“‘Running with Scissors’ author Augusten Burroughs reflects on memories of Halloween
In “Running with Scissors,” Augusten Burroughs writes about his horrifying childhood: raised by a psychotic mom in a dilapidated house filled with the mentally unstable. But Burroughs never gave up hope. He writes about his nightmare boyhood making it appear twisted and hilarious. But Burroughs also imbues his memories with a sense of forgiveness.
Coincidentally, “Running with Scissors” is released on the gayest holiday weekend of the year: Halloween.
Burroughs, who lives in New York and Western Massachusetts with his longtime partner, Dennis, shared his thoughts on tricks, treats and the perfect wig to emulate Deirdre, the character based on his mom, which is played by Annette Bening.
What’s your earliest Halloween memory?
I remember being some kind of bug once. Maybe I was 6 or 7?
My best friend and neighbor, David, was a football player, and I was some kind of bug. But I don’t remember what kind or why. Maybe I was a roach?
Do you have a favorite horror film?
“Carrie.” Because, duhh if you could destroy an entire room full of people you loathed using your mind alone, would you not do this right now? And because even covered in pig blood, Carrie still looked beautiful.
Do you and your partner have trick-or-treaters in your neighborhood?
I go to Target and gets bags and bags of candy. And Dennis always says, “We don’t need that. They don’t come to our house.”
And I always believe they will come. But it’s true they never do. So, over the following week, I am then forced to eat all the candy myself.
Best twisted costume idea you’ve heard of or seen:
I think it would be great to dress up like Santa. Have you ever seen that? I haven’t. And why not?
Can you think of any reasons why “Running With Scissors” might be a suitable Halloween-weekend flick?
Are you kidding me? Why do you think that movie opens in October?
Ever done drag for Halloween?
No, I’ve never been in drag. Not unless you count dressing up as my mother every night before I go to sleep.
Do you think the seemingly iconic-looking images of a Tab-cola-swilling Annette Bening might make for a fabulous costume this year?
If you could get the wig right, yes. Annette was emphatic that the wig is everything.
Speaking of costumes: Have you been contacted by any designers who are hoping to dress you for The Oscars?
With my luck, the only call I’ll get is from a psychiatric hospital offering me one of their straightjackets.
AND THEN THERE’S AUGUSTEN’S MOM
Augusten Burroughs’ real mother, Margaret Robison is still alive. In Burroughs’ second memoir, “Dry,” he talks about a rare occasion when he visited his wheelchair-bound mother.
Robison, a poet-writer in Massachusetts, has a Web site,
MargaretRobison.com. Her words paint placid images with heaps of spiritual and nature references. Burroughs who was born Chris Robison but changed his name doesn’t live far from his estranged mom. According to a recent interview on NPR, Margaret says she doesn’t see her son “Chris” much. And that, to her, the person named Augusten is a fictional creation.
Must be tough to air family secrets in the public domain.
However, in the NPR interview, Margaret doesn’t come off like a “poor me” victim.
She explains that after her stroke, when she only had one usable hand, she typed 200 of Augusten’s poems and submitted them to a publisher. And that mother and son were “writing companions.”
Margaret also says that she’s grateful for “Running with Scissors” that the book offered her the opportunity to grow spiritually.
However, since the book’s publication, she hasn’t seen “Chris.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, October 27, 2006.