Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Running with Scissors is the true story of
a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions
of Anne Sexton) gave him away to be
raised by her psychiatrist, a dead ringer
for Santa, and a lunatic in the bargain.
Suddenly, at age twelve, Augusten found
himself living in a dilapidated Victorian in
perfect squalor. The doctors bizarre family,
a few patients, and a pedophile living in
the backyard shed completed the tableau.
Here, there were no rules; there was no
school. The Christmas tree stayed up until
summer, the Valium was eaten like Pez.
And when things got dull, there was always
the vintage electroshock-therapy machine
under the stairs...
Author Augusten Burroughs was raised by his
mothers psychiatrist, who lived in a dilapidated
house of almost unimaginable squalor. Why are
psychiatrists such dirty people? Do you think medical
schools should teach basic house-cleaning
skills to psychiatric residents?
- Hair and hairdressing are themes that resonate
throughout the memoir. Are you happy with your
own hairstyle? What would you do if somebody
were to offer you a makeover?
- Augusten Burroughs was fascinated with celebrity
and pop culture as a child, and wanted to be
famous himself. Now that Augusten Burroughs is
famous, do you think he still does his own laundry,
or do you think he sends it out? In addition, would
Augusten have an easier time getting a good table
at a New York City restaurant than you?
- Members of the Finch family regularly consult
the bible when faced with making a decision,
no matter how small. A question is asked,
the bible is opened, and a word is chosen at
random. Is Bible-dipping something you would
like to incorporate into your daily life and if so,
should Wall Street begin using this strategy as
a forecasting tool?
- One of the most disturbing features of Running with
Scissors is the graphic sexual relationship between
the thirteen year old author and the thirty-four year
old Bookman, who is Dr. Finchs patient and adopted
son. Yet if Bookman had been a television star,
this would have been an exciting relationship any
parent would approve of. Discuss why.
6. Throughout the memoir, Augustens mentally ill
mother is obsessed with achieving her own fame
as a poet. But everybody knows that nobody reads
poetry, and thus its almost impossible to achieve
fame as a poet. Why didnt Augustens mother write
a line of Chinese romance novels instead?
- Running with Scissors details a world with no
boundaries, little personal privacy and regrettable
decorating and fashion decisions. Now that Target
sells tasteful yet inexpensive items designed by
famed designers Michael Graves and Todd Oldham,
everyone can afford to look good and live in a nice
home. Do you wish Target had been around when
you were a child?
- Augusten uses humor throughout his memoir, even
while describing appalling or horrifying aspects
of his unconventional childhood. Does this inspire
you to do something appalling or horrifying and
then tell somebody about it, trying for laughs?
- The memoir genre of literature has come under
a lot of fire. Because there have been so many
memoirs published, it almost seems that Augusten
jumped on the memoir bandwagon a little late.
Explain why most of the other memoirs should be
pulped, while Augusten should continue to write yet
even more memoirs.
- Reviews have compared Augusten Burroughs to
David Sedaris, yet Augusten is a much funnier writer
and has more unusual material to work with. Do
you think David Sedaris hates Augusten Burroughs?
If so, should Augusten send him a sympathy note?
- The last chapter of Running with Scissors describes
the opening scene to The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Since then, has Mary Tyler Moore had more
cosmetic surgery and do you think her eyes are
too tight and surprised?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Picador.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.