Review of Â â€śThis Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike." by Augusten Burroughs; St. Martin's Press
If you think you're fat, can't get a job, suck at relationships, drink too much -- basically if you're a human being who can't cope, and therapy and all those other self-help books aren't working -- try AugustenÂ Burroughs' new title, "This Is How: Proven Aid in OvercomingÂ Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery,Â Decrepitude & More."
Burroughs, author of the bestselling confessional memoirs "Running With Scissors" and "Dry,â€ť has written a self-help book that ridicules the multi-billion dollar industry from the perspective of someone who has seen it all. Citing his own flaws and personal tragedies, he offers sensible advice to the reader. This memoir/self-help hybrid suits his Sedaris-like laugh-at-yourself sarcasm, but he adjusts his tone accordingly when the subject matter gets heavy.
WhileÂ BurroughsÂ pokes fun, explaining that "a positive outlook can't be purchased through a few positive affirmations thrown against a mirror," he provides a very funny and insightful guide to dealing with life and all the baggage that comes with it. Paging through chapter titles like, "How to Be a Good Mental Patient," "How to End Your Life," and "How to Feel Sorry For Yourself," I thought the majority of the read would beÂ a self-deprecating memoir, but it was filled with reflective, sincere and hard-earned wisdom from a self-proclaimed recovering alcoholic with "the most appalling and hopeless childhood." He admits: "I am a complete and total fuck-up."
Although I craved more ofÂ Burroughs' signature storytelling and at times resisted being told what to do, the book definitely triggered introspection. The section "How to Be Fat," about our cultureâ€™s endless obsession with being thin, resonated as truth when Burroughs states simply that many of us don't succeed at losing weight because "you feel the pressure to be thin, but not the desire." He then surprisingly devotes an entire section to anorexia, with such remarkable insight and empathy that it left me wondering how the disease affected his own life. He never says.
As the title promises, there is something for everyone. For those endlessly dating who can't find "the one," he recommends to "get out of your own way," and for those who have confidence issues, he recommends to "practice not giving a shit." As the topics get heavier, his writing becomes more delicate. In the touching section for parents whose dying child asks, "Am I going to die?,â€ť he explains his hypothetical approach, which would include believing in miracles. Still, he manages to be really funny.
No one is immune to problems, and "Everybody feels like a dented can inside," according toÂ Burroughs. In world that often forces fakes smiles while pursuing ever elusive "happiness,"Â BurroughsÂ gives us permission to "just feel like shit," and from that shit we can transform.