Tuesday, September 4, 2012

This is How--Or Is It?


As the title suggests, Augusten Burroughs’ This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More--For Young and Old Alike is a purported self-help book for a plethora of serious and uncomfortable issues including suicide, anorexia, alcoholism, death and low self-esteem.

The work is delivered as a collection of essays, separated into chapters, each with its own witty, sarcastic title. Burroughs shares some of his own experiences but derives most of his vignettes and real-life applications from friends and acquaintances (perhaps because he exhausted his own tales in previous works like Running with Scissors, Dry, Magical Thinking, Possible Side Effects and A Wolf at the Table.) Abstract, constructive advice is provided, making each lesson more applicable to individual situations.

Burroughs attempts to utilize comedy to mitigate the harsh truths which have been, are and will always be masked by the many individuals who struggle with self-defeating, haunted-past, personal difficulties
(because no one lives without facing some challenges--despite how they may present themselves.) Avid readers of Burroughs’ previous works may be better judges, or at least approach this collection of essays with more confidence in the author’s opinions (having knowledge of his past experiences to support his general, overarching pieces of advice.) This work alone, however, does not offer a great deal more than inspirational quotes easily found with a Google search. Burroughs’ conveyance is just less sugarcoated. The candidness which critics have praised in his previous works is simply not as admirable when it is applied to others' personal battles.

While covering such a vast amount of difficult material is undeniably a hefty undertaking, only a miniscule number of individuals face every issue included in this book. Focusing his efforts on a select number of problems and delving deeper into specific occurrences, thoughts, consequences and solutions might have resulted in a more unique work by Burroughs. The read is also choppy, as the subject matter jumps from one end of the self-help spectrum to the other.

Someone searching for a general self-help read may be completely satisfied with This is How. Individual chapters might also be used together with other, more comprehensive works on specific topics. Although this was far from my favorite read, it is short and parts are entertaining. Others more intelligent than I have deemed This is How a wonderful coverage of socially taboo topics.

If you are a Burroughs fan, prove me wrong--retrieve this book from TWU Libraries’ browsing collection today.

~Aubrey James

Editor's note: This author expressed reservations about posting a bad review. She was assured that honesty trumps all. For those who disagree with the assessment here, your comments--as always--are welcome.

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