This is How by Augusten Burroughs. Review by John

BurroughsI had such high hopes for this book sub-titled “Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude, & More For Young and Old Alike”. While I wasn’t overly concerned with most of these topics (perhaps lushery), but I was hopeful that my creeping decrepitude at least might be relieved. Despite its unambiguous title, I thought that this might be a satirical work or a major send-up of the tiresome self-help book industry. It emerged that there was some criticism of the genre but that more unconventional self-help is pretty much what was delivered in any case.

It is undeniable that Burroughs has had the kind of sometimes outrageous existence (about which he has written extensively) that might equip someone with some worthy statements on ‘how they did it’. I could not disagree with his denunciation of the most common “superupbeat” manuals but he ended up with some of the same clothing his own material. Much of what he says is commonsensical which always raises the problem of how to avoid clichéd material. He does not always manage this but is at his best when what he has to say is more tightly embedded in his own experiences and thus the sections on suicide and death come closest to being satisfactory. Throughout, there is a sense of annoyance at the misguided nature of much self-help pap while he promotes his own approach which in its simplest terms involves seeing humour in life’s events even when it has to be dark, stripping away pointless guilt and promoting a sober analytic perspective that seeks out the sometimes unflinchingly realistic aspects of conflicts situations

In summary, not bad for the genre with some useful insights into his own life.


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