Dry Augusten Burroughs (St. Martin’s Press) reading at Powell’s, 1005 W. Burnside, Friday, 7:30 pm
At a recent book reading in New York, as Augusten Burroughs returned to his seat after reading an excerpt from his new memoir Dry, a woman could be

seen mouthing "I love you, I love you" while applauding madly. While Burroughs is a tall and handsome man, he is gay, and it is not his come-hither appearance that was causing this woman to swoon: it was his exceptional ability to tell an exceptional story in a completely common way. His 2002 best-selling memoir Running With Scissors (the best book yet in the growing "I'm gay and want to write about myself" genre) was lurid, sordid, dirty, and a ridiculous page-turner mostly by virtue of Burroughs' extremely unorthodox adolescent content. In Dry, the tale itself is less amazing, and so the author's technique shines all the more.

Dry begins with the narrator, a successful hot shot in advertising, being forced into rehab because his coworkers feel he is an alcoholic. The rest of the memoir deals with him actually accepting that they are right. The writing is short and crisp, full of "inside" thoughts put on the page. Burroughs refers to the AA motto ("God grant me the serenity," etc.) as the beginning of "that Sinead O'Connor album," and he makes fun of the way people dress and talk with such regularity that you accept this person as your basic gay man. Not that you always like this person--at times the narrator is capable of such immense shallowness (like your basic gay man?) that you can't help but want to take control of his life, slap him around a bit and tell him to snap out of it. There is also a slight tendency for stand-up comedy one liners to pop up whenever the going gets serious, and because Burroughs' writing style seems so effortless, these quips stand out all the more, though they happen so rarely they are easily forgiven.

By the time you reach the last page of Dry, you feel as if you know an interesting man, and as you look at Burroughs' striking face on the book jacket you can't wait for the chance to get to know him a little more. STEVEN LANKENAU