From the New York Times Bestselling author of Running With Scissors comes the story of one man trying to out-drink his memories, outlast his demons, and outrun his past. "I was addicted to "Bewitched" as a kid. I worshipped Darren Stevens the First. When he'd come home from work and Samantha would say, 'Darren, would you like me to fix you a drink.' He'd always rest his briefcase on the table below the mirror in the foyer, wipe his forehead with a monogrammed handkerchief and say, 'Better make it a double.'"
Burroughs's memoir of his troubled childhood, Running with Scissors, which was
recently issued in paperback, captured considerable attention and even had a run on the New York Times's best sellers list. This sequel is an account of his early adult life as an advertising executive in New York City attempting to recover from alcoholism. He begins his advertising career as a 19-year-old with intelligence and a flair for writing but no education past elementary school. But scars remain from the years with his alcoholic father, his lunatic mother, and her wacky psychiatrist, and drinking slowly becomes the focus of his life. Consuming prodigious amounts of alcohol often leaves him hung over and reeking, causing his employer to urge him to attend rehab for a month. He chooses a hospital for gays in Minnesota and, after a week or so, begins to gain some insight about his drinking. After rehab, he returns to his apartment and begins to gather up the 27 large garbage bags of liquor bottles he has accumulated. With irreverent and humorous touches, Burroughs manages to personalize the difficulties of recovery without ever lapsing into sentimentality. This heartfelt memoir will interest readers who enjoyed his debut and those wanting new insights into addiction and recovery. Recommended for large public libraries.-Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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St. Martin's Press
December 31, 2002
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Excerpt from Dry by Augusten Burroughs
Just Do It
Sometimes when you work in advertising you'll get a product that's really garbage and you have to make it seem fantastic, something that is essential to the continued quality of life. Like once, I had to do an ad for hair conditioner. The strategy was: Adds softness you can feel, body you can see. But the thing is, this was a lousy product. It made your hair sticky and in focus groups, women hated it. Also, it reeked. It made your hair smell like a combination of bubble gum and Lysol. But somehow, I had to make people feel that it was the best hair conditioner ever created. I had to give it an image that was both beautiful and sexy. Approachable and yet aspirational.
Advertising makes everything seem better than it actually is. And that's why it's such a perfect career for me. It's an industry based on giving people false expectations. Few people know how to do that as well as I do, because I've been applying those basic advertising principles to my life for years.
When I was thirteen, my crazy mother gave me away to her lunatic psychiatrist, who adopted me. I then lived a life of squalor, pedophiles, no school and free pills. When I finally escaped, I presented myself to advertising agencies as a self-educated, slightly eccentric youth, filled with passion, bursting with ideas. I left out the fact that I didn't know how to spell or that I had been giving blowjobs since I was thirteen.
Not many people get into advertising when they're nineteen, with no education beyond elementary school and no connections. Not just anybody can walk in off the street and become a copywriter and get to sit around the glossy black table saying things like, "Maybe we can get Molly Ringwald to do the voice-over," and "It'll be really hip and MTV-ish." But when I was nineteen, that's exactly what I wanted. And exactly what I got, which made me feel that I could control the world with my mind.
I could not believe that I had landed a job as a junior copywriter on the National Potato Board account at the age of nineteen. For seventeen thousand dollars a year, which was an astonishing fortune compared to the nine thousand I had made two years before as a waiter at a Ground Round.
That's the great thing about advertising. Ad people don't care where you came from, who your parents were. It doesn't matter. You could have a crawl space under your kitchen floor filled with little girls' bones and as long as you can dream up a better Chuck Wagon commercial, you're in.
And now I'm twenty-four years old, and I try not to think about my past. It seems important to think only of my job and my future. Especially since advertising dictates that you're only as good as your last ad. This theme of forward momentum runs through many ad campaigns.