Question: If you could live someone else's life, whose would it be?
Augusten Burroughs: That's a trick question because you know what the answer is to that? Everyone's life is more interesting than mine. Everyone's life is, to them. It really is all relative. But of books, of memoirs. Okay. I'm fascinated with Edith Wharton then, "House of Mirth." What fascinated me by that book, even though it's not a memoir and I'm not quite answering your question, is that when you read it now, you can read it and you can say, "Oh you know, this is kind of like a nastier Sex in the City." In a way, or some other kind of urban book that I haven't read, but then you realize that this was written with ink and a piece of bird. The women had to write it in her head before putting it on paper. There was no laptop and it's a complex book. She would have been fascinating to know.
Mark Twain interests me. He would have been a very interesting person. Oh, okay. No. I can give you an answer. I have a better answer for you. The person that fascinates me in Emily Dickinson. I never cared about Emily Dickinson. I grew up in the same town, I walked past that house every day of my life, my mother loved Emily Dickinson. I was not interested at all and then like two years ago I picked up one of her -- the Collected Poems and I picked it up and I just started looking at it and really reading it. It was absolutely astonishing as I'm the last to know, but what I find most astonishing is that she didn't leave her room. She had a very, very deep sea of wisdom about so many features in life and yet with her mind alone, which is interesting when you think about it because don't they say you use ten percent of our brains. If that's the case, that makes us very unique in nature; we're the only wasteful thing. I think we probably do use 100 percent of our brains but we don't know what that other 90 percent does.
Emily Dickinson seemed to have been in touch somehow with a lot more than she was in touch with. So I just find her fascinating and I want that cookie recipe.
Recorded on November 3, 2009
Interviewed by Austin Allen