BY Advocate Contributors
December 03 2009 1:35 AM ET
If it’s something in the vein of Truman Capote’s sugar-scented A Christmas Memory you’re expecting from Augusten Burroughs’s You Better Not Cry, think again. While the author shares more than a dollop of Capote’s bitter humor, this holiday memoir brims with a darkness that verges on gothic. Yet Burroughs manages to navigate pathways to pathos — even when he’s in the arms of a wanton Santa Claus he picks up at a bar or snuggling with the grimly homeless on the streets of New York. To suggest that Burroughs’s personal life is a jarring juxtaposition of tragic and comic is something apparent in his colossal achievement, Running With Scissors, and the parallel leitmotif can be found in these holiday-themed essays. When reached in New York, where he lives, he’s in the midst of holiday hysteria with an injured hand.
Advocate.com: Are you OK?
Augusten Burroughs: Oh, I’m OK. It was the morning before Thanksgiving. I had to fly to Dothan, Ala. My uncle — I love him to death — went in the hospital for jock itch and left with stage four cancer of an unknown origin. My partner Dennis and I just broke up after ten years. It is a particularly tense time. So anyway, I had a car arriving downstairs in about 10 minutes and remembered that I forgot the rechargeable batteries for the camera. So I ran from the bathroom, down the hall, and whacked my hand on the wall as I went. Once I got into the other room, I realized that I should make the bed up really quick. I leaned forward to do that and when I did, I saw that when I whacked my hand, I had scratched my index finger and I thought, Fuck, now I’ve got to take time to get a Band-Aid on it. And when I flexed it, I saw that it was cut to the bone. I thought, Fuck, this may need stitches. I’m clumsy and I’ve had to have a lot of stitches in my life and I saw that this did. And so I called my doctor and said, "Do I have to go to the emergency room or can you just do it?" He said, "Call the dermatologist," so I called the dermatologist and he was out.
Yet you wound up in the office of one of the finest plastic surgeons in the city. Did you want to have your eyes done while you were there?
I wanted to have everything done. I’d never been to a plastic surgeon before, but one of the things I noticed is that he was so careful. I thought it would be 10 minutes for stitches. He had me go into his little procedure room. It took three motherfuckin’ hours of hand surgery because I’d cut a tendon. I told him, "When I first sat down, it was like having Barbra Streisand come to sing at your 2-year old’s birthday party but it turned into a pro bono concert." He finished up and wrapped me in bandages, but he charged just about nothing.