Burroughs focuses on the years he lived both in awe and fear of his philosophy professor father in Amherst, Mass. Despite frequent trips with his mother to escape his father’s alcoholic rages, Burroughs was determined to win his father’s affection, secretly touching the man’s wallet and cigarettes and even going so far as to make a surrogate dad with pillows and discarded clothing. Only after his father’s neglect—or cruelty—leads to the death of Burroughs’s beloved guinea pig during one of the family’s many separations does the son turn against the father. Avoiding self-pity, Burroughs paints his father with unwavering honesty, forcing the reader to confront, as he did, a man who even on his deathbed, refused his son a hint of affection. His father missed so much, Burroughs muses, not knowing his son. Luckily, Burroughs does not deny the reader such an enormous pleasure.
Reading Group Guide (pdf)