“A Wolf at the Table”

August 12, 2008 at 4:43 pm | Posted in Memoir | Leave a comment

You have to hand it to Augusten Burroughs.  He probably had one of the singularly most warped, messed-up childhoods ever.  I remember thinking partway through Running With Scissors that I could never feel justified in complaining about my childhood, ever again.  I couldn’t forget the book – could you? – so when I saw A Wolf at the Table had come out, I wanted to read it right away.


This is a book of a different order.  It’s almost gothic, in the slow decay of the background scenery and the gradual buildup of psychological horror.  Is he or isn’t he?  Did he or didn’t he?  By the end it is absolutely chilling.  It doesn’t help that it’s a sort of prequel to Running With Scissors, and that even if you haven’t read it, you know the story doesn’t end with a rainbow and tweeting birds.


I’m actually an aficionado of horror, noir, and true crime, though I dismiss most of what’s produced in these genres as trash.  My old roommate Sandy and I once had a discussion about why we both loved these books (and movies, etc), and were surprised to find it was for completely different reasons.  She was fascinated with the way a book could make her feel a sort of sympathy for a psychologically aberrant creature, seeing the world through an entirely different perspective.  I, on the other hand, liked knowing that the story had already resolved, that by the time I read the book all these events were lodged firmly in the past.  Holding the dry paper pages in my hands, sitting in my comfy spot, I could say, “It’s just a story.”  Even a true story eventually ends.


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