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|Running with Scissors|
|Publication date||Reprint edition (June 2003)|
|Running with Scissors|
|Publication date||Reprint edition (June 2003)|
Running with Scissors is a 2002 memoir by American writer Augusten Burroughs. The book tells the story of Burroughs's bizarre childhood life after his mother, who had an obsession with Anne Sexton, sent him to live with her psychiatrist. Running with Scissors spent eight weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.
Running with Scissors covers the period of Burroughs's adolescent years, beginning at age 12 after a brief overview of his life as a child. Burroughs spends his early childhood in a clean and orderly home, obsessing over his clothes, hair, accessories, and having great potential, with his parents constantly fighting in the background.
When his parents separate and his mother begins to second-guess her sexuality, Burroughs is sent to live with his mother's psychiatrist, Dr. Finch. The doctor lives in a rundown Victorian house located in Northampton, Massachusetts. He lives with his wife as well as his biological and adopted children and some of his own patients, where rules are practically nonexistent and children of all ages do whatever they please, such as having sex, smoking cigarettes and cannabis, and rebelling against authority figures. For example, Dr. Finch feels that, at age 13, children should be in charge of their own lives. However, the dysfunctional issues that occur in the Finch family are outdone by the psychotic episodes frequently experienced by Burroughs's mother.
The Finch house is a parallel universe to the home he came from. It is filthy, with cockroaches roaming around the uncleaned dishes, Christmas trees left up year-round, stairs that Burroughs is afraid to walk up because he thinks that they will collapse under him, and nothing off limits. Eventually, Dr. Finch comes to believe that God is communicating to him through his feces. When Hope, Dr. Finch's second oldest daughter, believes her cat is dying, she keeps it in a laundry basket for four days until it dies.'Hope said Freud died of kitty leukemia and old age, I thought it was because Freud was stuck under a laundry basket with no food or water for 4 days'
Burroughs's mother is shown as emotionally drained, excessive, self-centered, and ultimately incapable of being a parent. She has a lesbian relationship with a local minister's wife, which is revealed to Burroughs when he accidentally walks in on them when he skips school. When this relationship ends, Burroughs's mother starts another with an affluent African-American woman. This relationship is tumultuous and unstable. At one point, they have a mental patient named Cesar live at their house after another of his mother's breakdowns as his 'dad'. Cesar attempts to rape Burroughs while he's sleeping, but is unsuccessful (when this patient goes to live with the Finches later in the book, he pays one of the Finches' daughters for sex and then is forced from the home). His mother's biggest psychotic episode happens when she and Dorothy (her partner) move everything out of their house and attack Burroughs when he tries to intervene. This later ends with a "road trip" and events leading to Burroughs's mother being restrained on a bed.
Burroughs tells Dr. Finch's adopted 33-year-old son, Neil Bookman, that he is gay. From the age of 13 to 15, Burroughs has an intense and open sexual relationship with Bookman, which begins when Bookman forces the young boy to perform oral sex on him. Neither his mother nor any member of the Finch family is bothered by their relationship. Burroughs begins to enjoy exacting power over Bookman by threatening to charge him with statutory rape. Bookman is obsessed with the young boy, even though Burroughs has problems with their relationship (going in phases of needing the affection of Bookman to wanting to humiliate or get away from him) which only infatuates Bookman more. Bookman eventually leaves Northampton and is never heard from again by Burroughs or the Finches, even after they try everything in their power to find him.
Burroughs forms a close relationship with Dr. Finch's daughter, Natalie, who is one year older than he is, even though at the beginning of the book, he dislikes her. They do everything together from finding jobs, running behind a waterfall, and demolishing the kitchen ceiling. They finally leave the Finch household together.
At the end of the book, when Burroughs is living in his own apartment with Natalie, he is asked to choose between his mother and Dr. Finch when she accuses the doctor of raping her. The relationship between his mother and the doctor had been turbulent ever since a scene at a motel, where Dr. Finch's abnormal therapy methods reached a point at which they could possibly be interpreted as sexual assault. He still considers Dr. Finch's family and his mother to be his family, and he cannot bring himself to choose sides, although he is fairly certain that Dr. Finch did rape his mother. '...be from a psycho family of be the crazy woman's son' as quoted from the book. The book ends with Burroughs leaving Massachusetts and moving to New York City.
The film adaptation of Running with Scissors, released in 2006, stars Alec Baldwin, Annette Bening, Brian Cox, Joseph Fiennes, Evan Rachel Wood, Jill Clayburgh, Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Cross as Burroughs. The plot of the film is focused on the relationship between the mother and the son.
In 2005, the family of Dr. Rodolph H. Turcotte (1919–2000), of Massachusetts filed suit against Burroughs and his publisher, alleging defamation of character and invasion of privacy. They stated that they were the basis for the Finch family portrayed in the book but that Burroughs had fabricated or exaggerated various descriptions of their activities.
|“||It's still a memoir, it's marketed as a memoir, they've agreed one hundred percent that it is a memoir.||”|
—Augusten Burroughs on the Running With Scissors settlement
The case was later settled with Sony Pictures Entertainment in October 2006, prior to the release of the film adaptation. Burroughs and his publisher, St. Martin's Press, settled with the Turcotte family in August 2007. The Turcottes were reportedly seeking damages of $2 million for invasion of privacy, defamation, and emotional distress; the Turcottes alleged Running with Scissors was largely fictional and written in a sensational manner. Burroughs defended his work as "entirely accurate", but agreed to call the work a "book" (instead of "memoirs") in the author's note, to alter the acknowledgments page in future editions to recognize the Turcotte family's conflicting memories of described events, and express regret for "any unintentional harm" to the Turcotte family. Burroughs felt vindicated by the settlement. "I'm not at all sorry that I wrote [the book]. And you know, the suit settled—it settled in my favor. I didn't change a word of the memoir, not one word of it. It's still a memoir, it's marketed as a memoir, they've agreed one hundred percent that it is a memoir."
Future printings of Running with Scissors will contain modified language in the Author's Note and Acknowledgments pages. Where the Acknowledgments page had read: "Additionally, I would like to thank each and every member of a certain Massachusetts family for taking me into their home and accepting me as one of their own," the following was substituted: "Additionally, I would like to thank the real-life members of the family portrayed in this book for taking me into their home and accepting me as one of their own. I recognize that their memories of the events described in this book are different than my own. They are each fine, decent, and hard-working people. The book was not intended to hurt the family. Both my publisher and I regret any unintentional harm resulting from the publishing and marketing of Running with Scissors."
In addition, on the Author's Note page—but, as the family agreed, nowhere else—the word "book" replaced the word "memoir." The work is still described as a memoir on the cover, title page and elsewhere.