I have a fascination with Augusten Burroughs.
Now that I’ve admitted being an average American reader, it’s time to share this gem which was posted to The New York Times site two days ago.
Mr. Burroughs has published a new memoir, Lust And Wonder, which is probably the motivation for allowing a journalist into his home in Ossining, NY. It’s a beautiful article, though, and should be of special interest to writers. I got a genuine feel for the way the atmosphere of this home — once owned by John Cheever — encourages an author.
The article also brings back memories of one (I don’t recall which) of Mr. Burroughs’ previous nonfiction books, which described looking at real estate. The author saw one house that was so perfect he made a list of things no one could never do in the house. Naturally, “don’t fart” was one of them. Such a wise man. He didn’t buy that house.
Augusten Burroughs’ books are bestsellers. On the surface, that puts them in a category with some mediocre writing, but his books don’t belong with mediocre writing. They have a popular appeal which is more complicated than the appeal of sterile suspense novels.
Secret: That’s how some good books find their way onto bestseller lists, and most the time even editors can’t predict when it’s going to happen.
Mr. Burroughs’ books also appeal to sophisticated readers who never buy anything from the drugstore paperback rack.
We call that universality.