08 March 2010

Book Review: You Better Not Cry

Title: You Better Not Cry
Author:  Augusten Burroughs
Published: 2009  Pages:  206
Genre:  Non-fiction

Buy  |  Borrow  |  Accept  |  Avoid

Plot Synopsis
In this short collection of stories, Burroughs relates his experiences at seven Christmases.  From his disturbing encounter with a plastic Santa to his even more disturbing encounter with a real life Santa, his love-hate relationship with the holiday offers readers a glimpse into a life lived strange.

My Thoughts
The very first story, actually the very first paragraph, drew me in:  "It's not that I was an outright nitwit of a child.  It's that the things even a nitwit could do with little or no instruction often confused me.  Simple, everyday sorts of things tripped me up."  The details amuse as Burroughs relates his inability to stack folding chairs and understand the Pledge of Allegiance.  And this is just the set up for the real revelation: Burroughs thought Jesus and Santa were the same person, and let me tell you, the line of reasoning he presents had me 100% understanding why he thought so.  The next story is also set during Burroughs' childhood and continues the laughs.

Unfortunately I was not as thrilled with the remaining stories.  While I appreciated the tricksy turnarounds and hidden obviousnesses (like the new word?) I found myself continually questioning the veracity of the stories.  Dialogue seemed too apropos, events - and the reactions to those events - seemed surreal.  The moments of time captured in this book belong to the world of fiction.  I'm not sure if that is a problem with my own perception of the world or if the problem is with the presentation. Perhaps it has something to do with the age of Burroughs; his childhood stories I have no trouble with, but when the stories revolve around his adult life, I am disbelieving or saddened by the events.  Then again, I've read two other Burroughs books and enjoyed both of them, regardless of his age in the story.

It's also possible my non-interest in Christmas colored my experience.  I'm a Halloween girl.  Christmas doesn't do much for me.  Heralding the start of my least favorite season, smack dab in the middle of my work year, preceded by finals week, Christmas is not well positioned to please me.  Because of this, I tend to not read holiday stories as a rule.

Final recommendation:  Read Burroughs even if you don't read this particular one.  I loved Running with Scissors and Possible Side Effects.

Other Reviews
If I've missed yours, let me know!

ReviewsbyLola; A Bookshelf Monstrosity; Girl with a Satchel;

Question:  Do you find it difficult or less enjoyable to read non-fiction when you have trouble believing the events/characters/etc. are true?

FTC Disclosure:  This one was actually a freebie.  You gonna arrest me now?

Challenges: 100+ Reading Challenge, Reading ResolutionsGLBT Challenge,


  1. I like Burroughs, but I can never understand why people question the veracity of his memories. No one has ever said why! So I'd be interested in what you think about that.

  2. Yes! I had trouble with parts of Running with Scissors for that very reason. There were a few continuity issues, plus there's the whole issue of how his family felt about the book. I think I spent most of the book wondering what was true and what wasn't.

  3. I think the veracity issues have to do with the extreme nature of his experiences. Not many people can identify with a person who winds up naked in a hotel room with a disgusting old Santa with no memory of the night before. And then there's the dog and young boy incident in Running with Scissors. It's hard to believe even if it is true.

  4. I really like Augusten Burroughs and have read pretty much everything he has written except for this and "A Wolf At the Table" (which is on my list for this year). Not sure about this ... I'm not a big fan of Christmas-themed books as a rule.

  5. That cover disturbs me. I stay far, far away from Burroughs because a) I don't like books full of dysfunction and b) I definitely hate it when memoirs read like fiction. Just make it fiction!

  6. I thought the first story may possibly have been the best ever I have read of Burroughs so far. The rest of the book was pretty good--not as great as his other stuff but still funny!


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