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A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My Father (edition 2008)

by Augusten Burroughs

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1,420565,321 (3.58)29
Member:dez_jones
Title:A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My Father
Authors:Augusten Burroughs
Info:St. Martin's Press (2008), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 256 pages
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A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My Father by Augusten Burroughs

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Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
Why did I read this in one day? I'm still not sure. The book is poignant, incredibly painful, terrifying, and yet, I couldn't put it down. It was so real, so vivid, and so exquisite.

It's been a while since I read Dry, so I didn't remember the humor that might have offset this. Humor might have been very welcome, but at the same time, I think it would have broken the mood. It needed to be like this, to have the full impact.

Incredibly powerful, painful, and exhilarating all at once. ( )
  liveshipvivacia | Apr 26, 2014 |
As it seems, it has taken Augusten half a lifetime to decipher the reasoning behind his father's strange head games, split personality and emotionless existence. Daily psychological abuse as a child turns him into an adult who daily questions himself. It only makes sense. But that leaves Augusten with the difficulty of separating himself from his father. Questions, thoughts and concerns about his father consume him, even in his thirties, as he tries to carry on like a normal person working in the city. He describes in great detail his mother's steady mental decline through the years. But most of all, he really wants to know what is *wrong* with his father. He wants to know *why he wears two masks*. And he continues to struggle with the question of *how much of my father is in me?*

*In my bedroom last night I thought I heard him laughing downstairs in the basement. It was a soft laugh, more of a throaty chuckle. And then he stopped and I heard nothing. I didn't investigate. I knew he wasn't laughing because of something funny. It was basement laughter. And there was something crazy about it.*

I don't think this story will be leaving my mind any time soon. Amazing.(less)

Sep 08, 20 ( )
  CaseyRenee | Mar 22, 2014 |
I typically really like Augusten Burroughs' writing, esp. the stories leading up to his adulthood and shortly thereafter. But as many other readers have noted, this one seemed to fall somewhat short. I admit that I was fairly anxious to read this one, as Burroughs' previous stories have only very briefly mentioned his father, so I was curious to learn more about the man. Throughout most of the book, I kept thinking to myself that his father really wasn't all that horrible, or at least he didn't seem to be quite as bad as his son kept alluding to. Yes, he had some anger and some odd peculiarities, and very likely some mental instability. But sadly, too many children seem to grow up in a world like this today, and maybe I'm just numbed to that fact, to the point where I didn't find Augusten's experiences all that remarkable. Ultimately, what Augusten wants the reader to take from this memoir is that he never really had a close relationship with his dad. I have no doubt that this affected Augusten's development into an adult, but having read most of his other memoirs, I'd have to say there were also a lot of other factors involved in his highly dysfunctional family. He makes his mother sound like the good guy in this one, but as I recall, she wasn't such a positive role model in Running With Scissors.

This is a dark, somewhat disturbing memoir, but in a different way than in Augusten's previous works. The writing was still quite good, but I don't think he was quite at his best in this one, perhaps because of the more serious tone. ( )
  indygo88 | Nov 15, 2013 |
This is an extremely well written piece of literature. It is however, psychologically, very disturbing. I would not recommend this to anyone looking for an uplifting, enjoyable read. It is like descending into Dante's hell. ( )
  Betty.Ann.Beam | Nov 3, 2013 |
When he studies his earliest memories, Augusten Burroughs realizes that his father isn't in any of them. His mother assures him that his father was around, but at best he's a shadowy presence on the periphery. What Burroughs does remember of his father from later years is a cruel, manipulative man. To the world, his father is a mild-mannered professor of philosophy, smiling and eager to please. But at night, when he comes home and has had a few drinks, he ignores his son, starving him of affection. As Augusten grows older, his father begins playing games with him, making his son's life hellish while his mother, suicidal and depressed, does nothing to stop him.

I have read one or two of Burroughs' books before, and they were pretty funny. A Wolf at the Table is not. It is a dark, horrible story of systematic, emotional child abuse. There are multiple occasions of animal abuse – including a particularly gruesome scene in which Burroughs' father intentionally lets his son's pet guinea pig starve to death. The book is moody, atmospheric, terrible. But is it true?

There are a couple of things that pop out as odd. First, Burroughs claims to have very early memories. He describes things like taking his first steps – not as an older man remembering stories he was told, but through the perspective of a toddler. Do I think that he really remembers that far back? No, not really. Second, Burroughs claims that his parents had a very distinctive way of pronouncing his name – "August-EN" that he disliked as a child. But 'Augusten Burroughs' is a name the author adopted when he turned eighteen – he was born and raised as 'Christopher Richter Robison'. Maybe his parents may have had an unusual way of saying 'Christopher' that he disliked, but it's still odd. Burroughs' father was an alcoholic, suffering from a chronic disease with a mentally unstable wife, and emotionally distant from his son – but I'm not sure he was quite as awful as he appears here.

The audio version of this book, for some odd reason, had several songs included, written and performed by Patti Smith, Tegan Quin, Sea Wolf, and Ingrid Michaelson. That's something I've never seen done in an audio book before, and it's an interesting idea. But I don't think the music really adds anything to the book. It seems more like Burroughs went up to his publisher and said, “Hey, I'm the author and I'm friends with these musicians, so I'm gonna get them to perform on my audio book!” The author also read his own book. Most of the time, it was OK – he read the book rather slowly, but it was easy listening. Every once in a while, though, he would get caught up in his own drama and launch into this over-the-top, melodramatic crying that sounded so fake and desperate that I couldn't take it seriously anymore.

If you're looking for Burroughs' characteristic wit, it's sadly lacking in this grim little volume of misery. I'm also not sold on this book as a “memoir” - obviously, I wasn't there but something about Burroughs' childhood recollections doesn't ring completely true. He's an unreliable narrator, and with his father conveniently dead there's no one to present the other side of the story. I wouldn't recommend this unless you're interested in neverending tales of woe that come to no resolution. ( )
  makaiju | Oct 22, 2013 |
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Dedication
For Christopher Schelling, who is short and mean and saved my life and gave me every start that I pointed to. This book belongs to you. Because I never could have written it without your brutish and relentless love. I know I never say it, but I cherish you and love you with all my heart.
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If my father caught me he would cut my neck, so I just kept going.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312342020, Hardcover)

Amazon Significant Seven, April 2008: When I started reading A Wolf at the Table, I thought I knew what to expect. Augusten Burroughs captures intense experience with an inexplicably cool remove, imparting a stillness and purity to emotions that would likely run amok in anyone else's hands. I love this quality of his writing, and it's present in full force in this memoir of a childhood spent in thrall to a predatory and deeply unpredictable father. What I wasn't prepared for was the suspense--the dread-filled, nearly sonorous waiting for the worst to happen. An artful sort of bait-and-switch happens in the telling: Burroughs brings you to the brink of a terrible catharsis more than once, but the break in tension never comes. It is profoundly sad, remarkably tender, and fueled by a sense of love and reverence that only a child knows. --Anne Bartholomew

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:28:30 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

The author traces the story of his relationship with his father, in a psychologically charged tale that evaluates such themes as the line between love and hate and a child's longing for unconditional love.

(summary from another edition)

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