settled with

Running with Scissors (memoir)

Running with Scissors is a 2002 memoir by American writer Augusten Burroughs. The book tells the story of Burroughs' bizarre childhood life after his mother, who had an obsession with Anne Sexton, sent him to live with her psychiatrist.


Running with Scissors covers the period of Burroughs' disturbed adolescent and teenage years, starting at age twelve. Burroughs is sent to live with his mother's psychiatrist, Dr. Finch, when his parents separate and his mother comes out as a lesbian. He lives in filthy conditions, where rules are practically non-existent and children of all ages basically do whatever they want. Burroughs tells Dr. Finch's adopted 33-year-old son, Neil Bookman, that he is gay. From the age of thirteen to fifteen, Burroughs has an intense and open sexual relationship with Bookman, which started when Bookman forced the young boy to perform oral sex on him. Neither his mentally unstable mother nor any member of the Finch family try to stop the relationship. Bookman is besotted with the young boy but later suddenly disappears and is never seen again.

Burroughs forms a strong sibling relationship with Dr. Finch's daughter, Natalie, who is one year older than he, and together they break away from the madness of the Finch household as they make their separate ways in life. As a young teen, Burroughs accepts his homosexuality.


The film adaptation of Running with Scissors stars Alec Baldwin, Annette Bening, Brian Cox, Joseph Fiennes, Evan Rachel Wood, Jill Clayburgh, Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Cross as Burroughs, and was released in 2006.

Legal case

In 2005, the family of Dr. Rodolph H. Turcotte (1919-2000), of Massachusetts filed suit against Burroughs and his publisher, alleging defamation of character and invasion of privacy. They stated that they were the basis for the Finch family portrayed in the book but that Burroughs had fabricated or exaggerated various descriptions of their activities. The case was later settled with Sony Pictures Entertainment in October 2006, prior to the release of the film adaptation. Burroughs and his publisher, St. Martin's Press, settled with the Turcotte family in August 2007. The Turcottes were reportedly seeking damages of $2 million for invasion of privacy, defamation, and emotional distress; the Turcottes alleged Running with Scissors was largely fictional and written in a sensational manner. Burroughs defended his work as "entirely accurate", but agreed to call the work a "book" (instead of "memoirs") in the author's note, to alter the acknowledgments page in future editions to recognize the Turcotte family's conflicting memories of described events, and express regret for "any unintentional harm" to the Turcotte family. Burroughs felt vindicated by the settlement. "I'm not at all sorry that I wrote [the book]. And you know, the suit settled-- it settled in my favor. I didn't change a word of the memoir, not one word of it. It's still a memoir, it's marketed as a memoir, they've agreed one hundred percent that it is a memoir."

Future printings of Running with Scissors will contain modified language. Where the Acknowledgments page had read: "Additionally, I would like to thank each and every member of a certain Massachusetts family for taking me into their home and accepting me as one of their own," the following was substituted: "Additionally, I would like to thank the real-life members of the family portrayed in this book for taking me into their home and accepting me as one of their own. I recognize that their memories of the events described in this book are different than my own. They are each fine, decent, and hard-working people. The book was not intended to hurt the family. Both my publisher and I regret any unintentional harm resulting from the publishing and marketing of Running with Scissors."

In addition, on the Author's Note page—but, as the family agreed, nowhere else—the word "book" replaced the word "memoir." The work is still described as a memoir on the cover, title page and elsewhere.

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