I don't often read collections of essays. For some reason, the thought of reading essays conjures up my sophomore English class, circa 1993. When I say to myself, "Self, you're about to read an essay," something happens in my head, and I think it's my eyeballs trying unsuccessfully to hide in my stomach. As an English teacher, I realize the irony of what I've just written. But the fact remains, I equate essays with boring.
This collection of essays, thankfully, is anything but. In fact, they were quite enjoyable. The title, Magical Thinking, is taken from the author's belief that he can influence external events simply by thinking about them. Even though it is totally irrational, I too share this trait. FUN. The essays were so funny that I was laughing out loud -- once in the waiting room of my doctor's office, and I think I got a look or two for that one. Oh well.
The strength of Magical Thinking, to my mind, was the fact that Burroughs does not discuss his messed up family. I read Running with Scissors, and it was good, but after a hundred pages I get the point: Your childhood was really messed up. That sucks for you. (But at least he didn't suffer the horrific abuse of Dave Pelzer.)
Instead of tackling his dysfunctional family and insane childhood, Burroughs tackles the insanity of his adult life. And trust me, the adult Augusten is much, much more entertaining. You'll squirm as he kills a psycho rat in his NYC apartment, cackle as he torments a crazy cleaning lady, and feel all gooey inside as he finally meets a perfect match.
In a nutshell: Super entertaining, Burroughs redeems the essay. Each one brings a hilarious new topic to the table. You may not gain philosophical enlightenment, but everyone can find something to relate to here. More importantly, you'll have a great time along the way.
Bibliolatry Scale: 5 out of 6 stars