Possible Side Effects – Augusten Burroughs Review

Progress on Alternate: 48,229 words

Current Review:

Now I’m going to start by making it very clear: I adore Augusten Burroughs. I love his wit, his intelligence, and his odd, down-to-earth honesty, even when what he’s talking about sounds strange and unbelievable. I love that he doesn’t shy away from talking about things that make him (or, hell, other people) feel uncomfortable.

I think my favourite thing right now about my re-read of Possible Side Effects is a quote that feels so much like my current situation, in its own way (minus the smoking), that I can’t help but include it in this review:

“I understood at once, I am not living, but actively dying. I am smoking, living unhealthily. I’m shutting down. I need to go the other way, inside. And it was so clear to me what I was doing. It was suddenly perfectly clear. I understood, I need to write. Live here, in my words, and my head. I need to go inside, that’s all. No big, complicated, difficult thing. I just need to go in reverse.”

Possible Side Effects is a collection of little anecdotes. Odd happenings, parts of his life that others might get a kick out of. Who knows if all of it is true. But with the arch humour that he shows, I wouldn’t be surprised if every bit of it was. I think people who have felt odd or unusual for some reason would do well to read this book. Just because those little details, those little moments said so frankly, can be really oddly cathartic from the pen of some strange man who lives miles away.

Not to mention making you smile. But smile in a way that’s less ‘oh, look at that funny thing’ and more ‘oh dear, I know this person, I’ve seen this’. I recently reposted a tweet about liking to read books that hold up a mirror to society. Augusten Burroughs, in his own way, often does that. He’s so unafraid to be odd or unusual that it feels like we can see bits of the world around us in how he talks.

-K Hart


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