Running With Scissors author Augusten Burroughs headlined the Queer Awareness Month opening reception Monday night in Roone Arledge Auditorium.
Bwog arrived early enough to snag a choice seat in the front—although not late enough to miss a series of lengthy introductions from various student leaders—and thoroughly enjoyed Burroughs’ keynote address. Dressed in a baseball cap, leather jacket, and jeans, a noticeably slimmed-down Burroughs greeted the audience with a reading from his soon-to-be-published collection of holiday essays titled, You Better Not Cry.
“Christmas is my favorite holiday,” he explained about his new book. “But each one has been fucking horrible.” The essays span his lifetime of Christmas experiences, including a particularly mortifying episode from his mid-20s that inspired the chapter he selected for the reading.
“It’s short, but it’s CRUDE,” he joked with the audience before beginning the excerpt, a reflection on his drunken barroom seduction by an older man dressed as Santa Claus. Burroughs took several paragraphs to hit his stride as a reader, but the audience quickly warmed to his clever retelling of the event, which indeed was not the stuff of a Rankin/Bass animated special.
Question-and-answer time followed, although the evening’s audience was unusually bashful. A long, awkward silence fell over the auditorium after Burroughs opened the floor to questions, forcing him to fill time and eventually remark, “This is going well…” One voice finally piped up from the seats asking about Burroughs’ dog, Bentley, and that broke the ice to a dozen or so more questions about his writing process, his latest book, A Wolf At the Table, his legal troubles, and his life.
Interestingly for a keynote speaker at Queer Awareness Month, Burroughs downplayed his sexuality as having a minor role in his everyday life.
“I never think about it, ever,” he said. “I’m right-handed. It’s like the same thing as that.”
He later went on to share that the death of a close friend—Pighead, who appears in his memoir, Dry—also changed the way he related to the outside world.
“I don’t care about the same things now and that’s one of them. I don’t care what people think of me.”
Burroughs signed books afterward for a long line of fans, a motley group he described during his talk as “smart girls with glasses, their boyfriends, their parents, a few lesbians, and one gay guy.” While Bwog believes those demographic estimates were probably a little off for Monday night’s crowd, Burroughs’ brutal wit and keen spirit were otherwise spot on.