Monday, October 26, 2009

A Wolf at the Table by Augusten Burroughs

Book Details
A Wolf at the Table by Augusten Burroughs
Hardcover, 256 pages
2008, St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 0312342020

A searing, emotional portrait of a son who wants nothing more than the love his father will not grant him, Burroughs's latest memoir (after 2004's Dry) is indeed powerful. Absent is the wry humor of Running with Scissors and the absurd poignancy of Burroughs's years living with his mother's Svengali-like psychiatrist. Instead, Burroughs focuses on the years he lived both in awe and fear of his philosophy professor father in Amherst, Mass. Despite frequent trips with his mother to escape his father's alcoholic rages, Burroughs was determined to win his father's affection, secretly touching the man's wallet and cigarettes and even going so far as to make a surrogate dad with pillows and discarded clothing. Only after his father's neglect—or cruelty—leads to the death of Burroughs's beloved guinea pig during one of the family's many separations does the son turn against the father. Avoiding self-pity, Burroughs paints his father with unwavering honesty, forcing the reader to confront, as he did, a man who even on his deathbed, refused his son a hint of affection. His father missed so much, Burroughs muses, not knowing his son. Luckily, Burroughs does not deny the reader such an enormous pleasure.

I liked Running with Scissors and the movie that was made from it. I liked Magical Thinking less. I liked Possible Side Effects even less. I don't know why I even bother reading any of his work anymore because I obviously don't really like it. I really didn't like this book. I was bored the entire time, wishing that he would stop whining about how his dad didn't love him. I kept waiting for the big shocking revelation that would make the reason for the book clear. It never came. While the writing was good, the subject matter was beyond self-indulgent and bordering on scary obsessive. 


Augusten Burrough's website


  1. Hm, it does sound a bit creepy. I might avoid this one then, thanks. :)

  2. This isn't my cup of tea either. Don't punish yourself anymore, there's too much great stuff out there!

  3. Thanks for the review... But I so am gonna have to read running with scissors!