Toil & Trouble: A Memoir

Augusten Burroughs. St. Martin’s, $27.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-01995-0
In his whimsical but thin latest, Burroughs reveals another odd facet of the famously dysfunctional family life he recalled in his bestselling Running with Scissors: witchcraft. Having received the “Gift” of witchcraft powers from his mother and grandmother, witchery for Burroughs is not about flying broomsticks but rather visions, premonitions, and intense desires, focused by improvised “magick” rituals, that somehow nudge ordinary life in a fortunate direction. (His first try ends in a schoolyard bully getting his comeuppance via a poetically fitting medical condition.) In adulthood, a series of spells enable him and husband Christopher to move from Manhattan to a dream house in rural Connecticut, and the book is at heart an affectionate, gently humorous portrait of their neurotic version of domestic tranquility, told through picaresque anecdotes sometimes tangentially related to magic. A ghostly voice sounds at the 200-year-old manse; a tornado blows through; raucous local eccentrics show up; Christopher soothes Burroughs’ manifold anxieties; Burroughs fusses over Christopher and dramatizes his own obsessions with decor, cleaning chores, landscaping, and dogs. The material is sometimes funny and touching, but too often it’s mundane—“the puppy is so perfectly behaved, not peeing once indoors.” Burroughs’s fans will love his comic riffs, but others may not fall under the spell of this uninvolving saga. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 05/21/2019
Release date: 10/01/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-250-24015-6
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