I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary that you read Burroughs’ first memoir before reading Dry, because Burroughs does a great job of filling in the blanks just enough to make the reader get what he’s referring to. I still highly recommend reading Running with Scissors first, anyway, to get the full story.
Dry takes place a few years after the end of Running With Scissors, and is primarily about Burrough’s stint in rehab, getting “dry”. He was working in advertising, and basically was given the choice of going to rehab because of his drinking, or losing his job. He “chose” rehab.
Part of this book is about his experience in rehab, the people he met there, his thoughts and feelings about it all. Some of what happened is profound, and some quite ridiculous. Burroughs has a talent for placing the reader inside his head, just behind his eyes, as he walks through these life events. It’s like you are there, watching it in real time.
The rest of the book is about what happens after he gets out of rehab, and is back in the “real world” trying to stay clean and sober. It was interesting to watch how his view of things changed after rehab. For example, before rehab, he saw his apartment as dirty, but no big deal. After rehab, he looks at the same apartment, and sees a sea of empty glass bottles that once held alcohol, obvious now, but invisible before.
I found myself fascinated by this book. I wanted to meet some of the people Burroughs knew when he was living this story, especially “Pighead”, who comes across as a shining star, as larger than life itself. All the people Burroughs talks about are interesting. “Pighead” is special.
I loved Running With Scissors but, I believe I love Dry even more. I am one of the many who greatly enjoy drinking, although I am not an alcoholic. Believe me, if I had that tendency, it’s had plenty of time to surface. The parts of the book after Burroughs has left rehab, where he is thinking about how much he wants a drink, describing the drink in so much detail. The taste, the smell, how it looks in a glass, the atmosphere of the place he would be drinking at….I appreciate all this.
While both of his memoirs alternate between heartache and hilarity, I found myself more affected this book, Dry. There is just something about this one that cuts deep, in many places. Burroughs finds love, and loses love, and he tells us everything. Parts of this book nearly had me in tears, while other parts had me laughing out loud.
One more thing I love about this book is the cover design. A white page with black text that runs down the page. It looks as though someone either left this book out in the rain, or spilled a drink across the cover, evoking images of storms, as well as drinking problems. This is a messy cover to go along with a messy set of circumstances. The cover is crying.