Augusten Burroughs in New York City, 2007
October 23, 1965
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Occupation||Screenwriter, memoirist, essayist.|
|Notable works||Running with Scissors (2002), A Wolf at the Table (2008)|
|Relatives||John Elder Robison (brother)|
Burroughs was born Christopher Richter Robison in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the younger of two sons to poet Margaret Robison and John G. Robison, former head of the philosophy department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is the younger brother of fellow memoirist John Elder Robison. He was raised in Massachusetts, including the towns of Shutesbury, Amherst, and Northampton. His parents divorced on July 29, 1978, when Burroughs was twelve years old, and he was adopted by his mother's psychiatrist who resided in the Northampton area.
Burroughs dropped out of school after the sixth grade and obtained a GED at age 17. He chose his name at age 18, and legally changed it in Boston. He later enrolled at Holyoke Community College in Holyoke, Massachusetts, as a pre-med student, dropping out before the end of the first semester. He decided to settle in New York City and worked for a Manhattan-based advertising company. In 1996, he sought treatment for alcoholism at a rehabilitation center in Minnesota before returning to Manhattan.
In addition to Scissors, Burroughs penned a second memoir, Dry (2003), about his experience during and after treatment for alcoholism. It was followed by two collections of memoir essays, Magical Thinking (2003) and Possible Side Effects (2006). His first novel, Sellevision (2000), is currently in production as a feature film.
Burroughs' writing focuses on subjects such as advertising, psychiatrists, religious families, and home shopping networks. It has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, House & Garden, BlackBook, New York, The Times, Bark, Attitude, and Out. Burroughs writes a monthly column for Details. Early in his career, he was a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.
In a January 2005 interview, reflecting on his life with his then partner, graphic designer Dennis Pilsits, Burroughs said paying tax should allow same-sex couples full legal entitlements:
"That's what gay people need to be allowed to do – get married. Not have domestic partnerships; that's not acceptable. I don't believe for a moment [gay marriage] would destroy the sanctity of marriage. But let's just say for a moment that it does. Well, then the sanctity of marriage just has to be destroyed. It's just too bad. You can't have one set of benefits and only give them to some of the people."
In 2005, Universal Studios and Red Wagon Productions bought the rights to a film based on a then-unreleased memoir about Burroughs' relationship with his father. The book, called A Wolf at the Table, was released on April 29, 2008.
In October 2009, Burroughs released You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas, a book of short Christmas stories based on true events that occurred during his childhood.
Burroughs divides time between New York City and Amherst, Massachusetts. On April 1, 2013 Augusten married his longtime agent and companion Christopher Schelling at New York City Hall, Staten Island.
|“||It's still a memoir, it's marketed as a memoir, they've agreed one hundred percent that it is a memoir.||”|
|— Augusten Burroughs on the Running with Scissors settlement, |
In August 2007, Burroughs and his publisher, St. Martin's Press, settled with the Turcotte family, who stated that they were the basis for the Finch family portrayed in Running with Scissors. The Turcottes, who alleged that Running with Scissors was largely fictional and written in a sensational manner, sought damages of $2 million for invasion of privacy, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Burroughs defended his work as "entirely accurate," but agreed to call the work a "book" (instead of "memoir") in the author's note, to alter the acknowledgments page in future editions to recognize the Turcotte family's conflicting memories of described events, and express regret for "any unintentional harm" to the Turcotte family. Burroughs felt vindicated by the settlement.
"I'm not at all sorry that I wrote [the book]. And you know, the suit settled – it settled in my favor. I didn't change a word of the memoir, not one word of it. It's still a memoir, it's marketed as a memoir, [the Turcottes] agreed one hundred percent that it is a memoir."
Upon settling the Running with Scissors case in August 2007, Burroughs stated,
I consider this not only a personal victory but a victory for all memoirists. I still maintain that the book is an entirely accurate memoir, and that it was not fictionalized or sensationalized in any way. I did not embellish or invent elements. We had a very strong case because I had the truth on my side."
Film and television
Running with Scissors was made into a film in 2006. It was directed by Ryan Murphy, produced by Brad Pitt, and starred Joseph Cross, Brian Cox, Annette Bening, Alec Baldwin, and Evan Rachel Wood. Bening was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role.
Burroughs is currently writing the screenplay for two upcoming television series: he is working on a Showtime series based on his memoir, Dry, and writing a drama series for CBS titled The Nature of Fire, which follows a group of firefighters.
- 2000 – Sellevision (ISBN 0-312-26772-X) (fiction)
- 2002 – Running with Scissors (ISBN 0-312-28370-9)
- 2003 – Dry (ISBN 0-312-42379-9)
- 2004 – Magical Thinking (ISBN 0-312-31594-5)
- 2006 – Possible Side Effects (ISBN 0-312-31596-1)
- 2008 – A Wolf at the Table (ISBN 0-312-42827-8)
- 2009 – You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas (ISBN 0-312-34191-1)
- 2011 – Take Five: Four Favorite Essays Plus One Never-Been-Seen Essay (ISBN 1-429-95854-5)
- 2012 – This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike. (ISBN 9780312563554)
- 2016 – Lust & Wonder: A Memoir (ISBN 9780312342036)
- 2007 – Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's – John Elder Robison (ISBN 0-7393-5768-9) (foreword)
- Stuever, Hank (July 30, 2002). "Growing Up Truly Absurd". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 25, 2010.
- In 'Sellevision,' expect silly, not satire
- Bolonik, Kera (July 8, 2003). "Shaken and stirred". Salon.com. Retrieved December 25, 2008.
- "25th annual Lambda Literary Award winners announced". LGBT Weekly, June 4, 2013.
- Interview with Augusten Burroughs, David Shankbone, Wikinews, October 12, 2007.
- "Ruthless with Scissors", Vanity Fair, Buzz Bissinger. January 2007.
- "Burroughs Settles Lawsuit with Scissors Family", USA Today, Rodrique Ngowi. August 30, 2007.
- "Family Settles With 'Scissors' Author". Retrieved 2007-10-27.