Sweet Sucking Sorcerers 

Magical Thinking, the title of Augusten Burroughs' new collection of personal essays, refers to a concept used by social scientists and historians to explain perceived causal relationships that are not supported by logic or scientific reasoning. That's a fancy way of saying we sometimes think we can guide the Atlanta Hawks' ball into the net with our brain waves, or, in Burroughs' case, push our previous memoirs (Running with Scissors and Dry) up the best seller list with raw willpower and appeals to the Baby Jesus' pet cow.

Unless you're a member of the entourage-towing class, modern life has a way of correcting excessive magical thinking with disappointments and the persistence of the mundane. And you might think that Burroughs' life story would build a better nihilist than a magician. He grew up gay in rural Massachusetts, the son of a depressed mother and a victim of a crackpot psychiatrist and his pedophile son. Now a recovering alcoholic, he works in a successful but soul-stripping career in advertising, with a cleaning lady who scammed him out of $12,000. Plus, he's balding.

Burroughs emerges from all this and more still believing he can kill a cranky ad exec with fatal thoughts then trick Dennis, the love of his life, into seeing skinny, white Burroughs as a hunky African-American man with a muscular butt. That he can come through all this still a sentimental romantic who loves to cuddle is some kind of magic and gives the book great charm.

Yes, Burroughs has found happiness, but fans of his previous books needn't worry. He's still sadistic, cantankerous and outrageously funny. ("Catholic priests have given me some of the best blow jobs of my life," he writes in an essay called "Holy Blow Job.") And he's still a Barbizon School of Modeling graduate "psychological transsexual trying to 'pass' for a normal person but being clocked every time."Page to Stage and Outwrite Bookstore present Augusten Burroughs, who will read from Magical Thinking Oct. 25, 7:30 p.m. at the 14th Street Playhouse, 173 14th Street. 404-607-0082. www.outwritebooks.com. $10. Book: $23.95. St. Martin's Press. 268 pages.

Other Worthwhile Words
Thomas Lux and Poetry at Tech present three poets for the third annual Bourne Poetry Reading at Georgia Tech. Mary Karr is best known for her popular memoir, The Liars' Club. Kurtis Lamkin, recently featured on the PBS special "Fooling with Words," accompanies his poems on the kora, a West African string instrument. And Gerald Stern, first poet laureate of New Jersey, will launch his 14th book of poems, Not God After All. Oct. 21, 7 p.m. in Georgia Tech's LeCraw Auditorium, 800 W. Peachtree St. Free, no reservations necessary. 404-385-2760. www.iac.gatech.edu/poetry_schedule.html.



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