From the beginning of his writing career, Augusten Burroughs was determined to be honest, even if writing about his often messy life would be a daunting process.
In his memoir “Running with Scissors,” and his later works, Burroughs has engaged in self-reflection, an approach that has won him a loyal following and inspired a hit movie. He continues that process in his latest book, “Lust and Wonder.”
“That’s really the key: to understand what happened to you, what your role in it was,” said Burroughs, who speaks tonight at the Schlafly Branch of the St. Louis Public Library. “Just becoming more and more and more truthful with yourself.”
'I'm going to just put everything out there'
“Lust and Wonder” examines Burroughs’ love life, which overlays an early bedrock of family dysfunction established in “Running with Scissors,” made into a hit movie.
In his 10 books, Burroughs has explored issues ranging from his childhood sexual abuse to his alcoholism to the difficulties of being gay. In one cringe-worthy passage in “Lust and Wonder,” he describes how he justified cheating on a partner by thinking of it as a “research project.”
We talked with Burroughs about his new memoir and what it's like to subject his innermost thoughts to public scrutiny.
How are you able to withstand opening yourself up to the public?
I think I made sort of a decision after my first memoir, ‘Running with Scissors.” Right before I was about to go onstage in Los Angeles, for a book reading, when I saw the audience, it was absolutely packed and it was full of lots of celebrities and I was thinking, “This is a horrible mistake. What have I done? I can’t believe I wrote this book. What a nightmare.”
But people had already read the book, you know. And they were coming up to me and telling me they really enjoyed it; they could relate. I decided that from then on in, I’m going to just put everything out there.
You seem happy at the end of 'Lust and Wonder.' Are you?
I am. I’m really happy. You know, it’s really the first time in my life that I have felt like that. And that creates challenges for my writing too.
Isn’t happiness like the kiss of death for a memoir writer?
Yeah, I mean … I don’t know how many more memoirs I’ll have. Because it’s like, “I don’t want to read about, you know, the happy middle-aged white guy in Connecticut with his husband and four dogs.”
Here’s the trailer for the movie “Running with Scissors,” based on the memoir by Augusten Burroughs.
If you go:
Augusten Burroughs appearance, sponsored by Left Bank Books
7 p.m., Thursday, March 30
St. Louis Public Library Schlafly Branch, 225 N. Euclid Ave.
Free; proof of purchase of any one of the author’s books required for signing
Follow Nancy on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL