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This Is HowReview - This Is How
Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike
by Augusten Burroughs
Macmillan Audio, 2012
Review by Christian Perring
Sep 25th 2012 (Volume 16, Issue 39)

In this book of advice, memoirist Augusten Burroughs sets out his view of how to deal with life's difficulties.  It is extremely annoying, even when he may even be right, and his criticisms of standard approaches are thoughtful.  It's hard to pinpoint quite why the book makes you want to scream, but here are a few guesses.  There's a lot of bullshit here; many of his ideas don't make much sense.  It's based on his experiences of abuse, addiction, and rehab, and he spells out a mixture of cliché and wild speculation.   He belabors the obvious and goes on at length, indulging in overlong sentences.  Then he makes strange claims that might be based on a germ of truth but can have at most very limited validity.  Burroughs likes to provoke his readers, so he tries hard to do this.  Listening to the unabridged audiobook, which Burroughs performs himself, he relishes explaining how to feel like crap, how to ride an elevator, how to end your life, how to feel sorry for yourself, how to finish your drink, and so on.

Burroughs rails against false cheerfulness and optimism, against ideas of fate and feelings of entitlement, and a lot of popular self-help psychology.  If he has a message, it is that one has to face the terrible events in one's life, accept that they have happened, and move on.  A person always has options and can take control of their life, no matter how bad it is, even if you are being abused, you are a parent with a dying child, or you are nursing a dying partner.  We can cope with anything and it will turn out that it is not as bad as we fear it will be, even if it is terrible.  Even when the worst happens, we can survive.  We don't need anyone else, even partners or parents, to be able to continue and we can even be happy again.  We are never powerless, but we must also know our limitations. 

So of course Burroughs is skeptical of the doctrines of Alcoholics Anonymous and also of inspirational speakers who say that we can do anything if we want it hard enough.  He spends a lot of time talking about facts and the need to face them.  But the basic idea is simple enough, and is very familiar.  The best parts of the book are when Burroughs talks about his own life and experience and stops giving advice. 

 

 

Link: Publisher website

 

© 2012 Christian Perring        

 

Christian Perring, Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York


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