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Author Self-Helps Himself

There’s a certain swaggering presumptuousness in authoring a book of advice.  Telling troubled people how to lead their lives is a substantial endeavor with potentially weighty consequences.   It’s hard to imagine too many people pulling it off gracefully.  That’s why, as a society, we officially and unofficially limit serious advice-giving to credentialed experts, spiritual leaders, and Oprah Winfrey.

But apparently those limits don’t apply to Augusten Burroughs, who has written a new book guiding us through some of life’s most consequential situations. In This is How: proven aid in overcoming shyness, molestation, fatness, spinsterhood, grief, disease, lushery, decrepitude & more– for young and old alike, Burroughs tackles touchy subjects with sage-sounding prescriptions that are in no way substantiated through science, expert testimony, or convincing anecdotal evidence.  Which would be forgivable if the book were as tongue-in-cheek as the longwinded title suggests, but Burroughs is earnest to a fault.

That’s not to say his book isn’t interesting or well-written.  If you’re a fan of his previous works (Dry, Running with Scissors), you know that he learned many of life’s lessons through the school of hard knocks – and him meditating on those hard-won truths, what’s saved him, is actually fascinating.  But the book is self-reflection awkwardly packaged as advice.   It reads as if he was trying (and failing) to not write another autobiographical work.

So let me try my hand at some advice:  if you have the stomach for profundities like – “Seeing the truth means looking at everything for the first time, every time.” – then this book should prove to be thought-provoking and inspirational, if not entirely useful.  – Ransom, Reference

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