This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike’ by Augusten Burroughs
May 14, 2012 10:57 PM   Subscribe

This is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike. is Augusten Burroughs' new self-help book (reviews here, here, and here), one which scorns the genre cliches of goal-setting and affirmations in favor of a hard-nosed philosophy of self-honesty based on lessons learned from his own background of abuse, neglect, and rape. In an interview with CNN, he gives snippets of his views on subjects like the harm of people "clinging to a dream which maybe they don't actually have the talent to do", suicide ("it doesn't release you, it adds a new layer of horror") and the quest for thinness ("the brain is magnificent and to focus on your gastrointestinal track is a complete waste"). (previously)
posted by shivohum (42 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
I saw an ad for this in the iPad edition of The New Yorker earlier today, and was wondering what it was about. I looked at the ad for a long while, trying to find some thread of something from it. It's an interesting idea for a book, and might be worth reading.

Thanks for this post. I look forward to going through the links.
posted by hippybear at 11:07 PM on May 14, 2012


I was interested enough to check out the book snippet and I found . . . well, lots of absolutes. X doesn't work, Y doesn't work, etc.

Not my cup of tea.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:42 PM on May 14, 2012


Based just on the interview, his outlook actually reminds me quite a bit of ACT therapy, particularly these parts:
Contacting The Present Moment means being psychologically present: consciously connecting with whatever is happening right here, right now. ...

Values are what you want your life to be about, deep in your heart. What you want to stand for. What you want to do with your time on this planet. What ultimately matters to you in the big picture. What you would like to be remembered for by the people you love.

Committed action means taking action guided by your values - doing what matters - even if it's difficult or uncomfortable.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:07 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Never ever ever read self help books. Simply because they will make you feel small and confused in the end (they are like drugs, feels good right there reading it, but leaves you empty). The concept of someone who's found a cure based on his or her life experiences does not apply universally. Instead, read science and psychology, learn about the powerful method of metacognition (everyone at MeFi should be good at this), observe your own behaviour, your reaction patterns and never stop asking: Why am I reacting like this? What caused this situation? Und zu weiter. Read social psychology, primatology, evolutionary biology, history, basically everything related to human behaviour. Learn to know where you come from and what shaped you as a person, on different levels, with different views and perspectives.
posted by nordlys at 12:28 AM on May 15, 2012 [19 favorites]


I don't know about the book, but I'm gratified to learn the excellent word "lushery".
posted by Segundus at 1:00 AM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Whenever I hear about somebody famous, I do an Internet search about them, so I can learn more. I type their name into an Internet search engine. But after I type their name, I always add the word "kitten", because I think that extra keyword puts a particularly interesting spin on my search results. Really! Try it! Here's George Washington kitten and Steve Jobs kitten and Einstein kitten and Hitler kitten and... you get the idea.

Augusten Burroughs kitten
posted by twoleftfeet at 1:33 AM on May 15, 2012 [34 favorites]


That is genius twoleftfeet.
posted by JHarris at 1:41 AM on May 15, 2012


Genius kitten
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:04 AM on May 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think framing this as a self-help book is doing it a great disservice. It's more of a "laugh to keep from crying" book.
posted by DU at 2:24 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Before I even clicked the link I just knew the cover of that book was going to be in an old-timey Almanack / snake oil flyer font. Just enough irony to claim plausible deniability.
posted by chavenet at 2:38 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Looking at Amazon's sample pages. First thing in the book, a woman on an elevator demanding a man smile. Metafilter told me you can't do that to strangers.
posted by Goofyy at 3:54 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just read the first page. He should move out of the USA if he doesn't appreciate random strangers chatting him up.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 4:33 AM on May 15, 2012


I was interested but his writing style is too difficult to read. The contrast between Orwell and him on the Amazon sample is painful.
posted by epo at 4:40 AM on May 15, 2012


I think self-help books are just fine. I often read them the way literary nerds might read trashy novels - with a little bit of shame, but also with earnest interest. I think they provide great insight into how a specific person made it through their own difficult time. If you read enough of them, you start to get this interesting picture of different approaches, but certain truths start to stand out.

I also think it's great that this book is being pushed on that circuit. I think he has a unique perspective alongside the other "self-help" gurus of the day, but not so much a unique perspective when you look at the types of people who tend to gravitate toward self-help books. It seems like an audience galactically better served by someone who has lived in their shoes, rather than a monster like Dr. Laura or Dr. Phil preying upon them and cashing in.

*Adds book to shopping cart*
posted by pazazygeek at 4:59 AM on May 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


He looks way cooler in the photograph than real life. Also, he does not belong in those clothes that he wears in the interview. It just feels like maybe he's someone that Quatum Leaped into Augusten Burroughs body.
posted by Napierzaza at 5:07 AM on May 15, 2012


The contrast between Orwell and him on the Amazon sample is painful.

Really? Based on one 13-word epigram?
posted by blucevalo at 5:30 AM on May 15, 2012


Self Improvement books can be really useful/interesting. The best ones don't say "this is the one true way" but provide a number of tools that have worked for others, often times backed by research.

In short, self improvement books, like nearly anything, follow Sturgeon's Law.
posted by drezdn at 5:41 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


twoleftfeet kitten
posted by mark7570 at 5:47 AM on May 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


one which scorns the genre cliches of goal-setting and affirmations in favor of a hard-nosed philosophy of self-honesty

Who's gonna tell him that hard-nosed self-honesty is also a genre cliche?
posted by escabeche at 5:49 AM on May 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Dude sure has a range of looks depending on whether he's wearing trendy or nerdy or no glasses, growing various configurations of facial hair, showing the tats or not, wearing the workin'-man billed cap or not, or unbuttoning the front of his shirt. (Kinda running the range from Cory Doctorow to young Harry Crews to Ed Harris in a mean role in a single guy, which is a little schizo maybe?)
posted by aught at 5:52 AM on May 15, 2012


I'm currently reading something of a self-help book for pain management that was recommended on Ask and this sounds like it would either be the perfect palate cleanser or something to push me off the edge on the other side.
posted by immlass at 6:25 AM on May 15, 2012


Never ever ever read self help books.

That's pretty ridiculous to say. And I don't even like to read self help books. There are too many books in that 'genre' covering too wide a selection of topics to make a statement like this.

It is not a failure of character to seek therapeutic advice, as much as it might seem like it to some people. If you find my methods to be stupid, well, I probably find yours to be the same.
posted by TheRedArmy at 6:25 AM on May 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


I haven't read his book but after watching the brief CNN video, I can say I relate to him. And well, good for him.

But the only thing I would like to point out, if he's not about reliving the past, why are his stories based on his past? Seems like it's therapy and that's all good but I also guess he can profit from his pain because too many of us can relate.

Meh, mixed bag feelings.
posted by stormpooper at 6:35 AM on May 15, 2012


Really? Based on one 13-word epigram? One elegantly writen epigram compared to a stream of constipated "me, me, me!" tabloid style exclamations? Yes.
posted by epo at 6:48 AM on May 15, 2012


If it worked for James Frey, I'm sure it'll work for "Augusten Xon Burroughs."
posted by octobersurprise at 6:58 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I find some of reactions here interesting. I guess when anyone claims to know what's what and dares to say so, some people are going to take offense.

I've read a ton of self-help and psychology books over the years, and almost none take the perspective Burroughs does. Most self-help -- and this applies, just slightly less forcefully, to the psychology aisle -- books are rah-rah how-to-make-yourself-happy bilge. This is How is a bona fide rarity, a collection of actually true, useful advice dispensed with brutal candor and punchiness.

Maybe you already have to sympathize with the ideas, be on at least a neighboring wavelength, to appreciate them.
posted by shivohum at 7:16 AM on May 15, 2012


like tits on a bull.
posted by clavdivs at 7:29 AM on May 15, 2012


epo: One elegantly writen epigram compared to a stream of constipated "me, me, me!" tabloid style exclamations? Yes.

I think you're being a little harsh. Of course, he "went there" by quoting Orwell in the first place, always an invitation to a jinx. But that said, the writing isn't that horrendous.

nordlys: Read social psychology, primatology, evolutionary biology, history, basically everything related to human behaviour.

Funny that you recommend this because the trend in self-help is exactly that: books in a popular style based on the science of behavior. Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine: How Creativity Works. Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. The list goes on. So we're reading self-help even when we're not reading self-help. But of course, those aren't really self-help books, right?
posted by blucevalo at 7:35 AM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you read that Vanity Fair article that twoleftfeet found using his "kitten search", there seems to be some disturbing background to this guy, credibility-wise.
posted by storybored at 7:38 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


You mean the package from Madrid that was dripping and late?
posted by clavdivs at 7:50 AM on May 15, 2012


Lushery. Sounds like fun, where do I sign up?
posted by Splunge at 8:18 AM on May 15, 2012


Yeah, affirmations are cheesy, but they actually do help some people. Someone else on that elevator would have been pleased that this woman was taking an interest in him. I think the "self-help" takeaway from their encounter is that he feels bad when someone else tells him what to do but feels good when he tells others what to do. And if they pay for the opportunity, even better!
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:28 AM on May 15, 2012


blucevalo: Somehow the whole self help thing feels like a bad deal, but probably that's just me. Other people must find their own way. And yes, pop science is a lot about behaviour these days but I don't see that as self help, more a public understanding and scientific literacy thing, unless we're talking authorities like Kahneman or Sapolsky who can reveal something on a more fundamental level (primatology is incredible, Jonah Lehrer once wrote a great piece on Sapolsky and the Whitehall study). I'm more into researching specific topics, or issues, and trying to do it systematically. Being active is the key thing, and self help books put me off because I feel passivated, while finding out things on my own is satisfying and energizing.
posted by nordlys at 8:43 AM on May 15, 2012


Burroughs is so right. Those things you hold onto just keep harming you over and over again. Those things you repress keep harming you but you don't know why. The only answer is to examine them and then discard them. The Secret of Letting Go by Guy Finley is a good book on this.
posted by caddis at 8:56 AM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I know one thing, this book has a fantastic cover!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:01 AM on May 15, 2012


Burroughs is not a bad writer, and I would bet this is probably not a bad book. I do not like how it is seemingly parallel to one of the most valuable self-help books ever written:

What You Can Change and What You Can't.

Seriously, if you only have the time and the energy for one such book, this might be the one you need to read. Burroughs' book is not one that anybody needs to read.
posted by bukvich at 9:40 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm more into researching specific topics, or issues, and trying to do it systematically. Being active is the key thing, and self help books put me off because I feel passivated, while finding out things on my own is satisfying and energizing.

Yes. That is very cool. I didn't mean to imply that finding out things on your own was a bad thing. In fact, I prefer the "isn't it interesting how the mind works when you study the science" books to the books that spend 99% of their pages telling you what the problem is and 1% actually suggesting pragmatic solutions.
posted by blucevalo at 9:56 AM on May 15, 2012


I found this interview which was pretty interesting. It is mostly about the Wolf at the Table about his dad.
posted by bukvich at 10:26 AM on May 15, 2012


> If you read that Vanity Fair article that twoleftfeet found using his "kitten search", there seems to be some disturbing background to this guy, credibility-wise.

As that 2007 article points out, he didn't let the people he was writing about know he was writing about them, something that though "not a rule" seems to be advisable and common according to that article, and fair.

Later, the suit was settled and he made appropriate some changes in the front matter of his book.

I can't like the guy. The word "coward" comes to mind.
posted by Listener at 1:41 PM on May 15, 2012


> Und zu weiter. Read social psychology, primatology, evolutionary biology, history, basically everything related to human behaviour

This made me feel small and confused in the end. So it's also, I think, a great premise for a smack talking self help book.

THE SECRET TO FEELING LARGE AND IN CHARGE
BASICALLY YOU READ EVERYTHING RELATED TO HUMAN BEHAVIOR
By U.Z. Weiter

I'm off to google "und zu weiter" and then I'm going to cash in on this phenomenon with some Japanese idioms I saved up.
posted by circular at 9:27 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Would probably be more effective if the actual German phrase "und so weiter" had been used. It's actually a common abbreviation in German: u.s.w.

I'm a bit surprised to see "und zu weiter" actually has some meaning, according to Google. I'd never ever ever once heard that phrase when I was living in Germany.

Interestingly, the German edition of Wikipedia has no entry for "und zu weiter", and yet does have a page on the use of Et cetera which includes "un so weiter" (as do many other pages which are returned in a search for that phrase). I'll let you draw whatever conclusion you wish from this.
posted by hippybear at 9:59 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks for helping me with my bad German. "Zu" and "so" sound the same to me, but from now on I shall try to remember.
posted by nordlys at 11:56 PM on May 15, 2012


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