February 2016 Indie Next List
“This fascinating memoir of Offutt's difficult relationship with his father is complicated by the realization that his father was a prolific writer of pornography. Author Andrew Offutt was known as a science fiction writer, but, with his death, his son discovers that his family's income was due to the astounding abundance of writing in this other genre. As he catalogs his father's library of writings, drawings, and more, Offutt tries to understand the man that kept his family walking on eggshells. Difficult to read at times, but complex, intriguing, and hard to put down.”
— Nona Camuel (W), CoffeeTree Books, Morehead, KY
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
“Chris Offutt owns one of the finest, surest prose styles around, ready and able to convey the hardest truth without flinching. Now Offutt enters the darkest and most mysterious of places—the cave of a monstrous enigma named Andrew J. Offutt—armed with nothing but his own restless curiosity. Spoiler alert: He makes it out alive, walking into the daylight to bring us a deeper, funnier, more tender and more heartbroken truth—and his masterpiece.” —Michael Chabon
When Andrew Offutt died, his son, Chris, inherited a desk, a rifle, and eighteen hundred pounds of pornographic fiction. Andrew had been considered the “king of twentieth-century smut,” with a writing career that began as a strategy to pay for his son’s orthodontic needs and soon took on a life of its own, peaking during the 1970s when the commercial popularity of the erotic novel reached its height.
With his dutiful wife serving as typist, Andrew wrote from their home in the Kentucky hills, locked away in an office no one dared intrude upon. In this fashion he wrote more than four hundred novels, including pirate porn, ghost porn, zombie porn, and secret agent porn. The more he wrote, the more intense his ambition became and the more difficult it was for his children to be part of his world.
Over the long summer of 2013, Chris returned to his hometown to help his widowed mother move out of his childhood home. As he began to examine his father’s manuscripts and memorabilia, journals, and letters, he realized he finally had an opportunity to gain insight into the difficult, mercurial, sometimes cruel man he’d loved and feared in equal measure. Only in his father’s absence could he truly make sense of the man and his legacy.
In My Father, the Pornographer, Offutt takes us on the journey with him, reading his father’s prodigious literary output as both a critic and as a son seeking answers. This is a book about the life of a working writer who supports his family solely by the output of his typewriter; it’s about the awful psychic burdens one generation unthinkingly passes along to the next; and it’s about growing up in the Appalachian hills with a pack of fearless boys riding bicycles through the woods, happy and free.
About the Author
Chris Offutt is an award-winning author and screenwriter. He worked on the HBO drama True Blood and the Showtime series Weeds. His books include Kentucky Straight, The Same River Twice, The Good Brother, Out of the Woods, and No Heroes: A Memoir of Coming Home. His work has appeared in The Best American Essays, The Best American Short Stories, and many other anthologies. He lives near Oxford, Mississippi.
“A generous reminiscence . . . ruminative and melancholy . . . Offutt somehow manages to summon compassion for his father. That, ultimately, is what makes this memoir so unexpectedly moving.”
“A literary detective story interwoven with memories of a youth riddled with sexual confusion and inarticulate yearning. . . . There is a touching universality to his tale and its mix of longing and despair . . . . In the end, the value of this haunting account lies in Offutt’s refusal to find a pat moral in his journey.”
"One of the most sensitive, nuanced examinations of father and son relationships I’ve read."
"A heartbreaking coming-of-age story . . . Many scenes rival the stories of Jeannette Walls or Mary Karr . . . . Awe-inspiring, tender, gut-wrenching, forgiving."
“Fascinating . . . funny, engaging.”
“[A]thoughtful, elegant memoir . . . While the beating heart of the book is itsdepiction of a complicated father-son relationship, it also [. . .] preserves a slice of forgottenliterary life within its keenly felt, lyrical portrayal of a son wrestling withhis father’s inheritance.”
“My Father, the Pornographer is contemporary memoir at its best. Itachieves the rare miracle of re-creating the human heart on the page.”
“The least titillating book you’ll ever read about porn, and possibly the most interesting, Offutt’s memoir. . . [is] a loving if unsparing tribute to a very complicated father.”
"This is a frank, clear-eyed, but subtle memoir that works through raw emotion to arrive at an empathetic understanding of what fractures and binds families."
"A heartbreaking tale about identity, overcoming fear, and forgiving someone more committed to his craft than his family."
“Everything Chris Offutt writes is beautiful and brilliant, but My Father, the Pornographer is an astonishing house of mysteries, and his most moving book yet. It's about family and secrets and a literal ton of pornography, but also, fascinatingly, what it means to make a writing life, whether high art or pulp.”
— Elizabeth McCracken
“Chris Offutt owns one of the finest, surest prose styles around, ready and able to convey the hardest truth without flinching. Now Offutt enters the darkest and most mysterious of places—the cave of a monstrous enigma named Andrew J. Offutt—armed with nothing but his own restless curiosity. Spoiler alert: He makes it out alive, walking into the daylight to bring us a deeper, funnier, more tender and more heartbroken truth—and his masterpiece.”
— Michael Chabon
— Ann Packer, author of The Children's Crusade
— Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina
— Curtis Sittenfeld, New York Times Bestselling Author
— Alexander Chee, author of The Queen of the Night
"With gripping precision, Chris Offutt tracks the hidden life of his brilliant, cruel and narcissistic father. My Father, the Pornographer is a son’s reckoning not only with a parent’s dark, often shocking secrets but with their human cost. This is an utterly absorbing and heartbreaking book."
— Honor Moore, author of The Bishop's Daughter