A Wolf at the Table, By Augusten Burroughs

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The Independent Culture

Alcoholic, racked by psoriatic arthritis, his skin bleeding in patches, his knees swollen and painful, his murderous impulses barely contained, Burroughs' dad is a terrifying figure. So real was the menace that Burroughs' older brother, who left home as soon as he could, taught him how to use a rifle in self-defence. Yet it's not the threat of violence that's the most damaging to Burroughs, but his father's complete incapacity to feel love.

Burroughs recounts the story of his childhood and early manhood, up to his father's death (on his deathbed, Burroughs' father pointedly turned away and said nothing to his younger son), without self-pity and without melodrama. The writing is sharp, tight, visual. It is a "misery memoir", yes, but one that can be read straight through and enjoyed for the quality of the prose, like a novel.