imagine coming home to find hundreds of empty scotch bottles and 1,452 empty beer bottles in your apartment. This is what Burroughs (Running with Scissors) encountered upon returning from Minnesota's Proud Institute (supposedly the gay alcohol rehab choice). "The truly odd part is that I really don't know how they got there," admits Burroughs in this autobiographical tale of being a prodigy with an extremely successful career in advertising and a drive to get as wasted as possible as often as possible. Burroughs's telling of the tale alternates among hilarious, pathetic, existential and hopeful. It is an earnest and cautionary tale of calamity, brimming with Sedaris-like darkly comic quips: "Making alcoholic friends is as easy as making sea monkeys." Burroughs's slight Southern accent and gentle yet glib delivery should summon empathy on the listener's part that may have been lost with another reader. From Minnesota, Burroughs returns to New York and participates in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Like James Frey in the similar yet very different book, A Million Little Pieces (see audio review, below), Burroughs believes that when rehab is over, he must walk into a bar to see if he can resist the temptation to drink. Though not a technique condoned by A.A., it certainly makes for a fascinating listening experience. Simultaneous release with the St. Martin's hardcover (Forecasts, Apr. 21). (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Burroughs's memoir of his troubled childhood, Running with Scissors, which was recently issued in paperback, captured considerable attention and even had a run on the New York Times's best sellers list. This sequel is an account of his early adult life as an advertising executive in New York City attempting to recover from alcoholism. He begins his advertising career as a 19-year-old with intelligence and a flair for writing but no education past elementary school. But scars remain from the years with his alcoholic father, his lunatic mother, and her wacky psychiatrist, and drinking slowly becomes the focus of his life. Consuming prodigious amounts of alcohol often leaves him hung over and reeking, causing his employer to urge him to attend rehab for a month. He chooses a hospital for gays in Minnesota and, after a week or so, begins to gain some insight about his drinking. After rehab, he returns to his apartment and begins to gather up the 27 large garbage bags of liquor bottles he has accumulated. With irreverent and humorous touches, Burroughs manages to personalize the difficulties of recovery without ever lapsing into sentimentality. This heartfelt memoir will interest readers who enjoyed his debut and those wanting new insights into addiction and recovery. Recommended for large public libraries.-Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

JUST DO IT Sometimes when you work in advertising you'll get a product that's really garbage and you have to make it seem fantastic, something that is essential to the continued quality of life. Like once, I had to do an ad for hair conditioner. The strategy was: Adds softness you can feel, body you can see. But the thing is, this was a lousy product. It made your hair sticky and in focus groups, women hated it. Also, it reeked. It made your hair smell like a combination of bubble gum and Lysol. But somehow, I had to make people feel that it was the best hair conditioner ever created. I had to give it an image that was both beautiful and sexy. Approachable and yet aspirational. Advertising makes everything seem better than it actually is. And that's why it's such a perfect career for me. It's an industry based on giving people false expectations. Few people know how to do that as well as I do, because I've been applying those basic advertising principles to my life for years. When I was thirteen, my crazy mother gave me away to her lunatic psychiatrist, who adopted me. I then lived a life of squalor, pedophiles, no school and free pills. When I finally escaped, I presented myself to advertising agencies as a self-educated, slightly eccentric youth, filled with passion, bursting with ideas. I left out the fact that I didn't know how to spell or that I had been giving blowjobs since I was thirteen. Not many people get into advertising when they're nineteen, with no education beyond elementary school and no connections. Not just anybody can walk in off the street and become a copywriter and get to sit around the glossy black table saying things like, "Maybe we can get Molly Ringwald to do the voice-over," and "It'll be really hip and MTV-ish." But when I was nineteen, that's exactly what I wanted. And exactly what I got, which made me feel that I could control the world with my mind. I could not believe that I had landed a job as a junior copywriter on the National Potato Board account at the age of nineteen. For seventeen thousand dollars a year, which was an astonishing fortune compared to the nine thousand I had made two years before as a waiter at a Ground Round. That's the great thing about advertising. Ad people don't care where you came from, who your parents were. It doesn't matter. You could have a crawl space under your kitchen floor filled with little girls' bones and as long as you can dream up a better Chuck Wagon commercial, you're in. And now I'm twenty-four years old, and I try not to think about my past. It seems important to think only of my job and my future. Especially since advertising dictates that you're only as good as your last ad. This theme of forward momentum runs through many ad campaigns. A body in motion tends to stay in motion. (Reebok, Chiat/Day.) Just do it . (Nike, Wieden and Kennedy.) Damn it, something isn't right . (Me, to my bathroom mirror at four-thirty in the morning, when I'm really, really plastered.) * * * It's Tuesday evening and I'm home. I've been home for twenty minutes and am going through the mail. When I open a bill, it freaks me out. For some reason, I have trouble writing checks. I postpone this act until the last possible moment, usually once my account has gone into collection. It's not that I can't afford the bills--I can--it's that I panic when faced with responsibility. I am not used to rules and structure and so I have a hard time keeping the phone connected and the electricity turned on. I place all my bills in a box, which I keep next to the stove. Personal letters and cards get slipped into the space between the computer on my desk and the printer. My phone rings. I let the machine pick up. "Hey, it's Jim ... just wanted to know if you wanna go out for a quick drink. Gimme a call, but try and get back--" As I pick up the machine screeches like a strangled cat. "Yes, definitely," I tell him. "My blood alcohol level is dangerously low." "Cedar Tavern at nine," he says. Cedar Tavern is on University and Twelfth and I'm on Tenth and Third, just a few blocks away. Jim's over on Twelfth and Second. So it's a fulcrum between us. That's one reason I like it. The other reason is because their martinis are enormous; great bowls of vodka soup. "See you there," I say and hang up. Jim is great. He's an undertaker. Actually, I suppose he's technically not an undertaker anymore. He's graduated to coffin salesman, or as he puts it, "pre-arrangements." The funeral business is rife with euphemisms. In the funeral business, nobody actually "dies." They simply "move on," as if traveling to a different time zone. He wears vintage Hawaiian shirts, even in winter. Looking at him, you'd think he was just a normal, blue-collar Italian guy. Like maybe he's a cop or owns a pizza place. But he's an undertaker, through and through. Last year for my birthday, he gave me two bottles. One was filled with pretty pink lotion, the other with an amber fluid. Permaglow and Restorative: embalming fluids. This is the sort of conversation piece you simply can't find at Pottery Barn. I'm not so shallow as to pick my friends based on what they do for a living, but in this case I have to say it was a major selling point. A few hours later, I walk into Cedar Tavern and feel immediately at ease. There's a huge old bar to my right, carved by hand a century ago from several ancient oak trees. It's like this great big middle finger aimed at nature conservationists. Behind the bar, the wall is paneled in this same wood, inlaid with tall etched mirrors. Next to the mirrors are dull brass light fixtures with stained-glass shades. No bulb in the place is above twenty-five watts. In the rear, there are nice tall wooden booths and oil paintings of English bird dogs and anonymous grandfathers posed in burgundy leather wing chairs. They serve a kind of food here: chicken-fried steak, fish and chips, cheeseburgers and a very lame salad that features iceberg lettuce and croutons from a box. I could live here. As if I didn't already. Even though I'm five minutes early, Jim's sitting at the bar and already halfway through a martini. "What a fucking lush," I say. "How long have you been here?" "I was thirsty. About a minute." He appears to be eyeing a woman who is sitting alone at a table near the jukebox. She wears khaki slacks, a pink-and-white striped oxford cloth shirt and white Reeboks. I instantly peg her as an off-duty nurse. "She's not your type," I say. He gives me this how-the-hell-do-you-know look. "And why not?" "Look at what she's drinking. Coffee." He grimaces, looks away from her and takes another sip of his drink. "Look, I can't stay out late tonight because I have to be at the Met tomorrow morning at nine." "The Met?" he asks incredulously. "Why the Met?" I roll my eyes, wag my finger in the air to get the bartender's attention. "My client Fabergé is creating a new perfume and they want the ad agency to join them tomorrow morning and see the Fabergé egg exhibit as inspiration." I order a Ketel One martini, straight up with an olive. They use the tiny green olives here; I like that. I despise the big fat olives. They take up too much space in the glass. "So I have to be there in a suit and look at those fucking eggs all morning. Then we're all going to get together the day after tomorrow at the agency and have a horrific meeting with their senior management. Some global vision thing. One of those awful meetings you dread for weeks in advance." I take the first sip of my martini. It feels exactly right, like part of my own physiology. "God, I hate my job." "You should get a real job," Jim tells me. "This advertising stuff is putrid. You spend your days waltzing around the Met looking at Fabergé eggs. You make wads of cash and all you do is complain. Jesus, and you're not even twenty-five yet." He sticks his thumb and index finger in the glass and pinches the olive, which he then pops in his mouth. I watch him do this and can't help but think, The places those fingers have been . "Why don't you try selling a seventy-eight-year-old widow in the Bronx her own coffin?" We've had this conversation before, many times. The undertaker feels superior to me, and actually is. He is society's Janitor in a Drum. He provides a service. I, on the other hand, try to trick and manipulate people into parting with their money, a disservice. "Yeah, yeah, order us another round. I gotta take a leak." I walk off to the men's room, leaving him at the bar. We have four more drinks at Cedar Tavern. Maybe five. Just enough so that I feel loose and comfortable in my own skin, like a gymnast. Jim suggests we hit another bar. I check my watch: almost ten-thirty. I should head home now and go to sleep so I'm fresh in the morning. But then I think, Okay, what's the latest I can get to sleep and still be okay? If I have to be there at nine, I should be up by seven-thirty, so that means I should get to bed no later than --I begin to count on my fingers because I cannot do math, let alone in my head-- twelve-thirty. "Where you wanna go?" I ask him. "I don't know, let's just walk." I say, "Okay," and we head outside. As soon as I step into the fresh air, something in my brain oxidizes and I feel just the slightest bit tipsy. Not drunk, not even close. Though I certainly wouldn't attempt to operate a cotton gin. * * * We end up walking down the street for two blocks and heading into this place on the corner that sometimes plays live jazz. Jim's telling me that the absolute worst thing you can encounter as an undertaker is "a jumper." "Two Ketel One martinis, straight up with olives," I tell the bartender and then turn to Jim. "What's so bad about jumpers? What?" I love this man. "Because when you move their limbs, the bones are all broken and they slide around loose inside the skin and they make this sort of..." Our drinks arrive. He takes a sip and continues, "... this sort of rumbling sound." "That's so fucking horrifying," I say, delighted. "What else?" He takes another sip, creases his forehead in thought. "Okay, I know--you'll love this. If it's a guy, we tie a string around the end of his dick so that it won't leak piss." "Jesus," I say. We both take a sip from our drinks. I notice that my sip is more of a gulp and I will need another drink soon. The martinis here are shamefully meager. "Okay, give me more horrible," I tell him. He tells me how once he had a female body with a decapitated head and the family insisted on an open casket service. "Can you imagine?" So he broke a broomstick in half and jammed it down through the neck and into the meat of the torso. Then he stuck the head on the other end of the stick and kind of pushed. "Wow," I say. He's done things that only people on death row have done. He smiles with what I think might be pride. "I put her in a white cashmere turtleneck and she actually ended up looking pretty good." He winks at me and plucks the olive from my drink. I do not take another sip from this particular glass. We have maybe five more drinks before I check my watch again. Now it's a quarter of one. And I really need to go, I'll already be a mess as it is. But that's not what happens. What happens is, Jim orders us a nightcap. "Just one shot of Cuervo ... for luck." The very last thing I remember is standing on a stage at a karaoke bar somewhere in the West Village. The spotlights are shining in my face and I'm trying to read the video monitor in front of me, which is scrolling the words to the theme from The Brady Bunch . I see double unless I close one eye, but when I do this I lose my balance and stagger. Jim's laughing like a madman in the front row, pounding the table with his hands. The floor trips me and I fall. The bartender walks from behind the bar and escorts me offstage. His arm feels good around my shoulders and I want to give him a friendly nuzzle or perhaps a kiss on the mouth. Fortunately, I don't do this. Outside the bar, I look at my watch and slur, "This can't be right." I lean against Jim's shoulder so I don't fall over on the tricky sidewalk. "What?" he says, grinning. He has a thin plastic drink straw behind each ear. The straws are red, the ends chewed. I raise my arm up so my watch is almost pressed against his nose. "Look," I say. He pushes my arm back so he can read the dial. "Yikes! How'd that happen? You sure it's right?" The watch reads 4:15 A.M. Impossible. I wonder aloud why it is displaying the time in Europe instead of Manhattan. Copyright © 2003 by Augusten Burroughs Excerpted from Dry: A Memoir by Augusten X. Burroughs All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.