The typically unabashed Augusten Burroughs refused a photo op while demonstrating sit-ups on the bare floor of the kitchen at a formal event Saturday night.
“This is for people with back issues,” he instructed Valerie Connors, president of the Atlanta Writers Club, who listened attentively, but didn’t get down and give him 20. Astonished waiters feigned indifference, careful not to trip over the prone author, splattering hors d’oeuvres over the Atlanta Contemporary Arts Center kitchen, before delivery to the crowd of over 100.
Augusten, the keynote speaker at the 100 anniversary of the AWC on Saturday, April 19, dressed casually, though minus his signature hat.
“I ran out of clothes. I don’t have formal ones,” he said, as we hurried to my car out of the rain. “I remember wanting to be famous more than anything, and then when I got a very small degree of fame, I didn’t like it. I went to black tie event like I rolled out of bed. I was mortified.
I told the host: “There’s a reason I didn’t dress in a suit tonight.” “Well, I’d Certainly like to hear it,” he said.
No he shies from the spotlight. “While everybody else is out jet-skiing,” he says, “i really want to stay in my room.” He’s become immune to what people think, and advised writers not to be afraid of what family and friends thought if they found themselves in a book. “Bad things can happen,” he said. “You can get sued,” which he did by the disguised family in his memoir “Running With Scissors. But everything I wrote was true.”
With almost 20 years since he’s had a drink, he claims his life is “more of a mess now than it ever was when I was drunk.” Getting sober opened up the compressed time trapped in his alcoholic hazewatching home shopping networks, keeping bottles, so that they wouldn’t rattle so much in the trash.
Today, he does not “journal” -which he deems the “most hated word in the English language, but he is able to look directly at the truth, no matter how painful, ugly or threatening.
“I’ve learned I can’t control people’s thoughts, as much as I’ve tried,” he says. “End the end, it really doesn’t matter. Tell the truth, look it in the eye. You can’t wait until all your friends and family are dead to write about them.”